Imagine living the ideal life - hitting all your goals and having time left over to enjoy your day. It's not that far away from reality. You could be living a life without feeling overwhelmed. With a couple fairly simple productivity hacks, you can improve focus and lengthen the time spent on value-added activities. This blog post is the ultimate guide of simple productivity hacks and life skills that you can use throughout the day to increase productivity and grow towards your ideal life:
23. Have a consistent morning routine
A consistent morning routine helps prime your mind to start your day. Athletes often use the early morning hours to train their bodies. This frees up the latter part of the day to contend with other life activities. Set aside a block of time early in your to take care of nonwork-related yet important activities. If you struggle with waking up in the mornings, consider taking a cold shower to increase circulation and shock you into higher oxygen intake and alertness. Use this trick to break the cycle of unproductive mornings, it's a simple (and shocking) trick that will help you break the monotony.
22. Have a consistent bedtime routine
Getting a solid routine before bed helps get you a good night’s sleep. The importance of sleep cannot be overstated, like better mood, healthier heart, and a sharper brain. Putting your device away 30 minutes to 1 hour before the bed helps increase your melatonin levels and makes it easier to sleep. Even better, keep your electronics outside of your room. Smart devices tend to invite too much stimulus to your mind before bed, tricking your mind to want to stay awake. It's important to unwind before getting tucked in bed.
21. Prepare for tomorrow before going to bed
Picking out what to wear in the morning wastes precious mental resources. Spend some time the night before choosing what you will wear tomorrow so you can have a great start to a productive day. Luminaries of our day like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have embraced wearing the same iconic outfit and made it cool. You don't have to go as far as wearing the same thing day after day, but consider reducing the mental friction by picking out your outfit for tomorrow today.
20. Stay active and fit
Staying physically fit is a key driver of happiness. Exercise releases endorphins and prevents the risk of health problems. Block off at least 30 minutes a day to dedicate to your physical health. Keep stacking up wins and challenge yourself every day. Compound interest consistently in the physical health department over a long period of time leads to massive positive changes in the way you look, feel, and think.
19. Avoid your smart devices for the first hour
Let's be honest, most of the time we spend on our smart devices is wasted time. Americans now check their phone 96 times per day. That's once every 10 minutes. If it takes up to 25 minutes to reorient after a distraction, you've burned away your day with non-essential activities and are now overwhelmed because you've fallen behind on what you wanted to do. Avoid getting side-tracked from your morning routine, and avoid looking at your smart devices to start the day.
18. Restrict smart device usage
A lot of our bad habits center around our smart device usage. Studies have shown that "90% of Americans fall in the category of overusing, misusing or abusing their devices." Smart device addiction is similar to a gambling addiction, which operates on a variable reinforcement schedule. That's why we check it so often. Keep your smart devices in a separate room if it's not relevant to your work. Reduce temptation by keeping it out of sight and out of mind. This will help decrease the amounts of time you spend mindlessly picking up your phone.
17. Restrict social media
Currently, 45% of the world is using social media. They spent an average of 2 hours and 23 minutes per day, and this number continues to grow over time (it was 1 hour and 30 minutes in 2012). Social media is infamously addictive, and they continue to make it stickier. You can use plugins like StayFocusd to limit your social media to short period time. Reclaim this time to gain more clarity and accomplish more.
16. Turn off push notifications
I've made a habit of turning off all noncritical notifications on my phone. Work notifications drive up anxiety while social notifications create distractions. This prevents me from getting sidetracked and helps improve focus on my task at hand.
15. Turn on "Do not disturb"
This is a simple hack on your phone and computers that block out the distraction of notifications and messages coming through. Prevent yourself from getting distracted so you can commit yourself to get things done during their assigned time blocks.
14. Schedule time to respond to emails
Schedule time to check your emails. I find that most email communication can endure a slight delay. This is usually a good rule to thumb to avoid distraction unless your job is customer service and it's critical that you answer right away.
13. Prioritize what's important
Start by collecting a list of all your tasks for the day. Then prioritize the tasks by urgency, importance, and estimated effort. Use the Einsenhower Matrix to decide what to do, schedule, delegate, or avoid at all costs. This simple task management technique will help increase your productivity almost immediately.
12. Write down goals
In a study called The Gender Gap and Goal-Setting, it found that vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success. People who described their goal very vividly were 1.2 to 1.4 X more likely to accomplish their goals than people who don't. That's a massive difference.
Writing down goals stores the goal in a location that is easy to access and review, and gets encoded in our long-term memory. Use this method of vividly describing your goals to make your goals more obtainable.
11. Use a todo list
Todo lists are a simple way for us to better organize our tasks, stay motivated, and track our progress. The sense of accomplishment when crossing off items on your todo list is undeniable. A study from Wake Forest University shows that while tasks we haven't done make us feel anxious, just making a plan to get them done can free us from this fear. Simply writing down the tasks make you more effective. Having tasks each day that drive towards your long-term goals will help you get closer to becoming your ideal self.
10. Set deadlines
By adding a deadline for a task, you add urgency to getting the task done. With added urgency, you will prioritize getting it done. Otherwise, you are telling yourself that it is unimportant. Setting and hitting deadlines help time management and boost overall productivity.
9. Say no
This is one of the most powerful life hacks in your arsenal. Just say "no" to people, things, and places that are distracting you from your core objectives. A lot of things will come up that will deviate you from your journey toward your ideal self, and it's important to leave some things behind to move onto better things.
8. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness comes with many benefits, such as improved mental health, decreasing depression, reducing anxiety and stress, increasing focus, and much more. Learn to improve your breathing and stop holding on to negative thoughts that are restricting you from your full potential. If you are struggling to get started with mindfulness meditation, check out this list of the 10 best guided meditation apps.
7. Schedule blocks of activities
Schedule blocks of time when you will be working on something. When you are committing your time towards a task, be single-minded and be immersed in the task at hand. For example, Michael Jordan isn't checking his phone when he is practicing basketball. He is fully engaged in the task at hand and focused on being the best player he could possibly be. Schedule blocks of time you will be spending on tasks, breaks, leisure, and food. Usually, it is best to schedule the most important things to get taken care of first. This prevents you from wasting time worrying about not getting that one important thing is done.
6. Track your time
The first step to building a strong routine is to audit how you spend your time. As you go through your day, take notes of what you are doing (including the times when you got distracted). At the end of the day, put a + sign next to all the value-added activities, = to all the neutral activities (brushing your teeth, taking a shower), and a - sign next to non-value added activities (browsing Instagram, watching Tik Tok). This will help you become cognizant of the good and bad of how you are spending your time.
5. Lean on automation
There are so many great tools today to automate boring tasks. For example, you can use Hootsuite to schedule all your social media posts ahead of time, and Mailshake to schedule outreach emails. Avoid doing things by hand as much you can, and find out-of-the-box solutions to do more with less time.
4. Delegate and outsource
Time is money, and sometimes your time is better invested if you can pay someone else to do the job better than you.
View your daily activities through the lens of:
- I love doing it and I'm great at it
- I don't like doing it but I'm great at it
- I like doing it but I'm not great at it
- I don't like what I do, and I don't do it well
If some of your activities fall into the last category, it might be worth your while to outsource and delegate to someone else to accomplish that task.
If you do this, make sure you:
- Clearly define the task and deliverables
- Choose the right person for the job
- Create a plan to track the accountability of the task
- Regularly status with the person
3. Journal your day
Journaling is a good habit to help reflect on the wins of the day and how you can improve tomorrow. Journaling helps prioritize problems, fears, and concerns. Tracking them day today and help you recognize them and learn ways to better manage them.
2. Eliminate unnecessary meetings
Most meetings are too long, unfocused, and a waste of time. Some meetings can be resolved by email. It's important to determine which meetings are necessary and which ones are going to be a drag on your resources.
If you do need a meeting, it is important by setting clear objectives and expected outcomes for every meeting. Make sure everyone in the meeting understands the main objectives. Publish an agenda in advance. Invite the right people to be in the meeting.
1. Focus on one thing at a time
Stop multitasking today. It's the one thing that kills your performance and leaves you disorganized. Stanford researchers found that heavy multitaskers were actually worse at multitasking than those who do a single thing at a time. Our brains just weren't designed to perform multiple tasks at once successfully. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked experienced a 15 point drop in IQ. Instead, do one thing and do that one thing well.