You can't swing a cat without hitting a "productivity hacker" these days. Between drinks engineered to help you focus, to folks going barefoot so they can think better, we're up to our ears in strange and often cumbersome advice on how to focus better and be more productive.

After years of reading and speaking to experts on the topic, here's what I learned about how to be more productive, distilled into 7 actionable, skimmable, and immediately implementable pieces of advice:

  1. Take Facebook off your phone

  2. Sleep enough 

  3. Drink more water 

  4. Hang around people smarter than you or ahead of you professionally

  5. Eat real, non-processed food

  6. Take breaks 

  7. Monotask (Do one thing at a time)

Yeah, I know. These are deceptively simple (emphasis on "deceptively"). But I promised you skimmable, so you're welcome. 


Quick disclaimer on the phrase "science-backed" in the headline of this piece:

"Science-backed" is a phrase neuroscientist Molly Crockett would call 'neurobunk.' Neurobunk is the deliberate oversimplification of scientific principles in order to facilitate clicks. 

I am using it here for educational purposes. "Science-backed" has become synonymous with "there was a study on this that was written up in a journal. We didn't actually read it."

In the future, if a headline says "Science says" please ignore that headline.

Science doesn't speak, people speak. Consider the equivalent, "Anthropology says" or "Poetry says." It makes no sense. 

To ensure you're not being taken advantage of as a reader, you want to look for (a) citations and (b) evidence. I've provided you with neither. You also want to consider the source. What makes me, as the author here, qualified to give you these tips?

(I am in fact qualified having spent years as a researcher, but there is no evidence of that in this piece. I simply cited "years of reading" and "talking to experts," but I gave you no evidence of said reading or experts.)

What passes as evidence and citations today are backlinks.

Backlinks are hyperlinks to an article within an article. They're typically relevant to the topic and heuristically serve as "evidence" for whatever claim you made in that sentence. Like what I did in the first sentence of this paragraph. I hyperlinked to my article on SEO explaining backlinks. This is a terrible, no good, very bad way to cite evidence. 

It is, however, a good way to provide....a hat tip. Like a hat-tip to a previous post on a related topic. Backlinks should be treated as "recommended reading if you'd like to learn more," and not as a citation, bibliography, or evidence. 

For people who have done research on this topic, please consult Commit Action which has a Science Advisory Board of legitimate professors and scientists (not just ones who play them on the internet) qualified to give advice on productivity. And which does it's due diligence in researching its recommendations before ever putting them out and implementing them. 

Also, watch this TED talk. It explains everything.