You've probably heard it before: work smarter, not harder. This has always been a life long goal of mine - achieving more in less time. Sounds like the dream, doesn't it? Truth is, the most finite of resources is time. There will never be more time - once it's passed, it's gone!
Look, it's important that you get things done in the most efficient way possible, so you can maximise the time you have every day. To help you, I've put together a list of 5 productivity hacks that'll help you become more efficient, and maximise your time.
We're all busy. So, let's get into it.
At any point in time, as you're reading this, you probably have emails coming through, friends commenting on your latest Facebook post, liking an Instagram pic, or texting/calling you.
Am I right?
We're surrounded by noise, constantly. And, while you can't ignore your surroundings, you can control when you set aside time to respond. My biggest hack is to disable all notifications and alerts on all my devices. Don't freak out! It's not as dramatic as it seems. All this means is that you're removing distractions.
This will help you focus on your task at hand, completing it more efficiently. You can then jump back onto your phone/tablet/laptop to join the outside world again.
Action: go through your notification settings on your devices, disabling any pings from your email inbox and social media, and put your phone on silent or vibrate.
Have you ever sat down to do some work, only to find yourself fidgeting after a while? You're jumping onto social media, reading the news, starting to procrastinate...
I find that I work the best in 45 minute blocks. Every working hour, I spend 45 minutes focused on my task at hand, and 15 minutes taking a break. I might get something to eat or drink, walk around and stretch, or just do something to recharge me.
This helps me in two ways. Firstly, it removes the possibility of getting fidgety (and therefore unproductive!). I can be laser focused for 45 minutes. Secondly, it serves as a reward system. If I make it through those productive 45 minutes, I get a 15 minute break to do anything.
Action: the next time you sit down for work or a study session, set your timer on 45 minutes. Try to focus on the task only for that block of time, then spend your 15 minutes recharging.
Now, this is a work in progress for me. Being a perfectionist myself, I know how hard it can be to call something finished at 80%. However, I admit this is probably one of the biggest time thieves for me.
I can spend countless hours of my time getting that final 20% done. Then, I'd redo it. Then, I'd tweak it. Finally, I might let it go - or I might start over.
This is hugely unproductive!
One way to help tackle this, which I'm trying at the moment, is to jot down the amount of time you're willing to spend on a particular task. Then, stick to it. Set your timer for 45 minute blocks and repeat until you've spent your allocated time - not until you think you're finished. Dare yourself to consider the task finished, and silence your inner perfectionist.
Action: run through your to-do list, and estimate the amount of time you need for each task. Try to complete the task - as much as possible - within this time.
Well, this goes against traditional productivity "rules". Combining a bunch of stuff at the same time, must surely mean you can do more? Oh, no.
For a long time, I've been a master multitasker - and proud of it. However, I came to realise that spreading my focus and mental energy across a range of things all at once, meant I needed more time overall to get things done.
So, I've stopped multitasking. And it works!
If you've ever read the news while eating, responded to emails while writing a piece of content, or tried to spend quality time with someone while reading/writing/thinking - you know this to be true. Both activities suffer as a result. Think about it. You're constantly making your brain switch from one thing to the next. Each time you switch, your brain needs to settle back into the context of that activity, and pick back up again. How much time is this costing you?
Action: for a day, try to focus on one activity or task at a time. Pay attention to how much quicker you complete it.
A lot of our days are filled with time that goes to waste. Waiting in a queue, commuting to work, holding during a call, break times on TV... During those little moments of "nothing", complete quick and easy tasks. Respond to emails, schedule your to-do list for tomorrow, call your friend back, research that restaurant you want to try...
Now, this isn't the same as multitasking!
These are rather mindless tasks. Meaning, they don't require your full attention or brain capacity. Therefore, you can fill these with little things you need to get done - think 2 minute things.
Action: in your task list, mark out the tasks that would be easy to do quickly during waste-time moments.
There are many, many more hacks you can try to be productive. But, give these a go first and see whether you feel more productive. If you have any other productivity tips to share, pop them below in the comments!
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What do you do, when working hard is defined by the number of hours you work? Do you care about perception?