- The last few years have hit many of us hard, making it difficult to focus — especially on work.
- Because of that, I tried out some of TikTok's most popular productivity hacks.
- Some, like "body doubling," worked far better than others.
It's no secret that the last few years have hit many of us hard. A survey found that 84% of American adults report experiencing emotions related to prolonged stress, according to the American Psychological Association, and new research from Harvard Medical School suggests that "pandemic brain" — meaning fatigue, brain fog, and depression — is very real and impacting even otherwise healthy individuals. So if you're struggling to focus and looking for new tips and tricks to keep you motivated and moving forward, you're definitely not alone.
As someone who's definitely not a stranger to the struggle — and was diagnosed with ADHD days before lockdown started — I decided to turn to TikTok to test out some of the most popular "life hacks" designed to make increasing your productivity a breeze. While some are certainly more effective than others, here are the ones I think are worth the hype.
1. Body Doubling
Body doubling is typically touted as a fantastic strategy for helping people with ADHD get things done, and it's currently one of my favorite productivity tips — and for a good reason. The way body doubling works is simple: You use the presence of another person to help you get more things done. This provides extra accountability, especially if you start your body doubling session by telling the other person what you're planning to work on, but it can also make stressful tasks easier simply because you're not alone.
I've tried body doubling both in-person and virtually using Zoom, and every time I've done it my productivity skyrocketed. Because there was another person present to hold me accountable (and no talking was allowed), it was much easier to get into the flow of work — and stay there — without being distracted. Plus, this really helped me work through harder tasks because it reframed them into something more enjoyable — I didn't feel like I was working on a task I was avoiding, I was just body doubling. The task itself was secondary.
2. Time Blocking
If you're someone who thrives on structure, time blocking might be a great productivity strategy to introduce into your regular routine. Time blocking involves breaking your day into different segments, or blocks, to create a detailed plan for how you will spend your day — including any breaks, personal care, or commitments you might have.
Time blocking wasn't hugely effective for me, but it does work … sometimes. I liked having an exact schedule to follow, but it can get boring at times and doesn't allow for much flexibility — which can be difficult if you have a busy work schedule that involves a lot of changes and interruptions.
While I don't use detailed time blocking anymore, I did start implementing a vague version of time blocking into my weekly schedule where I block off specific days for specific tasks — like recording my podcast every single Tuesday morning. This creates enough structure to get things done while still giving me the flexibility I enjoy.
3. The 5-Minute Rule
The Five-Minute Rule is one of my all-time favorite productivity tips, and it's perfect for any situation where you find yourself avoiding a task, procrastinating, or struggling to just get started. Instead of forcing yourself to sit down and do something you've been avoiding, the Five-Minute Rule says you only need to do the thing for five minutes. Once you're done with the five minutes, you can stop, but — if you're like me — you'll probably find yourself completing the task.
For many of us (myself included), starting a task can be incredibly difficult — especially if it's something you're not excited about or you've been avoiding for a long time — and this tip makes getting over that initial hurdle easier.
4. The Pomodoro Technique
You might've heard of the Pomodoro Technique, but it's worth a refresher. Originally designed in the 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique is a time-management strategy that involves breaking your workday into 25-minute chunks (or pomodoros) separated by five-minute breaks. Once you've completed four pomodoros, you're then encouraged to take a longer 20-minute break.
I've tried the Pomodoro Technique in the past, and — while I do think it can be incredibly useful for some people — it's not my favorite productivity tool. It does help me get started on work, similarly to the Five-Minute Rule, but I hated being interrupted by the timer going off right as I felt like I was getting into the "flow" of work. I started taking my first five-minute break and could already feel myself losing the momentum I built, so I ended the break early and went back to work.
5. Energy Management
When I first saw this TikTok about energy management, I ran to YouTube to get a longer explanation — and I'm glad I did. Unlike traditional productivity tips and tricks that typically emphasize better time management, this strategy involves managing your energy instead by tracking your energy levels throughout your day (and week) and using that information to create a schedule that works for you.
After a few days of tracking my energy, I discovered that my energy peaks from around 9 am to 2 p.m., so I started building my workday around that information. I also learned that early mornings make me feel more energized and excited about my day, so I started prioritizing waking up earlier to give myself an hour or two before work to make breakfast, drink coffee, and meditate.
From there, I started paying attention to what tasks created energy versus drained it and used that information to manipulate my energy levels as needed. I used to have the tendency to put all of the things that energized me back-to-back in my daily schedule, typically in the afternoon and evening, but now I schedule them throughout my day to help lift my energy levels after things that drain me, like long conference calls.
Plus, I love that energy management allows me to be both proactive and reactive. Sure, it helped me create a routine that works for me, but it also gave me more information about myself and my energy levels that helps me respond to potential issues that arise. If I didn't get enough sleep the night before, for instance, I can rearrange my morning to include more energizing tasks in order to "build up" to draining ones — or just push the draining things off to the next day.
And this flexibility-first approach to productivity? It's definitely a win for me.