It’s no secret that everyone is seeking secret ways to have more productive days, weeks, and even lives. But maximising time and boosting your productivity is a constant struggle.
You can try all you want to organise your calendar, but it’s difficult to avoid ad hoc meetings, urgent deadlines, and groggy mornings. It doesn’t matter how many times per week you gulp a cup of hot coffee, some things don’t change. However there is good news on the horizon, productivity doesn’t have to be difficult and time consuming.
You don’t need to rely on a caffeine addiction to increase your productivity and organise your workday. Whether you’re an early riser, a Pomodoro tasker, or late night grinder there are 8 common productivity tricks that everyone from shop floor workers to high flying CEO’s rely on for success.
Related Article: How you should tackle a huge project and stay organised!
Check you emails in blocks
If you spend all day receiving emails and are constantly stopping in your tracks to answer them, carefully and slowly pruning the large tree that is you inbox, you need to stop.
Unless your job is to read and respond to emails all day, there are better, more important things to do. Alex Moore the CEO of a California based email productivity company Boomerang ran a case study that showed it takes 64 seconds to recover from an email interruption. Whether this is just reading the notification or replying with a quick response, on average you waste 64 seconds getting back to work.
Check and respond to your emails 3 times per day in set blocks of 20-30 minutes. This will give you time to really think about the email without impacting other work you are completing during the day. The research explained above has recorded that checking your emails in 3 blocks per day saves you 20% of the time spent checking them as you go.
Start your morning routine the night before
Conquering a productive morning routine has to be the most difficult thing we do. Olympic Athletes, Oscar Winners, and successful business people all show us how they maximise the early hours of the morning in order to set themselves up for a productive day. It’s true that people who wake up earlier are often more productive, but you can get an additional boost the night before.
Instead of waking up stressed and tired then rushing through your morning routine, you can draw up your day the night before by meal prepping, organising your schedule, and even selecting your outfit. This change will also help you reduce the decisions you need to make when you first wake up, easing you into the day. The moment you hit your threshold for decision making, your brain creates shortcuts which will affect whether you make good or bad decisions later on. Starting your morning routine the night before will help your brain cruise through the hardest part of the day.
There will be plenty of times during your work week when these popular productivity tricks don’t fit the bill. Instead of throwing them out the window, tweak and adapt them to your style or schedule. With a few adjustments, you’ll be on your way to achieving a more productive and organised workday.
If you want to test how you react to different productivity strategies, I suggest you perform Productivity experiments to see how they can help you reach your goals!
Resist your urge to multitask
The key to being productive is to focus entirely on the task at hand. You may think you’re getting more done by focusing on multiple tasks all at once, but are you? What you’re actually doing is splitting your concentration between two or more different tasks.
Each time you change from one task to another it takes your brain a small amount of time to gather the information needed to work, then when you go back to your original job you’re starting from square one. It can be more time efficient to get one task done then move to another one, rather than trying to complete everything at once.
On the other hand some jobs require you to do some multitasking, either you need to think about how your task will impact another, or you need more information before you can complete your job. These are examples of effective multitasking. Working on writing two different emails at the same time is ineffective.
Eat the best frog
Mark Twain forged the quote “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”. This is a great metaphor for getting the worst thing out of the way, so you can enjoy the rest of your day. I’m going to alter this way of thinking for this article.
The theory is that you tackle your biggest task first thing in the morning. This is typically the task you will procrastinate unless you prioritise it's completion. So by completing it first every morning, you will feel accomplished and productive before you finish your morning coffee.
This is a great trick. However these larger tasks can be time consuming, if you have morning meetings or need to answer emails you can find yourself running out of time. Once you break away from the task at hand it can take up to 30 minutes to refocus your mind. Which is why, next time you think about eating the frog, pick the best frog.
As you take a look at your to-do list everyday, first identify your most important tasks, and then how long it will take you to complete them. Next, look at your calendar and place your jobs into available time blocks. For example, if you know customer research will take three hours to complete, schedule that task during a morning or afternoon when you don’t have anything else to do.
From batching to stacking jobs
A popular way to organise your work day is to batch tasks that have similar processes. Like I mentioned before, people will often batch emails and respond to all of them in one go. This process helps reduce context shifting, as we’ve learned, jumping between tasks that are unrelated is a productivity killer.
You can also apply this method to meetings. If you have sporadic meetings during the week, my recommendation is to select a day or two and stack your meetings to those days only. It might feel a bit overwhelming at first, but you could plan buffers in between longer meetings so you can answer emails or take a quick break.
On the other hand, are all of your meetings necessary? A study done by Atlassian reported that employees of the company spent 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings. Meaning not only are you losing 31 hours per month, you are wasting 25% of your time buffering in between the useless meetings.
To combat this you could cut the buffer time out completely to help not overrun the meetings that waste your time. Or you could do a bit of pre meeting research on what the client needs or wants done, if it is something simply maybe they don’t need to come in, or if it’s something that only needs a phone call this can be an easy way to free up time.
Introducing Shift & Productive
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They have a almost any application a business owner would need on their platform, it is quick and easy to use and saves me more time than I'd like to think about.
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Productive is one of the best productivity apps I've come across. It has everything you need in a business application, from Profitability calculators, project management calendars, resource planners, time tracking units, and sales pipeline tracking.
It is the complete app for any business owner. Here is a video that outlines it's best qualities:
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The Maker vs Manager method
If you go through your day and identify the most productive hours of your day, you can start structuring them to be hyper-productive. A common productivity hack is to organise your week with maker days and manager days.
This method allows you to organise your days depending on the role you want to fill. A manager day might be coordinating projects, or taking employee review meetings. Whereas a maker day would be developing new products or services or finding new clients. By setting clear outlines for your day you should be able to organise tasks that fit your goals.
Organising your day is a good start, but once you are used to swapping in and out of manager mode you can go an extra mile by setting maker vs. manager hours instead of days. With this trick, you no longer have specific days in which you focus on specific aspects of your role. Instead, you block off certain hours of each day to accommodate your maker tasks and your manager tasks.
This might be a stretch at first as sometimes problems arise that need you to adapt, but intentionally setting time aside for boring manager tasks, and setting time limits on exciting maker tasks, you will have made yourself a more productive calendar which keeps your business growing and the admin to a manageable level.
Pomodoro your way through the day
When working on the more complicated tasks that take complete and utter focus I like to use the Pomodoro technique to make sure I stay on course. It is simple but effective, all you need to do is set a timer on your phone for 25 minutes. During these 25 minutes you only focus on the task at hand, no checking emails, no helping your colleagues, no coffee breaks.
Because you’ve worked the entire 25 minutes, you get to have a five minute break to quickly check your phone, go for a coffee, or update someone on your progress. Then it’s back to the grind for another 25 minutes.
Obviously some of the items on your to-do list will take longer than 25 minutes, so you can alter the Pomodoro technique to fit those needs, if you need to work for 50 minutes, then just take a longer 10 minute break once you’re done. As long as your brain isn’t switching tasks or thinking about emails you’ll be doing yourself a favour. By staying focused and dedicated to one task until it’s finished you’ll see your to-do list complete itself in record time.
Early birds and night owls never get any work done
You’ve heard it all before… The early bird catches the worm, or the night owl catches the mouse. These animals have the dedication to either get up before it’s light to organise their day, or stay up until 3am whittling away at their inbox. Unfortunately very few people reply to emails in the middle of the night, and even less people take phone calls at 5am.
There is no one rule that says you need to be an early bird or a night owl. In fact I think it depends on the day. For example, if I have an 8am meeting I’ll get to bed early the night before, wake up 2 hours prior to the meeting to have breakfast and prep, then head out to have a really productive morning. On the other hand, if I’ve had a boring morning, occasionally I’ll get a boost of energy towards the end of the day which leads to a night of efficient work.
The bottom line is, you need a full night's sleep to get your work done the next day. You should prioritise your 7 hours of sleep before anything else, if you get a good night’s sleep you’ll feel like attacking the day whether it be in the morning or at night. Don’t worry if you need to hit the snooze button every now and then, we all do!
There we have it! Our productivity hacks to organise your day and work better. We love to hear your feedback on how these have worked for you and any others you have tried. So make sure to Like us on Facebook if you found this helpful.