I love how just a few small and simple changes, that take very little time, effort or both, can have a big impact on how productive you are in a day. I was reminded of this recently listening to a podcast episode of ‘The Side Hustle Show’ by Nick Loper. Subscribers were asked to call in and give their productivity tools and tips. This episode, as well as reminding me of some good tips, prompted me to put my own list together for you.
So here is a list of a few tips, or hacks, that I use, or my clients have had success in using, and I hope you can find some useful things in here to apply for yourself.
Keep a 1-word Post-It note where you can see it. The word? Start!:
This came from ‘The Side Hustle Show’ by Nick Loper. One of the subscriber’s productivity hack was to use post-it notes around his desk with the word ‘start’ on it. This reminds him to get started on his priorities, to do list, etc.
Listen to music while you are working:
This pleasant distraction makes as more productive as music releases a chemical in our brain called dopamine. Just be mindful of when you listen. When a task is clear, repetitive or you are an expert than go for it. Studies have shown surgeons worked more accurately when their favourite music was played in the background. However, if you are learning something maybe have a break from the music.
Use the Pomodoro method with a timer:
The Pomodoro method is a time management method. You use a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by a short break. The whole idea is to just get started as no matter how bad the task, you know you only have to do it for 25 minutes before a break. Studies have shown this method to be more effective if you set a timer to stop and start, rather than just look at the clock and manage it that way.
Take a break; the 20/20 Rule:
It might seem counter-intuitive. You are super busy and just need to keep working but the reality is you need a break. Every 20 minutes get up, walkaway for 20 seconds then come back. Your mind needs a break, your body needs to stand up. You’ll be more effective for taking the break.
Turn off email alerts and put your phone on silence
Minimise distractions. Every time you stop working to check an email or answer a call it takes 3x as long to get back into the task you were previously doing. We can’t multi-task, we can only do one thinking tasks at a time. So, batch your emails and phone calls and only check them at scheduled times throughout the day.
Exercise in the morning
I’m a big one for this and it has been shown that exercising in the morning can greatly improve your productivity. Exercise energises you, and some studies have shown that exercise can improve your mood for up to 12 hours following your workout. If the thought of setting the alarm earlier is too much, start small. Do just 10 minutes of stretching or a quick HIIT and build up time as you get used to it.
Stand up meetings
One of the biggest time wasters in the workplace is meetings. And, given most calendars are in 30 minute blocks they tend to get booked for a minimum of 30 minutes. Even if only 10 minutes is needed. I shared this tip with a client once who changed their weekly meeting to a 10 minute stand up meeting and saved the whole team 20 minutes
Drink water and lots of it. Nothing drains our energy more than the feeling of dehydration.
De-clutter your workspace:
Keep a tidy workspace. Only have on your desk the thing you are working on. That way you won’t be tempted by other piles of work waiting to get done. The same goes for your computer. Only have open the files and program you are working on so you aren’t tempted by social media, email, etc.
The two-minute rule:
If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it straight away. Whether it’s responding to an email or putting dishes away in the dishwasher.
Eat that Frog:
Do you have a task on your to-do list that you’ve repeatedly put off because you don’t want to do it. Do it first thing. Get the worst thing you have to do out of the way first thing in the morning, that way you don’t have to spend all day thinking about doing it.
Learn to say no!
It can be one of the hardest things to do. That is to say ‘no’. It can also be one of your biggest time wasters as you will find yourself working on other people’s priorities rather than your own. Learn to say no politely. ‘I’d love to help, come back in 30 minutes once I’ve finished this’. ‘Is there someone else you could ask’
Prioritise to do your most important task first thing:
Each day, know what your most important task is and schedule to do it first thing in the morning. Don’t open email, don’t make phone calls, just work on your most important task first. It sets you up for success for the rest of the day, rather than getting distracted by email or unimportant tasks, you know you’ve accomplished our most important thing.
Break any goals or deadlines you have down into smaller chunks. Set closer deadlines for those chunks or mini-goals. Some people are deadline driven and they need a number of closer deadlines to motivate them. Mini-goals also give you something to celebrate along the way, rather than waiting until the end deadline.
Calendar pop-ups-how effective are you right now:
This comes from Tim Ferris and is such an easy tip or hack that I’ve shared with many, many clients. A couple of times a day have a pop-up from your calendar that simply says ‘How effective are you right now’. What this does is bring to your conscious whether you are working on the most effective thing you could be or just time-wasting.
Hour of Power:
Some people are morning people, others work best in the afternoon. Once you know which you are and when you work best, set aside an hour of power in this time. Use this time as focus time to work on activities that require your full concentration and mental power. Switch off the phone, turn of email alerts and work un-interrupted in your hour of power. You’ll be amazed at what you get done.
Let me know how you go with these hacks and if you have any others that have worked well for you share below so that others can benefit from them too.