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Get sh*t done: Eight of the best productivity hacks for leaders

If there was a trophy for short attention spans, I’d be on the winner’s podium. Google leads me down rabbit holes like an exuberant little beagle. I procrastinate with as much dedication as my 11-year-old son does when he’s faced with unstacking the dishwasher.

Combine all that with an embarrassing little addiction to social media and well…yeah… let’s just say I have to work REALLY HARD to get ANYTHING done.

And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, being productive and focusing on the crucial tasks, rather than getting distracted by the things that just shout at us the loudest (like that pesky inbox or meetings that have no point) is kinda important for leadership success.

But here’s where you can benefit from my attention span affliction.

In an attempt to increase my productivity, I’ve tried just about everything under the sun.
And here’s what I’ve found to be some of the best productivity hacks.

1. Focus At Will.

These geeks know a thing or two about auditory neuroscience and psychoacoustics (a fancy word for the psychology of sound perception). They’ve come up with this clever little app that combines neuroscience + music to boost your productivity and tune out distractions. They have music genres to suit all tastes. Any time you need to sit down and focus uninterrupted on a task, pop it on. For those of you who want to know the science behind this productivity tool, read about it here.

2. This stylish little puppy – the Moodinfuser.

“What’s an oil diffuser got to do with productivity?!” you snort?

Glad you asked.

Smell is the strongest of the senses and is best able to influence brain activity. There’s already a body of research suggesting that aroma can influence cognitive performance and workplace productivity. See here for the benefits of using a diffuser.

Using myself as an example, I play “Ambient” on Focus At Will, turn on my diffuser with an oil blend that includes geranium oil (or one of these scents) for 50 minutes and Bob’s your uncle, I’ve written the first draft of my blog. The Focus-At Will/MoodInfuser combo is great if you have some serious thinking work or writing to do.

3. “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferris.

While not actually a specific tool per se (despite the title) this hack is an amalgamation of all of the world’s over-achievers and their hacks in one book. Since reading Tim Ferris’ masterful book over Christmas and putting into practice some of the ideas in the book, I’m more productive in ALL areas of my life, no joke. More than 80% of all the people profiled in “Tools of Titans” practice some form of mindfulness or meditation.

4. Headspace (or anything else that gets you practicing mindfulness for that matter).

Andy Puddiscome, the founder whose voice is on the guided meditations, has the most soothing voice on the planet and I’m just a little in love with him.

Still not convinced of the benefits of taking up some form of meditation as a leader? Meditation has been scientifically proven to:
• Increase mental strength and focus
• Increase memory retention and recall
• Improve cognitive skills
• Reduce stress
• Enhance your creativity
• Improve information processing capability
• Enable us to ignore distractions

5. Way of Life.

Need to break a bad habit or build a few good ones? Willing to spend less than a minute daily to do something about it? Way of Life is the way to go. This little app is what behavioural economists refer to as a ‘commitment device’. This tool (free or pay under $8 to get the premium version for unlimited lists) is just like having a daily accountability coach. Each evening, Way of Life gently reminds me to give myself a nice little green tick for having done the things I’ve chosen to list or a big red cross if I haven’t.  I’m such a raving fan I should start charging commission. Since I ‘ve started using this app daily, I have achieved 5-6 days of exercise/per week, meditated every day bar one and gone alcohol free 5 days a week consistently since New Year’s Day. I have NEVER previously managed to come close to this level of habit forming ace-ness in my life. Coincidence? I think not. Side bar: its little melodious ding when you’re given green ticks is super addictive. Sad but true.

6. Timeblocking Cube.

Blogger Lauryn Everts introduced this to me to this little gem. The benefits of timeblocking on productivity are well known. This is not only superb for chunking time in your calendar to complete that gnarly report, but it’s a godsend for meetings too – it ensures you all keep to time and avoid The Meeting That Shall Drag On Forever. Looks pretty nifty on the desk too.

7. Breathing properly.

This one is free and it’s possibly one of the best hacks a stressed out, strung out executive can add to their Productivity Hack list. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing reduces stress, improves your decision making and problem solving abilities and enhances focus. Several times a day, just stop what you are doing and take three big deep belly breaths. It’s that simple.

8. The Leader’s Digest App (of course). I couldn’t complete this list without the addition of my app, The Leader’s Digest. While not actually a productivity app, it’s free and here are 10 reasons why you should download it.

There’s only so much time at your disposal – use it well.

Suzi McAlpine is a leadership development specialist and author of The Leader’s Digest blog.
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