Of course, you would have read hundreds of ways to be more productive at work (and life in general). Here are some of the more easy and effective ones. While some of them might be known to you, quite a few of them are not usually discussed.
The key aspect I focussed on while selecting these was the ease with which these could be implemented. Read these, try some of these, and you might most likely agree with me.
Make a list and go through it methodically – Take it from me, if you have a to-do list for the day (with at least the top 3 items prioritized in big and bold), you will most likely do twice or thrice the amount of useful work that you do otherwise. Making a to-do list should be the first in your list of productivity hacks!
Be a contrarian. Why buy your groceries at the time the store is busiest? Seriously! Why not go a bit early to office to avoid rush hour traffic? Seriously! Why not take the early morning flight on Saturday instead of the late night flight on Friday? You avoid Friday evening traffic, your ticket possibly costs a lot less, and you can even afford to stay a bit longer at your work or project on Friday evening and get a few more brownie points from your boss! Seriously.
Work in 90 minute blocks with 10 minute intervals to recover and refuel. This could even be 60 minutes with 10 minute intervals – this works best especially for lengthy work that takes time, for instance writing a detailed report or doing a comprehensive analysis.
Do not check email right in the early morning, so you protect the peak energy hours of your mornings for your best work. This is an oft repeated productivity hack but rarely used, blame it on people’s impulsiveness. A simple hack we do at our office is to cut off Internet for the first one hour, so people are forced to think and plan, and not use the Internet or email.
Clean out the clutter in your office to get more done. A common suggestion, and a most sensible one. One simple trick: Spend 10 minutes Monday morning or Friday evening to do this. You will soon realize these 10 minutes were one of the best investments you made for your productivity.
Run routines. Many highly productive people follow strict daily routines – i.e., when they would get up, when they would start work, when they would exercise and when they would relax. This way, you are actually planning well for peak productivity.
Quit tapping on that phone every 15 minutes – Damn, there cannot be a simpler productivity trick. But as millions (billions?) will tell you, this is much easier said than done. A simple method to get this done – keep the phone out of your arms reach, and also out of sight. Trust me, no one – not even POTUS – is THAT important that they are going to have a critical message every 15 minutes.
The journey is long, so slow down. The biggest impediment to productivity is unrealistic expectations. This results in overwork and putting in extreme slog over a few days. Unless your life depends on completing everything today, don’t cram everything in your list for today.
Early morning for creative work, later in the day for admin work – most of us have work that has some amount of repetitive, administrative work to be done. At the same time, to progress in our career and life, we need to also add that touch of creativity and innovation. The trick to manage both is to focus on creative work in the first 30 minutes of the day (unless you have a super emergency on that day) and work on the more mundane tasks a couple of hours down the line.
Use the night before – this is a useful hack. Take 10 minutes off before you sleep and put down the main things for the next day. You will be a happy man/woman who will be sleeping, safe in the knowledge that tomorrow has already been planned out. And the next day, in all likelihood, will be a very productive day.
Use a timer – whenever your assignment involves a detailed, time consuming work, but at the same time work requiring some amount of focus, one great way to get things done well is to use a timer. Set short time durations 10-15 minutes and work fast during these sessions especially on difficult aspects of the assignment. You will see that your productivity is really much higher than otherwise.
Identify prime time and avoid distractions – what are the usual times of the day when you need to get the most important work get done? Identify these and ensure that you are free of distractions during these timings.
The 2 minute rule – if there is something that takes just 2 minutes or under to finish, do it right away and do not delegate to a future time.
Learn to say No – there are times when saying No is the most productive act you can do. It could be because the work being proposed for you simply is not aligned to your skills. Or it could be because you are on a high-priority task and taking up anything else will mean messing up both. Develop the courage to say No. Most of your colleagues and superiors will be OK with that, trust me – after all, they would faced similar circumstances themselves, too!
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