10 Productivity Hacks For Working Smarter, Not Harder
Does it feel like you’re busier than ever, yet getting less and less done? You’re not alone. Partly due to modern technology, the number of times you stop doing one thing to start another in a typical day, whether due to interruptions or attempts to multitask, has probably risen in the past year or two—and each one comes with a price.
At work, you might be juggling several ongoing conversations on different communication streams, while toggling between the apps you need to do your job. Anywhere you go, text and social media notifications intrude to interrupt your focus when you let them, and kids have a way of demanding your attention on their schedule, without much regard for yours.
Each interruption costs you the 23 minutes it takes on average to fully refocus, as well as the mental energy you spend on the process of context switching, which can sap your productivity by up to 80%.
That’s because switching between tasks requires moving your attention from the entire context surrounding one task and recalling a completely different context for the other, drawing on a knowledge base and skill set while recalling the rules of what you are doing. The brain lets us do this because it helps us survive when in danger, but it is taxing, and in more ways than one. Asking your brain to switch too many times is like pushing yourself to perform like an olympic athlete every time you go for a run. Physically it can’t be done, and you tire yourself out much faster by trying.
If this sounds familiar, our list of top productivity hacks was made for you! Our top productivity hacks for a better way of getting through your week more energized and productive, and armed with a strong time management system designed to maximize your mental energy and optimal focus times, while protecting your attention from intruders.
Create Routines to Maximize Productivity
Sustained focus is the key to productivity, and focus requires fuel. Working these habits into your morning routine feeds your body and mind, setting you up for a more productive day.
Productivity Hack #1: Eat breakfast!
Better productivity starts with giving yourself more energy to draw on throughout your day, starting with breakfast. If you’re not giving your body what it needs to stay alert, everything you do will take longer. Look for items that have little or no added sugar. Studies show kids who eat breakfast do better in school, and eating in the morning improves cognition in both kids and adults.
Productivity Hack #2: Fuel Your Mind
Build in some movement or mindfulness into your routine, and reap the benefits of clearer thoughts and boosted motivation. Exercising in the morning boosts motivation while reducing stress, resulting in clearer thinking and better focus throughout the day, as does meditation and even simply taking a walk.
Productivity Hack #3: Eat Your Frog First Thing in the Morning
If there’s a task looming just ahead of you, using up working memory every time you happen to think about it (and dread it)? Save yourself the energy drain and
do it first because, as Mark Twain put it, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day
Productivity Hack #4: Make A List
Make a to-do list and divide it into categories. This alone will boost your productivity if you’re just
aimlessly attending to the tasks as they come or as you remember them. For added structure, prioritize the tasks on your list with the Eisenhower Matrix.
Plan Your Day
Focus is Finite: most people can focus, on average, for about 4-5 hours per day at most. Maximize that time by giving some structure to your to-do list and reap the reward of boosted motivation, clearer thinking, better focus, and reduced stress. Here’s how to do it!
Productivity Hack #5: Plan Time In Blocks
Bring order to the way you tackle your ongoing list of responsibilities with time blocking by breaking your day into smaller blocks of time, during which you will tackle specific tasks. You can simply block off time on your calendar, or use pomodoro to keep track of time for you and help you gradually build focus.
Productivity Hack #6: Batch Similar Tasks
One way to get back some of your time and energy lost to context switching is to tackle similar tasks together in batches, chunks of time when you can give focused bursts of attention to one type of task before moving on to the next. Knock out your inbox in one or two sittings instead of responding to emails as you receive them, and you not only cut time wasted on context switching, but according to one study your emails will be more likely to be softer in tone.
Productivity Hack #7: Batch Your Tasks For Optimal Productivity
Categorize your tasks by the amount of concentrated focus they require, sorting your tasks between deep work for high focus and shallow work for work that must be done but doesn’t need your full concentration. Then schedule them to maximize your ability to focus on the deep work tasks. This could be a time of day you’re most likely to feel energized, or least likely to be interrupted. Schedule shallow work, meaning tasks that don’t require your full focus, for lower energy times, so you’re using less of your brain power when your brain needs a break.
Protect Your Focus Time From Interruptions
Not all disruptions are under our control, but the most common distractions are—including tools that are supposed to make productivity easier, like email or digital communications, but whose notifications do us no favors.
Productivity Hack #8: Schedule Time to Check Email
The average worker checks their email 11 times in a workday. Save your mental energy from the drain that stems from context switching, and make a routine to manage your inbox instead. For example, you can schedule time to check and respond to emails once in the morning and once towards the end of the workday.
Productivity Hack #9: Silence Notifications
One of the biggest disruptions to your flow can be turned off. Take some time to disable news story pop ups, stock updates, new message alerts, and social media notifications
Productivity Hack #10: Hide Your Phone
Put your phone out of sight with alerts silenced when you need to focus. Research suggests even just having a phone around while you’re working makes it harder to think and concentrate, so putting it away and scheduling breaks to check your notifications will keep you more productive than having it around.
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