Nowadays people are often stressed with the way things overwhelm them. They try different tools for organizing their days at work and home, they plan hours and minutes and at the end of the day majority of these same people look at their agendas, just to figure out that most of the priorities they have set for the day are not or partly finished.
In my experience I have built a list of 9 productivity hacks that help me finish my job for the day and still have time for training, reading, writing and socializing.
Here I’m sharing them with you:
1. Use the morning to focus only on yourself – Don’t start your day with e-mails or tasks from yesterday. Instead invest some time for yourself. I usually get up at 6:00 AM. First 30 minutes after awaking I stretch (5-7 minutes is enough) and prepare a good breakfast (usually takes up to 20 minutes). Then I go through the news channels to inform myself about topics I’m interested in while eating my breakfast.
2. Stick to the 80/20 rule – It is an old paradigm that still works. When you get to the office and start reviewing your daily schedule focus on those tasks that will ensure 80% progress. Tasks with low impact on your results should be transferred to others, or re-scheduled for a different time. Doing that will help you to increase your productivity and still get out of the office on time and satisfied.
3. Cut your TO-DO list – These lists are very popular. People write everything they can inside them. Imagine you have attended 3 meetings yesterday. From all 3 meetings you have got out with a list of 10-15 tasks. Look at your list again, analyze the tasks, if needed, cut some of them or re-schedule them after discussing with colleagues, peers or your boss. Stick to not more than 4 main tasks for the day. Other tasks you can complete are bonus for the day and your schedule.
4. Take real breaks during the day – I have often seen people who are eating on their desks, or take a brake from a task just to focus on another one. Don’t get me wrong, I was one of these people. Then – one day – I just stopped doing it. It was hard in the beginning, but you can do it if you want. Taking real break means to stop thinking about work. Your body and brain need just couple of minutes to switch off and to recharge for another productivity session. What works for me is looking at the mountain and trees(I have a beautiful view from the window of the office and a big terrace), smoke a cigarette alone or with others(but do this if you believe that you will not tempt yourself to talk about work during this time) or just switch off by start thinking about something relaxing, intimating and bringing you joy, outside your work.
5. Plan and finish your most challenging tasks before lunch – In a study, conducted by the American Psychology association in 2017, researches have found that people who finish their most challenging tasks for the day before lunch are 19% more effective and productive than those who plan them during the whole day. The advantage when using this approach comes from the time you invest. You practically invest energy when you have it (in the beginning of the day) and that helps you finish your tasks faster. Another benefit from this planning approach can be the time you will have to check on the results you have achieved and change something, if needed, and focus on less meaningful tasks and planning for the next day without any harder push.
6. Control your e-mail – I was in the situation for not being able to do it several years ago. Right after I have received an e-mail, I put away what I was doing and started answering the e-mail. You can imagine how this affects your focus, performance and level of productivity. Schedule time slots during the day for e-mail answering, but schedule them so, that they won’t impact your productivity on the most important tasks for the day. I have scheduled 3 time slots during the day for answering e-mails (morning when I come in the office, midday – after lunch, and 30 minutes before the end of the day.
Productivity tip: If you don’t understand what the person who sent the e-mail wish was, don’t try to figure it out by yourself, instead of that pick up the phone and ask. That can save you up to 30% of your time, working on a single e-mail.
7. Forget the multitasking – I still see people, or job ads or even job descriptions, who proudly announce how important multitasking is. Well, studies from Gallup (2012), Harvard (2013), American Psychologist Association (2014), German Psychology Association (2015), Vienna University of Economics and Business (2017), University of Melbourne (2018) and some other small studies conducted locally in Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Serbia and Hungary in 2018 show that multitasking leads to decrease on productivity, efficiency, energy level, focus and 12 other personal characteristics. Instead of multitasking try to do micro tasking (focus on one task for a certain period in time, without including elements from other tasks or priorities, before you finish this task).
8. PRODUCTIVITY is different than LAZINESS – Well, no one wants to admit this, but laziness is the number one reason for lost productivity. In fact, the most admitted as time-saving methods are often just ways to get out from your schedule and delay the task completion. Take for instance the meetings, or the disturbing colleagues, who often break in, just to ask a question, or the e-mails you answer right after you have received them. They all distract you from your task and decrease the level of your focus and energy. These and other disturbance factors you let in your work schedule are actually signs of laziness for completing certain task.
9. Create your own productivity system – Maybe you have implemented some tools to help you stay productive. What I did with the tools I have implemented, is that I put them into a system. When doing this you will have a structured way to plan your work by prioritizing most impactful tasks to be completed first and rescheduling tasks that won’t hurt performance of the business. Another thing that can be positive here is to build, implement and clearly communicate with others how you see distractions and what tools you are going to use to deal with them. That will help not only you, but also others, to understand how their behavior or level of involvement in the work tasks and processes impacts performance, productivity and business results.
We often read about highly productive people who can deal with every task and deliver results within deadlines agreed. People admire these persons, because they look like a magician. But when going deep into their work schedules you can easily find that the magic is actually a very well-organized work process, based on priorities and with implemented tool to successfully deal with distractions. Want to be like those successful people then hack your way of doing things and change it for good.