24 Ways to Hack Your Environment to Get More Productive
Physical, Digital, and Biological Environment Hacks to Get the Best Out of Yourself
When it comes to getting the best out of ourselves, and staying focused for longer at work, we can only rely on willpower and intrinsic motivation so much.
Willpower is finite and gets depleted over the course of a day.
Motivation comes and goes. Some days we have it, other days we don’t.
How can we succeed without being overly dependent on these fickle drivers of performance?
We can practice environment design.
We might want to stop eating that bag of Dorito’s whilst we’re watching Netflix late at night, but with our willpower depleted, and our motivation to eat salty corn chips a little too strong, we cave.
However, if we design an environment where we dont have any Dorito’s in our home, then we’re making it much more difficult to eat them. Doing so would necessitate a trip to the local grocery store, and that my friends is a form of environment design.
You can introduce or remove friction to your environment, and stimulate your desired behaviors.
When it comes to designing our environment to stay focused for longer at our desks and get more high-quality work done, there are a number of physical, digital, and biological environment triggers we can lean on.
Hack Your Physical Environment
- Keep physical distractions beyond arm’s reach (yes, this includes your smartphone)
- Keep your door closed or work from a private space if you can
- Work from a place with no physical distractions or interruptions
- Work in a comfortable position
- Incorporate natural light into your workspace
Hack Your Digital Environment
6. Have one window open at a time
7. Block distraction apps with tools like Freedom and Blocksite
8. Turn off push notifications on your smartphone and desktop apps
9. Set your smartphone to ‘do not disturb’ mode
10. Block time in your calendar so people can’t steal your day
Hack Your Internal Environment (Your Biology)
11. Go outside and get some natural sunlight — this boosts your Vitamin D, and improves your mood and subjective wellbeing
12. Incorporate movement throughout your day — moving stimulates the release of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which essentially makes us more alert and focused -
13. Fast for 12 to 16 hours — fasting also stimulants the release of BDNF as well as epinephrine which is essentially adrenaline that puts us a heightened state of alertness
14. Eat slow carbs — opt for nutrition that is slow release instead of starchy and sugary snacks that will have you crashing and unable to focus beyond an hour after consumption
15. Sleep — getting your forty winks is the ultimate biohack, and helps us with focus, emotional regulation, decision making, and creativity. Without enough sleep, we become a shadow of who we could be.
16. Meditate — meditating takes the parts of the brain that are responsible for emotional processing and sensory information offline, which puts us in a calmer state and more likely to focus on one task at a time, instead of reach for our phones and seek out distractions.
17. Breathe — when we exhale, our heart rate drops. This is the essence of heart rate variability. So if you’re feeling a little tense or anxious, practice longer exhales with shorter inhales to slow down your heart rate, and bring some calm to your inner world.
18. Deep Conversations — genuine conversations can get us into flow, and trigger the release of all sorts of positive neurochemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. They put us in a great mood, and we can direct that mood into our work.
19. Time of day. Early birds do their best work 2 hours after waking. Night owls do their best work 10 hours after waking. Work in accordance with your preferred sleeping patterns.
20. Nootropics — cognitive enhancers or ‘smart drugs’ such as lion’s mane, Chaga mushrooms, MCT oils, and the like, can assist your brain’s natural production of BDNF and other brain chemicals, to help you focus harder for longer.
21. Journal — transferring unsettled thoughts from your head to paper creates more internal order, something that’s essential to deep work and focus.
22. One thing at a time — train your brain to focus on one thing at a time, by doing one thing at a time away from your desk. Watch a movie, read a book, work out — whatever it is — do it without checking your phone.
23. Binaural beats — listening to binaural beats, which essentially stimulates the meditative Theta brain state by playing two different audio frequencies in each ear, is a fast way to get focused at your desk.
24. Stand — don’t sit all day. Alternate between sitting and standing to avoid becoming lethargic at your desk. Bonus points for walking meetings.
* 10X Your Productivity with the Time Rich Online Course*
Get more done in less time, with the companion course to my book, Time Rich. Watch the trailer below, and find out more at bit.ly/timerichcourse
Steve Glaveski is the co-founder of Collective Campus, author of Time Rich, Employee to Entrepreneur and host of the Future Squared podcast. He’s a chronic autodidact, and he’s into everything from 80s metal and high-intensity workouts to attempting to surf and do standup comedy.