Getting things done these days can be incredibly challenging with all the distractions we live with.
Here’s an exercise: you’re sitting at a table, ready to go. You’ve canceled all your plans because your deadline is about two days away. When you start typing, a notification box appears in the lower right corner of your desktop: Your best friend sent you a message on Facebook. You can’t see the whole message, but it ends something like this: 😂😂😂. You know it’s funny and you have to open it…
…30 minutes later you are on your fourth random funny video of a panda’s having fun (try not to click on the link).
You look at your watch and start sweating. “How the hell am I supposed to get out of this?”
10 life-changing productivity hacks
Now, at some point in your struggle to become a more organized person, you’ve probably implemented at least one of the tips below. And yet you are here looking for more advice.
But have you ever tried to implement all the tips?
1. Store your information elsewhere – Your brain is not as reliable as you think
How many times has this happened to you: you are in the supermarket with an empty basket in your hand. You stare at the dairy shelf for a few seconds, then turn your head to the vegetable shelf. “Why am I even here?”
You search your pocket for your shopping list and find nothing. Of course you left it at home. You may remember things you need on a regular basis: bread, yogurt, pastries, but there were plenty of other things. You barely remember two or three more because they go into your favorite dish. That’s it. You go home half empty. Your brain has failed you again.
Now, before you diagnose yourself with ADD, think that this is perfectly normal.
We rely on our memories for some key things, such as learning from past experiences or sharing stories with friends. Memory is necessary for us to create our identity. Therefore, we assume that it is accurate. But that’s not true. Our memory is not as reliable as we would like. Subconsciously, we alter facts, add false details, or simply discard information that does not fit into any context of our mental system.
Now that we know that science has confirmed what we already know from experience, that our internal hard drives are not the most reliable place to store information, it’s time to think about a new one.
What are the most important features of your “external storage”?
- It must be easily accessible
- Must have plenty of space
- You must be able to label and organize the information inside
- It’s a plus if it offers backup options in case it suddenly bursts into flames
You can use a notebook, that’s fine. But will you always carry it with you? Is it possible for it to burst into flames? Are you ready to start piling up notebooks in your house because if you work hard, you’ll have about 10 of them filled before you say “Oh no, I left a notebook in…”?
Fortunately, there are countless online tools that well-organized people use as their right hand. They’re all backed up, can be accessed from your phone or other internet-enabled device, and it’s very easy to tag and organize your data. Even if your computer breaks down, you’ll still be able to access your data. Clean, right?
Here are some of these tools you can check out:
Do your research and discover which type of tool best suits your needs.
2. Use the Planner and learn to prioritize
When it comes to long-term planning and preventing the procrastination whirlwind, a proper planner is essential.
Among all these life-changing productivity tips, probably my favorite is the My only journal! So how do you start keeping a planner?
One option is to take a blank notebook or text document and design it yourself. The second is to get a ready-made planner. Whichever option you choose, here are the key features of a good planning tool:
- It is attractive to use
- Helps prioritize tasks
- It is friendly to the Focus Time technique
- It helps to define long-term (annual, monthly) and short-term (weekly, daily) plans.
- Travels with you
If you decide to design your own planner, that’s great, but also risky. If it’s not designed in a way that encourages you to come back to it, it’s easy to start neglecting it and slip into another debilitating episode of not completing tasks on time and not following your dreams. That is why I recommend using a ready-made planner, and one of them is the planner I created for everyone for whom skilful planning is important.
Here’s how it works: First, you need to list your goals. Then you break them down into steps and sub-goals. Once you’ve done that, you need to learn to distinguish important tasks from non-essential ones. Then you define your weekly and daily tasks, prioritize and execute them.
This article is for everyone who decides to start planning in their own way, without the rigid planning system imposed by calendars and planners. The entry is directed to all those who already plan in ready-made planners or notebooks as well as to those who intend to start their adventure with planning. I want to share with you the planner that was created by me. The version I am presenting to you is a test version and I count on your feedback on what you think about this form. JOURNALDownload So let’s…
3. Closing time: Opt out of social media
I’ve already shown you what can happen when you get a little Facebook notification when you’re trying to focus. It all starts with an irresistible short scroll, a message or a cat movie to relax. We promise ourselves that it will only take 3 minutes, but reality, or rather the clock, always hits hard. The next thing you know, you’re looking at your aunt’s 2012 vacation photos, flipping through a random meme site, engaging in a political debate, or taking a “Which song best describes you” quiz.
And it doesn’t stop at Facebook, does it? Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, Netflix – whatever you want.
Fortunately, you are not alone in this and there is a solution.
You don’t need to close your social network accounts or start working offline. You can simply download a browser extension to help you block any site you don’t want to use.
Here are some of my favourites:
They are not the same apps. Brain.fm, for example, helps you stay focused by delivering a 2-hour soundtrack that, according to the creators, has been scientifically proven to work.
Rescuetime is an all-in-one app, but also a website blocker and online activity recorder. After a while, it generates a report on your online activity, making you aware of how much time you spend on social networks, online shopping, productivity blog posts, and so on.
If you want to become more productive, stop procrastinating on social media by force.
4. Do similar tasks in the same batch
When you’re trying to organize your day by setting multiple tasks, avoid writing them down like this:
- 8:00: Go to the post office
- 8:45: Write an article about productivity
- 11:15: Hairdresser
- 12:00: Vacuum the living room
- 14:00: Clean up your e-mail.
What’s wrong with this list?
At first glance: it’s just a time-limited to-do list. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that these activities can form logical clusters: computer-related, outdoor activities, and one household chore.
If you want to increase your productivity, try organizing your tasks by topic:
- Clearing the mailbox
- Text editing
- Sending a job offer
Once you’re done with the computer class batch, you can move on to the outdoor batch:
- A visit to the dentist
- Post office visit
- A visit to the hairdresser
Then when you get home, the chores are still there and you can focus on them:
- Vacuum the living room
- Wash the dishes
- And so on.
If you jump from one type of task to another, you will waste a lot of time just changing the location, not to mention that every time you start a new type of activity, you have to adapt. If you’ve finished dusting and then started writing an article, you probably can’t dive into it right away. So outsmart your brain, save valuable time and energy and organize your tasks logically!
5. Automate boring tasks
Once again: it’s not the old days!
Paying bills should no longer be an adventurous task that requires you to walk to the post office or bank, wait in who knows how long lines, scroll through Instagram, and stop at an ice cream shop on your way home.
Set up automatic online payments instead.
This can also work for many other tasks:
- Replying to repeated emails – set up templates;
- Posting to social media for work – schedule posts and use tools like Hootsuite, Facebook Creator Studio or the Later app;
- Manual expense tracking – check out these automated apps;
- Copy notes from one notebook to another – use Google Docs, Google Keep or other software that allows access on all your devices;
- Scheduling Meetings – Use Doodle;
- Meal Planner – Use this amazing menu planner.
I’m not sure what you do, but these are just some of the things you can automate. Alerts, newsletters, bills, invoices – technology has you covered.
6. Delegate some of your tasks to others
If you’re the controller type, you’ll probably feel personally affected by this productivity hack: you don’t have to do everything yourself.
In terms of work, it’s no problem if you can’t manage and complete all the projects you’re involved in yourself. Sharing responsibilities with others can be extremely beneficial for both your mental health and your business. Delegating helps to improve efficiency, but it can also be crucial for the person responsible for the delegated task: it helps them learn and grow as professionals.
However, many people see delegation as a loss of control, when in fact they have to take responsibility for things that have really been done. If something goes wrong, you’re still responsible, so don’t worry – control is still in your hands, just to a more reasonable degree.
If you run a sole proprietorship and the amount of tasks becomes overwhelming, you can always consider hiring a virtual or real assistant. On the other hand, if you work for a company that has many other employees, don’t be shy about asking a co-worker for help when things get tough.
Delegating tasks is great for non-work responsibilities – if you don’t have enough time to do in-depth seasonal cleaning, there’s nothing wrong with hiring a third party to clean for you, or simply asking one of your household to finish the chores if you don’t have time.
This way, you can offload some subordinate tasks and focus on what’s really important to you.
7. Multitasking must end
Multitasking is one of the biggest delusions among busy people.
Why not take all projects at once? How could you tell your client that he has to wait more than a few weeks? How to decline a job offer?
This kind of attitude can make our days extremely busy and frustrating. You try to save and use every second productively, you have a perfect schedule, you know that you can do everything on time. But how long does it last? Two days, three days, two weeks? After how long will you feel overwhelmed and exhausted because you are too tired and torn between different projects that you are juggling at the same time? After what time will you start making mistakes or submitting below average work?
Time to open your eyes: multitasking is a lie. In the end, it will cost you more than you save time.
When you divide your attention between two tasks, naturally neither task receives the same “amount” of attention. There is a scientific reason for the “don’t text and don’t drive” rule. Humans are not capable of processing information in parallel, especially when information comes from different sensory sources (for example, language and spatial).
The more we multitask, the less we actually accomplish. Why? Because we lose focus, and research has shown that people multitasking lose their ability to learn new things.
So, to overcome the loss of productivity, start doing one thing at a time. My guess is that it might cause panic if you’re above average. However, learn to focus on one task and remember tip number 6 again, especially if this is your case.
Giving up multitasking is probably one of the greatest productivity tips that can change your life!
8. Take breaks
It’s not really a hack…it’s the most normal thing in the world when you’re working and yet we keep forgetting about it.
But how often do you leave everything to the last minute? Or are you simply accepting too many tasks in a short period of time? In either case, you might be stuck on a computer screen for five or six hours straight. That `s bad. It’s really bad.
Overworked people often struggle with chronic stress and its common consequences, such as burnout. In doing so, they put not only their physical and mental health at risk, but also the quality of their work.
If you’re having trouble arranging and implementing regular breaks in your work schedule, go pback to tip number two – get yourself a cool productivity planner.
How will breaks make you more productive?
When you take short breaks, you clear your mind and gain more focus and energy. If you’ve been working on a task that’s difficult to solve, a short break can help you focus and come back with a fresh approach. They can also spur creativity and inspiration, and help develop healthy habits: instead of shoving a sandwich down your throat while typing, you can take a short lunch break, eat soup and salad, change the scenery a bit by going outside and get some fresh air, and even do a short stretching session.
Important caveat: scrolling through Facebook or Instagram is not a break. When you do that, you’re not really resting. Switching from one screen to another is not considered a break, so make sure you do something better: have a coffee alone or with a friend, have a meaningful conversation with someone, go for lunch or just take a walk. If possible, do some stretching or yoga, your body will thank you.
9. Experiment with music – find your productive beat
Is there anything deeper in human culture than music? Sounds and beats can wake us up, put us to sleep, change our mood, motivate us to take further action.
A 2009 study that examined the relationship between the tempo of music and productivity found that our performance improves when we listen to songs whose tempo is around 121 bmp or higher. If you’re wondering which famous songs have that tempo, here’s a short list:
- Black Eyed Peas—My Humps
- Whitney Houston—I Wanna Dance with Somebody
- Diana Ross—I Will Survive
- Eminem-Just Lose It
- Stromae—Alors on Danse
If you are familiar with any of these songs, you probably know that they are danceable and energetic, which is the main quality that a productive song should have.
While famous songs with catchy beats and lyrics can energize you, it can also be a problem if you’re working on intellectual or communication tasks.
The first study involved cyclists, so it makes sense that upbeat music with familiar lyrics motivated them to be more productive. However, a 2011 study found that songs with lyrics can interfere with the processing of verbal information.
This means that writing articles, project reports or a long list of emails does not fit with the “I…I will survive…!” background. What pairs well is uplifting, upbeat instrumental music that has no lyrics!
Here are some commands:
- Focus at will tool with scientifically proven music playlists to improve concentration;
- Bonobo: mainly instrumental band with uplifting and mindful music, perfect for achieving better concentration;
- Lo-Fi music beats at 120 beats per minute (or more): Productive Piano, Productive Instrumental.
Finally, the selected music does not have to meet the criteria of 120 beats per minute. The most important thing in your product list is that you like it. You need to feel inspired and motivated when you play these tunes, so look for yourself, have fun listening to different music styles and artists, and discover the beats that make you feel productive.
10. When you’re done, you’re done
When you leave your office or desk, if you are working from home, remember to take only yourself with you. It can be very depressing to juggle work-related questions and dilemmas when you’re supposed to be relaxing and present at home with your loved ones.
Because focusing on work outside of working hours can lead to increased levels of stress and its dangerous consequences, such as burnout, depression, anxiety, coronary heart disease, etc.
In addition, if you do this, you will also damage your relationship with loved ones – partner, children, parents or roommates – whoever you currently live with.
In addition to making a conscious decision to stop working when you turn off your laptop or leave the office, there is one more thing you can do: block all work-related notifications for the rest of the day.
There are several tools you can use to do this, for example
- Turning off notifications on the phone
- Signing out of work-related apps
- Using Do Not Disturb
- Limiting the time of using the device and certain applications using parental controls,
- I also recommend Daywise. With just a few clicks, you can schedule all notifications to show only during business hours.
Of course, before you do that, tell your customers that you won’t be checking their inbox or other notifications after certain hours, in case they’re used to you replying the moment they receive a message.
Switching off completely after work will help you regain your energy and focus, preserving the experiences and impressions of the day. That way, even if things don’t go so well, you have a chance to crush them the next day!
Have you reached the end of the list? Congratulations! What do these life-changing productivity hacks sound like? Do you think you can implement them?
I suggest taking it slow: one hack at a time!
In summary: automate what you can automate, delegate what you can delegate, and stop storing information in your head. Just remember what year we live in. There are tools for all this.
Stop multitasking because your brain is tired of constantly switching and rushing – it could use some nice, inspiring music to boost its productivity.
Group your tasks in a logical way and do similar things together. Don’t forget to take regular breaks, but remember – Facebook, Netflix and Instagram are not relaxing! When you’re done, done!
Do something that makes you happy and devote your time and energy to someone you care about – and there’s nothing wrong with that someone being you.