A new year has dawned and many of you have already resolved to forget the past year and start afresh. Your new plans may be in place and you may be brimming with positivity and hope and looking forward to the new challenges that lie ahead. Fast forward a few weeks and months into the year, and by then, the positivity and enthusiasm would have waned and you’ll be back to the daily grind of life. Is this how you want to be spending another year of your life? Or would you rather be one of those people who are fulfilled in their jobs and have time to play with the kids and walk their dog every evening?
If you choose the latter, there’s just one thing you need to do to be that person. Be productive. Being productive doesn’t mean just getting things done on time, it’s about doing your duty and still finding time to do things that make you happy. In this post, I’ll share with you some simple productivity hacks that you can follow that will help you change the way you live and work and make you a happy productive person.
Productivity Hacks For a More Efficient You
Turn Off the Electronics
Electronic devices are great entertainers and big time wasters. You don’t realize it, but you often spend a lot of time aimlessly switching channels on your TV or browsing the internet instead of working. If you find yourself frequently distracted by electronics, turn them off. You don’t have to do it completely (the sound of silence can be deafening!), but set a small time period, say 5 or 10 minutes in a hour when you won’t let yourself be distracted by these gadgets. Then gradually increase the time and before you know it, your mind will have switched off the need to stay connected.
Create a Productivity Time Chart
If you’re new to the productivity thing, you may find the thought of working actively all day long terribly burdensome. Start by scheduling a time to be productive. For example, set aside one hour in the mornings to tackle your most important and urgent tasks for the day. You don’t have to complete everything within that time, but work judiciously on the task in that one hour. Do something else for the next hour and then come back to your schedule. Once you develop the habit, you can start increasing the time and your mind will be able to refocus back on work. You can find more time management tips here.
Multitasking has always been seen as the mantra of successful people. Let’s face it. Multitasking will only result in doing more and getting less done. You can multitask when your mind is not actively engaged in both tasks, such as eating and listening, but you cannot both prepare a project plan and work on an advertising campaign at the same time. Switching between the 2 mentally exerting tasks will only result in inefficiencies. Focus on one job at a time. Get it done. Then move on to the next.
Identify Your Hurdles
Identifying your hurdles is the first step to getting things done. If you know what your hurdles are before proceeding with a task, you can better prepare yourself to handle it. Sometimes half the problem in doing a task lies in clearing the hurdles. So before you start a task, figure out the hurdles and how to handle them.
Don’t Take On More Than You Can Chew
Sure, you want to be the star performer in your office or the one that can micromanage everything at home. But that’s going to eventually cause stress and anxiety and make you not just unproductive but extremely unhappy. So don’t take on more than you can chew. Be prepared to say No to tasks that you know you cannot start until you are finished with what you are doing. When you develop the behavior of leaving aside your tasks to accommodate others, you’re setting yourself up for an unproductive day. While there may be some tasks that cannot be avoided, you must say No to situations where people hijack your time with their needs.
Maintain a Good Working Environment
You can’t work in the middle of a raving party, can you? Similarly having constant distractions around you is going to eat into your productive time. If possible, close the door, listen to ambient background music with your headphones to drown out the nearby noise or avoid hearing “office gossip” and avoid sitting near the window where you can endlessly watch the outside world go by.
Set a Schedule to Relax
Crazy as that may sound, if you’re keen on being productive, there’s a good chance that you are giving up on “me time” to be efficient. My advice is that you don’t do that. Set some time aside, maybe an hour in the morning or in the evening to do something you like. It could be something as simple as reading a chapter of the latest novel you wanted to catch up on. Pull up a chair outside, soak up some sunlight, breathe in some fresh air and catch up on your reading. Or plant some beautiful flower bulbs in your garden or terrace or grow some fresh herbs in your kitchen. Whatever you do, spend a little time to rejuvenate yourself. You’ll find yourself working more efficiently when you do get back to work.
Set a Timer
You cannot always work like clockwork. No matter what schedule you set, you’re going to eventually break that routine. Set a timer to get up and walk around every half hour or so. Just leave whatever you are doing, go get yourself a coffee or just stretch your muscles and get back within five minutes to your desk. That way, you won’t lose interest in your task soon. Pomodoro tools (like StayFocused) and mobile apps should help you get more out of your timer.
Always Stick to the Planner
You can never be productive if you don’t know where you are going. Always use a planner to prepare your weekly work. Having an overall monthly planner will also help you see how the activities of the week are resulting in the culmination of your monthly goals.
Create a Daily To-Do-List
Just as you have a weekly and monthly goal planner, make a daily to-do list to complete everyday. Don’t overwhelm this list by adding 20 different things to it. Keep it a to maximum of 7 things and make sure you don’t include useless activities to it.
Combine Related Tasks
If you need to do tasks that are similar in nature, you can combine them to finish them in one go. Similarly, if you can automate repetitive tasks, go for it. A simple example is if you’re headed to the pharmacy, you might as well get the groceries done while you’re at it.
Do Different Things
If you’re on a desk job, doing the same typing activity will start to dull your senses. When you prepare your work schedule, set time to do some creative work as well. That way, your mind stays fresh and alert when you get back to the main job.
Deal With Problematic Issues Right Away
If you smell a problem brewing, address it right away. If you let it fester, it will only get worse and eat up more and more of your productive time.
Take a Vacation
Plan a short vacation if your mind is too tired to work. When you start making preparations for a holiday, you’ll find yourself looking forward to completing tasks that you’ve been struggling to do all along.
Do The Most Unpleasant Jobs First
We often put away tasks we don’t want to do for the last. The result is that by the time you get to it, you are tired and exhausted. Not only will you do a bad job of it, you will ruin your schedule for the rest of the week as well. So, don’t think. Just take up the most unpleasant tasks head on first thing in the morning and get it done. Then you have the rest of the day to complete the other tasks. In fact, you’ll be so pleased with getting the hard work behind you that you’ll work more enthusiastically and efficiently for the rest of the day.
There are plenty of ways to get things done but using shortcuts makes you more efficient. Whether it relates to cooking, or driving home from work, or using programs on your computer, there are plenty of hacks available for you to make use of in your daily life. Make use of shortcuts because every productive person does.
Don’t be Inflexible
If you find that doing things a certain way does not give you the desired results, be prepared and willing to do things differently. When you become too set in your ways and refuse to try something different, you will only get more frustrated and unproductive.
Where Possible Delegate Tasks
If it is possible to delegate tasks to someone else in your workplace, do it. If you think the task is too mundane to warrant your time, ask your manager to delegate it to someone else. Lighten your load where possible, so your output will be top quality.
Avoid Setting Up/ Attending Too Many meetings
One of the most unproductive tasks in an office is attending umpteen number of meetings. If you are attending a meeting, make sure it has a proper agenda and follow that agenda through. Don’t sit in a meeting that is not relevant to you and one where you simply have to sit and listen to others rambling on about their problems. You could be finishing off items in your to-do-list during that time. So make sure to keep meetings to a minimum and keep them relevant.
Get Help If Necessary
If you are unable to do something or need help understanding a project, process or software, don’t sit at your desk and try to figure it all out by yourself. Ask an expert in your office or get assistance from someone who has relevant experience with the problem. It never hurts and you build a relationship with the other person in the process of learning something new as well.
Use the Latest Technology
Where possible, use the latest technology and software. This will save you precious hours and help you complete tasks quickly. For example upgrading a software may help you batch process images instead of manually doing it one image at a time.
Avoid Taking Phone Calls
Answer a phone only if you absolutely must. It always happens that you lose 15-20 minutes getting out of a call, time that you could have fruitfully employed elsewhere.
Know Your Most Productive Times
We all have certain times in the day when we are most productive. For me it’s the time between 9.30 A.M and 11 A.M. That’s the time I use to complete the most important/difficult and unpleasant tasks of the day. With the biggest jobs getting the most attention, I now have time to complete the rest of the tasks in a more relaxed manner.
Learn The Required Skills
Not everyone has the skills to do every job. If you want to do your job well, make sure you learn up the skills needed for it. For example, if preparing Excel dashboards is something that you need to do, take up a special online course and spend at least an hour every evening or so to learn about preparing dashboards. Before you know it, you’ll not just be an expert at preparing dashboards with ease, you’ll be highly productive as well. Udemy has a great collection of resources if you need to get trained in Excel.
Separate Your Work Email from Personal Email
Don’t check your personal email when you’re at work. Unsubscribe from useless emails or email that you never read anymore. Don’t forward entertaining email to the work email of your colleagues. If you receive such email, put them in a separate folder for checking later or junk them. Most of the productive office time is spent sifting through email and keeping work email strictly work related will save your countless minutes.
Limit Your Social Media Time
Social media updates are a terrible distraction. Disconnect from social media during your work hours. Allow yourself catch up time of about 15 to 20 minutes during the work day. You can check on the updates when your mind is too tired and you need a quick break, but don’t set up notifications to ping you every time someone updates their status.
Create a Reward System for Yourself
At the end of the day, you are simply a human being living in an unpredictable world. You can never work like clockwork and you’ll always be balancing your time, energy and resources. Eventually you’re going to end up worn out. Therefore, whenever you have achieved a certain goal, you need to reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be an expensive reward. It could be a day spent at the sauna, a ticket to the theatre or a night out with friends. keep yourself motivated with small, pleasant rewards and you’ll look forward to the next activity.
Believe in yourself and your capabilities even if you are not the smartest, nerdiest person on the planet. You can never be productive or even successful if you go around thinking you can’t do it. Keep a chart of your achievements as a motivator of how much you’ve accomplished and think positive at all times. There may be times when you need to give up and walk away. Know when to quit and let go, but not because you don’t think you can do it, but only because you know there’s a better way to achieve the result.
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
Just as you work hard, you need to enjoy yourself as well. Eat well, eat healthy, stay fit, exercise, do mindfulness meditation if possible, practice visualization exercises if you can and socialize with friends. Give as much importance to yourself as your work.
There are plenty of ways and options in which you can lead a productive life. Whether its at home or at work, just remember to enjoy the journey and if you aren’t doing that, stop whatever your doing, re-evaluate your priorities and start over.
Pick up 5-7 productivity hacks in this post that you think you can work on and pin it to your calendar. Follow them regularly and make it a habit. In a few months time, you will have realized that you haven’t given up on your goals, you aren’t stressed out as much and by the end of the year, you’ll find that you’ve had a tremendously successful, fulfilling and happy year.