Secrets of productivity: Cornerstone habits to be more productive

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There is no doubt that everyone in life strive to be more productive. As digital advertisers and as business owners, it is crucial that you deliver consistent effort everyday.  In the next 10 minutes, we will go in depth how to be constantly productive throughout the day, the week, the month and beyond. 

Being productive constantly will ensure that you are going to succeed and it just feels really good to be a contributing individual in this world. But how do we approach to be productive? What are some of the best ways to be productive? How can we incorporate them into our lives?

1)Approaching Productivity as a trainable behaviour:
How do we build habits the most effective way?

Habits to boost your productivity:
-Standardizing your Workflow
-Getting into the Flow State


To be productive means that you get things done faster and with better quality constantly. Our brain is a complex organ that evolved through time to give rise to our superior intelligence. Knowing how our brain works and how it functions will help us effectively incorporate strategies to become productive. Let’s look at our our brain is structured for a moment. 


The reptilian brain is the part of the brain that has the same structure as what found in reptiles such as snakes, lizards and crocodiles, hence, the name. Through studies, it has been identified that the reptilian brain is responsible for instinctual behaviours involved in things like aggression, dominance and territoriality.


Often called the limbic brain, the mammalian brain is the part of the brain that is present in all mammals, including us humans. It’s responsible for motivation, emotions, reproductive behaviour and parenting behaviour.


Scientifically referred to as the Neocortex, the human brain is what that differentiates us tremendously from all other organisms on the planet. It’s the part of the brain that is generally accepted to be responsible for the development of human language, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness.

Picture 1: The Triune Model of the Brain (https://www.interaction-design.org/)


Our brains are incredibly effective at recognizing patterns and it will self optimize itself to almost anything. Have you ever driven to work and forgot how you got there? That’s your brain optimizing the connections in your brain so you don’t have to expel willpower over tasks that are repeated often. As we do the same thing over and over again, it will become a habit and will be sent to the back-end of the brain, which is the reptilian and mammalian brain, freeing our human brain from making conscious decision to focus on the same repetitive task everyday.

The reptilian brain especially, is like a bank vault where you store your behaviours and habits. Once they are in there, it’s really hard to get the behaviour out.  Hence, that’s why people find it really hard to kick habits that we have developed over many years.


Like what we mentioned above, productivity should be approached as a trainable behaviour. To train a behaviour into yourself, it is vital that you understand how these three parts of the brain are connected together. The human part of the brain is responsible for your conscious decisions and will power. The main challenge that you will ever encounter that stops you from being productive or train in or out any behaviour is training the mammalian brain and the reptilian brain. This is the case because those two parts operate based on emotions and instincts. Any changes that contradicts the default programming in your brain (which is optimized for your existing habits) will be hard. You can’t get rid of those in just a snap of a finger as those behaviors are deeply seeded into your system so to speak.


The human brain is responsible for decision making and it can make decisions based on rationality and most importantly, can delay gratification. However, the system will be overridden by emotions and instincts from the mammalian and the reptilian brain. Hence, you need to use your willpower and make rational decisions constantly to begin building productivity into yourself. We have gathered some of the best cornerstone habits for you that you can implement to become more productive and how can you implement them into your day to day lives. Hope you get value from it!



Scheduling is when you plan your time out based on the things that you do day to day, week to week, and even month to month. A schedule helps you to train your brain into being able to do things in time without much effort. As you do your things in the same order every day, your brain will get optimized for the said schedule. With that said, when you first draw a schedule for yourself and try to execute the tasks you have at hand, you are going to experience some form of resistance. As mentioned before, your brain will need time to adjust. Once the rewiring process is complete, you can easily to stick to the schedule with ease. So initially, you need to force yourself to keep going. You will feel something that’s similar to pain once you start, but the pain is a good sign as it is your brain flushing out the old stuff.

Why does it help to boost your productivity level? It helps to boost productivity by freeing up your mental energy. Keep in mind that your willpower is a limited resource. By maintaining a schedule you will free up a lot of willpower as you don’t expend energy thinking about what you need to do next and that frees up your drive and energy to be focused somewhere else. As you constantly keep doing the things you need to do to be productive, you will get better and better and your brain will self optimize itself to be productive.

How do you schedule your day? Start by writing ALL the tasks and things that you need to get done. That also includes everything from brushing your teeth to shampooing your hair. Why so? You see, habits like brushing your teeth and taking a shower are something that we do everyday and it doesn’t require a lot of willpower to execute them. By pairing new habits with existing habits, you help your brain to make the process of adopting the habit easier as your brain associates the new habits with the old existing ones.


Productivity can be enhanced through the practice of journaling. One thing we need to understand that the thoughts in our brains are very cheap. That’s why sometimes we have trouble sticking to goals that we clearly have in our brain because our brains got so good at pushing thoughts aside. Hence it is important to crystalize our thoughts so we can adhere to them. We need to take the thoughts in our brain and put it into something physical. You need to see a journal as a part of your brain that exists outside in the physical world. By writing down your thoughts into something tangible, your brain will assign some form of legitimacy to it.

Start by incorporating the journal into your daily schedule. Set a time in the morning right before you begin your day to write down everything from how do you feel, to what do you want to do in the day. Often when we try to instill a new habit or when we try to change a certain behaviour, the emotional resistance will be present. By journaling, you unload those feelings onto a piece of paper. It can be a form of catharsis, flushing out the feelings as you continue to act on what really needed to be done.

Journaling can also be a great tool to monitor the progress you are currently making. As you set goals and see yourself achieve them throughout your day, it will boost some feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. That itself will become a great source of motivation for you to keep moving forward.


We all know the importance of a Standard Operating Procedure(SOP) in a business. SOPs help businesses to keep things on track and manage the workflow effectively. By applying SOPs all throughout your life from how you progress your skills to how you manage your emotions, you can increase your productivity and at the same time, can stop doing things that will make you unproductive.

Let’s say you want to develop a skill. It can be anything from designing websites to video editing to making music. We need to accept the fact that there will be things that we know and we don’t know. Often times, what makes us unproductive moving forward is one: we are overwhelmed by what we don’t know or two: we are paralyzed by the things we know and just don’t know how to apply them. Creating standard operating procedures based on the knowledge you know helps you to remove the mental blocks that arise during your work time. Plus you won’t waste time doing everything from scratch every time you start. As you learn more and more about a skill that you are trying to get better, take that knowledge and standardize the way you apply it. That’s where creating and using presets and templates comes in. Take your time to create templates and presets. You can look up presets and templates for the tool of your choice online for some inspiration. It will make the process cleaner and speeds it up.

Aside from that, you need to apply SOPs to how you learn new things. Set a time block just dedicated to learn new things regarding your skills everyday. Take them and standardize them to be applied and then practise them. As time goes by, you’ll train yourself to repeat the process every day and you will get efficient at it and in no time. As you continue the said process, you will find yourself achieving proficiency in the skill within no time.

A schedule is also a form of a Standard Operating Procedure that you put onto yourself. Other than that, you can apply SOPs to the way you think and feel too! There is no question that emotions can get out of hand. Unfortunately, we can’t think ourselves out of the emotions because emotions trigger neurotransmitter actions and we feel them for a really long time,. However, we can control how we react.  How to SOP your emotions? Here’s something that I did. When I first started a schedule, I felt resistance to do what I planned according to it. If you give in to the resistance, you are most likely to fail. So before you feel those urges, you need to have procedures in place on how to deal with them. For the longest time, I had a hard time waking up the time. You’re going to feel groggy and angry and basically like a zombie. Either you can go back to sleep or you wake up and do something. So how do I help myself to solve this biological dilemma? Well the night before, I will make a cup of coffee and put it covered beside my bed. When the alarm rings, the first thing that I will do is just gulp the coffee. Now with caffeine in your system, you are not going to fall back asleep. If you’re not a coffee drinker, you get one of those apps that doesn’t shut off the alarm if you don’t solve a puzzle.

(Pro-tip: If you find yourself get jittery and anxious if you drink coffee and you get that crash associated with caffeine in the middle of the day, try taking in L-Theanine, a compound in Tulsi Plant with your coffee. Not only your coffee will be minty, it also helps to balance the neurotransmitters in your brain and also makes the effects of coffee stable throughout the day.)


Saving the best for last, one of the super methods that can boost your productivity is to get into the state of flow when you’re working on things. In 1975, a Hungarian-American Psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term flow which explains a state where you are fully immersed in a task that you block out everything else. We get into the flow state when we have a challenging task that needs to be done. Students can relate to this: Have you had a deadline on an assignment and you only started doing it the night before. You grind out like mad and when you look outside and the sun is already out? You sit there wondering “Well that was fast”. You were in a state of flow and time literally becomes non existent in your brain and you’re done with your assignments. Imagine how much you can get done if you can access this state of mind whenever you want for whatever task that you have in hand. When you get into flow, your reptilian and mammalian brain will simply go offline so you will be in absolute bliss of focus!

With the right training and conditioning, you can achieve this flow state at command. When you’re working on something, make sure the tasks at hand is challenging enough to keep you interested, but simple enough that you are not discouraged. For that, you need to objectively look at your skill level and then decide what is challenging enough for you. Then, you need to set challenging deadlines on your accord. You can implement reinforcement techniques (i.e. rewards and punishments if you meet or miss the deadline you set yourself) to make it a real challenge for yourself. Remove all the distractions and make sure you have a quiet place to work on. Another great trick is to set a cue to get into flow. For example, our CEO has a white, Google Conference Cap the he puts on when he has to really do something challenging. He called it his “Think Cap”.

The benefits of entering into flow is that you will genuinely enjoy what you’re doing at the moment till you completely lose your sense of your self. Some say the state is almost similar to meditation. You will feel a great sense of control and your creativity levels will shoot. Although it is a great state of mind to be at when you’re working on things, it is hard to get into and you have a refractory periods where you’re going to be really exhausted. Hence it is really important to rest and take breaks after you do get into it.

Once you have developed these cornerstone habits, you will notice your productivity will go through the roof. You will notice that they will have a spilling effect in everything that you do. Do comment below if you found this helpful and let us know what productivity tips that has helped you to be more productive.

Feeling extremely motivated to do something? Why not go through our entire collection of insightful and informative posts here!

We’ll see you next Monday!

Jin Chi

Jin Chi

The founder of Catalyst Digital. Born in year 1995, a huge fan of blue ocean strategy as well as lean startup. You can contact him by email at [email protected]


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