4 Habits That Increase Your Productivity

How to work less but achieve more


More work equals more productivity right? Wrong.

We are taught at quite a young age that hard work is always rewarded. And at first, this works out. However, sooner or later your hard work will result in a job where everybody works hard. Therefore, this is no longer an asset: there only are 24 hours in a day.

And is working hard really the only thing you can do to increase your productivity?

With this sequel in the Essentialism series about “exploring”, I will describe the 4 habits that increase your productivity.

Productivity habit 1: Explore

Do you say yes to all opportunities?

It’s vital to explore all the possibilities and opportunities that come your way. What do you really want to focus on? These typically are activities which you are either good at and have a deep interest in.  Therefore, it is important to schedule time in your day to explore everything you “have” to do. Making deliberate choices to stop doing certain activities are important. Read more about this in my post about trade-offs.

Make sure to schedule some time in your agenda to be able to think. This doesn’t work when your day is covered back-to-back with meetings. Just do a little experiment: try declining some of the meetings in which your presence is of little value and make some room in your busy schedule.

Productivity habit 2: Go off the grid for a while

No, you don’t have to lock yourself up for a month without a smartphone. That’s not what I mean here. But ask yourself this: does your day get hijacked by other people’s email the minute you walk in and start with opening your email app?

This seriously harms your productivity. When you open your email app and start answering emails, you’re not working on your own priorities. Therefore, it would be a smart move to start a few days in the week without opening your email inbox. Start with working on your priorities instead.

There are also a lot of other distractors, like IMs or phone calls. Usually, most people in companies can afford not answering the phone for one hour. Therefore, just leave your phone out of site for some times and don’t open your IM application.

Productivity habit 3: Protecting the asset to increase productivity

A lot of smart and ambitious people forego sleep just to be able to work till late. However, when you’re working till late, this not only reduces the number of hours you sleep. Also, it reduces the quality of your sleep. When watching your screen, you’re exposed to too much blue light. Consequently, your body does not produce enough melatonin as it thinks it is still daytime. Melatonin is a hormone that prepares your body for sleep.

Ironically, people working till late think they’re increasing their output. However, when you only sleep for 4 or 5 hours a night for one week, your performance equals that of somebody with a blood alcohol level of 0.1%. However, somebody who is working till late is often celebrated in the office. It’s about the same as congratulating someone coming to the office after drinking 3 to 7 glasses of alcohol. Let’s try that one out in an experiment ;). Could you let me know how that worked out for you? I will volunteer to gather the data.

So, needless to say sleep deprivation (click link for source) causes a massive drop of performance.

Productivity habit 4: the importance of creativity

Once you become an adult, play is seen as childish. However, play is vitally important to boost creativity and to reduce stress. Meanwhile, increasing working hours leaves us less and less time for hobbies.

Creativity will only come to you when you work with your whole brain. This means both the emotional parts and the rational parts are stimulated. When you’re only looking at metrics and KPIs, you’re only working with the rational part of your brain. For creativity however, you also need the emotional part of your brain.

Therefore, hobbies help. And I don’t mean binge watching your latest favorites. I mean stuff like writing and playing music. But also engaging in sports and exercise activate different parts of the brain. During those activities, you give your head a breather. By doing this, new associations can be made. This is the process called creativity. Hobbies have even found to be positively related to performance at work and to increase self-confidence.


Fortunately, increasing your productivity is not only about hard work. Especially not in the knowledge worker economy in which most of us are currently working. In this economy, creativity and insight is disproportionally rewarded and for good reasons.

Summarizing, the following 4 habits will increase your productivity when taken seriously:

  1. Exploring: are you going for the opportunities you like and are good at?
  2. Get off the grid: make sure people (or social media!) can’t disturb you
  3. Protecting the asset: get enough sleep
  4. Make time for hobbies and play

Thanks for reading this article. Please hit the like and share button and drop a comment if you want to share your experiences. In 2 weeks I will post another sequal in the Essentialism series!

4 habits that increase your productivity


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