Sam Holstein

5 Low-Effort Changes That Will 10x Your Productivity

5 Low-Effort Changes That Will 10x Your Productivity

Productivity and self-help articles have a bad habit of recommending what I like to think of as “high-effort” interventions. Wake Up at 5 AM! Take Cold Showers! Track All Your Expenses By Hand! Meal Prep! I’m an admitted self-help writer and total productivity nerd, but these kinds of recommendations are and have always been far too much for me. I’m a self-help junkie, but I also have a personality disorder, autism, and an undiagnosed abdominal pain issue that collectively sap my ability to function. There are weeks in my life when I’m able to wake up at 5 AM and meal prep, but there are also weeks in my life where getting out of bed is an accomplishment. I need self-help hacks that don’t take any energy out of my emotional bank account.

And you know what? I’m not the only one. I meet so many people who are mentally ill, physically disabled, or otherwise unable to rise to the high demands of traditional self-help. These people often tell me they’ve sworn off self-help entirely because it’s completely inaccessible. But there are self-help hacks that work for people with very little spare time and energy. Implementing these low-effort changes can create all the positive momentum you need for lasting changes in your life.

1. Adopting a Minimalist Mindset

You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

― Greg McKeown, Essentialism

People think that to get more done, they have to do more. When they’re looking for ways to be more productive, they’re looking for more, more, more.But the reality is the most powerful boosts to your productivity come from doing less.

It’s also true that most of what we spend our time doing doesn’t contribute to our happiness and success, whether that be professional, athletic, interpersonal, or any other kind. If you quit wasting time on what isn’t working for you, you have much more time for what is.

The less you have, the more focus you have, and the more you get done.Simple as that.

There are two super-easy ways you can set about adopting minimalism in your life today.

Declutter Your House

Yes, good ole’ minimalism — let go of the possessions that don’t add value to your life to make more space for what does. We’ve been blathering on about it for ten or twenty years now, but we minimalists been blathering on about it because it worksBecoming a minimalist didn’t make any of my problems go away, but it made them far easier to deal with.

I’ve already written enough on minimalism to fill a book, so here’s an extra-short guide to how you can adopt minimalism in your own life.

  1. Go through your clothes. Clothes are a great place to start minimizing because it’s easy. Get rid of any that don’t fit, any that you never wear because you like the color, and any that are stained, pitted, or threadbare. I promise, you already have enough clothes; you don’t need to clutter up your life by keeping these around.
  2. Look around your house for any books you haven’t picked up in years, any household appliances or items that are sitting forgotten in a corner, stacks of random and unsorted papers, or anything that’s visibly collecting dust.Consider that if these things have been sitting forgotten that long, it’s like you never owned them — and if you got along without them until now, you’ll get along fine once you get rid of them, too.
  3. Look for any pricy items you’re not using that still have value. Sell them on eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or a similar platform. This is a great way to get rid of old phones, television sets, and gaming equipment you don’t use but don’t want to throw away because they’re still valuable. Better to sell them now than throw them away in ten years when they truly are worthless.

Minimize Your Digital Life

Sometimes I catch a glance of what other people’s phone lock screens look like when they pick up their phone and it gives me an aneurysm. Dozens upon dozens of unaddressed notifications, all begging for the user’s attention, most of them pointless corporate marketing spam — and the rest useless social media notifications from people the user doesn’t care about. No wonder people miss your text, call, or email.

A super-easy way to increase your productivity is simply to make sure you see what’s important by getting rid of what isn’t.

  1. Take care of your email so your inbox isn’t filled with junk.
  2. Organize your phone so it isn’t constantly beeping with notifications.
  3. Get rid of social media platforms that don’t justify the time they take up.
  4. Throw out items on your to-do list that are mere busywork.

2. Quitting Unhealthy Dependencies

Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.

― Lance Armstrong & Sally Jenkins, Every Second Counts

One of the most unsettling parts about becoming an adult is the day you turn around and realize the majority of the people around you are hooked on something. Some are hooked on “obviously bad” things like heroin, cocaine, and whiskey, while others are hooked on “not so bad” things like marijuana, beer, porn, and shopping, but nearly everyone is hooked on something.

Your liver might survive your shopping habit, but every dependency exacts its toll, no matter how benign it appears at first. And if you are one of the many who are hooked on something, one of the greatest things you can do for your productivity is to break your dependency. You can’t function well if you’re jonesing for a hit, even if it’s just a hit of Netflix.

Here’s a list of things people are commonly hooked on:

If you don’t think you’re hooked on anything or aren’t sure what you’re hooked on, start tracking your time and your expenses. This is easy to do by installing a time-tracker on your computer and using a free expense tracker. I guarantee, at the end of thirty days with these tools, you will have learned a number of unsettling things about your own habits.

3. Get Good Sleep

Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds.

— JoJo Jensen

JoJo Jensen is right, you know. When we don’t get a good night’s sleep at roughly the same time every night in a dark quiet room, our ability to function well suffers greatly.

It’s not difficult to see how these things interfere with our productivity.

If you want to see your productivity shoot up a notch, just start taking care of your sleep. Go to bed at a reasonable hour. Go to bed sober. Turn off all the lights. If you have to listen to something, listen to a soft and relaxing YouTube video for sleep, not cable news. Your body will thank you for it.

4. Getting a Therapist

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”

― David Richo

Getting therapy isn’t usually in listicles about productivity, but truly, nothing is better for your productivity than effective therapy.

Think of therapists like coaches.They help you root out all the personal issues holding you back and teach you the skills you need to rocket toward the life of your dreams.It’s no surprise that a couple of years in therapy will seriously help anyone’s productivity.

You don’t have to attend therapy too often to see benefits. Once every two weeks is enough for most people to get cognitive reframing they could benefit from.

The best part is, it’s affordable as heck. Even if you don’t have insurance, an appointment once every two weeks is under $200 a month, and most people have access to some kind of insurance or medical financial aid, bringing that cost down to less than a night out. If that still sounds like a lot to you, consider that you spend more on food & takeout & alcohol, and you get a lot less from that money. Therapy is money well spent.

5. Exercise

If you have a body, you are an athlete!”

— Bill Bowerman

This entry is the last on the list, but should be the first. It still astonishes me just how potent exercise can be in making everything about your life better. I’ve been on a lot of psychiatric medication, been to a lot of therapy, read a lot of self-help books, and done a lot of self-improvement procedures, but by far and away the most helpful thing I’ve ever done is still adopt a workout routine. Like I’ve written in other articles, we’ve found the fountain of youth, and it’s a gym habit.

Getting in shape gives you so much energy.It increases your working memory and other neurological capacities. It improves and stabilizes your mood. It enhances your problem-solving abilities. It’s not hard to imagine how this boots your productivity.

There is so much literature out there about how to be more productive, but I think the most important thing when it comes to productivity is just doing what you know you should do. We all know by now that we should exercise, get good sleep, quit our bad habits, and take care of our mental health. People who struggle with getting things done don’t have a knowledge problem, they have a procedural problem — which is why I also recommend therapy. Therapists will help you diagnose and correct what’s going wrong in your life so you can get back to doing what you know you should be doing.

Hopefully reading this article shook something loose for you and was the catalyst you needed to finally start doing what you know you should have been all along.