Increase your productivity right now with the help of these five no-nonsense habits that successful people use to achieve their goals. Cal Newport, a man who has “published four books, earned a PhD from MIT, published a ton of academic papers, and was hired as a professor at Georgetown University,” knows a thing or two about accomplishing tasks. Take some of his tricks and apply them to your own life. Then sit back and watch your productivity rise.

1) “Don’t schedule distractions. Schedule deep work.”

Rather than scheduling in the trivial, time-wasting activities like meetings and phone calls – schedule the times you need in your day to get into the bulk of your work that requires concentration. “Block hours for what really matters, not just for anything with a designated start time.” Make standing dates with yourself to focus on writing part of your novel every Sunday. Schedule in the morning time block to go through your list of things to do or to get immersed in that project you’ve been working on all year. Don’t be afraid to use your calendar for the work that takes concentration and not just for meetings.

2) “Keep a scoreboard for deep work.”

Measure what you do so that you can do what you need to do. Newport says, “I keep a tally so I can see every day how many hours of deep work I’ve actually performed.” This way, when things get busy, he has a way to know whether or not he is accomplishing his deep work or just his busy work. “A compelling scoreboard drives you to action.”

3) “Stop saying “yes” if you want to get things done.”

Stop jumping on the phone every time somebody calls or saying yes to every lunch date with friends. Sure, those things are incredibly important, but you need to prioritize the important activities in your life. Make sure you are saying yes to what will help you get further and find happiness and no to anything that may hold you back or waste your time. Don’t feel guilty for managing your own time and prioritizing one thing over another. It’s your life and it’s your day. Spend it in the way you need to spend it to increase both your happiness and your productivity.

4) “Have a “Deep Work Ritual.”

“Whatever gets you ready to crank. Hiding in a conference room and throwing your phone into an abyss is a good one.” When you nail down a ritual that takes you from procrastination to deep work, you are hitting a jackpot. Give yourself a ritual so that you can slip away from busy work and really accomplish tasks for the day because you have set your mind to it and you have the time and the energy to do so. Rituals help carve out this time and the right mindset to have positive energy going into the bulk of the workload.

5) “Ask your boss how much time they want you spending on deep vs. shallow work.”

Define your expectations so you know what you need to get done and what can be pushed to the back burner. If you need to take time to shut your email down and focus for a couple of hours, do so – but use clear communication and be sure that you show results. Assure your boss and yourself that you are spending the appropriate amount of time balancing busy work and answering emails with the demands of producing real results.
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