When it comes to productivity there are countless tools to take advantage of. Though most of them are useful, not everything will work for everyone.
That being said there are some tried and tested methods that are very much effective for the majority of people. Here are ten easily applied productivity hacks.
1. To-Do List
When it comes to accountability for one’s goals and targets nothing beats a good old-fashioned to-do list. As simple as this enduring productivity tool is, the to-do list is effective for one simple reason. It gets you to ‘commit’ to carrying out a set of specific tasks in a specific order.
When written out correctly, a to-do list is best arranged in order of importance with the most critical and urgent tasks at the top and the least important at the bottom.
One of the things you can do to make your to-do list more effective is to assign a specific date and time of completion for each respective task.
At the end of the day, you’ll have evidence of your productivity or lack thereof in black and white in the form of your to-do list. You can then reflect on what went right and what needs improving.
2. Eisenhower Matrix
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the ‘Eisenhower Matrix’ popularised by 34th U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This tool is more complex in that it splits one’s tasks into 4 separate categories using two axes.
The first axis covers ‘importance’ with the two contrasting levels of important and non-important at opposite ends of the spectrum. The second axis covers urgency with ‘urgent’ tasks at one end and the ‘non-urgent’ tasks at the other.
Once combined you should have your tasks grouped into the following four boxes: important and urgent, important and non-urgent, non-important and urgent, and lastly, non-important and non-urgent tasks.
The important and urgent tasks are to be carried out immediately without fail. The important and non-urgent tasks are to be scheduled, the non-important but urgent tasks are to be delegated, and the non-important and non-urgent tasks are to be eliminated as they waste too much time.
3. Pomodoro Technique
This technique is best utilized when you have a pile of repeating tasks or work that needs to be completed efficiently. Invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the Pomodoro technique increases efficiency by introducing breaks in between timed ‘bursts’ of activity.
For example, when I work on Click Worker’s UHRS platform conducting micro judging tasks, I usually work in bursts of twenty to twenty-five minutes, with a short five-minute break after each burst. These bursts are what are called Pomodoros.
After three or four ‘Pomodoros’ I then take a longer fifteen to twenty-minute break before repeating the entire process.
4. Don’t Just Set Goals, Set S.M.A.R.T Goals
Working on a project without a set of goals is akin to working as a delivery driver without any delivery addresses or timeslots. You’re just going to drive around in circles to no end, and you’ll end up missing all your timeslots.
Having goals is one thing but having the right goals is even more important if you’re looking to reach peak productivity. What better way to do this than by setting S.M.A.R.T goals.
This snazzy little acronym breaks down as follows:
S – Specific
Be specific in your goal setting. Being specific not only means that you have a clear direction in which to move but it also means you’ve invested some serious time in thinking about what it is you really want to achieve.
M – Measurable
How are you going to measure your progress? Can your goal be measured on a daily basis or does it have to be monthly? What units of measurement are required. This aspect is crucial as it lets you know at all times whether you’re on the right path or not.
A – Achievable
Mapping out a new plan can be exciting. Nothing is more thrilling than a new adventure. However, one of the most common pitfalls of goal setting is to set the bar too high. So take extra care in making sure that your goal is not only practical but also achievable.
R – Realistic
In order for your goal to be achievable, it has to be realistic. What are the odds of a young lady on a bicycle acing a woman in a brand Tesla car in the race? Zilch.
Make sure that your goals are both achievable and realistic. Doing this ensures that you don’t waste time and energy on things that are simply never going to happen.
T – Time-Bound
So you’ve managed to set some objectives that will have you accomplish your definite chief aim. Have you also remembered to set deadlines for both your objectives and your main goal?
Not having deadlines can lead to complacency and a lack of urgency. Both of these are like kryptonite to goals and objectives.
5. Eliminate Distractions
This easy fix is oftentimes easily overlooked. Sometimes all we have to do to increase our productivity is to remove anything that’s not conducive to being productive.
Eliminating distractions can take many forms. It can be as straightforward as putting your phone on silence and turning off your internet router to focus on writing your book.
Eliminating distractions could also be as complex as designing your environments such as your home office or work desk to be centred around work by removing things such as video game consoles, tablets, and any other unnecessary tidbits.
6. Build A Habit
Productivity is an area that often requires constant focus and conscious effort. These two things aren’t always easy to maintain.
Fortunately, there is a way to get around this. If you can create habits that are conducive to your productivity then you can pretty much automate the bulk of your work.
What’s more, once you’ve created or identified a habit you can then link another habit to it using a process called ‘habit stacking.’
As something that’s oftentimes associated with occult and metaphysical practices meditation has always suffered from prejudiced thinking. The evidence, however, is overwhelmingly in favour of regular meditation as a positive and healthy practice.
Science has shown that the brains of people who meditate regularly benefit from changes in grey matter in different parts of the brain. The benefits are many but not limited to increased levels of concentration, better discipline, and even better executive-decision making.
8. Start Small
This seems counterintuitive at first but there’s sound reasoning behind this suggestion. One of the most common pitfalls, when people set out to accomplish a task or carry out a project, is they take on too much far too quickly which often leaves them feeling overwhelmed.
By starting small you basically guarantee yourself some small wins. It’s those small wins that once repeated enough times can snowball into bigger and longer-lasting successes.
9. Marginal Gains
Alongside starting small is the concept of marginal gains. This is an idea that’s transformed entire organizations and sports teams into the dominant players in their fields.
The idea of marginal gains is very straightforward. It revolves around the idea of improving a smaller part of a larger whole in easily manageable but perpetual increments.
Taking smaller actions rather than big sweeping movements all but guarantees your commitment as it’s easier to do and requires less effort than a bigger task. When you set out to take massive action it’s sometimes harder to maintain such a high level of intensity over long periods of time.
10. Adopt A Growth Mindset
We live in a very fast-paced world in which today’s cutting-edge breakthrough may just be old news come daybreak tomorrow. Philosopher Eric Hoffman summed it up perfectly when he said “In times of change the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
Having a growth mindset means never resting on your laurels. By constantly updating your knowledge and skillset you ensure that you’re always at the forefront of the cutting edge. By having a growth mindset you ensure that you’re at the very least mentally prepared to strive for improvement in what you do.
Coupled with other principles such as marginal gains, the Pomodoro technique, and smart hacks such as a well-ordered to-do list a growth mindset can increase your productivity.
When all is said and done there are hundreds if not thousands of different tools for improving productivity. But it takes a bit of time, patience, and practice to find what works best for you. The most important thing you can do is to simply get started.