5 ways to hack your productivity

If you find it difficult to get as much work done in the day as you’d like, follow these five tips to hack your productivity.

5 ways to hack your productivity
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Ways to hack your productivity

If you feel like you don't have enough time in the day to get all of your work done, there are ways to "hack" your productivity to get the most out of every hour. New York NeuroLeadership Institute Research Director & NeuroCoach Josh Davis applies neuroscience and psychology to help you hack your brain for productivity in his book, "Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done."

Here are his top five hacks to stay motivated and productive all day.

Establish your schedule
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Establish your schedule

The human mind works best when it knows what's coming. Even if you consider yourself flexible, it's smart to schedule your time in case anything unexpected comes up. Essentially, you want to have your priorities figured out before you start your day, so avoid wasting time trying to figure out where to go next after you complete a task.

"There are times during the day when one task or function ends, whether filling out a report or brushing your teeth, and you become self-aware. At that moment, step back and decide what really needs to be done in your next available block of time so you can choose the truly important task," says Davis.

Whether you write it down in a notebook, agenda or on your smartphone, having a good idea of where you want to spend your time that day can help keep you productive. You can even schedule breaks into your day, try using this method that suggests working in 52 minute bursts with 17 minute breaks is the best way to keep yourself on task.

Manage your mental energy
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Manage your mental energy

You have only so much mental energy that you can give in a day. And this might be especially important if you are introverted, because your energy can get zapped even faster than an extrovert. Think of the last time you had a hectic workday. By the time you got home, did it feel like you couldn't think straight, let alone get started on dinner?

Davis equates your mental energy to exercise. "You wouldn't spend a morning lifting weights when you know you have an afternoon of framing houses ahead of you -- your body would tire out. But you might spend much of the early part of your day making seemingly small decisions, cold calling, networking, tracking deadlines or scheduling projects."

By exhausting yourself with small, less intensive tasks, you've unknowingly taxed your mental energy, leaving you lacking in the afternoon and struggling come evening time. Davis suggests making as many little decisions the night before a big meeting or presentation, so you don't have to waste energy on them in the morning. And put any major creative tasks at the top of your list. That way you can approach them with a fresh mind.

Eliminate distractions
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Eliminate distractions

Davis says your working memory is like a computer. If you leave a bunch of tabs or inactive programs open in the background on your tablet or notebook, you're hogging precious memory that can be used to handle whatever you're trying to get done in the forefront. The same goes for your brain. You want to make sure you have enough working memory freed up to get your work done.

After you finish a challenging task, you can try doing something else that doesn't take up too much energy, like straighten your desk or checking your email. And don't get mad at yourself when you give into distractions, says Davis. "When your mind wanders, direct it back without scolding yourself. It helps you become more present and practice letting distracting thoughts go and bringing yourself back to the task at hand."

Get mindful of healthy habits
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Get mindful of healthy habits

Exercise and diet not only keep your body in top condition, but also keep your mind healthy and productive. Prepare your food for the day, that way you will have a good mix of vegetables, proteins, fruits and healthy fats to keep your blood sugar levels stable to avoid crashing from quick sugar and carb fixes. Drink plenty of water and try to cut back on caffeine. You might feel like the quick shot of caffeine boosts your focus, but research suggests caffeine can negatively impact your overall productivity. In fact, your morning cup of coffee might simply be diminishing the symptoms of caffeine withdrawl, rather than giving you a boost of energy.

Davis also suggests getting in a workout before you head to the office. It doesn't just boost your overall health, exercise can improve your mental health as well, making it easier to focus and stay on task. If you want to go one step further to help bridge the mind-body connection, try meditation. It's becoming a popular resource for relieving occupational stress among executives and employees alike.

Tailor your workspace
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Tailor your workspace

What works for someone else in your office, won't necessarily work for you. That's why it's important to figure out how to make your work environment fit your needs. This is especially true if you work in an open environment or a cubicle, which might be inherently damaging to your productivity. But if you can't get an office or some privacy, try some noise-cancelling headphones, says Davis. Or if you have the opportunity, try working from home where you can control your environment by minimizing distractions and even change the lighting. Davis suggests bulbs on the blue spectrum. "Unless you need to be creative, in which case darker settings are better," he says. And tidy your desk, so you won't be overwhelmed by clutter.