Ever wake up thinking today will be the day you’d get a lot of work done, and then at the end of the day you realize you’ve “successfully” watched through all first 3 seasons of House of Cards? If your productivity level only extends to making coffee in the morning, then it’s time to kick it up a notch! Following are some life hacks that can make you do more and end the day with a smug “I’m the man” look on your face…
The two minute rule simply states that if you are confronted with a task that takes only two minutes to finish, then do it right now and get it over with! Don’t leave it hanging because pretty soon, you’ll have a collection of 2-minute tasks that would take an hour to complete. Just finished your mug of coffee? Wash it immediately within 1 minute and you’ll never have to face a dirty sink again.
Create a priority list
Lists are a great way to get organized and the more organized you are, the more productive you’ll be. However, rather than just jotting down the things you need to get done, list your tasks by how important they are (with the most important task being at the top). You’ll realize that once you’ve gotten through the hard stuff, the simple ones will be much easier for you to check off the list.
Time your tasks
Yes, at times you’ll have the most tedious things to take care of and you’ll sit for hours procrastinating because you’re reluctant to star, dreading how long it will take until you’re through. The more you procrastinate, however, the less you get done. If the length of the task is what bothers you the most, allocate a certain amount of minutes (say 5) and when this time is up, move on to something else for another 5 minutes and then back to the ‘tedious’ task. In doing so, you won’t have to sit through the same thing for long stretches of time, but you’ll still be able to get it done.
Seinfeld Calls It!
Jerry Seinfeld is magic when it comes to stand up! But how exactly did he achieve such a high level of expertise? Practice, of course! He made sure that a few hours each day are dedicated to stand up practices. To boost his motivation, Seinfeld started putting an X mark on the calendar for every day he practiced. The satisfaction of seeing an unbroken line of X’s motivated him into NOT breaking the chain. Try it!
Now this sound like an oxymoron, but it actually makes sense. Notice how you are trying to distract yourself with practically anything just to avoid doing work that you hate? Instead of walking around burning precious time, you can try doing something else that you don’t “hate” as much. For example, procrastinate while cleaning up your inbox or perhaps start straightening out your desk to make it more work friendly. There are lots of productive procrastination steps that you can do, and each one would help you shift your focus from the task you don’t want to do with the task you can tolerate to do until you’re ready for the real thing.
Make a Playlist
Have you seen Inception where Leonardo DiCaprio uses a song to time his way into a dream? When it reaches the chorus, he knows it’s almost time to wake up from the dream. You can do this too (while awake, of course) by creating a playlist that tells you whether you’re on time or not. Try putting together a 30-minute playlist and start playing it the minute you wake up. The goal is to make sure that before the last song in the playlist ends, you’re already in your car and driving to work. You can also link the songs to the activity you’re supposed to be doing (breakfast while listening to Neil Young, The Black Keys while taking a bath, etc.), allowing you to easily judge whether you’re slacking or not.
Know your Optimum Productivity Hour
Every person has that time of the day where they’re positively brimming with energy. For most, it’s in the morning right after a dose of coffee while others are at their best after-lunch. No matter what your optimum time happens to be, identify it and make the most of it during your working hours.
Get the Temperature Right
Studies reveal that the right temperature can actually increase or decrease your productivity. According to Cornell research, the magic number is 77 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing you to be perfectly comfortable and focused on the job. You might want to let your boss know about this number and if the office isn’t just willing to pay the bill, you can also try to affect the temperature yourself. Bring a portable fan or layer your clothing, depending on the circumstances.
Make Your Breakfast Exciting
What can motivate you to wake up early? Excellent breakfast, of course! Just the thought of freshly made coffee can get you up and about within minutes. To make this happen, try getting a coffee maker with a timer, ensuring that you’ll wake up to the smell of freshly made coffee. Preparing breakfast food and ingredients at night would also make it easier for you to start cooking a healthy and delicious meal in the morning.
This is a fun thing to try! So let’s say the room is too cold and your cheapskate boss won’t let you touch the thermostat. Try putting a block of cheese on top of the device and it will be fooled into thinking that the room is actually colder than it actually is. Hence, the temperature is automatically adjusted, giving you a warmer and more comfortable atmosphere.
Surround Yourself with Yellow
Ever wondered why Facebook is colored blue? Studies suggest that this color is the most relaxing for people so when using Facebook, you tend to relax and spend lots of time on the website. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the color yellow that can help increase your productivity. The color closely resembles the brightness of the sun, which fools the body into producing melatonin. This basically stops you from being sleepy in the middle of the afternoon, allowing you to focus more on the job and less on the bed.
Baby Animals are the Answer
Now we know why the internet is littered with images of cute baby animals. It actually produces productivity – according to a study done by the Hiroshima University. Apparently, cute baby animals can give you a buzz that restores your energy and relaxes the mind, making you ready for work. With just one minute of scrolling through pictures of cats sitting in bowls, you’d be able to increase productivity by up to 44 percent…
Taking your car might be more convenient, but commuting to work actually makes it easier for you to face the day. Instead of driving, you can rearrange your schedule for the next 8 hours, making sure that all your papers are in order and answering emails through your phone. Simply put, commuting lets you focus on those “little things” that make you ready for the “big things” in the office.
Get to Work Early
Getting to work early won’t just impress the boss; it would also make your whole day more productive. First off, being early means you’ll miss the morning rush hour which can be—let’s face it—very annoying. Upon reaching the office, there would be zero colleagues around, letting you avoid the typical small talk in the morning. With zero stress and distractions, you’d be in a prime mindset to do whatever needs to be done and get the job finished ahead of schedule. Even better, that means you’d be finished earlier so you can get out of the office quickly and avoid the usual 5:30 PM rush.
Change Your Surroundings
Is it possible to bring your work somewhere else? Like the best coffee shop near you? Believe it or not, some people actually get a boost in productivity when around other people. The buzz of the noise and activity provides them with a burst of energy that you just can’t find in the stale surroundings of the office. Of course, this might not work for everyone so try experimenting on your surroundings to find out which setting gives you the most buzz.
Do you need to finish reading a long and boring report? Put a (healthy) snack at the end of each page and eat it when you read that specific page. You’ll find yourself becoming more enthusiastic with the reading process.
Keep Plants Nearby
Even if it’s just a small pot of green, plants can actually work wonders for your concentration. This has been proven after two studies performed in 2011 and 2013. According to psychologists from the University of Michigan, plants are part of the “attention restoration theory” which basically means it restores your focus on the work with just one quick glimpse. Don’t forget that the green color of plants is also excellent for the eyes so you’re basically “refreshing” your mind and vision through a simple plant. With you practically rejuvenated, your work productivity should increase.
Nap a Little
Google’s main office actually has a nap room where employees can take a well-deserved snooze. Some might think this defeats productivity but studies reveal that a nap – when done at the right time – actually revitalizes your physical and mental energy bar. Ever taken a nap in the afternoon and woke up feeling like you can take over the world? That’s it! Of course, optimum napping time is different for everyone, although studies show that generally, it’s somewhere within the vicinity of 2PM. You’ll find that someone ingeniously crafted a nap wheel for this, letting you calculate your optimum napping time, depending on what time you sleep and what time you wake up. Of course, you can always follow what your body dictates and nap when you’re feeling drowsy.
Big Tasks in the Morning
Studies reveal that the morning is your most productive time yet. Maybe it has something to do with waking up from a long and satisfying rest. No matter the reason, try scheduling your biggest, worst and usually most important tasks in the morning. You’ll find that not only do you have more energy during the early hours, but your mind is also sharper and more creative. We’re not just talking about eight, nine, or ten in the morning, however. If you wake up around 6AM, you’ll notice that you’re practically bursting with energy around 6:30AM. Of course, this might not be true for everyone – but it’s certainly worth a try!
Ever heard of binaural beats? They’ve been proven to help with concentration, creating a more productive workplace for you. Try downloading one online and see if it works for you.
Any Music Works
Binaural beats are great – but the truth is that every type of music works in boosting your productivity. According to studies, listening to music you like helps you finish tasks faster. This is especially true if you’re not particularly fond of the job you’re doing. Music essentially helps “entertain” you while performing laborious or boring tasks, making the whole job seem easier.
Make a To-Do List (seriously)
Now, this one is up for debate so you might want to test each method out before making a decision. First off, create a to-do list for the day, scheduling the worst tasks in the morning when your energy is at its highest. Stick to this to-do list and apply the Seinfeld approach by putting a big fat red check beside every task you finish. Period.
Take a Computer Break
The problem with computers is that even though they increase productivity, they also decrease it. How many times have you browsed through your Facebook or Twitter account when you’re supposed to be doing work? With “fun” websites so easily accessible, it’s very common to have multiple tabs open in your window. Hence, if you’ve decided you need a “break” from work, try standing up from the desk and stretching your legs. This would help clear your head, give you the break you want, and even burn some calories along the way!
Get some help from programs available for free. A good example is JDarkRoom, which basically obliterates all possible distractions from your monitor. Instead, the screen is filled by a completely white page where you can write your report. The taskbar, start icon and others are papered over by the document, allowing you to completely focus on what’s important.
Evernote is an application that helps you stay organized. Most people only use it to take notes, but there’s actually so much more that can be done with this program. You can try creating lots of notebooks and notes, linking them together and creating a whole system of pages that help you keep track of information you need. Perhaps one of the best features of the program is the Web Clipper, which lets you save articles from the internet, add them to existing notes and even make notes of them so that you don’t forget anything! Have fun and explore with this program.
Indecisiveness is one of the most common reasons for procrastination – so why not remove the option when you can? Plan your meals ahead of schedule so that you know exactly what you’re eating for the day. If you love to cook, this means having all the important ingredients in the pantry, removing the need for a time-wasting shopping expedition.
Carry a Notebook and Pen Around (All. The. Time.)
Do you get ideas in your head that constantly nag and distract you throughout the day? Ideas like these might be excellent, but they can push you to procrastinate, bumping out all the concentration you have for the job. Get rid of all these nagging by writing all those thoughts and “light bulbs” in a notebook you always keep handy. After writing them down, your subconscious should feel content so that you can focus on the work again. At the end of the day, you can visit the notebook again and get to work on your bright ideas!
Break the TV Habit
According to studies, the typical American spends around 9 years out of a 65-year life span watching television. This basically boil down to 4 hours each day – but imagine how long it really is when you look at the big picture. Turn off the TV now and start doing something else. Read a good book, for example. Not only will you become more productive, you’d also find yourself saving on electricity!
Blog what you do, your goals, what you’ve been doing to achieve them, and how you’re faring so far. The incentive of being able to chronicle your “adventures” should be able to push you towards productivity. For some people, knowing that others are reading their work is an excellent inducer. Of course, this might not work for everyone and in some cases, you might consider it additional work rather than fun.
Well, duh. Sleep has long been strongly advised to increase productivity and improve overall health. Unfortunately, a lot of people are still ignoring this fact, so please—try to get a good eight hours of sleep every night.
OK, so opinions for this one are also divided. Basically, the idea is to get rid of any clutter on your desk before starting work. With a clean and orderly desk, there’s really nothing else for you to do but focus on the work. Of course, don’t forget the Einstein quote: ‘If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?’ So basically, what you can do is clean your desk but don’t leave it completely devoid of anything. For some people, a stack of paperwork on their desk helps to constantly remind them that there’s still work to be done. Hence, this is really a judgment call on your part. My advice – remove the clutter and see what happens.
The Email Reverse Psychology
Ever want someone to read your email immediately? Use the reverse psychology trick! After sending them the mail, follow it up with another mail bearing the subject: PLS DON’T READ PREVIOUS EMAIL. IT WAS SENT IN ERROR. Yup, do it in all caps to really get the reader’s attention. You’ll find that this would make them very curious about the email’s content.
Work in Sprints
Work shouldn’t be a marathon that keeps you sitting on your chair for six long hours at a time. Instead, you should approach it in sprints, perhaps spending two hours at a time and then taking a quick break to refresh yourself. Note, though, that your “refreshment” of choice should not be done by clicking through your social media account. Instead, stand up, walk around, stretch a little or even grab a cup of water. A few minutes away from the computer would give you that necessary recharge to keep on working.
Move Around and Workout
Studies reveal that exercise can help increase your productivity, increase concentration, and improve your energy. It probably has something to do with exercise improving blood flow and oxygen in the body. We’re not just talking about morning exercises, although that’s definitely a good thing. Instead, try to insert some workouts during your lunch hour or even the 15-minute break. Even just walking in place or light stretching can turn you into a whole new person.
Turn your Phone Off
OK, so maybe turning your phone off all the way is not necessary. However, you can try locking it up in the drawer (or just putting it into flight mode) to prevent yourself from checking it every few minutes.
Now this might seem irrational, but a second monitor can actually make it easier for you to work. Employees notice that switching from one window to another actually makes it harder for them to concentrate on what they’re doing. With a second monitor, however, it seems as though the whole process has just become way easier, not to mention easier on the eyes. Also, monitors today have become cheaper so this shouldn’t dent your bank account too much.
Donuts Fix Everything
Running late and you just know everyone is going to welcome you with bad looks in the office? You can’t really blame them, especially since they’ve been ahead of you. You know what you can do, though? Donuts! A box of donuts may not completely wipe off the frown on their faces, but they shouldn’t give you a hard time with your lateness. After all, a happy office is a productive office. Don’t do it again, though – buying 54 donuts every day can be quite expensive.
Herbs are the Answer
Aside from sounds and visual elements, another factor that deeply affects work productivity is the smell. If you’re in an environment where the smell is far from pleasant, chances are you wouldn’t be in your full capacity when working. Don’t grab the air freshener, though. This will only make things worse because the slight chemical smell is an even bigger distraction. Instead, go to the local greenhouse and purchase an herb plant – preferably one with a strong smell. Put it beside the office desk and you should get that clean, fresh smell of the outdoors all day long. Some of the best plants for this job are mint, basil, rosemary and lavender.
The Pomodoro technique is very simple to do and can increase your focus and productivity significantly during the day. Basically, just set a timer for 25 minutes and commit yourself to working during that time. You don’t have to finish the task within those 25 minutes; you just have to make sure that all those minutes are used productively. When you’re done, take a 5-minute break; you’ve earned it! Repeat the process over and over again until the day is done. You can also try giving yourself a longer 15-minute break after four or five 25-minute cycles.
Batch ‘Em Up
Try to batch up your tasks or work in chunks for the smaller jobs that necessitate a few minutes of your time. For example, schedule your email checks, messenger checks and updates together, allowing you to get those things out of the way immediately. With that gone, you can now focus on the biggest and most important tasks of the day.
Just Work Wednesdays
Some companies also call them “No Meeting Tuesdays” which basically means that there is zero chance of a meeting being called for in the company boardroom. This simple policy lets everyone know that the day is purely dedicated to work which means that they don’t have to worry about any distractions. Why Wednesday? Any day could work, but Wednesday is the optimum day because it is smack in the middle of the week when the employees are best primed for work.
So let’s say you just can’t help yourself from constantly checking your Facebook and Twitter account. There are ways to temporarily block these websites and stop you from procrastinating your day away. Some programs that can help include LeechBlock, Focus Booster, Self Control, Nanny for Google Chrome, Keep Me Out, and StayFocused.
Pareto’s Law states that 20% of your inputs lead to 80% of the outputs. That means that for every 10 things that you do, even just doing 2 of those would give more than half of the results you want. Sound confusing? Alright, let’s keep it simple. Before the day starts, think about the top three things you need to do in order to reach your goals for the day. By staying focused on those three things, you’d find yourself reaching 100% productivity!
Have walking meetings! It not only saves time but the walk actually helps stimulate the mind, allowing you to come up with better ideas.
Give yourself a bedtime
A part of growing up was not having to listen to your parents say ‘lights out,’ when you can think of a million and one things that you’d rather be doing than sleeping. However, as we get older, we lose out on sleeping time, thinking about our workday and all the things that need to be done tomorrow. Of course, most of the time, rather than actually getting work done, we’re procrastinating. Setting a bedtime, will limit the amount of procrastination you get done and add to the amount of rejuvenating sleep you’re able to accomplish.
Skip the news until the important tasks have been taken care of
Most people like to check up on the world first thing in the morning. Friends on Facebook, happenings in the newspaper, stories on the radio, they’re often the first things that people turn to when they awake (outside of a cup of coffee).
This, unfortunately, leads to a buildup in interest. One fun post means that you’ve got to read another and one interesting story leads to you scouring the internet for more details.
Getting your important tasks done first and saving the news until lunch time will mean that you get a lot done early in the morning, before the day slowly but surely fades away. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to and the faster you work, the faster you get to see what happened in the hours the internet hadn’t been your main focus.
Plan meals ahead
The more time you take flipping through the internet for lunch ideas or comparing what you had last week for dinner, the more time you’ll waste just thinking about what you want to eat. Of course it may not seem like you’re putting that much time into deciding on meals, however, add this up over the course of a month and you’ll more than likely have wasted hours. Include your lunch and dinner plans on your calendar and never have to spend another minute (outside of calendar prep time) thinking about what you want to eat for lunch. The longer you keep up with this, the easier it will be to stick to what your calendar says.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘NO’
This can be an exceptionally hard one. If you’re the kind of person who pushes of important tasks to please others then you’re doing it all wrong. Always prioritize and think about how going to the movies, out for a drink after work or having a long lunch will affect your productivity. A nice let down is always better than being in a rut because you said ‘yes’ when you should have said ‘no’.
If you’re going to procrastinate, do so with a purpose
If you’re stuck on a task and procrastinating is inevitable, you’ll want to make sure that your procrastination counts. Rather than staring out the window, refreshing Facebook for the millionth time or finding new things to ‘Pin’, create a list of productive things you can do when you just can’t force yourself to work on the task you should be completed. This can include anything from cleaning out your inbox to replying to emails and from shredding unnecessary paperwork to creating your lunch list.
Set deadlines a day or two earlier. This is something that works wonders. Even though in the beginning you’ll know that you still have a day or two to turn in ‘the paperwork’ or ‘project’, as you keep up with this hack, your brain will readjust and you’ll start believing in these deadlines and ensuring that you get the work done by the set deadline rather than the actual deadline.
No more multitasking
The more you multitask, the less focus you will have and the more time it will actually take you to get your work done. Instead, you want to dedicate all your focus to one project, and in doing so, you’ll work faster and more seamlessly.
Giving your all to one task at a time will definitely work to improve your productivity and eliminate unnecessary mistakes. Especially when working with something potentially dangerous, you’ll want to skip the multitasking and channel your focus in one direction.
Get to the point
When writing emails, rather than including lots of unnecessary mumbo jumbo, you want to get right to the point. Trying to get your point across in 5 sentences or less will save you lots of time to answer even more emails and complete other necessary tasks.