In a world that is bent on productivity, it can be hard to remember that you need balance in your life. Balance is what provides you with stability. It is the key to having the strong foundation and resolve it takes for you to accomplish your goals. Even more than that, it’s necessary just to have a good life and be happy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be happening. More than half of Americans report feeling stressed during the day. That doesn’t measure up well with a 2017 report that states happy people work faster, get more done, and achieve better results.
Productivity has been a topic of conversation for years now. More people are concerned with it than ever and wondering how they can get ahead. Year after year, a barrage of content is published that focuses on how to be more productive. Everyone wants to know how they can hack themselves successful, hack themselves happy, and do more, more efficiently, and with less stress. It feels impossible. You might feel like one of those people who is always trying the next “life hack” to get ahead and still feel like everyone is passing you by.
You might feel like you have a lot of great plans and you have a lot of drive to make your dreams happen, but in your day to day life, you’re spinning tires. Why is it that you’re not getting things done the way that you want to? It’s all about how you think.
You might be a disorganized thinker. These people are creative, they’re motivated, and their lives feel like they are all over the place. If this is how you feel about yourself, what you need is a little bit more structure. That can be scary for those of you who identify more with being free-spirited but organization doesn’t have to trap you in. As the Dalai Lama said, you have to “know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” You need to understand the boxes in your life to step outside of them.
Most people, however, are over-analytical thinkers. These people are the ones who get trapped by their own thinking. They want to be prepared for everything that might come up. They might have trouble making decisions. They may be procrastinators, perfectionists, or feel chronically anxious. Tom Watson, a professional golfer, summed this mode of thinking up perfectly when he said, “sometimes thinking too much can destroy your momentum.” There is such a thing as over planning. Problems arise for analytical thinkers because they’re the type of person that has to have all of their ducks in a row before they get going and, unfortunately, the starting gun doesn’t wait for anyone.
Regardless of how you think, it’s time to hack your brain. The term “life hack” didn’t pop up until about 2004. It seems to be all anyone has talked about since doesn’t it? The problem with all of the productivity and life hacks that you’ve probably read before is that everyone forgets that they’re meant to make your life easier, not harder. Trying to implement all these popular strategies can feel like a chore. Even when it shouldn’t.
You don’t need to exhaust yourself trying to live up to the ideals you see on Youtube. You don’t need to feel obligated to follow the schedules or lifestyles of people who live in a completely different world than you do. You don’t need to read about how you have the same 24 hours in a day that millionaire entrepreneurs have. You need concrete strategies to improve your life. When you take steps to improve your life, everything else is going to fall into place. It will still take time, of course, but it shouldn’t feel overwhelming. So, it’s time to hack your brain differently.
No matter what your goals are or where your starting line is, these strategies will help you simplify, balance, and organize your life. Here are 30 real ways to hack your brain, backed by psychology and free of any buzzwords or cheesy motivational jargon.
Become Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
Change is an important part of life. Logically, you know that it is but it can still be extremely scary to face it. If you’re one of those people, you may find that you don’t leave anything to chance or you might turn away from situations that are challenging. Improving your life is a challenging process but it isn’t an impossible one. This hack is all about getting used to being pushed out of your comfort zone.
There are a lot of ways to teach your brain the elusive art of navigating discomfort effectively. This will improve your life because it will increase your adaptability. You will be able to accomplish things that you’re not excited about doing and get them out of the way so you can get back to what matters. Tough situations don’t need to stop you in your tracks.
The key to this one is staying focused. If you’re someone who dreads going to the bank or post office because you’re anxious around others, finding a way to be comfortable with that and accepting it will help you just get up and get these things done. If you’re afraid of implementing a new system into your work or home life that you think will help you, this will remove that roadblock.
If you can learn to accept discomfort, you will always find a way to move forward through whatever you’re up against.
Become Friends With Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s Law may be something that you have heard before because it’s something that people like to talk about. It simply means that the things you need to do will expand or contract based on the amount of time that you give yourself to do them. Perhaps a familiar scenario for you is that you have an assignment or an errand you need to do “sometime this month” and it doesn’t get done until the very end. This hack is designed to help you stop feeling like you’re on a constant time crunch.
If part of the reason you feel like you’re not getting enough done is that you can’t do anything fast enough, this might work for you. You can implement this in a lot of ways like setting timers, creating your own deadlines or milestones to reach by a certain time. If you’re slacking when it comes to putting your laundry away, set yourself a thirty-minute timer and get it done. If you have a project that is due at the end of the week, break it up into smaller pieces and dedicate time each day.
Understanding and taking advantage of the way our brains view time and deadlines will help you get things done when they need to be instead of later, and that will help improve your life by giving you some more free time. It’s hard to relax when you have something looming over your head, and if you can reign in the way that you’re spending your time on the things you need to do, you will be able to enjoy the time you spend doing what you want to do.
Clean Your Desk
The environment that you’re in has a lot to do with your mental state. When you’re surrounded by a lot of clutter, you’re going to feel more cramped. When you feel cramped and disorganized, you are probably going to have a hard time organizing your thoughts and focusing on what you need to focus on. This is a commonly suggested thing to do because it’s very widely understood that clutter inhibits your productivity and focus.
You know how refreshing it is to open up your inbox and see no emails waiting for you? Or perhaps the clarity and excitement that comes from a nice fresh notebook? A clean slate feels good. You can hack your brain to produce the same sensation by keeping your desk or whatever your work area may be more tidy. Even when you’re swamped and have a lot going on, this will hack your brain into thinking that you’re more organized than you really may be.
Apart from the feeling of a clean slate, this can improve your life in another way as well. When you know where everything is, you don’t need to stress when you need to use it. Perhaps all of your cleaning products just get pushed around the same shelf and you don’t always feel like digging for what you need, or maybe all your stuff piled on your desk makes it hard to sit down and work or study. Cleaning up your work area helps remove those barriers and makes getting things done easier.
Close Your Rings
Not the pesky rings on your smartwatch that criticize you without knowing what kind of day you had. Instead, this is about closing open loops in your life. Think of loops as things that get in the way of you focusing on what you need to do. These can be tasks or projects you haven’t finished, things that are stuck on hold in your inbox, or something you need to get done by the end of the day. By closing those open loops, you can let yourself forget about it instead of trying to keep track of everything at once.
Closing your loops improves your life because it keeps you from leaving things halfway complete. It helps you get things off your plate so you can focus more on what you want to be focused on rather than all of the things you need to do rattling around in your mind. Leaving things undone is frustrating and distracting. Anxiety is another way that loops take over your brain, leaving you to think in circles.
To take advantage of this hack, you need to think about what an acceptable level of done is for each task you have to get done. If you need to refill your dog’s food, run to the post office, and then work on an assignment, think about what will help you close those loops. Instead of getting started on the assignment and having to stop in the middle, head to the post office first and close that loop. Refill your dog’s bowl on your way in. Now, those loops are closed and you can move on to the big thing you need to do.
Consider Trying Nootropics
Nootropics are supplements for your brain. Bio-hacking is one of the new hot trends in productivity circles and a lot of people are getting in on it. Maybe it will work for you. There are a lot of different kinds of nootropics, like ones for memory, focus, and mental clarity. You shouldn’t try any new supplements that you’re not familiar with and it’s always a good idea to run it by your doctor first, though.
Nootropics are still pretty new territory as far as research goes. However, those who use them believe that there are certain nutrients that can help boost your brainpower. Caffeine, B vitamins, omega-3s, and several other supplements could be considered nootropics. This is a different approach than the other hacks on this list since it is a more chemical hack than one that is psychologically based. The thing to keep in mind is that the Limitless pill doesn’t exactly exist. Not safely or legally, anyway.
With that said, your brain could benefit from some of the nootropics out there. L-Theanine is a common choice for reducing stress and anxiety, it helps promote relaxation. Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps our body do hundreds of things; if you don’t have enough of it, you could feel fatigued or have trouble falling asleep at night. Making sure that your brain has what it needs is one great way to improve your life across the board.
Determine Your Best Time of Day
Not everyone fits into the nine-to-five schedule that the world has adopted and that can be frustrating. A lot of “productivity gurus” insist that getting up before the rest of the world provides you the peace and quiet that you need to focus on, but that may not be true for everyone. As we said, you don’t need to feel boxed into someone else’s schedule. You need to find out what works for you and this is one way that you can do that. Understanding the way your brain works will help you go a long way to hacking it.
You have a body clock that doesn’t always line up with the actual clock. That means that there is a time of day when you’re at your best. Our energy levels and ability to focus wax and wane throughout the day and understanding that schedule will help you plan your days better. If you have trouble sitting down to check your email after dinner, do it earlier in the day when you have more energy.
Maybe you want to have a fitness routine and you don’t really have the motivation in the morning but you’re wide awake later on, just change your schedule around. This is a simple hack but it can go a long way if you take advantage of it. It will also help you to stop comparing yourself to others because you will just recognize that your ideal schedule may not align with everyone else’s.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break
Relaxation can feel extremely elusive in this day and age. We live in a world that is always set at high speed and we feel pressure to meet those expectations every day. You might feel like you are constantly pushing forward and never have enough time to step back and take a breath. It turns out, one great way to hack your brain is to give it a break. It sounds counterproductive but studies have shown that it really helps.
The hack here is to rethink the way that you view your own needs for a break and the way you believe it impacts you. A lot of people feel like they’re wasting time when they step away from their to-do list to just sit down, watch something, read a book, take a walk. However you like to spend your “break time,” you might feel like your responsibilities are weighing you down and keeping you from being able to relax. Relaxing is important, though. You need it and there is no shame in stepping away from what you’re doing for a little while.
Relaxation is to concentration what turning it off and back on again is for your cell phone. It’s an important reset button. Understanding that breaks are necessary and can boost your focus will help you actually take them when necessary and enjoy them more effectively.
Drink Enough Water
You’re probably sick of hearing this one and I promise, we’re sick of it too. Water doesn’t taste great and it’s not some magical cure-all. Is it? Not necessarily, but it is more vital to your body than you probably have any idea. Dehydration is ridiculously hard on your brain in a lot of different ways. Your brain is made up mostly of water, so even just a little bit of being dehydrated can make you tired, irritable, unable to concentrate, and lead to you doing things much slower. Your memory, your ability to do math, and even your attitude all suffer when you need some water.
Really, when you’re not hydrated, your brain is kind of hacking you. It can trick you into thinking that you’re hungry or that you’re tired. Your brain is made up of mostly water and it needs a lot of it to function at its best. Making sure that you’re hydrated will improve your life in a lot of ways; the key to this hack is taking back control of what’s going on up there so your brain can stop sending signals through your body and pay attention to what you’re trying to do.
Go Ahead and Just Sleep In
Remember how we said that finding your ideal time of day is important? We meant it. While a lot of people push the idea that waking up early is a great “hack” to get more done, it might not be good for you. If there is one thing your brain hates more than not having enough water, it’s not having enough sleep. Sleep is when your body resets and heals; it is how your energy stores get replenished so you can face the next day. Depriving your brain of sleep can lead to increased stress, health problems, and even an early grave.
This hack is about making sure that you listen to what your brain and body need in order to do your best and be at your best. This may not work for everyone who has a tight work schedule but, that might just mean going to bed a little bit earlier. There is a lot of pressure in productivity circles to get up and work on “personal projects” first thing in the morning. There’s nothing wrong with doing them on your lunch break or when you get home.
We live in a world that has completely attached the concept of success to the practice of being an early riser. You don’t have to believe that to be at your best. In fact, the vast majority of people simply weren’t built for waking up at the crack of dawn.
Leave Your Schedule More Open
A lot of the popular brain hacks that you’ll read across the web are actually just time management hacks in disguise. One of the most popular time management hacks is something called time blocking. This is very effective for a lot of people. This technique is focused around creating time slots for each type of thing you need to do and working on nothing else in that span of time. It may or may not play well with Parkinson’s law, depending on the way you set up your schedule.
There are some basic facts that you need to confront here, though. When you do a task repeatedly, your brain can’t properly estimate the amount of time that it is going to take. On top of that, breaks are important and unexpected things are going to pop up and derail you because that’s life. In order to feel like you’re getting everything done that you need to do, you might feel the need to completely fill up your schedule to make the most of your time.
The truth is, this may not be making the most of your time. This hack is about being open to being flexible, leaving yourself adequate time to do what you need to do, and not feeling the pressure of being busy. If you treat your time more flexibly, you won’t have such a hard time when a wrench gets thrown in. This is a great way to hack your brain to feel less stress and overwhelm and increase your adaptability to change.
Make Sure You Feed Your Brain
Eating healthy all the time isn’t a viable option for everyone. It is easy to let yourself get caught up and feel bad about it. Even though you might be one of those people, it is important to remember that it isn’t just your body that you need to fuel properly, it’s also your mind. Your brain needs a lot of different nutrients to function the way that it was designed to and making sure that you incorporate as much of those brain-feeding foods as possible is going to change your life.
Similar to nootropics, this is a little bit more of a chemical hack. Your brain has ways of signaling your body when you’re hungry or you need to get some sleep, but there are some things where those signals get a little bit crossed. If you don’t have enough healthy fats in your diet, your brain could be setting off alarm bells and you wouldn’t really know. Maybe you feel tired in the middle of the day even when you’ve had enough rest, or maybe your memory isn’t as good as it used to be.
Your brain is made up of fat and water. Fish, eggs, avocados, and nuts are all great brain-boosting foods. They contain plenty of those healthy fats you need as well as things like choline, which will help improve memory and vitamin E, which is linked to better brain function.
Master the Art of Routine
Depending on the type of person you are, routines can feel absolutely essential or like a type of mental jail cell. Regardless of your relationship to the concept of routines, you should really learn more about how they relate to your life and can improve it. Truly mastering the art of routines can hack your brain in several ways, like reducing stress and even combatting rigidity. Your routine shouldn’t be an anchor, exactly, but it can be the rope you can follow if you feel like you’re losing your way.
One way that building a routine into your life can hack your brain is by helping you to remove stress. If you create a pattern that you tend to follow every day, your brain will be able to flow within that in a better way. You won’t feel the same struggle with motivation that you may be familiar with because you will get used to the way your days are structured. Routines also can be a great habit building tool.
The other way that mastering the art of routines can help you is by letting you be more flexible. That might sound counterintuitive; however, your routine should only be a general guide for how you progress through your day and get things done. When you know how to use routines, you won’t get as lost when you need to switch things up a bit.
Must, Should, and Want Your Way To Success
There are a lot of complicated methods that float around online on how to prioritize your time. This is a different way of prioritizing things that will help you hack your brain to not feel shame when you don’t get to everything and to feel more accomplished when you do cross things off, no matter how big or small they are. When it comes to creating an effective plan for the day that feels possible, the Must, Should, Want Method is key.
This method is very easy and quite similar to the idea of setting a top three; however, you end up with less on your plate. When you are thinking about all of the things that need to get done in general, it is hard to pick where to start. This method teaches you to pick one thing you must do today (urgent things like paying a bill or meeting a deadline), one thing that you should do (things that would be best done today but won’t cripple you if not), and one thing you want to do (things that would be nice to get done but aren’t urgent or impending).
By putting things into these clear boxes, you will have a bigger sense of accomplishment when you tackle the necessary stuff and you never have to feel like you “got nowhere” on a particular day.
Only Touch Things Once
If you are someone that feels disorganized, this is going to be the number one hack for you. This is a great way to make your life a lot simpler and, in most cases, a lot tidier too. How many times do you check the mail and then leave it on the counter to be dealt with later? How often does that mail tend to pile up? That is the problem that the idea of “touching things once” seeks to solve. It leaves less on your plate because you deal with things as they arise.
This is something that can be implemented in all areas of your life. Household chores like dishes and laundry wouldn’t get “backed up” if you rinsed your dish and stuck it in the dishwasher or folded your clothes right when they finished drying. With work, answer emails instead of archiving them for later. The way this hacks your brain is through conditioning you to be more efficient. Doing smaller tasks or putting things away right away will become habits soon enough.
This will improve your life because things won’t pile up on the back burner so often if you’re careful not to stick them there in the first place.
Open Up The Blinds
No matter what you do for a living or even if you’re still in school, the majority of people spend their day surrounded by artificial light. It turns out, artificial light isn’t very good for you. It can lead to stress, make you sleepy, disrupt your concentration, and even make it hard for you to sleep. The way that our brains process artificial light and the way that it affects our bodies is a little bit confusing.
There is one thing that you can do though, to help boost your mood, lower your stress, and help you pay better attention. Find a way to let some natural light in. This is especially good right when you wake up because that is what helps your body to regulate your circadian rhythm which is that biological time clock we’ve spoken about a few times already. Getting out more isn’t always an option but, opening up the blinds to let the sunshine in is generally universal.
Natural light just gives your brain a boost. This is another way that understanding how the things you do and the things you are exposed to affect your brain will help you learn how to hack it and make your life better.
Plan Things Out At Night
We’ve already talked about how good a clean slate can feel. Even though that’s true, some people can feel a little bit disoriented when confronted with one. The act of planning things out before you go to sleep is a way that you can hack your brain for more productive days and better sleep at night. It’s as easy as asking yourself what the key thing you need to do tomorrow is and then jotting it down somewhere.
Our brains love the path of least resistance. When you get up in the morning and you face the day without a plan, that is when the “path of least resistance” becomes more of a roadblock. We are naturally inclined to pick the easiest thing and start there. Sometimes, those easiest things are not things that will advance us towards getting done what we need to. However, when you plan ahead, you’re hacking your brain into thinking that whatever you planned to do is that glorious path it wants to go down.
It’s easy to do things when you already planned on doing them, so the best thing you can do is plan on doing them. This also helps you to get a better night’s sleep because you won’t be trying to juggle all of tomorrow’s responsibilities in today’s tired mind.
Quit Making So Many Decisions
Another reason why planning the night before works is because of something called “decision fatigue.” It sounds like ridiculous productivity talk but, the truth is that making choices takes up energy, time, and focus. The best way to keep yourself from getting decision fatigue is to stop making so many decisions. As crazy as that may sound, it is shockingly easy to implement it into your life and improve your life across the board. This hack is about making things easier on your brain so you’re not spending as much of its power on things that don’t ultimately matter.
The only drawback to this brain hack is that it requires a little bit more upfront investment to make it work; however, it truly is worth it. There are a lot of areas in your life that are full of decisions. It is up to you how far you’d like to take this hack. You can start small by picking out your outfits for the day or week, or you can go all in and start meal planning.
Decisions are tiring for your brain, especially for those people who tend to be indecisive. Decisions are also distracting. If you have to focus on weighing your options and making choices, especially if those are stressful choices, that can cloud up your mind and take up precious brainpower that you would have rather spent on something else.
Remember, It’s Just Five Minutes
Procrastinators, people with anxiety, people who feel like there is never enough time in the day, and people who feel completely exhausted and guilty, all can benefit from this brain hack. Sometimes, people push themselves way too hard and they burn out, it happens. However, there are some people who are so afraid or otherwise unwilling to push themselves and this hack is a good option for them. Whatever it is that keeps you from starting doesn’t stand a chance against this.
This hack is simple. If you’re a chronic procrastinator, commit yourself to do just five minutes of work on the task you need to do. This might jumpstart your focus because it breaks down the barrier of starting without putting the pressure to get it done right in your face. If you’re someone who anxiously feels like your tasks mount up over you, this allows you to just chip away at it.
Another way that this hack works is by setting you up for a better start when you do get the chance to come back to what you’re doing. It will be less overwhelming by the time you get there because you will have already gotten some of it done. Anything that can set you up for making things easier is going to improve your life by a landslide.
Schedule For Housekeeping
The problem with household tasks or even more lower-level tasks like going through your emails is that you always feel like you’re going to have time for it later and that really just may not be true. For most people, those small tasks get put off so much that they become mountains that seem impossible, just like everything else you have going on in your life. This hack is something that is going to try to solve that problem. This is a way to hack your brain into feeling more motivated.
A lot of the regular tasks you do that have to do with cleaning your house or tying up loose ends at work get lumped into a category of maintenance tasks. As we’ve already discussed, your brain isn’t good at estimating the time and energy you’ll need to do the tasks you do repeatedly. Also, these are the things that can mount up on you the most because you always feel like you’ll have time later. One way to combat this is to schedule those things.
The main way that this hacks your brain is to make you feel like you’ve done more and that’s really because you have. If your housekeeping tasks are stretched out through the week, you can feel like you’re always chipping away at things. However, when you stack all these regular chores or upkeep tasks together, and you choose one day a week or every other week to get them all done, you’ll feel like you really made progress and they won’t be hanging in the balance throughout your whole week.
Stop Making Public Commitments
One of the “master” productivity techniques or hacks to make sure that you get your stuff done is to make public commitments. If that is something that works for you, then we don’t think that you should stop. However, there are people that it doesn’t work for. If you’re in a situation where you struggle with procrastination on a regular basis, you probably feel quite a bit of shame surrounding the lack of things you’re getting done. If you’re someone who feels like that fits what you’re going through, we don’t think public commitments are in your best interest.
Most people that procrastinate are people who are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or very stressed. The shame of not completing your tasks only puts those negative emotions under a magnifying glass. The stress of deadlines is enough to freeze some people in their tracks. The idea that there are people who are going to check up on you throughout the process can make that feel a million times worse. The idea of making public commitments about the things that you’re going to do creates accountability isn’t completely false, mind you.
If you’re a procrastinator, accountability may be the least of your worries. If you are someone who finds yourself feeling a lot of shame when you don’t “measure up,” then you should try this instead: hack your brain to feeling more positive about the things you’re getting done by publicly sharing your accomplishments. This isn’t to sweep your unfinished things under the rug, instead, it will break the cycle of shame that is making your problems worse.
Stop Trying to Do Everything At Once
You might feel like you’re very good at juggling your responsibilities. You’ve probably noticed when you’re talking to other people about what is going on in your life, obligations, and projects become a contest. Comparing the size of your plate and taking significant pride in how well you work under all the stress and how many things you’re currently juggling isn’t the way that you were designed to think or work. You may not know this but, your brain was not built to multitask. In fact, it can be bad for you.
This hack might feel counterproductive because you might feel like it leaves you ignoring things for the time being. In a sense, that’s exactly what we’re saying. Your brain was not built to multitask. It can only focus on one thing at a time. What’s really going on when you’re multitasking is your brain has to completely shift focus every single time you bounce between two things. This is wasting a lot more time than you think.
If you feel really scattered, this is another one of those hacks where it is important to understand how your brain was meant to work. By realizing how much time, focus, and energy you’re losing every time you try to multitask or juggle everything, you will learn how to put down everything but the main thing and do it until it is done.
Tackle Smaller Tasks
This is a great hack for anyone who struggles with getting started. There are a lot of reasons why you might feel like it is impossible to get started on what you need to do. Some people, particularly those with ADHD or ADD, have trouble breaking things down into concrete steps. Some people can feel like a task is so insurmountably large that they feel paralyzed. Whatever it is, this is a way to hack your brain into feeling better about getting started and your progress once you do.
The trick here is just start smaller. So, even when you are writing out your daily to-do list, start smaller. If you have a report to finish by a certain time that day, break it down into sections of the report, include proofing it, and submitting it. If you’re at home, you can start with just putting the laundry in the washer rather than just putting down “laundry.” These things aren’t so bad because you’re not looking at the whole thing in one big piece.
The second way that this hacks your brain is similar to the last one, it makes your mind recognize your progress more effectively. If you write down smaller tasks and you tackle things one step at a time, you’re going to have more small wins throughout the day. This will make you even more motivated to keep going.
Take The Time To Write Things Down
Going analog is all the rage lately. There are planners and bullet journals and “brain dumps” all over the web right now. These things have skyrocketed in popularity recently because people are realizing that it works. Taking the time to write things down is going to improve your life significantly. It takes the pressure off so you don’t have to remember as much. What’s interesting is that you might remember more.
There are a lot of advantages to writing things out. The study linked above reports that writing makes your brain process information differently and it can make you much more likely to remember things that you have written down. Writing things down is a great way to use another one of these brain hacks, closing your rings. If you are sitting there thinking about how you need to remember a certain thing, the loop just continues.
You don’t have to do anything fancy if you don’t want to, or you can feel free to go all out on investing your time or money into a complete system. All you need is a pen and even just a sticky note (though we suggest something a little harder to misplace). Your brain is going to thank you.
Toss Out The Tomato
The Pomodoro Technique is the most popular suggestion when it comes to managing your time. There are entrepreneurs that measure their time in Pomodoros. They’re everywhere. The concept of the technique, for the uninitiated, is not too complicated. You work on something for 25 minutes, then you take a break for five minutes. You repeat this over and over until you have done all of what you wanted to get done or you’re finished working for the day. If you get distracted, you can write it down and come back to it later. At the end of your third chunk of work, you take a longer break.
There are a lot of people who find this method of managing time very effective. However, instead of hacking your clock to put some pressure on you in order to work more efficiently, there might be a better way. Studies show that it takes the average person between 15-30 minutes to refocus once it is broken, and that’s where the tomato gets squashed. Refocusing isn’t an easy task for most people so breaking that focus on purpose might not be working.
Instead, you should find out what a good amount of time is for you. For the majority of people, science shows that the magic number is 90. Your brain can focus optimally and work efficiently for a maximum of 90 minutes before it needs a break. At that point, breaks are very beneficial. So, switch up the way you get things done and see what happens. You’ll likely hack your way to getting more done, which will make those breaks even sweeter.
Trim Down Your Task List
This is another method of doing more by doing less. You’ve probably heard the saying “making a mountain out of a molehill.” The problem is that that is what most people are doing when they sit down to write their to-do lists every day. When you cram so much into one day, it can make you feel hectic and disorganized. It can also make it seem like there is a lot more than you can handle on the list because you may be planning too much.
There are multiple ways of prioritizing (we recommend the Must Should Want method) but, regardless of how you choose to do, that’s what this hack is all about. When you put too much on your to-do list, you put an undue amount of pressure on yourself. This is the kind of pressure that leads to procrastination.
This hack works because you will not feel as drained. You will be able to celebrate your wins for the day because you don’t have an extensive amount of extras that didn’t get done today and, in all, may not have been important. The trick here is to focus on what your key items for the day are, writing them down, and making sure they get done. Keeping a running list somewhere else and starting one smaller list fresh each day might be a good idea.
Try Out A Caffeine Nap
If you’re someone who has to have their morning coffee, then you already know that the right amount of caffeine can give you a boost. It is true that it is possible to go overboard, of course. The idea of drinking coffee and then immediately going down for a nap might seem a little crazy but that is what we’re suggesting here. This isn’t a good idea for a long nap but just a power nap of roughly 20 minutes.
When you have caffeine before a nap, something interesting happens and you end up feeling much better rested. This is a great hack for when you know you need some rest but don’t have a lot of time. It can also be good for those of you who hate the feeling of the afternoon slump and need a concrete way to beat it.
Your brain makes a chemical called adenosine when you’re sleepy. When you drink coffee (or ingest caffeine at all), that chemical goes into your brain and blocks the receptors that are usually passing around adenosine to tire you out. By taking a quick power nap as this happens, you can let the coffee clear away your adenosine and hack your brain into thinking you got way more rest.
Turn Off The Autoplay Feature
You can hack your brain to pay more attention with this really simple trick. Autoplay is awesome for when you’re just kicking back and enjoying some time to yourself and enjoying a show or some YouTube. However, autoplay might be holding you back. You don’t have to think about what you’re going to watch next, it just rolls right up to the next one and starts. Giving your brain a choice is the key to this hack.
When you turn off autoplay, you have to make more effort to continue what you’re doing. In the moment that you go to navigate to the next episode, you have a chance to pause and think. Autoplay is another form of that thing that you already know your brain loves, the path of least resistance. Turning it off blocks that path.
It is easy to keep something up if you don’t have to consider the choice and thus, the consequences. Perhaps the consequences of you letting it automatically go to the next episode is that you’ll stay up too late to get to class on time or complete the housework before the kids are home. Whatever it is that you should be doing otherwise doesn’t stand a chance if you don’t create the space for you to have to decide.
Use Ambient Noise To Boost Your Brain Power
White noise machines became really popular and then seemed to fall by the wayside but, they actually have a lot to offer you. Studies have shown that ambient noise increases creativity. Background noise is good for your brain because it helps keep it in place; or, at least, helps it wander more productively. Historically, a lot of writers have benefitted from this technique but anyone can.
Ambient noise is a great tool to help keep your brain from getting distracted. It gives it a little bit of elevator music, in a way, to fill the silence so your brain doesn’t start thinking of ways to fill it. There have been loads of studies on what music is best, with most sources saying upbeat music without words is the least distracting and has the most positive impact on productivity. However, if you don’t like the idea of that, you could try classical music or just plain white noise.
There are also websites like Coffivity, which provides you with the background noise of a cafe, or Ambient-Mixer.com which has thousands of choices. Ambient noise hacks your brain to stay focused and it might help you hack your creativity and efficiency as well. This can be an especially good option for someone who is newly working from home when you’re used to a busier setting.
Write Down What Not To Do
Hack your brain into kicking bad habits by writing down things that you do not want to do. This can be a good way to break bad habits or to avoid doing something that you know will be distracting or not a good use of your time.
A good example of how to use this hack is if you know that you will stay up too late if you have coffee or alcohol after a certain time, stick it on the not-do list. If you know that you have a habit of idly walking to the vending machine or checking your email when you hit a roadblock at work, those can go on your list. Think about the way that you are spending your time and whatever isn’t going to be an effective use of it for the day, take extra care not to do it.
This hacks your brain in a few ways. By writing it down, you’re getting it “off your mind” in a sense so you won’t keep thinking about it and being enticed to do it by that urge. You will also see it on your desk if you keep it somewhere within your line of sight. This helps keep your mind where you decided you wanted it to be for the day.
Don’t Buy Into The Hype
Everyone is different. Because of that, there are thousands of different hacks and tips and tricks out there based on the experiences of those specific people. If you have tried to implement something that you learned over and over again and you just couldn’t seem to get it right, it is very likely that you just don’t think that way. It is perfectly fine if not everything you try works for you. You don’t have to do the same things successful people did to become successful. So, for that reason, we say that you shouldn’t buy into the hype.
Just because a time management method is very popular, purportedly proven, or touted as the perfect solution doesn’t mean it is going to work for everyone. If something doesn’t fit into the lifestyle you have or the responsibilities you’re dealing with, drop it. For instance, a popular piece of advice is that you should avoid checking your email when you start your workday. For some people, that is impossible because of the nature of their job.
The important thing when it comes to hacking your brain is making it work for you. Try different things, stick with what works, and don’t blindly follow what the next expert comes along and says unless you can truly benefit from it. Happy hacking!