Ever feel like working takes up all of your time, but you’re never getting enough done? Have you ever wondered what you did all weekend, only to realize that it was entirely chores? Well, no more. Here’s our most helpful productivity tasks that you can apply to your work, school, or daily life that will get you to some free time!
1. Pomodoro Technique:
Set a timer for 25 minutes and take a 3-5 minute break when it goes off. Do this four times in a row to earn a 15-30 minute break. The breaks will reset your mindset and keep you from burning out or wasting time. If you’ve got time left before the timer goes off, use that to learn a little bit more.
Want to use this technique, but working on a group project? There’s an app for that.
2. Write Top Three To-Do List
Keeping it to your top three most important things will keep all the other less important work from eating up your time. To-do lists in general are useful, but focusing on the top three will make absolutely sure that those things get done.
3. Schedule Reading Your Emails
You probably know what needs to be dealt with immediately and what can wait. Whether it’s a million emails waiting in your inbox or just a handful, dealing with them can eat up your time. Even just glancing through them can ruin your focus, so get them out of the way. If you need to check on them more than once, block off time in your schedule for it and don’t do anything else during that time until you’re done.
4. Use a Website Blocker
Focusing on a computer can be difficult, since you have all of the internet just waiting for you. Make your life easier and use one of these blocking apps to keep you from checking those distracting sites. For a Mac: selfcontrolapp and for Windows users on Chrome, there’s the extensions of Stay Focused or Cold Turkey
5. Start Your Day With a Task
Depending on whether or not you feel like a morning person or more of a night owl will determine when your mental state will be at it’s peak. If you’re a morning person, tackle the hardest project first while you’re fresh. If you’re a night owl and just being awake feels tiring, start with an easy but necessary step in order to get the mental juices moving. Every one is different, so this one will require experimenting.
6. Write It Down, Even As A Team
How many times do you say “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it”? Do you ever actually get to it? Perhaps a pen and paper would help keep you focused on all the things you said you’d do. Not into the traditional method? Try the To Doist app, which works on any format and has options for individuals and for teams. Now no one can forget to do their work. Trello has a free version for individuals and can also handle group projects.
7. Stop Multitasking
You’re certain you can multitask at peak performance. Everyone is. We’re all wrong. A study at the University of London showed that when multitasking, an individual can lose as many IQ points as though they had not slept the night before (to be clear, not slept poorly, but didn’t sleep at all). That can be as many as fifteen IQ points. It also increases cortisol, the stress chemical. The biggest stress comes from the anticipation of getting a new email, text message, or phone call. By allowing yourself to be available to anyone and everyone 24/7, you are making yourself more stressed and worse at your job. According to a study from the University of Sussex which involved giving MRI scans to individuals who spent time on multiple devices (like watching television and texting at the same time). They found that those who did this repeatedly often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the area responsible for empathy and emotional control. The changes can create permanent brain damage.
8. Eat Your Frogs
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” – Mark Twain
“Eat your frogs” means to do the big horrible thing you’d usually put off. Procrastination is never helpful, but the more you dislike a task, the more you’ll think about it. Just do it.
9. Set Realistic Goals
It would be great to set the bar high, but is it attainable? Some people thrive under pressure, while others break. Set the bar just high enough that you’re able to accomplish them without possibly burning yourself out.
10. Automate Everything You Can
11. Don’t Let Perfect Be The Enemy of Good
If it does the job and does it “good enough”, then let it go. Chasing perfection isn’t going to make you more productive, but could eat up all your time and energy.
12. Optimize Your Workspace
From being handed a warm drink to seeing a nature scene, it’s been proven that your space around you affects you through all your senses. Try keeping the clutter to a minimum and find a plant or picture that reminds you of a happy occasion. Be sure to remind yourself why you work, as opposed to just your work itself.
13. Make Time For Deep Work
“Deep work is hard and shallow work is easier and in the absence of clear goals for your job, the visible busyness that surrounds shallow work becomes self-preserving.” – Cal Newport in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
Cal makes an excellent point here about how the deep work is essential. A strong focus and deep work will lead to excellent results.
14. Stay Hydrated
This study at the University of East London showed that staying fully hydrated can make you succeed 14% more. Be more productive and without breaking a sweat.
15. Put the Right Kind of Music On
The difficult part about recommending listening to music is that it doesn’t work for everyone. Some swear by it and others can’t handle it at all. The crucial difference for the majority of people seems to be whether or not the music has lyrics, which can be distracting. If you’re in need of background music that is relatively boring but keeps you motivated, you might want to check out Focus At Will which works with scientists and audio experts for this exact kind of music. They have a few Youtube videos available online for free, as well.
16. Time- Boxing
It’s just what it sounds like: boxing out parts of your day to finish tasks. Think of them as mini-deadlines. It works in two ways: 1) holds you accountable for what your time is actually going and 2) the mini-deadlines make you more efficient by giving you a limit on how long to spend on each task.
17. Gamify Your Goals
Turning your work into a game can do wonders for your motivation. Having a reward, no matter how small, can make your progress feel more tangible, and therefore more rewarding. The Forest app is great for projects that require focus. It rewards uninterrupted focus with trees grown in your virtual garden. If your work is more like a to-do list, you may find Habitica entertaining. Your avatar can earn or lose health, gain a pet, and go on quests with your friends, as long as you accomplish your goals. There are a lot of different apps out there besides these two, so it might be worth looking for one you like. If you have to work for a living, you might as well enjoy it!
There you have it, our list of tried and true productivity hacks! Check out some of our other ways to get ahead: