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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 March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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