Some people are naturally more productive – or are they?
Surely, there are some genetic factors that lead to higher productivity. Someone might be a natural morning person due to their genetic makeup, allowing them to get more done at the beginning of the day, or they might be inherently more self-disciplined, allowing them to cut out distractions and focus.
But the reality is, despite these minor genetic differences, most productive people are productive because of their own habits, choices, and behaviors. By extension, you’re fully capable of improving your own productivity with new habits, choices, and behaviors.
For the sake of leveraging the buzzword, we’ll call these habit and decision changes “productivity hacks.” So what productivity hacks do successful people use on a daily basis?
Setting goals and structuring work
Let’s start by looking at some productivity hacks around setting goals and structuring work.
1. Use an Eisenhower matrix. Not all successful people use an Eisenhower matrix, but I bet nearly all of them have some intricate system for prioritizing tasks. If you don’t effectively prioritize your work, it’s eventually going to become overwhelming – and you won’t know how to adequately allocate your time. In an Eisenhower matrix specifically, you’ll determine both the “importance” of a task and its “urgency,” so you can more easily decide how to include it in your day.
2. Schedule tighter. You might have heard of Parkinson’s Law, a kind of adage that warns people that the amount of time it takes to complete a task will increase to fill whatever time you allocated for it. Successful people use this to their advantage by being aggressive, and scheduling things like meetings in the smallest time slot possible. You’ll be amazed at how many meetings you can finish in 15 minutes or less.
3. Subdivide your biggest tasks. Similarly, successful people tend to think more critically about their biggest tasks and projects. They break these monsters down into much smaller, more manageable chunks, so they can more effectively schedule and control them.
Personal health hacks
Your productivity is inextricably linked to your personal health. When your body and mind are in good shape, you’ll find it much easier to be productive.
There are several hacks that can help you achieve this:
5. Exercise when you need a boost. Even a few minutes of physical exercise can reduce your stress, increase your subjective feelings of energy, and improve your focus for the rest of the day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unfocused, take a break to go for a walk or do some light stretching at your desk.
6. Get the right amount of sleep. You should be getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. To accomplish this, you’ll need to make several changes, like sticking to a consistent routine, investing in a better mattress, or reducing your caffeine intake. You can supplement your needs with naps, but don’t become overly reliant on them.
The best way to improve your health is with long-term lifestyle changes, rather than short-term “hacks,” but even these hacks are helpful.
Easy psychological tricks
Now let’s turn our attention to some of the most popular psychological hacks that successful people use on a regular basis:
7. Meditate. Meditation is best used as an ongoing practice, but it can also provide short-term benefits. Through meditation, you can clear your mind of cluttered thoughts and achieve more focus and emotional control.
8. Master the art of flow. Flow is a psychological state that can be achieved with the right balance of challenge and enjoyment, as long as you’re not distracted. Successful people optimize their task lists, responsibilities, and schedules to achieve flow as much as possible during the workday.
9. Laugh. Laughter makes you feel good and has the power to reduce your stress. If you’re looking for an energy boost or a mood improvement, try looking up a hilarious video or talking to someone you know is always good for a joke.
10. Reduce the number of decisions you make. Decision fatigue is a real phenomenon, reducing your effectiveness and increasing your stress simultaneously. Fortunately, you can fight against it by reducing the number of decisions you make each day. Try to keep things simple, like wearing a similar outfit each day, or eating the same thing for lunch.
11. Take frequent breaks. Too many professionals try to increase their productivity through brute force, working more hours with fewer interruptions. But it’s actually better if you take frequent breaks – and successful people realize this. Don’t be afraid to take small breaks throughout the day, even if it’s in the middle of a task. A few minutes away from the computer can instantly restore your energy and focus.
Improving focus and saving time
Every time you get distracted, it takes an average of 23 minutes to fully recover your focus. Accordingly, some of the best productivity hacks on this list are all about increasing your focus and saving you time.
13. Stop multitasking. First, stop multitasking. You may think you’re accomplishing more by checking your phone during a meeting or keeping two windows with separate tasks open, but you’re doing more harm than good. The most successful people spend their effort focusing on one thing at a time.
14. Automate more. Automation is an important tool for several reasons. Obviously, it saves you time by doing tasks on your behalf, but it also reduces the possibility for human error in a number of areas. Automate whatever you can so you can turn your attention to things that matter more.
15. Get rid of your smartphone. You know your smartphone is distracting, but what you may not know is that it’s capable of distracting you even when it’s turned off – as long as it’s in the same room. Take control of your focus by putting your smartphone somewhere you won’t even be able to access it.
16. Disable notifications. Notifications of any kind are going to compromise your focus, so turn them off whenever you can. You can check your project management platform or check your email account at your own discretion when you’re ready to focus. Successful people don’t let their attention rapidly switch between different priorities as new notifications come in.
17. Use productivity apps in moderation. Productivity apps can help you save time and stay focused, but be careful – if you go on a downloading spree, you’ll end up with more distractions and mobile device fluff.
Adopting some (or even most) of these habits probably won’t instantly boost your productivity, but they should at least help you understand more about how you work. Experiment with different productivity techniques to figure out which ones work best for you, and talk to the people you admire to see which techniques they use in their own daily lives.