8 Insanely Simple Productivity Hacks
Follow these secret tips for a more productive workday.
By Brian De Haaff
You earnestly set goals and try to meet them each day. But something always seems to get in the way and upset your progress. I know because it happens to me too.
It could be your colleague’s weekend recap that throws off your Monday morning, or the distraction of calls and texts throughout the day. When your best-laid plans face off with the reality of your workday, reality often wins.
That disconnect between your goals and your productivity is likely cause for major frustration. You’re not alone — studies show many people are overworked and underperforming.
A 2015 survey of 2,000 workers conducted by Staples Business Advantage revealed that 37 percent of employees believe more workplace flexibility would help them be productive. And about 50 percent point to email as the main culprit for reduced productivity.
While there are no shortcuts to hard work, there are practical ways to get more done in the time you have. But first, you must take back control of your workday and start setting yourself up for success.
These eight hacks can help you accomplish more meaningful work in half the time:
1. Rise and shine.
You are most productive in the first two hours after you get up, so plan your most challenging and meaningful work for that time of day. Arrive before the rest of the team and dive into your work — you will be ready to take a quick coffee break and catch up with everyone once they arrive.
2. Make mini-goals.
Far-reaching goals are admirable, but they can seem so distant they appear unreachable. Help yourself realize goals by breaking them down into smaller, manageable mini-goals. These smaller “wins” will help you make progress and boost your confidence.
3. Stop multitasking.
Multitasking is not only ineffective, but it reduces the quality of your work, causes more stress, and can even reduce your IQ. Stop trying to do everything at once. Prioritize essential work, and schedule time each day to deal with non-urgent matters like answering routine emails.
4. Tell others.
Clearly communicate to your co-workers when you are heads-down on a task and need to work undisturbed. Block time in your calendar, put up a do-not-disturb sign, or otherwise set your status to “busy” to avoid social interruptions.
5. Seek quiet.
An open floor plan is a noisy work environment, making it challenging for anyone to perform even simple tasks. Purchase noise-canceling headphones, find a quiet corner or an empty boardroom, or work remotely. Remember: The ding of an incoming text message is enough to disrupt your focus. Silence your phone during critical work, and put it out of sight.
6. Schedule breaks.
If you work nonstop, your work will suffer and so will you. The ideal work-to-break ratio? One study says 52-minute work sprints followed by 17-minute breaks. Make your break-time meaningful — stretch or go for a walk outside if you can. The important thing is to take time away from your screen and think about something else.
7. Measure progress.
At the end of the workday, step back and take stock. What did you accomplish, and how do these accomplishments line up with your goals? What were your low points? What got in your way, and what can you do better tomorrow? By measuring your progress, you can spot patterns and opportunities to revamp how you work.
8. Prep for tomorrow.
Devote the last 15 minutes of your day (no matter when that is) to creating a to-do list for the next day. That way, you can jump right into the work the next morning. This is especially important before you are going to take a bit of time off, like over the weekend — and you will be happy to discover your list on Monday morning.
It takes discipline and hard work to unlearn bad habits, reestablish boundaries, and regain control over your productivity. But the effort will be worth it. You will be proud of how much more you can accomplish daily, as well as the meaningful progress you will make toward those long-range goals.
So when the next day rolls around and you’re faced with a chatty co-worker or a buzzing phone, you now have a plan to silence them both — and get more done.
Jeff Haden, contributing editor at Inc., says your level of productivity begins with the night before.
This piece was originally published by Inc.