There are a lot of tried-and-true tactics for increasing your productivity, but just like our working lives are constantly evolving, so too are the ways in which we get the most out of our day. Productivity may look different depending on the circumstances of your role, but incorporating a few productivity hacks into your routine can be a great way to get more out of each workday and your career overall. Read on for some of the latest and best productivity tips to try.
SYSTEMS VS RESULTS
Stating your goals is only the first step in accomplishing them. In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, the author focuses on how habits make or break productivity and shares how to make small changes to improve existing habits. Habits are what build a methodical system that helps you achieve progress and accomplish goals, and they form based on how frequently you engage in them, not just over time. Instead of changing habits by listing “what” you want, consider “who” you want to become or “how” you want to get there. This will enable you to work on a system to foster more positive, permanent results rather than continue to focus on short-term, singular, temporary goals.
TO-DO LISTS WITH A TWIST
If some of the traditional means of increasing productivity haven’t worked for you, try thinking about them in a different way. For instance, to-do lists. Some people find checking the boxes of daily to-dos to be motivating and satisfying. Others find it completely overwhelming and daunting. Here are a few ways to update this classic productivity tip.
The Daily Highlight
Instead of filling your to-do list with countless tasks every day, focus on a single must-do that you can consider your daily highlight. Start each day by asking yourself, “What do I want to get done today?” Adjusting your mindset from need to want can help facilitate a feeling of accomplishment where previously you may have felt defeated if you were unable to complete a lofty to-do list. Additionally, this practice will in turn help you better understand your priorities and consider the process it will take you to complete your daily must-do.
Don’t limit yourself to thinking of your daily highlight as strictly professional. There may be days where you need to prioritize your mental health with a personal or social must-do, even if it’s as simple as calling a family member or taking yourself out to lunch.
Might-Do vs Must-Do Mindset
It may be too much to expect professionals to simplify their lives down to a single must-do, which is where you supplement your musts with mights. They may be just as important or necessary as your daily highlight, but they just didn’t make the #1 cut, and it will be okay if you don’t get to them today. There’s always tomorrow, after all. By reducing the demand you inflict on yourself, you may begin to feel better about your daily accomplishments and deliverables. In turn, productivity can improve and the feeling of being overworked could dissipate.
MULTITASKING OFTEN ISN’T PRODUCTIVE—TRY TIME BLOCKING OR DELEGATING INSTEAD
It may feel like we’re getting more done when we’re juggling different tasks, but studies show that it can make us less efficient and prone to errors. According to neuropsychologist Cynthia Kubu, PhD, “When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once, but instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession, or task-switching,” That’s why things often fall through the cracks when we attempt to multitask, and we accomplish less than we think we should. Instead, consider trying time blocking or delegating instead.
Exactly as it sounds, time blocking is when you dedicate chunks of time to singular tasks. Week by week, consider the things that are must-dos or goals and block out everything you’d need to do to prepare for them. Include everything from work projects to family commitments to appointments and personal goals—and carve out time for whatever you might need to prepare for them, such as research or reading time, phone calls, meals, and everything in between. Instead of jumping from task to task within the same hour, you now have each task blocked out in a more step-by-step format allowing for your full, undivided attention. This will not only ensure that you’re prepared for your must-dos, but it will protect your time so that you’re the one deciding where to spend it and distributing your efforts accordingly.
It can be difficult to ask for help when you become overworked, but it’s completely acceptable and normal. Plus, delegating work ensures that the right tasks and projects are being completed by the right people, and it’s one way leaders can maximize their time at work. With effective delegation, leaders can focus on the bigger picture and outsource tasks to teammates who may be better suited to complete them. Collaborating to get the most work done with the amount of time you collectively have—that’s productivity.
SPEED UP YOUR CONTENT CONSUMPTION, LITERALLY
Listening to audiobooks, news articles, podcasts, or watching videos at increased speeds—which many players allow—can naturally increase the quantity of content you consume. Avoid multitasking whilst listening or watching sped-up content, however, as it’s easier to miss key details at increased speeds, and you may have to rewatch or relisten to get the point. But if you dedicate your attention to the content, you could walk away having listened or watched 2-3x as much as you would have at normal speed.
ANOTHER TYPE OF SPEED—PHYSICAL ACTIVITY BOOSTS PRODUCTIVITY
The benefits associated with exercise are vast and well-known—for instance, better sleep, more energy, decreased stress, and improved immune health—but it’s not often considered how activity can improve productivity.
Grogginess is the enemy of productivity. A round of exercise in the morning can kickstart your day and help you shake off the sleepiness. Productivity influencer Thomas Frank maintains that there are really only three things you need in the morning to get your brain geared up and in the right place:
To assess whether exercising helps you feel more mentally capable to take on the world, try implementing a new routine for at least a week. Get outside and go on a jog first thing in the morning. Or, slow it down and go on a stroll, even if it’s just to your mailbox, to take your dog on a walk, or to take out the trash while still in your pjs. Then, when you return indoors, drink a glass of water and get the productivity ball rolling.
The takeaway here is the mindset shift. You can wake up earlier, but you may just sit in bed on your phone until it’s time to get to work or to your appointment. You can go outside to exercise but end up just turning back inside if the weather is less than ideal. All of these productivity tips are all useful, but only if you pencil them in, plan for them, and actually try them.
OTHER PRODUCTIVITY TIPS YOU MAY HAVE HEARD BEFORE
- Do the hardest or most time-consuming task first
“When we are overwhelmed and busy, we just go with easier tasks, and the difficult tasks tend to pile up.”
—Maryam Kouchaki, management and organizations professor at Kellogg
- Isolate from distractions
“Turn off everything—email, phone, stock tickers, news, etc.—as often as possible and focus on a single task without interruption.”
—Dianne McKeever, Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer at Ides Capital
- Review your week every Friday
“Review your diary at the end of each week. Literally, print it out and review it. It will transform how you spend your time.”
—Scott Farquhar, Co-CEO at Atlassian
- Identify the time of day YOU are most productive and work around that
“Understand how your brain works and when you are most productive. For me, I’ve gotten rid of lunch meetings to keep my productive time going as long as I can.”
—Ryan Smith, CEO and co-founder of Qualtrics
- Start with just five minutes
“If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.”
—Kevin Systrom, Co-Founder of Instagram
100% OF THE TIME, ENJOYING YOUR WORK HELPS YOU GET THE JOB DONE
If you like the work you do and the company you’re working for, you’ll have an easier time getting the job done. All of the advice above can help you increase your productivity, but the most important things are focusing on what really needs to get done, enjoying the work you do, and knowing when to ask for help or delegate work to others who may have more bandwidth or expertise to deal with the project at hand.