From eliminating distractions to using the “Big Three” productivity hack, here are the 20 answers to the question, “What are your best tools, habits, apps, or books that you often use to motivate you and make your work easier?”
Not the most conventional choice when you think of “work hack” but soundproofing my office room has single-handedly helped in eliminating noises and unnecessary distractions.
We don’t realize how background noises like the sound of cars passing by, people talking or laughing, or even far-off construction noises can instantly break our flow of concentration and often leave us foggy-minded.
Eliminating these ambient sounds can be a great way to create a more productive atmosphere and soundproofing panels have proved to be a lot more thorough than noise-canceling headphones or a white noise machine in my experience.
Harry Morton, Founder, Lower Street
One tool that I use is the Pomodoro Technique. The technique comprises breaking down your tasks into 25-minute intervals, known as “pomodoros.” After each pomodoro is complete, you take a five-minute break before starting the next interval.
This helps to keep me focused and motivated as it breaks down my tasks into more manageable chunks. It also helps me to stay on track and get through my work efficiently.
I also use a timer app to keep track of my pomodoros, so that I can easily monitor my progress. Last, I reward myself with something small after each completed task, as it helps to keep me motivated and stay on track.
Amira Irfan, Founder & CEO, A Self Guru
A cluttered inbox means I may miss important emails while I spend too much time separating promotional emails from the ones I need to answer. Unroll.me is a free service that has helped me clean up my inbox, so I go through fewer unnecessary emails.
Unroll.me scans my inbox and creates a list of all my subscription emails, and from there, I can unsubscribe from anything I don’t want anymore. It’s straightforward to use, and after an initial sort that only took around fifteen minutes, my inbox is now uncluttered.
To maintain a tidy inbox, I run Unroll.me every quarter to ensure I am never overwhelmed. I can now answer the most important emails in my inbox, knowing I won’t miss anything important.
Anthony Martin, Founder & CEO, Choice Mutual
An Old-Fashioned Alarm Clock
Like many entrepreneurs, I need help waking up early every day—especially when I worked after hours the night before. But I don’t fancy cell phone alarms because they pull me to spend the first 30 minutes (or more) browsing through emails or social media. This often raises stress levels in the body without us even noticing.
That’s why I opt for an old-fashioned alarm clock to keep me on track with my schedule and free from pointless distractions. I intend to spend every minute of my day investing in activities with some form of return.
Brian Nagele, CEO, Restaurant Clicks
As a CEO, I find Asana to be helpful in several ways. It allows me to organize and track the progress of projects and tasks, delegate work to team members, and communicate with team members about project updates and changes.
This helps me stay on top of my work and ensures that tasks are being completed efficiently and effectively. Asana also allows me to monitor the performance and productivity of my team, which can be helpful for making informed business decisions.
Overall, Asana helps me better manage my time and resources, and stay organized and informed about the status of my projects and tasks.
Brian Meiggs, Founder, My Millennial Guide
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Atomic Habits is a book written by James Clear that focuses on how small, incremental changes in behavior can lead to significant improvements in various aspects of life, including work habits. The book emphasizes the importance of establishing strong habits and routines and provides practical strategies.
Overall, the book is a great resource for anyone looking to cultivate positive work habits and make meaningful progress in their career. Its practical, actionable advice and emphasis on the power of minor changes make it a valuable tool for anyone looking to improve their productivity and effectiveness in the workplace.
Jennifer Drago, CEO & Founder, Peak to Profit, LLC
Parkinsons Law and the Flow App
For every task I complete, I ensure I’m strict on the time I distribute it. According to his book, Parkinsons Law: Or The Pursuit of Progress, if you give yourself a month to complete a task, then that’s exactly how long it will take to complete, despite it being a straightforward task that needs only a fraction of that time to complete.
When you give a simple task extra time to complete, the task’s complexity will increase and the extra time given may not actually contribute any net gains, but increase stresses and tension surrounding what could otherwise be a straightforward task.
To combat this, I always give each of my tasks a time limit, rarely exceeding 2 hours, and I use the Flow App to help me time these tasks too, which keeps me extra focussed to complete the task in the allotted time.
Danny Collins, Technical Director, Reg Car Check
I first began using TED Talks when I lost inspiration and needed something to motivate me. A friend suggested I listen to one podcast available on the platform, and I found it so engrossing that I soon started searching for other content to explore.
TED Talks are videos posted by influential speakers in many fields, and they cover a vast range of subjects. You can either browse the site to find one that looks interesting or search for particular categories or your favorite speakers.
I have found that TED Talks can be habit-forming. I usually start the day off by listening to a podcast over breakfast and I have found that this motivates me to go out and be the best that I can be each day.
Colin Palfrey, Chief Marketing Officer, Crediful
The Hemingway App
The Hemingway app helps me write like a pro. Creating easy-to-understand content for our website and social media that speaks to tech, finance, and business matters can be time-consuming. And doing so using short sentences can be unbelievably challenging. But the Hemingway app offers helpful suggestions for incorporating easy-to-read natural language.
Forgoing the industry jargon helps people better understand what we do, why we do it, and how it applies to their various business needs. With content being king these days, the Hemingway app enables me to rein in my audience with articles that are more relatable to our readers.
Daniel Kroytor, Founder & Director, Tailored Pay
Every year, I buy a special journal where I can vent my frustrations at work and record important life experiences. I update the journal once or twice a week and then look back at it after a few months.
Noting these events allows me to collect fragments of memories and create inspiring stories that motivate me to pursue my passion. Documenting my personal and professional progress has become a habit that helps me overcome challenges and go far in life.
Sam Tabak, Board Member, RMBH Charities
Limit Social Media
One of the best tips that really helps for productivity is limiting social media and having specific times to check social media a day. Unfortunately, social media can really take up a lot of one’s time, increase procrastination and distract one from achieving what they can as it takes the gap focus away.
That’s why it is best to limit social media time to three times a day for 10-15 mins max in the morning, mid-day, and before one sleeps to prevent it from causing a distraction and allowing one to reach their true potential.
Denise Hemke, Chief Product Officer, Checkr
Take a Walk
As we’ve been working remotely for over two years, I have developed a specific routine that helps me stay productive and creative. The most important one is that I no longer open the laptop in my bed; I take a quick walk either to a bakery or a coffee shop to clear my head and prepare for the day. Finding a work-life balance was hard at first, but putting on specific measures helped a lot.
If I get a creative block during work hours, I take a minor break, eat something sweet to stimulate the brain, and get back to work while putting all distractions aside. Another trick I have found is going on Google Maps and taking a stroll in a city or country I want to visit. It may sound silly, but allowing myself to take a few minutes off to not think about what I’m supposed to do gives me the energy I need to keep pushing.
Derek Sall, Founder & Financial Expert, Life and My Finances
I use Wunderlist to stay organized and motivated. It’s a task management app that makes it easy for me to create lists, set reminders, collaborate with others, and track my progress.
With the ability to share tasks, I’m able to assign tasks to others and get things done faster. I use the app to set goals and deadlines for myself, as well as keep track of commitments and tasks that need to be completed. It’s been a great tool in helping me stay organized, motivated, and productive while working on projects or tasks.
Wunderlist is available on desktop and mobile devices, so I can access it easily from anywhere. It’s a great tool for anyone who needs help staying on top of their work and getting things done.
Martin Seeley, CEO, Mattress Next Day
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
My work gets easier when I use what I’ve learned from Kim Scott’s Radical Candor. This book highlights how you have to strike the perfect balance between getting things done, and looking after your employees. My life got easier because this approach fostered a less toxic workplace, and showed me how to balance leadership and humanity. It allowed me to show up at my job as myself, and hold the same space for my employees. Productivity skyrocketed when people felt like they were cared for.
Adrian Todd, Founder, Great Minds Think Hike
Calm Background Music
I often listen to calm background music while I’m working. This helps keep me calm and focused, allowing me to devote all of my attention to the task at hand. When there is no distracting sound around me, I find it easier to concentrate and stay on task by replacing any erratic environmental noises with calm music. Listening to calm background music while I work also inspires creative thinking thanks to the relaxing melody and beats that can help boost my productivity significantly.
Benjamin Okyere, Data Engineer, Stress Reliever
Eat the Frog
One habit which I find helpful is to “Eat the Frog.” This doesn’t refer to a literal frog but is a term used by author and productivity consultant Brian Tracy. Put simply, you prioritize your most challenging work rather than putting it off.
At the start of each day, I set aside the time to complete my toughest task, free of distraction. I can put my full focus, energy, and effort into this, enhancing my effectiveness. This puts me in a positive, productive frame of mind, setting me up for success. It gives me a sense of achievement and motivation and also means I can concentrate more fully on my work throughout the day, safely knowing that my hardest task has been accomplished.
As the workday continues, it’s easy to become reactive rather than proactive, as you respond to the varying demands of the day. By adopting an “Eat the Frog” mentality, I can set my agenda and ensure that my work is properly prioritized. I don’t wait until I have the time; I make the time.
Martin Gasparian, Attorney & Owner, Maison Law
Goal Sheet, Check Once a Day
I usually have an excel sheet on my computer that details my career goals and personal goals. I find it helpful to write things like this down, or in this case, go all out and make a spreadsheet, which gives me a roadmap on how to get there.
Every morning when I get to work, I pull up my goal sheet and review it. It only takes five minutes, but I really bought into doing this to stay motivated and focused to pursue those goals.
Sometimes when we set goals for ourselves, we drift on them or only prefer the ones that give us instant gratification. That, unfortunately, has become a large part of our culture, instant gratification. I want to make sure I don’t miss out on the journey.
In my career and life experience, I realized how valuable the process or journey is in reaching your goals, especially the long-term ones. That’s why I pull out that sheet every day and review it. I want to make sure I don’t lose focus on where I am going.
Brian Clark, CEO & Marketing Director, United Medical Education
I can be my own enemy sometimes by setting up bars way too high for me to reach. This triggers procrastination and then I can go on spending days without getting almost anything done. To prevent myself from getting in this loop, I try to write the things I do everyday. This works as a fail-safe that keeps me from having unproductive days.
No matter how lazy I am, the inner perfectionist in me won’t let me pass a day without getting something done. Even if just for the sake of writing something in my journal, I end up doing something. Only you know how you tick, so I know how making me write my failures can trigger me to actually get things done.
I make my journaling system so easy that it shouldn’t feel like a chore. I have small notepads almost everywhere, both in physical and digital form. The digital system is online and can be accessed from any device. This helps me stay motivated to not ignore journaling for a single day.
Andreas Grant, Founder, Networks Hardware
Alex Hormozi’s Podcast
He’s got a book and it’s good, but lately, I’ve been getting a lot of inspiration from the no-nonsense advice dished out on Instagram and his podcast “The Game” by Alex Hormozi, founder of Acquisition.com.
Hormozi is not the type of guy I wouldn’t normally gravitate to, but a friend told me, “You’ve got to listen to this guy!” so despite his interesting dress style and overall appearance, I gave his content a try. I’ve found it highly motivating because he calls me out on things I know I should do, stop doing, or do better.
For example, in a recent podcast, Hormozi talked about how “attention is the new oil.” I knew this because I grew my business through writing and speaking, but I realized I had slacked off and wasn’t doing what I used to do, and I was no longer getting the results I used to get. Now I’m diving back into content creation, thanks to Hormozi.
Josh Steimle, Founder, MWI
The Big Three
One habit that has changed my business and allows me to run and grow my company as CEO has been starting my day with the big three. These are three non-negotiable (high-value) tasks that I need to complete by the end of the day. Anything else is gravy.
Understanding this, I have amazing clarity on how I can spend the time I have allocated to work that day and what is or is not important. Doing this has allowed me to grow my business year after year.
Jenny Belanger, CEO & Creative Director, JennyB Designs
Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Terkel, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.
Work hack stock image by ViDI Studio/Shutterstock