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“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” ― Francine Jay
Productivity isn’t about how much work you get done. It’s about working on what matters most and doing it in the most efficient manner possible.
For example: You could be the best email writer in the world, cranking out 100 emails per day! But if no one reads them, what’s the point?
To become more productive, you need to:
“Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” –Leo Babauta
Here are 7 concrete, easy-to-implement productivity hacks which can help you to be more productive, at work and at home.
1. Mind your mood.
Your mood has a huge impact on your productivity. When you are calm and collected, it is easy to focus and get through your workday and get plenty done along the way. When you are distracted by anxiety, confusion, anger, or depression, it can take twice as long to accomplish anything.
Do what you can to level out your mood when you wake up. Listen to a song that motivates you on the way to work. Eat a good breakfast. If you need to, ignore your inbox and just take care of routine tasks in the early part of your day. Routines help us feel grounded and relaxed. These simple things all make for great productivity hacks!
Mood and productivity intertwine so much so that there’s an app for it! Download moo-Q, an iPhone application that assesses your mood and brainpower on the go. You’ll be asked to take a survey multiple times a day asking about your current mood and then take a series of short memory-based numeric activities. This app will really help represent what mood you’re most productive in, so that you can make the most of each day; quite the modern-day technological productivity hack!
2. Ignore your inbox as long as possible.
It might sound bizarre, but think about it. Your inbox is full of distractions. When you should be focusing on your work, you will instead be drafting responses in your head, thinking about how many emails there are and how long it will take to answer them, and worrying about everybody else’s priorities and problems. Save the inbox until the middle or end of the day if at all possible.
According to some experts, checking your email too often is a huge factor that can contribute to decreased productivity. Check out this recent article for several email productivity hacks you can choose from that work for your current employment situation.
3. Know when your energy and focus peak, and take advantage.
Most of us have a daily window where we are at our sharpest. That window can vary from day to day, but if you average it out, there is probably a particular set of hours where you are likely to do your best work (which may or may not be the morning!). Identify yours, and if you have the power to shift your schedule around, try to use your window of energy effectively; you could always try these energy supplements.
Should you use it for your toughest task? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes it is the best time to handle a challenging project. Other times, it is a great time to get all the easy stuff out of the way so you can really focus on the hard stuff. Decide the best version of this productivity hack that works best for your personality and the way you work.
4. Do not do something wrong the first time on someone else’s account.
If you receive unclear instructions for an assignment, what do you do? You may think that you should be a go-getter and tackle it as best you can, and you may worry you will sound foolish or slow if you stop to ask questions.
Being a go-getter wasted quite a bit of my time at my last job. I found myself doing tasks over and over; this not only cost me but also my employer. Get to know the way your employers work and how they hand out instruction vs. what they expect. You may be surprised how well a simple meeting explaining the cost of incomplete instructions and wasted time can be; the dollars will do all of the talking!
It is not your fault when someone gives you poor instructions! In fact, it is their fault if you fall behind because of them. Do not worry about looking foolish. Nothing is worse than doing a job twice because you didn’t know what you were supposed to be doing.
Request clarification and wait. You will ultimately waste less time and money, and spare yourself and your boss or client headaches. Sometimes productivity hacks simply take an evaluation of instructions and if the job is ready to be completed.
5. Figure out what you need to do tomorrow today.
An unknown author once said, “I always write ‘Wake Up’ on my To-Do-List so I can at least accomplish one thing a day.” Don’t be this guy!
You know what will really slow you down? Waking up tomorrow morning and sitting down to work, only to waste half an hour trying to figure out the day’s to-do list, where to start, and what you need to actually make progress.
Take a few minutes at the end of your workday to plan tomorrow. You won’t feel like it, because you want to be done, but five or ten minutes today can easily save you thirty minutes tomorrow morning. And you will get off to a good, productive start.
Many people do their best work first thing in the morning, while their minds are clear of distractions after a good night’s sleep. You can get a ton of work out of the way, and you feel like you have it together. Your mood is nice and centered. That means those thirty minutes you save in the morning could actually turn into an hour or two over the course of the day!
6. Batch process your work.
Every time you change gears while switching from one assignment or topic during the day to another, there is an adjustment period. You have to remind yourself of all the little details of the job and refresh your knowledge of the subject or area of expertise. This process takes time, and it can make you feel disorganized and discombobulated.
That is why batch processing is awesome! Spend as little time as possible switching gears by switching gears as seldom as you need to. Do not jump back and forth between lots of little jobs. Dedicate large, seamless chunks of your day to handling specific tasks or projects. Only switch to a new task when you are done with the previous task for the entire day. You will get so much more done, and you will reduce the amount of time each day you spend feeling out of touch.
You can start batching with just a few things at a time, productivity hacks may be implemented in steps; I recommend starting with email, which I spoke about earlier, phone calls, and extensive writing tasks!
7. Avoid unnecessary tasks.
Successful people are not only great at handling important tasks, they are also great at knowing which tasks to avoid. Sometimes you have to do unnecessary things in the course of your work day, but oftentimes you can get out of them.
How? Don’t be afraid to walk up to your boss and explain why a task is unnecessary if you know for certain that it is. Don’t phrase it as a complaint. Just explain an alternate approach which would be faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective.
If you present a solution instead of a problem, you will not come across as lazy—you will come across as a smart expert who wants to save the company time and money. You will be more productive as an individual worker, and you will be helping your organization to do the same. That will make you a superstar!
Remember, stop procrastinating! These are all easy productivity hacks which you can work into your daily routine without having to make major, overwhelming adjustments. And, the payoff is immediate. You will be able to take pride in getting more done throughout the day, and your boss will be thrilled with all of your hard work. When you get home, you can use these same productivity hacks to enjoy more free time!