The secret to productivity hacks isn’t about working harder, but working smarter. It means changing your definition of work, and how you do it.
Too many people work 12 hours a day, seven days a week—like miserable hamsters running on a wheel. That’s not success, it’s slavery. Productivity means you are working for a clear purpose, and are consciously managing your resources to create more impact while giving yourself more fulfillment.
Here are 9 productivity hacks that will help.
1. Align your work goals with your personal goals
Are you just slugging it out for a paycheck? That’s why you’re so unhappy at work, and procrastinate for the rest of the day.
Not everyone is lucky to get paid to do what they love, but every job can help your personal and career growth. Think about how your job, and its daily tasks and experiences, connect to your personal mission and vision. It will help you find passion, which is the secret to effortless productivity: you’re not doing this for your boss or your paycheck, but yourself.
2. Wake up early
Almost all of the world’s self-made billionaires have a habit of waking up very early in the morning, sometimes at the break of dawn! They use this time to center themselves, and achieve mental clarity. Some of them exercise, meditate, or take down notes for the day’s meetings.
By waking up early, they create the peak physical and mental condition to address the challenges of the day.
3. Maximize your Golden Hour
Are you naturally alert in the morning, or are you night owl? What time of the day do you tend to have more distractions?
Observe your body clock and your typical day to know your best hours: you have more energy, concentration, creative ideas, and control over your schedule. Block off this time to do the most difficult and important tasks.
Schedule simple, repetitive tasks like answering emails to the times when you feel an energy slump.
4. Avoid switching tasks
Each time you’re interrupted in the middle of a task, you waste about 20 minutes of productive time trying to “get back into the groove” when you finally return to it. That’s because your brain has to recalibrate: remember what you were doing, recall relevant information, and analyze the remaining steps.
Avoid interruptions: put phone notifications on silent, hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign, wear earphones to cancel out background noise.
5. Take breaks
Even if you want to avoid interruptions, you shouldn’t work non-stop. Productivity experts recommend working for about 40 to 50 minutes, then taking a scheduled break of about 10 to 15 minutes.
After some time, your focus and energy goes down, so forcing yourself to work yields diminishing returns. You know how it feels: “I’ve been staring at this screen for more than an hour, and I haven’t written a single thing!”
Taking a short break may be more productive than forcing yourself to finish that report, at all costs. However, that break should be energizing. Instead of talking to co-workers (which can be draining and overstimulating) stretch, meditate, have a cup of tea—anything that helps you calm down and clear your mind. Oak, the free meditation app is a great way to begin your meditation habit.
6. Don’t be a perfectionist
Do you spend too much time on the details? Do you second-guess yourself and spend hours overthinking an idea or a solution to a problem?
There’s a difference between wanting to do your best and being paralyzed by perfection. Set clear criteria for a task, and allocate how much time you’re willing to spend on it.
You should also differentiate tasks by impact and priority. Set higher standards for tasks that have a bigger impact on your goals. For reasonable standards for tasks that will give minimal benefit to you or your company, even if it’s good enough to win a Nobel Prize.
7. Differentiate what is Urgent vs. Important
“I need this by yesterday!” We all have those urgent deadlines, which send all our careful plans out the window because they sound like an emergency. Some examples: weekly reports required by a demanding client, or last-minute changes to a project.
Unfortunately those urgent tasks consume so much of our time and energy, that we don’t pay attention to important tasks, which have a bigger and long-term impact on our success.
For example, if you are in sales, important tasks include building your network, nurturing potential leads, or spending time to learn more about a product or service.
Block time for important but not urgent tasks, and try to automate urgent but not important tasks so they take up less time. For example, make a template for your weekly report.
8. Empower Others
Don’t be a control freak. If you try to do everything yourself, you’ll be too exhausted to submit quality work, and you may be too busy to actually focus on important tasks.
Train and mentor the people around you. Build your teamwork and communication skills, and create systems that can improve turnover and minimize mistakes. It may sound time-consuming, but it pays off. Everyone will be more productive, and you help create a culture of collaboration.
9. Practice Self-care (the most important productivity hack)
Just like you need to charge your phone and plug in your laptop, you need to recharge yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat regular and healthy meals, and have enough time to do what you love.
Taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, or something you can put off until your next vacation. You need it every day, to avoid burn-out, depression and stress-related disorders.