Have you ever wondered how some people can get so much done in a day, while you roll into bed each night wondering what exactly you accomplished? It isn’t a question of working harder — though it might seem to be. In reality, the thing that makes the most difference isn’t working harder, it’s working smarter. It’s about developing the right habits, and maximizing your productivity.
You don’t have to be a genius at time management to get more done in the day. All you need is practice and the right strategies to get you started. Fortunately for you, we have collected a quick-and-dirty list of 10 awesome productivity hacks that you can put to use today. These will help set you on the right path to take on your next Side Hustle.
1) Strategic Goal Planning
As many of us discover each year — usually sometime in the month of January — creating goals and sticking to them are two very different things. Dreaming up goals and thinking about all the things you want to do with your time is easy, even fun. But actually putting those ideas into action … that part is a bit more complicated.
Strategic, effective goal planning is essential to the success of any venture. And in most cases, HOW you plan out your goals is just as important as creating the goals themselves.
One of our favorite tips for successful goal planning is to be as specific as possible. For example, saying that you would like to grow your social media platform is a great goal, but it is too vague to be effective. A better goal would be “by the end of the year, I plan to increase my Instagram following by (insert specific number).” An even better goal, might also include a specific strategy you plan to use to complete your goal. The more details you add, the more specific you are, and the better you plan, the more successful you are likely to be.
Another tip is to break your goals down into yearly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, and daily goals. Daily goals are especially important, because they are what will help keep you on track to achieve those big, long-term goals.
2) Set Deadlines: Parkinson’s Law
Have you ever noticed how the longer you have to complete a task, the longer that task will inevitably take? This is the premise of Parkinson’s Law, a principle that states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Alternatively, that same work — when left to the last minute — will take much less time to do!
Obviously we’re not saying that you should procrastinate on all of your work. Procrastination is a fact of life, but it certainly doesn’t help anyone to become more productive … even if it does prove definitively that that large chunk of work you’ve been putting off could have been finished in just a few short minutes all along.
What we are suggesting is that you manufacture strict deadlines for yourself. For example, if you have a project that needs to be done in two weeks, set your deadline for one week — and stick to it. This is a good way to essentially trick yourself into completing your task in half the time. It is also a great way to circumvent the negative repercussions of any potential procrastination.
3) Block Scheduling: Try the Pomodoro Technique
Block scheduling is an incredibly helpful strategy for maximizing your productivity. The logic behind it is simple — if you clump like tasks together and work on one specific task for a set amount of time, you are less likely to lose hours of your day in mundane, black-hole tasks (like organizing your email).
There are many ways to implement block scheduling in your routine. One such strategy is called the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique is a block scheduling strategy where you break your day into 25 minute blocks. During each of these blocks, you work on one focused task. At the end of each block, you take a mandatory 5 minute break. After four blocks you will take a longer break — usually 15 to 30 minutes. An egg timer (or any other timer with an audible ticking sound) is traditionally used to time each segment.
The idea behind the Pomodoro technique is that our brains can only work at optimum efficiency for so long before we become distracted or begin to struggle with focus. The 25 minutes of focused work time help you to buckle down and get as much work as possible done on one particular task, while the forced 5 minute break gives your brain a bit of time to recharge. Additionally, the ticking sound of the egg timer is supposed to create a sense of urgency, and give you a tangible reminder that time is steadily ticking away.
4) Laborit’s Law
Laborit’s Law describes that natural inclination we as humans have for avoiding tasks that are complicated or unpleasant. This inclination tends to increase procrastination and decrease productivity. Fortunately, simply by being aware of the phenomena, you will be more prepared to combat it.
The best way to combat Laorit’s Law is to handle complex or unsavory tasks earlier in your day. This accomplishes two things. First, it allows you to complete your more complicated to-do items when you have more mental energy … which in turn will lead to the task being completed more quickly and efficiently. Second, it allows you to tackle those tasks that might be more stressful first, thereby freeing yourself from the mental exhaustion that comes from dreading a particular task.
5) Write It Down
Are you keeping a to do list? You should be. We suggest that you keep a pad of paper handy at all times, so that you can write down anything that pops into your head as soon as it does so. Suddenly remember that you need to pick up milk when you are in the middle of working on an important project? Write it down and move on. This will keep you from forgetting it later, and will also clear your mind so you can focus on the task at hand. Not a fan of pen and paper? There are tons of apps (Google Tasks is great) that can keep your to do list organized on your phone.
6) Stop Multitasking!
You’ve probably already heard this one a million times, but chances are, you still do it. Why? Because most of us, from a young age, have also learned that multitasking is a good thing — or even that it increases productivity. It does feel like you are getting a lot done when you multitask, which only perpetuates the myth that the strategy is helping.
The problem with multitasking is that it stops you from ever truly getting into the zone. It also wastes time (and brainpower), because even the best among us can’t switch gears immediately.
To make matters worse, multitasking isn’t even technically possible. Aside from subconscious actions (like eating or walking), your brain can’t physically perform two tasks at the same time. This means that what you think of as multitasking is actually task switching … which essentially robs both tasks of your full attention.
7) The Two-Minute Rule
Like the name, this one is short and sweet. Basically, if a task comes up that will take you two minutes or less to complete, do it now. If it will take longer, add it to your to do list to tackle later. This accomplishes two things. First, it prevents you from continuously putting off those small tasks that really could have been completed without too much fuss, and second, it keeps you from forgetting about those longer tasks that need to be put off out of necessity.
8) Find Your Driving Force
One great strategy for upping your productivity, is to find a driving force that will motivate you towards your completing your tasks.
This driving force can be either positive or negative. For example, you could reward yourself with your favorite dessert if you complete x number of tasks. Alternatively, you could deprive yourself of your dessert if you fail to complete said tasks. For some people, the natural consequence of completing (or failing to complete) as task will be enough to motivate them towards action.
If that isn’t you, don’t be afraid to create external motivations. You may have to play with your strategy a bit before you find what works for you, but once you do find that driving force, it can be a powerful tool to enhance your productivity.
9) Set Specific Times to Check Email (And Other Time-Suckers)
Have you ever stopped to check your email, when suddenly you realize two hours has passed and you’ve done nothing but organize your inbox? Yeah, us too.
There are certain tasks, email being one of them, that are like black holes for your time. Obviously reading, sending, and replying to emails is incredibly important. The problem is when you find yourself checking said email every five minutes, or — even worse — diving into the endless chasm of unread junk mail. Sure, it would be useful to clean out your inbox every now and then — but somehow it only seems to happen when you have a particularly pressing deadline, or some other task that needs to be done.
For tasks like email (social media is another major offender), it is extremely helpful to set a time each day to attend to it. For example, you could spend half an hour every morning and evening reading and responding to your emails. Setting a time to do these tasks will help keep you from being tempted to check in every few minutes, and setting a time-limit will stop you from spending way too long doing something that could (and should) be done quickly.
10) Learn to Say No
Our final productivity hack is probably the most important one of all. You need to learn to say ‘no.’
How often do you find yourself saying yes to something just because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, or taking on too much because you want to please someone or help them out? How often do you agree to something, even when you know you won’t have enough time to do it? Chances are, if you are like most people, the answer is ‘frequently.’
Saying ‘no’ can be incredibly uncomfortable, especially when it is something you want to do, or to someone you care about. But saying ‘yes’ to everything can have dire consequences.
When it comes right down to it, time is our most valuable resource, and each of us only has so much of it. It can be helpful to remember that whenever you say ‘yes’ to something, you are saying ‘no’ to something else. Next time someone asks you to do something, take a moment to consider what you will be giving up if you say ‘yes.’ Where will that time come from? Will this impair my productivity?
Obviously, you don’t need to say ‘no’ to everything. But thinking before you blurt out a ‘yes’ can be a very powerful way to take control over your time and increase your productivity.
Hopefully, at least some of these strategies will help you to become more productive with your time. We can’t stress enough that your time is finite … so you need to use it wisely. Everyone, even the most successful people in the world, have exactly 24 hours in a day. The question is, how will you spend yours?