PRODUCTIVITY HACKS TO HELP YOU WORK SMARTER

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Do you waste time scouring the web when you should be working on your business? If you find yourself down the Facebook rabbit hole for long periods of time some of these productivity hacks may help. Use these productivity hacks to maintain your focus and check things off your to-do list.

As a side hustler, with a full-time day job, I use these productivity hacks to maximize my output and get more done in less time. Harnessing these tricks helps me focus on the task at hand and work smarter.  

Productivity Hacks to Help You Work Smarter

1: TAKE BACK YOUR TIME

What is the first thing you do when you wake up? Do you check your email, check twitter, or check Instagram? Checking your phone first thing in the mornin’ takes your mind elsewhere and focuses your attention away from yourself.

My approach? Use the morning for ‘you’ time. Wake up and meditate, journal, exercise, and prioritize your goals for the day. Using the morning to focus on yourself and plan your day will help you feel like you have greater control over your day.

Abe Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Preparing for your day is how you sharpen your axe and get in the right mindset.

Another way to see how much time you’re losing is to track how many hours each day you are surfing the web and watching Netflix. Even cutting down by 30 minutes or an hour a day can help you make room for more important tasks.

Takeaway: Don’t check social media and email first thing in the morning. Spend the first hour of the day ‘sharpening your saw’ and preparing yourself for a productive day.

 

2. PRIORITIZE YOUR TO DO LIST

By preparing your to-do list you won’t spend time debating what is the most important task for you to do. How do you start prioritizing your to-do list?

You’ll want to use the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule. The Pareto principle says that 80% of the results come from 20% of the work. What will have the greatest return on investment for you? Prioritize what will give you 80% of the results for 20% of the work.

A common example of the 80/20 rule is that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. This small number of clients is having the biggest impact on your business.

Another strategy to prioritize your to-do list is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. The Eisenhower Matrix has four parts.

  1. Important and urgent - Do immediately

  2. Important but not urgent - Plan a time to do this

  3. Not important but seems Urgent - Delegate this task

  4. Not important and not urgent - Eliminate this task

The most distracting category is #3, things that seem urgent but are not important. Examples of this include your phone ringing, getting a text message, a notification. One way to cut back on these is to turn your phone on Do Not Disturb mode while you’re working.

By planning and scheduling important tasks ahead of time you can prevent impending deadlines and the stress of working in category #1 often.

Takeaway: Focus your efforts on what will have the most return on investment.

 

3. SCHEDULING

Once you have the list of items you need to work on, you have to find time for them in your schedule. Estimate how long you think you’ll need for each task and then add some buffer room (because things always take longer than we expect them to).

I use Google Calendar to schedule tasks and if it’s not on my Google Calendar, I won’t do it. By taking the time to schedule it, you can see how much time you have and where you are going to fit projects in.

What about all those little things that keep piling up but never seem to get done? Scheduling doctor’s appointments, disputing a parking ticket, etc. Block out time on your calendar and handle all these small things at once.

When working with Clients it’s best to schedule buffer times after meetings to digest the call and plan for the next meeting. I schedule 15-30 minutes of buffer time after each meeting to prepare meeting notes and organize upcoming tasks.

Takeaway: If it’s not scheduled it’s not gonna happen. Use scheduling as a planner for your day.

 

4. BATCHING

Batching is a method where you batch similar tasks together and do them within a set amount of time. Batching works well for social media posts, writing, or designing.

For example, if I have several design tasks to do, it is more efficient for me to do these in the same block of time, since I am already geared up and in designing mode. It may slow me down if I switch back and forth from writing to designing back to writing again.

Some people use a whole day for batching, like Monday’s for blog posts, and Tuesday’s for scheduling social media posts and planning the content calendar. If it takes you a lot of energy to switch between tasks, you may want to give batching a try.

Takeaway: Do similar tasks in the same window of time to minimize task switching and back and forths.

 

5. POMODORO TECHNIQUE

The Pomodoro technique is my absolute favorite productivity hack. The Pomodoro is a time-management system for working on tasks. You work on a task for 25 minutes with a 5-minute break. After 4 Pomodoro's you take a 15-30 minute break, rinse and repeat.

  1. Select task

  2. Start timer for 25 minutes

  3. Work on task completely uninterrupted for 25 minutes

  4. Timer beeps, set timer to 5 minutes

  5. Enjoy your 5-minute break however you’d like.

The Pomodoro technique has skyrocketed my productivity, especially when I only have a quick hour and I need to accomplish a decent amount of work.

For design work, I can stay in the zone for much longer so I like to set the Pomodoro for 45 minutes to an hour. If I’m doing a more tedious task, I’ll stick to the 25-minute recommendation.

I love the 5-minute breaks in the Pomodoro technique because it’s perfect for a quick scroll through Instagram, sending quick texts. The longer 15-30 minute breaks are handy for getting up and moving around, like taking my dog for a quick walk.

Takeaway: Use the Pomodoro technique to focus on one task for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break once you’ve finished.
 

6. BREAK DOWN YOUR BIG PROJECTS INTO SMALL TASKS

Are you often overwhelmed by the massive projects you need to accomplish? Sometimes it’s hard to even know where to begin. By breaking down large projects into small tasks you can lessen the load and get started.

The hardest part is getting started. Spend time planning out the project by breaking it down into reasonably sized tasks and set yourself up for success. Once you start the project, it has momentum and you can move onto the next task after you’ve finished the first.

Here’s a how you could break down Cook Thanksgiving Dinner:

  1. Establish headcount for dinner

  2. Decide on menu items (the fun part!)

  3. Create grocery store list

  4. Purchase items

  5. Prep items that need time to rest (homemade ice cream)

  6. Prepare some dishes ahead of time

  7. Set the table

  8. Create paper menus

  9. Prepare and cook remaining dishes

  10. Serve and enjoy!

Takeaway: Breaking large projects down into individual tasks makes the tasks digestible and easy to accomplish.
 


What is your favorite productivity hack? Let me know in the comments below.

Mary Randolph