How to be more productive – Productivity tips and hacks

productivity tips and hacks

Level: B2/C1/ C2

Type of English: general, business English

Lesson activities: listening comprehension, vocabulary building, speaking practice. 

Grammar focus: use of contractions

Tags: #selfcare #productivity #modernenglish

Want to be more productive and organised – whether that’s at work or studying? From “Deep Work” to the “Pomodoro Technique”, here are some simple productivity tips and productivity hacks to help you make the most of your time and get more done.

During the 1-hour class your teacher will take notes of your mistakes and make corrections.

These will be emailed to you after the lesson.

It is a good idea to revise the same vocabulary at the start of the next lesson.

Opening Questions:

What is shallow water?

What is the opposite of shallow water?

Have you heard of Deep Work?

Have you heard of the Pomodoro technique?

What is a hack?

What is a life hack?

Do you have any productivity tips?

What does “getting things done”mean?

If your boss says “just get it done”, what does it mean? 

Do you have any big objectives this year? (Make a presentation in English, get a new job, etc) 

New Vocabulary Questions:

If I’m working at 100 miles per hour, what is happening?

What is counter-intuitive?

What is a sweet spot?

Name something that you can block out?

How often do you give yourself permission to buy yourself something BIG?

Have you cut out anything from your life for this year?

Can you use remote in 2 different ways?

What does it mean to shut yourself away from all distractions?

So, after a long meeting the boss decided “to call it a day”, what happened next?

Can you identify something that you are very strict with?

What can you do to shutdown a machine?

What does it mean to tackle a problem or a task?

Do you ever talk to yourself out loud?

If I have an app that feeds into a data spreadsheet, what is happening?

What do you need to get rid of this year?

Where is the bay?

How can I keep my stress levels at bay?

What is a guru?

When do we use the expression “in order to”?

How much is a chunk of chocolate?

Do you like chunky peanut butter?

When taking a break, what does “don’t jump on your phone” mean? 

What is the difference between to look at something and to stare at something?

How can you improve your mood?

What does a caregiver do?

When do we use the phrasal verb “turn out”?

Watch the Video:

Task: try to write down the 4 main sections of this video and a short summary of each

Listening Comprehension Questions:

What is an example of shallow work?

What does Bill Gates do for deep work?

What is Cal Newport’s shutdown ritual? (Answer below) 

What is Warren Buffett’s technique for getting people to focus?

How can we structure a pyramid of goals?

What are some examples of mid-level goals?

What is the theory for the Pomodoro technique?

What do regular 5-minute walk breaks do?

What should you do if you really need to concentrate? 


What are some of your shallow tasks?

Are you strict with stopping your working day?

How important is it for you to rest your mind?

How do you prioritise your work or tasks?

Can you define your life’s purpose?

Do you have a kitchen timer? Do you ever use it for other tasks?

New Vocabulary Practice:

When we use new vocabulary in a different context It helps to memorize. 

What task can you do at 100 miles per hour?

Can you give me an example of something that is counter-intuitive?

How do you get the sweet spot for quality work on a Monday morning?

Name 2 things that you can block out?

Can you think of an example when you give permission to someone?

Can you use cut out in 2 different ways?

Can you use remote in different ways?

Why would you need to shut yourself away?

In what context can you use “call it a day”?

Are you strict with your diet? If not your diet, then with what?

How many tasks did you tackle today?

Do you ever sing out loud in the shower?

Can you create a sentence using feed into?

How can we get rid of distractions?

Name a famous song with bay in the title?

Name 2 things that can be kept at bay?

Name 3 different types of guru?

Create a conditional structure using in order to?

How much is a chunk of work?

Name a food product with chunky used in the description?

Can you use don’t jump on in a sentence? 

Is it rude to stare?

Is your mood better in the ring or at night?

In which role in your life are you the caregiver?

Create a story or a context using turn out at the end


Otis Redding – Sittin’ on the dock of the Bay (contractions in English):

Solution and definitions:

Productivity Tips:

Shut out the shallow (postpone the easier/ less important tasks)

Call it a day (be strict with stopping your working day)

Find your top level goal (life’s purpose)

Make your breaks smarter 

Cal Newport’s shutdown ritual:

Look through your unfinished work 

Write a short plan of how to tackle it tomorrow 

Say something out loud to signal the end of work (“shutdown complete”)

Have some fun 

Warren Buffett’s technique for getting people to focus:

Write down in order the top 20 things that you want to do in life 

Draw a line under number 5 

Until you have done the first 5, forget everything else

A pyramid of goals by Angela Duckworth 

Define your life’s purpose

Define your mid-level goals (these should feed into the top-level goals)

The Pomodoro technique:

25 minutes of intense concentration followed by 5 minutes of rest 

Tackling a big task with focus chunks of work with regular breaks gives the brain time to recover

Maintains higher levels of productivity. 

5 minute-walk breaks =

Improve mood

Reduce tiredness and hunger 

Vocabulary definitions:

A tip = a piece of advise 

shallow = not deep

For example: shallow water, shallow work, a shallow pool 

Deep water – the water in the ocean 

Deep work = having the time for focused work which is free from distractions

Getting things done = completing your work and tasks 

to hack into = to break into a digital system and steal something 

A hack = to quickly access or quickly do something / a trick / the fast track / a fast way of doing something / smart techniques 

A life hack = techniques that allow something quickly or better 

100 miles per hour = to go fast / at a fast speed  

To counter = to go against 

counter-intuitive = To go against your instinct 

A sweet spot = the area where you each high productivity or performance / optimised performance 

To block out = to block out noise or light / to not allow to enter your space or disturb you 

To cut out = to remove 

I want to cut out sugar from my diet 

Remote = remote working / to work outside the office 

Where is the remote control?

Remote = location / far away from anywhere / disconnected 

To shut away = to exclude / to be private 

To call it a day = to finish working / to finish an activity 

Let’s call it a day 

To be strict = to have discipline with a task 

To shutdown = to switch off or to disconnect 

To tackle = to take control and manage 

Out loud = in an audible voice 

To feed into = to supply with information

To get rid of = to remove / to throw out 

I need to get rid of some old cloths 

The bay = a natural cove at the sea 

To keep at bay = to maintain at a manageable level 

A guru = someone that is an expert at something 

In order to = to introduce a condition or obligation 

In order to reach the target this month we need to increase sales 

A chuck = a piece but an unmeasured amount 

Chunky = with small pieces or thick in texture 

To stare = to focus on something and not look away 

Mood = your current feeling 

A caregiver = someone who takes care of someone / something 

It turns out = to introduce the solution to a story 

It turns out that my manager was stealing from the company 

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