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Productivity Hacks: 7 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Productivity Hacks: 7 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

A common misconception is that if you are productive you will get more done. Another theory is that by staying busy you are going to be more successful. However, we all know from firsthand experience that choosing quantity or quality isn’t always the right way to go about doing things. One way to realign your approach to success is to work smarter, not harder. This school of thought pertains to not squeezing as many items into your day as possible but rather simplifying how you can tick them off your task list. The expected outcome is faster achievements, less stress, and improved time management. Here are seven tips for working smarter on a day-to-day basis.

1. Start the most important items first

It sounds simple, but we’ve all made the mistake of leaving the most important task until the very end when there’s little chance of ever completing it. To avoid falling into this trap start by identifying the two or three tasks that are the most important to complete, and do those before anything else, regardless of how long they may take. There are multiple steps to prioritizing you can familiarize yourself with for extra assistance in planning.

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2. Get a full night’s sleep

Your body needs sleep, as most experts will agree. Getting your regular 7-8 hours will help you focus and think more creatively because your cognitive abilities will be enhanced. A common mistake is to stay up late to get tasks done and limiting your sleep time, but the sacrifice will come back to haunt you the following day. Instead, stick to your normal schedule.

3. Wake up early

They say that to be successful you need to get an early start. It’s logical that the greater the number of hours in the day you have at your disposal the more opportunity there is to dedicate to completing your business. Waking up early goes hand in hand with forming a healthy sleep pattern in that it becomes easier to get out of bed if your body has received sufficient rest the night before.

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4. Give each task your full attention

Distractions make it harder to focus on the task in hand. As you are reading this you may have more than one tab open on your computer or even one eye on the television in the background. Your attention is torn between multiple points of interest, and your ability to concentrate is severely reduced. These techniques for improving concentration can assist in teaching you how to shut out all distractions and be more productive on the whole.

5. Don’t be a perfectionist

Don’t get hung up on how much detail should be spent on ordinary tasks, particularly those which require minimal planning. Time is easily wasted if you constantly review the work you have done again and again, as this plants doubt in your mind as to whether you have truly completed the task to a satisfactory level. Finish up, move on and revisit at the end of the day if you absolutely need to.

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6. Set time limits

Most of us can admit to doing a better job at managing our time on a daily or weekly basis. It’s a huge part of being productive that’s often difficult to conquer. One way to get around this is to allocate a set amount of time for each task in your schedule by using an app or online tool. Record your time spent to work out which items are taking longer than others.

7. Take regular breaks

Staying motivated means having the energy level to push on at any stage of a project regardless of what’s going on around you. No one expects you to go full steam ahead every minute of the day, for the sake of your mental and physical well-being. So utilize the pockets of time you have to recharge your batteries so you can return with greater focus and concentration levels. Fresh eyes may even offer up a new solution to getting the job done.

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These tips have helped me streamline the way I work on a daily basis and I hope you fine them to be of use in your routine.

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Tom Willis

Web Marketing & Content Producer

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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