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15 Productivity Hacks That Speed Up Your Efficiency

15 Productivity Hacks That Speed Up Your Efficiency

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

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 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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