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15 Productivity Hacks That Speed Up Your Efficiency

15 Productivity Hacks That Speed Up Your Efficiency
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Need to get more efficient at work? Do you ever have enough time to get it all done?

If you are struggling to find the time to fit it all in, here are 15 productivity hacks that will help speed up your efficiency:

Email management

Let’s start with the chief productivity killer in most offices — emails.

1. Stop checking email first thing

If you want to drown in inefficiency, check your email first thing in the morning.

If you want to become more productive and efficient, eliminate this habit from your day.

Checking your email first thing in the morning puts you at the mercy of others. Take back the control and start your day with the tasks you have planned to do, not the ones someone else thinks you should do.

2. Turn off notifications

When you have your work planned out, you don’t want to be disturbed by an email notification in the bottom right of your screen.

Switch off all notifications. When you receive an email notification or any other type of notification, it disturbs your focus.

If you turn them off, you can have calm, undisturbed focus for as long as your brain will allow.

3. Batch process email

With the notifications turned off, go to your email a couple of times during the day when you have decided it’s time.

Let your emails build up so that you can process them.

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Processing allows you to think clearly about which ones are top priority and which can be left until later. The way they arrive into your inbox is not the order of merit.

4. Unsubscribe to newsletters

Unsubscribe to as many newsletters as possible. Let them clog up some other email inbox.

If you really need to stay subscribed, subscribe under a different email address. This way, you reduce the number of emails coming into your work email address.

Software and apps organization

Now let’s get to the digital organization.

4. Use Sanebox for organized emails

Continuing on the subject of email, try out Sanebox to reduce the amount of emails that get into your inbox in the first place.

Sanebox uses algorithms to determine the importance of each email, and it moves unimportant messages out of the Inbox into a separate folder, and summarizes them for you.

The added bonus is that it works on any platform and has all the same functionality in the phone app too.

5. Use Activewords for faster output

Use a text replacement software such as Activewords to reduce time spent writing repetitive sentences.

Activewords can be used to launch programs, websites, Evernote notes and more. Saving minutes daily can add up to days saved at the end of the year.

6. Try CloudOn to store documents

CloudOn allows you to use Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint to create documents on the go using your iPhone, iPad or Android device.

Users can sync with Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive accounts. You can also email files directly from mobile devices

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7. Use Evernote to organize notes

Evernote has changed my life.

I have a bad memory, but I no longer have to waste time trying to remember where I have stored something because it’s all in Evernote, from my kids artwork to my families identification numbers, from my shopping list to my next book project.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Productivity in the office

At work, there’re also a couple of hacks you should try to speed up productivity.

8. Delegate

Only do what only you can do. Your philosophy should be to do as little as possible.

Focus on your core strengths and leave the rest of the work to others.

If you are unfortunate to be the person who receives all the delegated work and you don’t have anyone to help you, make sure you are clear about priorities, clarify priorities and goals with your superiors so you can make better decisions when people send work your way.

Here’s a guide that will help you learn how to delegate effectively:

How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

9. Make meetings productive

Make meetings more productive or don’t have them.

Meetings waste an enormous amount of money each year for organizations. Too many people are in attendance that don’t have to be there, and most of them are replying to emails and focusing on something other than the meeting.

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Think of more creative ways to have meetings, but start by avoiding the meetings where you are not really required.

10. Say no

We must learn to say no to others to be able to say yes to ourselves.

Helping others is great but not when it causes us stress trying to complete our own tasks.

Learn to be more assertive and not take on too much work if possible.

Leo Babauta has some good advice on how to say no:

The Gentle Art of Saying No

11. Two minute rule

Another tip from David Allen is that if something takes less than two minutes, do it now.

By adopting this rule, you will clear a lot of things from your To Do list very quickly. It also gives you a sense of satisfaction and achievement which only fuels your productivity.

Brain and body performance

The condition of your health has a lot to do with your productivity, so don’t ever underestimate it.

12. Work with your body

Figure out your natural body rhythms and work with them.

Some of us are more productive at night, others in the morning.

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Don’t fight your natural cycles and try and maximize these times to do your most important tasks

13. Hydrate

When the body is dehydrated we lose energy; when the brain is dehydrated we lose focus.

Ensure you drink water right throughout the day in order to get the most from both your body and mind.

14. Fuel the body

Along with drinking plenty of water, there are many foods that help to keep us energized and focused throughout the day.

Omega oils, known as “brain foods,” help us focus and concentrate.

Proteins and carbohydrates maintain our energy, and a little caffeine can give us a perk when we need it.

Stay aware of your body’s needs and feed it accordingly

15. Exercise

Richard Branson reckons he gets an extra 8 hours of productive time each day from working out in the morning.

Exercise gives us energy, reduces stress and increases focus.

Most productive and successful people have a regular habit of working out. So if you are to only follow one of these hacks, make it this one.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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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)
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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.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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