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Ultimate Productivity Hacks You Need to Try

Ultimate Productivity Hacks You Need to Try

We all work all day, and during all this chaos we have almost no free time for ourselves, and our families, but we always try to make some room. We all want to be extra-productive, and we try to multitask as much as we can, but sometimes, the more we try to do more things at once, we find ourselves failing almost everything, as we are unable to dedicate our full intention to a singular task. Organizational skills are extra important, and time management has never been more important—especially if you want to stay successful.

Due to all this, we all try to find more hacks and discover newer tips that will allow us to stay on top of your game. In an effort to organize all menial tasks, we use special techniques and tools simply not to waste time. The best advice that anyone can give you is to work smarter, not harder, and remember, time management isn’t about stuffing as many tasks as you can into any given day, but it is about creating a workflow that is simple, fast, and, most important, stress-free. So, we have prepared some of the most important productivity hacks that you can use in your workplace, not only to perform better, but also to feel better.

1. Clean your work desk

Cluttered desk

    Clutter on the desk will lead to the clutter in the mind, something which will lead you to become unfocused and stressed. Staying focussed is especially important if you handle a lot of papers, so it is essential to have a paper tray for incoming things that require your attention, and a special paper tray for outgoing things that are done, and can be sent away, or filed. Put frequently used items like markers, pens and pencils nearby, and feel free to keep less frequently used items in the drawer or somewhere where it won’t attract your attention.

    2. Organize your computer

    The same way you need to keep your desk clean and organized, you need to keep your computer sorted and running smoothly. You can do this by organizing all the files in their dedicated folders. The best tip is to create as many subfolders as you need in order to create a folder tree where you can find whatever you need. Use anti-virus software that will keep your computer operating without bugs. Keep all the latest updates installed, and the safest bet is to have all the updates automatically download and install, without you being aware.

    3. Check your emails in the morning

    If you your work description includes reading a lot of emails and responding to them, then you need to dedicate a whole part of your work time in order to do that, and the best thing is to simply finish it early in the morning. Make a cup of coffee, sit down, and then open up all the emails, respond to all those that you have to, and forward those that require further assistance. When you finish that, visit your inbox at frequent intervals, but do not have notifications turned on, as it can easily distract you from your other work.

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    4. Create an efficient inbox

    It’s common to have more than one email address. But there are many ways of trying to combine all those into a single inbox, where you can simply check all your emails, without having to log out and login into different accounts. Do this only if you can use third party software to connect to your corporate email. And ask whether that is allowed, as some companies do not allow this, and require you to only use your business email.

    5. Do not even open social sites

    Woman using her smartphone

      If you think that you will just be able to open Facebook for a quick glance and then return back to work, you are sadly mistaken, as opening one cute cat video will lead to a couple of more, and before you know it, half an hour has passed and you haven’t finished anything. Use simple add-ons that can block particular sites for a limited period of time, until you finish everything else.

      6. Create a schedule

      If you have a job that is highly erratic, or creative, you will need to create some order that will help you achieve as much as you can. For example, if you work from 8am, and you need to finish something by 4pm, remember to divide that task into simple tasks, and then create a smaller deadline so you finish the first part by 11am, then the second by 2pm and the third should be done around 4pm. This division of work should give you a clearer overview of your progress, and should keep your motivated.

      7. Get out of the rut

      If you feel that your job is too repetitive, you will need something that will give your brain a break. If you cannot turn your job into something more interesting, then at least try and organize your free time so you feel good about yourself. After a long day of work, we just want to go home and sleep, but it is exactly the time when you should call a friend and go and grab a cup of coffee.

      8. Get up early

      Try and get up at six, so you can shower, eat and prepare for work. If you have children, you will have enough time to prepare breakfast for them as well, or even greet your loved one with a cup of fresh coffee. But no matter how early you want to get up, remember to have at least 7-8 hours of sleep, as without sleep, everything else is pointless.

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      9. Learn to say no

      Say no

        It is normal that you want to be liked, and that you want to be thought of as a person who always helps out, but you need to know when to say no, and focus solely on your task. Some people will want to take advantage of you, and it is essential that you learn how to prioritize and help others only if you have free time, and you get due credit.

        10. Forget about multitasking

        Even though we all like the power of being able to do a couple of things simultaneously, you need to remember that our brains and our bodies are not created to properly multitask. We can be much better if we can dedicate our full attention to a single process, and then go on to another, than to try and do both of them at the same time and fail instantly.

        11. Write down all your ideas

        If you want, you can use your smartphone and create a memo every time you have a great idea, or if you’d like a physical reminder, carry a notepad with you at all times, where you can even use colored sticky notes to coordinate your reminders. Even if you are sure that you will remember something, it is better to write it down than to forget all about it.

        12. Don’t be afraid of technology

        There are so many programs, add-ons, and extensions which you can use to simplify smaller steps and things while you work. Google Drive and Dropbox are great way of eliminating USB memory drives, as your files will be available whenever you go with an internet connections. Trello is great at keeping track of projects and deadlines, while Hootsuite can organize and schedule your social media posts.

        13. Exercise properly

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        maria sharapova exercise

          If you are in good physical condition, then you will not only be healthy and satisfied to work extra diligently, but it will give you more energy to accomplish all your tasks. You can find simple exercises to use when at home, and it is best that you do them before work, early in the morning—it will give you that burst of energy needed to survive your morning.

          14. Keep your home tidy

          No one wants to return home after a day’s work and find a mess everywhere you turn, which is why it is essential that you constantly organize your home, and clean up after yourself. Create more storage space so that you can set aside all the things you don’t currently need, which will give your home a more elegant look, and remove all the clutter from your life.

          15. Coffee can help

          If you need a small energy boost, you can find it in a small cup of coffee. Coffee can not only be extremely healthy for your body, but people who drink it regularly will be less affected by stressful situations. But remember not to drink any coffee after 4pm, as that might keep you from sleeping well during the night. Avoid coffee bought from machines, and prepare your own brew. Not only will this taste better, but it will have less sugar and artificial sweeteners added.

          16. Use your commute wisely

          You need at least 30 minutes every day to get to work, and that time will quickly accumulate, so do something useful with it. Listen to audio books on your mobile device, or podcasts—it doesn’t matter if they are humorous or work related. You can even try and walk to work. This way you can turn a daily chore into light exercise, where you can clear your thought before work.

          17. Hire help

          maid cleaning the house

            If you work a lot, you do not have time to worry about things that will only occupy your mind. The best thing you could do is to hire some kind of help: someone that will do your shopping for you, or someone that will clean your home. This is an excellent way to outsource things that require a lot of time that you simply do not have. Once a week you can even have a professional cook come over and prepare meals in advance, so that you eat only hand-made high-quality food prepared specially for you.

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            18. Eat healthy

            Like we’ve said, having a meal prepared for you is a much better solution than fast-food, which is full of salts, sugars and fats—stuff which your body does not need in large quantities. If you avoid junk food, and replace it with balanced meals, you will feel much better, not to mention how much healthier you’ll be.

            19. Don’t forget about water

            No matter how tasty fizzy drinks are, they simply cannot replace water as a drink that is essential for our bodies to function properly. In a perfect world, people would drink two liters of water daily, in order to keep you hydrated, and your metabolism running perfectly—but any liquid will do, like tea or coffee. Just remember to avoid fizzy drinks or drink them in limited amounts, as they are full of sugars which will only lead to obesity.

            20. Have fun

            happy dog in a car

              Let’s face it, no one can truly be productive and efficient at a workplace if they are constantly sad, or bored. You need to find your own outlet, something that will keep you happy, and find time for that—if you like reading, read at least half an hour every day; go to the movies with your best friend; take out your beloved on a romantic dinner. All those things will remind your why life is worth living for, and it will give you more than enough energy and focus to try your best, and be a successful working professional.

              If you were looking for a magical solution that will solve all your productivity problems, tough luck. There is no such thing. You will need to change your whole life around, and develop your organizational skills in order to truly be successful and develop every aspect of your life. Have fun, spend time with your family and friends, create a goal and stick to your plan—and in no time, success will surely follow.

              Featured photo credit: morgue file via mrg.bz

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              Ivan Dimitrijevic

              Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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              Last Updated on April 23, 2019

              How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

              How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

              Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

              While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

              For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

              While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

              I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

              Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

              Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

              Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

              The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

              Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

              What Is a Stretch Goal?

              A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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              In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

              For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

              This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

              It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

              The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

              The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

              I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

              Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

              1. Get Outside of Your Head

              If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

              If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

              I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

              Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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              2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

              When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

              I see this in so many areas of life:

              When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

              In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

              “Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

              Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

              3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

              When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

              The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

              For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

              We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

              From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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              When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

              Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

              4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

              S.M.A.R.T.

              is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

              While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

              Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

              For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

              By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

              5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

              I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

              The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

              When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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              One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

              Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

              I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

              A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

              As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

              From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

              The Bottom Line

              These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

              For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

              Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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