There are never enough hours in the day.

We can never seem to find the time to accomplish everything on our to-do lists. Whether those things are work-related, family-related or goal-related, we just don’t seem to have enough time or energy to get them done.

That’s why we all seek to become more productive. We want to be able to manage our time better to get more done and open up more free time.

Because of this universal importance, there is now an entire industry that is dedicated to helping people become more productive. There are hundreds of apps and programs you can download that will help you manage your time, set priorities and tune out distractions. There are countless productivity gurus with books and articles about his or her philosophy about how you get more done in less time.

All of these strategies and tools do have value – they would not be in business otherwise. But with all of the information out there, becoming more productive now seems like a complex formula, when really it is quite simple when you break it down.


Being more productive comes down to how you manage 3 factors: your time, your focus and your energy. [1]

Managing your time is about making sure that you are working on the highest priority tasks within your unique schedule. It doesn’t matter if you’re focused and energetic if you’re not working on the right things at the right time.

Managing your focus is about tuning out all distractions and giving your full attention to the task at hand. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on the right task and have a lot of energy, if that time and energy is being wasted checking your email and Facebook.

Managing your energy is about having the drive to get the task done. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on the right task and you’re fully focused, if you don’t have any motivation to do it.

Managing your time is a very personal thing. We all have unique schedules and unique ways of prioritizing. Your ability to manage your time goes beyond the scope of this site, but managing your energy and focus directly relates to how you use your willpower.

So I have listed 8 proven ways that you can increase your energy and focus to become more productive:


Practicing daily mediation is one of the best things you can do to increase your ability to stay focused on a task. By meditating you are training the brain to focus and resist the urge to wander. Research shows that you will see a measurable increase in your ability to focus after just 2-3 days of practicing meditation for 10 minutes. [2]

To get started with 10 minutes of meditation, download the free Headspace app. It will provide you with guided meditation practices that are designed for beginners.


To exert mental energy, our brains burn through a chemical known as glucose. Any food that contains calories will give your brain glucose to work with. But not all glucose is created equally. Sugary foods will cause a quick spike of glucose, giving you mental energy for the short-term, but will cause a subsequent crash that depletes your energy just as fast.

The best thing you can do is keep the glucose level in your bloodstream steady. This will give your brain a consistent reserve of fuel to exert mental energy for the long-term. To accomplish this, researchers suggest a low-glycemic diet. [3]

This includes:


Nothing fancy is required – just lean cuts of beef, poultry, pork and fish.


Specifically those nuts that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts, pecans and cashews. (Note: this does not include legumes like peanuts).


Fresh fruit is preferred over dried fruit because dried fruits have a high concentration of sugar in them. This will result in the glucose spike for the short term and lead to a subsequent crash. Some good choices are bananas, blueberries, apples and cherries.


All vegetables will help build your long-term willpower, but specific veggies that pack a willpower punch are root-based. These include sweet potatoes, carrots, squash and onions which will all give you some serious mental energy!


As a society, we are chronically sleep deprived. We all know we need to get more sleep, but it's not that easy. Just like it seems there are not enough hours in the day to get things done, it also seems that there are not enough to get a full night's rest.

So here are scientifically proven tactics that will give you more energy without extra hours:


The best way to get more energy from sleep without increasing your hours in bed is to achieve total darkness. Under these circumstances we are able to achieve a deeper sleep and give our brains the ability to rest and recover better. [4]

2. NAP

Other research suggests that it’s the amount of consecutive hours you spend awake that matters the most. So even taking a 20-minute power nap has huge benefits for your self-control! [5]


Although this is not a fail-safe strategy, catching up on sleep has been shown to reverse some effects of sleep deprivation. Getting more sleep on the weekend will create a reserve of energy that your brain can use for willpower during the week. [6]


There are incredible benefits of exercise on your productivity. Research shows that those who exercise regularly have more energy, more ability to focus and have greater health (you can't be productive when you're home sick!). [7]

The best part is how little exercise that is required in order see all of these benefits. The most important thing is to make a plan that is consistent, not overwhelming. Whether you can exercise 1x/week or 4x/week, it doesn’t matter. To see the benefits, you just need to set a plan that you will not fail.

The next thing many people may be thinking is what type of “physical exercise” should you be doing? Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford, gives a very good answer to this question. [8]

“What type of exercise are you willing to do?”

Although there are many different physical benefits based on the type of exercise you choose, the brain doesn’t really care. As long as you’re not laying down, sitting, or standing still, you will see the willpower benefits of exercise. So don’t set a rigorous and intimidating workout routine if you're just getting started. Start small and be consistent.


As humans, we have an incredible ability to visualize. This helps us be more creative and innovative, but it also leads to being perfectionists. Being a perfectionist is not something to boast about. Striving for perfection leads us to procrastinate projects because it doesn't feel like "the perfect time" to get it done.

We have all felt this way. Whether it was an important work project or simply cleaning out the garage, if it didn't feel like we could do the job perfectly, we put it off.

To overcome this natural tendency, we should strive for simply making progress. Studies show that spending just 10 minutes on a project is enough for us to begin to immerse ourselves in it and make it "feel like the perfect time". [9]


When it comes time to work, sometimes we can get completely overwhelmed. Just like trying to be perfect can lead to procrastination, so can focusing on how big a project is. This feeling of being overwhelmed leads us to become more stressed and drains our focus on the task at hand. [10]

Chunking is the process of taking a large project and breaking it into manageable “chunks”. This is the method used by endurance athletes to help them endure the long hours of exerting themselves, as well as productivity consultants to help people break their long-term goals into short-term, manageable chunks.

A chunk can be task related - breaking the larger task into smaller, more manageable sub-tasks. Or it can be time related - such as spending 25 minutes on a task then taking a 5 minute break. There is no single "best way" to break up a task. It depends on what works for you and the project.


Your willpower is like a muscle - the more you use it, the weaker it gets. And you use it for all acts of self-control. The same willpower you use to increase your focus, is also used to deny the donuts in the break room. [8]

To become more productive, then, ensure your environment is free of unrelated willpower challenges. Remove distractions like unhealthy food, chats with friends and Facebook. The more willpower you exert trying to resist or ignore these different temptations, the less you will have to remain focused on the task at hand.

You can find 10 of the best apps that remove distractions here.


None of the tactics above will give you the same focus and energy that having a great purpose will. It doesn't matter if we eat right, sleep well, exercise and tune out distractions if we don't really care about what we're working on.

A genuine desire to do something gives us focus and energy that seemingly comes out of nowhere. This happens when we remember what we truly want, which triggers a response in our brain that strengthens our willpower. This is known as our "want power" and we can activate it in 2 ways:


Setting reminders for yourself about what you are truly working for is one of the best ways to increase your want power. When doing the day to day tasks of a project, you can lose sight of the big picture very easily. So setting reminders will help you keep your goal in mind and increase your want power. [8]


We all have different things that inspire us. For me, it's Leonardo da Vinci's first painting.It gives me motivation to go over every detail of my work, even when that task is boring. Yours could be an inspirational speech, a video, a great leader or any number of other things.

Whatever your inspiration is, ensure that you can turn to it on a daily basis. This will help you keep going - especially on those days when you feel like you just don't have the willpower to be productive. [12]


Our lives are too short. We all want to squeeze as much value out of them as we possibly can. This has led us to seek innovative ways to produce more great work in fewer hours. Unfortunately, this has led us to overcomplicate the process of becoming more productive.

Becoming more productive simply comes down to managing your time, your focus and your energy effectively. The 8 techniques listed above will help you increase your energy and focus, but by far the most important is the reason why you are working in the first place. There is no productivity method on earth that can triumph over a deep, genuine desire to create great work. No matter what that work may be.