Productivity hacks of the year

Use these productivity hacks and you’ll elevate your ability to get things done starting TODAY.

1. Pomodoro technique  

I’m sure many of you have heard of this productivity hack, but how exactly does it supercharge your productivity?

The magic happens after repeated usage. Once this hack becomes habit, your ability to focus during the duration of the timer is 10x better. That’s why this tactic is so powerful, it uses conditioning to put you in the zone instantly.

And since concentration is half of the productivity battle (the other half being actually starting to work), this tool is an incredibly powerful hack to add to your arsenal.

 

2. Write down three of the most important tasks every morning

You don’t want any ambiguity in your work days, it’s a productivity killer.

Each morning you should take the time to prioritize the top three tasks for the day. Be clear with what you write and use more than a three word description.

For instance, “research hotels” is bad. Instead, use  “review and compare prices of hotels x, y, & z.” This will prevent you from drifting to semi-related tasks that don’t actually accomplish anything.

3. Set specific times to check email

It’s easy to waste time shuffling through dozens of emails.

All it takes is one email notification and, before you know it, you’ve wasted 20-30 minutes organizing and responding to multiple emails.

What you should do is choose two times a day to do emails. I recommend once before lunch and once more before finishing up your work day, that way it doesn’t accidentally seep into your work time.

4. Learn to say “no”

For some people saying no is hard, but if you really want to elevate your productivity levels then you can’t let people order you around all the time.

(Of course the exception would be your boss, but I’ll show you how to handle them in a bit).

For most people, a firm “no, I’m busy right now. I’ll let you know if I’m available later” should suffice.

But if it’s your boss who’s taking up your time, here’s what you should do:

  1. Let them ask you to do a new task
  2. Say “I’d love to handle that, but could you please look at this?”
  3. Show them your task list
  4. Say “which of these tasks would you like to delay to make time for this one?”
  5. Wait for their response

This is about as close to “no” as you’re going to get with your boss, but what’s great is that it keeps a professional air about you as you do it, and it shows your boss that they can’t just drop new tasks on you without hurting another.

5. The two minute rule – If a task can be done in two minutes, do it.

It’s inevitable that small tasks will pop-up throughout your day, but you don’t want to waste time contemplating whether or not you should do them.

Instead, just ask yourself if you can complete the task in less than two minutes.

If the answer is yes, do it. You’ve only lost two minutes of your day.

If the answer is no, add the task to your to-do list (below your top three tasks for the day) and take care of it later.

6. Use site blockers

There’s a lot of distracting websites out there that – while entertaining – ruin productivity for each of us.

Start using site blockers so that you can work without the constant threat of distracting websites. Just go to Google and type “your browser” and “site blocker,” you’ll easily find a great one to use.

7. Listen to music

Music is a great way to maintain focus and stay productive.

However, everybody is different so it may take some experimentation to find music that helps you focus. A good tool for this is Focus At Will, it uses music scientifically driven to improve your concentration.

You could also use general background noise to improve your focus. Coffitivity emulates the chatter of a coffee shop, which has been shown to actually improve focus.

8. Use templates (email templates, article-writing templates, etc.)

A template is a “fill-in-the-blank” type document, and they’re great for assignments that are created the same way every time.

Do you send email updates regularly? Create a template to save some time. The same thing applies if you give presentations or make spreadsheets a lot, find or create a template to work with and it’ll save you a ton in prep time.

You can find some online by simply typing “template” and “whatever you’re working on” into Google. You’ll get a ton of options to work with, just pick your favorite and get to work.

9. Batch similar tasks

Batching tasks works because you’re maintaining the same frame of mind for all the tasks involved.

An example is cooking, batch other tasks like cleaning dishes or wiping the counters down with it. Another example is by batching your “social tasks” together, like emails, text messages, and voice-mails together.

Always batch similar tasks together when planning your day, it’ll definitely make your work process flow more smoothly.

10. Use the important/urgent task matrix

Do you often find yourself working tons only to find you didn’t get any “real” work done?

Then you should give this tip a try.

Separate your tasks into one of four categories:

  1. Important & urgent (e.g. presentation due tomorrow)
  2. Important & not urgent (e.g. exercise, working on a presentation two-weeks in advance)
  3. Not important & urgent (e.g. social media updates, phone calls)
  4. Not important & not urgent (e.g. surfing the web)

Important tasks are ones that contribute to your immediate livelihood & long-term goals, while urgent tasks are ones that require immediate action or have incoming deadlines.

The idea is to focus on tasks in category #2 (important & not urgent), because by doing so you:

  1. Contribute to your immediate and long-term success
  2. Prevent yourself from dipping into category #1 (important AND urgent tasks)

Doing this will keep you focused on only the most important tasks. It also minimizes the chances of your tasks going “critical,” preventing burnout by trying to catch up on an important task.

11. Start your day tough, or start your day small (do either the hardest task first to get it out of the way, or do something easy to build momentum).

What you do at the beginning of the day will dictate the flow for the rest of the day.

The way I see it, you have two options:

  1. Do the hardest task first so everything else feels easier
  2. Do the easiest task first to build up some momentum

The first option will immediately pay off as your remaining tasks will feel easy by comparison. But the second option will help ease you into the work process, lowering the chances of procrastination.

Which option sounds better to you? Give both methods a shot and see which works best. Everybody is different, so experimentation is key.

12. Use the one and done rule (as soon as a new task arises, schedule a time to handle it. Don’t “wait till later” to deal with it.)

Have you ever said “I’ll take care of it later” before? Probably, right?

…But do you actually do it later? I’m guessing no, and it’s not because you’re lazy either.

These situations happen time and time again because we don’t bother adding them to our to-do lists, we assume that we’ll remember to it later.

This most often occurs with low-level tasks (e.g. get milk, take out the garbage), but if it happens enough then you’ve got a big problem on your hands.

Avoid this by simply adding each new task to a to-do list. You don’t even need to think about it, just quickly jot it down and you won’t run the risk of forgetting to “take care of it later.” The next tip will help you with this.

13. Keep a pen and pad (don’t rely on memory, write everything down instead)

Memories are notoriously unreliable.

If you try and remember everything you need to do, you’re going to end up with a lot of unfinished tasks. Don’t take the risk, write down everything you need to remember.

Keeping a pen and pad works just fine, but feel free to use an app on your smartphone to do this. It’s really your preference.

14. Use a password manager

If you use the internet, then you have passwords to memorize.

But if you actually memorize your passwords, then you’re wasting your mental energy on something that can be handled by an internet tool.

Download a password manager so that you don’t waste all your time and energy remembering or searching for login passwords. A great one is Lastpass, and it works with both Firefox and Google Chrome.