With seemingly never-ending to-do lists and more deadlines than ever, the quest to be more productive is something that is both appealing and largely elusive. Productivity is not a mindset; it’s a state of being. You can’t suddenly decide that you’re going to be more productive and expect that intention to deliver results.
Productivity is an active state that you choose to adopt, practice and implement . The good news is that there are very effective productivity hacks that can be implemented easily to help us do more, in less time.
Productivity is defined as ‘the effectiveness of productive effort’ - the important word there being effective. If you're not being effective, then you’re just doing stuff as opposed to doing the right stuff faster .
There’s a subtle difference between the two and those who understand it will typically be more productive and more successful, by virtue of the volume of their effective output. Here are five simple productivity hacks that will help you regain control over your time and your digital life.
Tame Your To-Do List
Work, personal and even household to-do lists are all competing for our time and attention. Work tasks are given highest priority during the week, leaving other lists to languish unattended to until the weekend. But you know that if you don’t book those flights for your next vacation soon, the prices are going to jump up!
Face it, you’re not going to get through all of it today so why have it all bobbing around in your head competing for your attention?
The free digital to-do list Wunderlist works beautifully on desktop and mobile. It allows you to create multiple lists, move items between lists and re-order them based on priority. Here’s how to get your multiple task lists under control using Wunderlist:
- Create as many lists as you need: work, personal, household, travel, whatever categories you need to cover all of your pending tasks.
- Make sure each task is specific. For example, a task like ‘research vacation’ is too vague and you’ll waste time scrolling through photos of exotic beaches online. Something more specific like ‘check flights to Hawaii’ will help refine your search and your task.
- Order each list into two sections starting with ‘urgent’ and followed by ‘must do.’ Limit your urgent list to less than ten items if possible.
- Forget about the ‘must do’ list for now. You’ve gotten it out of your head and on to the list and you’ll get to it… some day.
- Take the urgent list of ten or less items and prioritize it in order of importance. Start there!
De-clutter your email inbox
The free tool Unroll.me is a total game changer in managing your inbox. It allows you to view and unsubscribe from unwanted emails. Log in, link your email account to it and sit back and be amazed at the amount of unnecessary email you wade through each day.
With one click you can delete any email subscription entirely, or you can choose to add it to a ‘Roll Up’, which puts any non-urgent (as decided by you) emails into one daily bundle. This tool will truly change your email life.
Put A Time On It
It’s hard to carve out an exclusive chunk of time to tackle something without interruption. It sits on your list and you promise yourself that you’ll get to it…later. Putting a specific time on something means that you can mentally plan in advance to tackle Project X for an hour at 2pm.
Remember how your day was structured in school? You had math at 10am and English at 11am. No matter what happened in math class you had no choice but to move on to English an hour later.
Apply the same principle to your task list and limit yourself to the allotted time. If it’s not done, schedule another time to finish it. Don’t just sit there staring at it. Move on to the next item on your list.
Here are two tools to help you accomplish just that:
MinuteTimer.org: a simple countdown timer. Simply enter the amount of time and hit ‘Go’ to initiate the countdown.(Visit here)
Focus Keeper helps you stay focused with a productivity timer and is available on the App Store here and on Google Play here.
Control Your Own Calendar
If you work in a situation where other people can book time on your calendar then it’s hard to feel in control of your time. It’s important to carve out time each day to keep up with the deluge of email, make or return phone calls etc. It’s also important to have some time to think and prioritize. The simple act of blocking an hour a day on your calendar will help buy you some uninterrupted time.
I once worked with someone who sat in a cubicle and had no door to close, so when he had something important to do he would put a post-it note on his back that read ‘Do Not Disturb’. Once the initial giggling and teasing subsided, people realized he was serious and let him at it.
It worked. It’s okay to take more control over your time during the day, but if you do block time be sure to stick to it. That way your colleagues will know to respect this hour that you have blocked for yourself.
Take Back Control Of Your Social Media Accounts
Do you suffer from ‘Social Media Profligacy’? Sounds like a nasty disease, right? Well, it may as well be. Profligacy is the reckless extravagance or wastefulness in the use of resources. Most of us are either guilty of, or suffer from - depending on how you look at it- reckless extravagance when it comes to spending time on social media.
A simple test to see if you’ve become too dependent on social media as a necessary distraction is to switch all of your accounts to ‘Push Notifications.’ This is the simplest trick to reclaim time wasted, by eliminating real-time distractions on your device.
The first thing you will notice is the silence. Your phone will no longer ping you when one of your friends posts another photo of her dog. This less-connected state of being gets easier with time as you get used to fewer notifications and distractions and it quickly becomes apparent that you’re getting more done faster because you’re less distracted.
In truth, there are all manner of adjustments we can make to our daily lives to increase our productivity and be more efficient. You’ve got to find the methods that work best for you. Some will take time and others will take practice.
Just remember that most of them will require an increased level of self-discipline. Successful people are, as a rule, disciplined but the good news is that discipline is not a talent but a practice, which means that with a little effort, any of us can achieve it.