When searching the internet for productivity hacks, it's easy to get caught up in the idea of simply doing more.
But productivity (at least, how we define it) isn't just about ticking tasks off a to-do list. It's about learning to focus on accomplishing the important things in life – whatever those things look like to you.
With that in mind, we've pulled together a few simple productivity hacks that you can apply to almost any area of your life. One schedule-smashing, goal-reaching step at a time.
1. Set Out Your Schedule
The first step to being productive is knowing what you're doing, when you're doing it, and how long you're going to be doing it for. This is where a schedule can help. Remember, calendars aren't just for meetings. Dedicate time for meetings, focus work and even breaks. Then stick to it.
2. Get Comfortable
Life and work both need to feel good. So why do we only think about comfort when it's time to wind down? Physical comfort is a cornerstone of productivity. Always follow a few basic rules: ensure your chair provides proper support, keep the top of your screen at eye level and avoid eye strain with regular breaks.
3. Plan Ahead Of Time
One of the best ways to have a productive day is to plan for it the night before. For example, heading to the gym at 7am? Lay out your workout clothes and water. You can also write down your goals or things you need to do before you go to sleep. That way, you'll feel mentally prepared to make a start in the morning.
4. Find Your Why
If you regularly feel overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities, it is most likely because you don't know your "why". Take a moment to think about your to-do list and dig into the importance of each milestone. Chances are you'll find the motivation to get started or decide you need to pivot your plan.
5. Stay Hydrated
All athletes know that water is essential for peak physical performance, but quenching your thirst is also crucial for your cognitive abilities. A study by the University of East London found that a good helping of H20 can result in a 14% increase in productivity, boosting everything from concentration levels to reaction time and even memory.
6. Avoid Multitasking
On paper, multitasking sounds like the ultimate productivity hack, but the truth is it often does more harm than good. Every time you force your brain to switch back and forth between tasks, you pay an efficiency tax and become more likely to experience feelings of stress and burnout.
7. Work In Short Bursts
We're a long way off the famously ill-focused goldfish, but the human mind can still only concentrate for so long. This is why it makes sense to work in short bursts, with regular periods set aside to recharge. One of the most popular methods is the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working for 25 minutes at a time, followed by a five-minute break.
8. Take Your To-Dos Offline
If you're struggling to keep track of digital tasks and documents without losing hours to cat videos, block out time where you go analogue. Put your phone on 'do not disturb', shut the lid on your laptop, and pick up your Balance Planner. Aside from being a refreshing change of pace, is there anything more satisfying than physically crossing something off your to-do list?
9. Make Time For Self-Care
Self-care isn't just a reward for a job well done. According to clinical psychologist Dr Russell Thackeray, it's one of the most effective productivity hacks you can use to get more done: "People that look after themselves have better cognitive ability. They have better focus and they have better concentration." Sounds like a pretty good excuse to hit the park to us.
10. Apply The Two Minute Rule
If a small task pops up that will take two minutes or less to complete, you should just do it. Don't think about it. Don't put it off. That's the Two Minute Rule in a nutshell. If the task is likely to take longer than two minutes or is not related to what you're currently working on, add it to your to-do list.
11. Set Healthy Boundaries
Despite what Silicone Valley CEOs might lead you to believe, you don't need to work 24 hours a day to be successful. In fact, whether you're crunching numbers in the office or tackling tasks at home, it's important not to let work life bleed into your personal time. Make a point of sticking to a routine and create separate spaces for the two.
Keep In Mind
The reality is that we can't have a super-productive day every day. And more importantly, we don't need to. Sure, some tasks work require focus, but that can only be possible if you also know when it's time to cut yourself some slack.