The main reason why I'm so hyper-fixated on productivity is that it feels like I'm able to buy more time during the day. While I know I'm not physically gaining more hours in the day, being able to increase my productivity allows me to spend less time doing things I don't want to do and more time doing the things I do want to do.
In other words, it allows me to spend my time more wisely and have it be more impactful. These productivity hacks aren't magic, but they will hopefully allow you to reframe your mindset to a smarter way of doing things.
1. Plan your week.
The first question I ask myself every time I open my calendar is: "What can be removed?" If there are meetings I don't need taking up slots on my calendar, I will have other team members handle them or I will see if they can be removed completely.
The goal here is to have a general idea of what the week will actually look like. It doesn't need to be perfect, and it will change. But this is the first step in being prepared!
As much as possible, you should plan your daily task list and provide time estimates for each task. I'm still surprised how many people don't do this and just try to wing it each day.
2. Set your priorities.
Inside Asana (or basically any other task management system), you can quickly categorize your daily tasks by using a form of the following custom tags.
Low Focus - Things that can be done while riding in a car, like sending an email.
High Focus - Things that require a lot of time and attention to get right, like planning for a meeting.
Doing this will give you a visualization of what the most important thing is on your plate, and if something falls so far down the low priority list, it might even be able to be removed completely!
Here's an example of what my daily task list looks like at any given time:
3. Do the hardest task first.
Once you have your priorities listed out from #2 above, choose the most challenging (or annoying) task and destroy it first thing. This will keep you from procrastinating on it and will actually free you up to work more creatively on your other tasks since you won't be dreading moving on to the one you really don't want to do.
4. Gather data... on yourself.
Where is your time actually going? How much time do you spend getting ready in the morning? Your commute? Watching television?
Notice, that I didn't ask where you think your time is going. Where is it actually?
This is where gathering data comes into play. Data is objective and helps us make more informed choices! For monitoring my behaviors I use 2 primary tools:
WHOOP - a fitness tracker that monitors your sleep, recovery, and daily effort around the clock to deliver actionable insights on how you can optimize your performance. (Get a free WHOOP 4.0 + one month free when you use this referral link.)
Each of these tools sends me automated weekly reports so that I can see where I need to improve for the upcoming week.
5. Use one tab at a time.
Use only 1 tab at a time on your web browser throughout the day. Forcing yourself to do this will prevent you from the temptation to swap over and check something else like your email "really quick."
So no more 8,617 Chrome tabs open at any given time. Sorry, Ryan.
6. Reward yourself often.
I like coffee and I like ice cream. This is generally what I use the most to leverage me to get myself hyped up for something. If I'm planning ahead and knowing that a specific day is going to be a hard one, I'll go out of my way to get a special type of coffee from my favorite place.
Make milestones like this whenever you can to capitalize on the momentum you've gained.
7. Disable all notifications.
Disable push notifications on your phone. Not just for unused apps, but also to minimize the notifications you receive from apps you use regularly. I essentially have all social notifications off except for DMs.
Start with turning everything off except for DMs and work your way backward until you're eventually able to only give your attention to the things that pop up on your phone that actually require it.
As a bonus tip, I use Unroll.me to mass unsubscribe from email lists.
8. Start early.
I don't care that people disagree with this one. Getting an early start is a tried and true method of being more productive with your day.
Keep in mind, it's not just about starting super early only to spend 3 hours browsing Instagram. This is your opportunity to do your most effective distraction-free work that you'll have all day. So do it!
9. Set a timer.
Parkinson's law is the adage that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."
And I'm reminded that this is true every single day. Work in time blocks and only allow certain work to be done during certain blocks.
But on top of everything: set a timer. Time meetings, time breaks, time deep-focus work. The timer brings an elevated sense of awareness so your mind can focus in on what it needs to before moving on to the next thing.
10. Only check email at specific times.
What brings me to my final point: Email is a trap. Don't let it eat your time and attention all day long!
Now, your role may very well require you to be sitting there waiting for the next email to roll in. But generally, I've found that there are very few emails I've received throughout my career that had to be replied to within a couple of hours.
The benefit from this is that your mind is freed up to focus since you're not nervously checking back and forth throughout the entire day. Because you've set predefined timeframes for checking your email, you can rest assured nothing will get missed!
With this knowledge (and a little discipline), I know that you can get more done in less time. So what are you waiting for? Try out these tips today. I'd also love to hear what your own favorite tips are in the comments section below.
If you're interested in more productivity-related content, consider checking out my list of 5 books to level up your productivity!