These 7 quick productivity hacks can help you to master your to-do list and achieve your dreams!
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It’s not enough to just dream of life you want.
It’s not even enough to set goals.
The only way to truly achieve your dreams and build the life you want is to sit down and just do it.
And that’s where many of us… well, fail is a strong word. But it’s the doing part that trips us up more often than not.
We stretch ourselves so thin that we burn out. We waste our time and energy on those small and easy tasks, while procrastinating over the things that are important. And sometimes we simply take on too much – even when we know better.
All this makes us feel stressed that we’re not moving the needle and meeting our goals.
And that isn’t very productive.
The answer? Embrace these seven simple tips and productivity hacks and get more done in less time.
Check your distractions
Rituals and habits can help you do things more consistently.
The trouble is, if you’re not careful with your rituals, they can turn into productivity killers.
Is checking Instagram or email a part of your morning ritual? Is chatting on WhatsApp part of your weekend ritual?
Distractions like these can turn even your best intentions into hours of wasted time.
Do it now
Take a good look at your rituals.
What are you doing that you shouldn’t be? Do you need to cut it out completely, or can you move it to another part of your day?
If social media is taking up all your time then set a screen time timer to keep it in check.
Switch on your Do Not Disturb to block out those distracting notifications.
Or if emails are dragging you down, limit the amount of time you spend checking them. Aim to check email only 3-5 times a day. Then shut down your email tab, switch of your email notifications, and only check and answer your mail during these allotted inbox times.
Make your rituals more efficient and you’ll automatically get more done.
Declutter your mind
We all know that physical clutter makes us less productive.
And so does mental clutter.
At any one time you have a kaleidoscope of things swirling around your head.
Your mind is for having ideas, not holding themDavid Allen
In Getting Things Done, David Allen explains how all of this mental clutter distracts your focus, causes stress, and stops your brain from being able to function at a high level.
Do it now
So what can you do?
Start by getting everything out of your head.
Write down all the things that are swirling around in there.
Whenever a new task or idea pops into your head, put it on the list.
This is your Master Task List.
Use whatever you want for this – a notebook, Google Docs, a spreadsheet.
I like using Asana because it lets me organise and schedule things easily, and it syncs across my devices so I can quickly add things whenever they pop into my mind.
Now go through your list and get rid of the distractions.
For each task ask yourself:
- Is it important?
- Does it matter to you or the people you care about?
- Does it help you achieve your goals?
If you answer “no” to all three things then it’s a distraction.
Strike it off. And don’t be afraid to be ruthless.
What you’re left with are your responsibilities and the things that will help you achieve your goals.
At the start of every morning, go through your list and pick out the three most important things that you’re going to focus on that day.
Want to know more?
We all love ticking off those tasks on a to-do list, but are you getting the important things done?
The Eisenhower Box technique is a great way to get some perspective on your to-do list, and separate out the tasks that are going to have the greatest impact on your life.
Do it now
Take a look at your list, and for each task ask yourself two questions:
- Is is urgent?
- Is it important?
You can categorise things in 4 different ways:
1. Urgent and important
Do it now. The tasks in this category are the ones you should prioritise.
2. Not urgent but important
These are still high priority tasks, but they don’t need to be done today. Figure out when you’ll do them and make sure you schedule that time in your calendar.
3. Urgent but not important
Look at how you might be able to delegate these tasks, or automate them somehow.
4. Not urgent and not important
If it’s not important and not contributing towards your goals then should it be on your list? Things in this category are going to be a distraction from your real goals, so don’t feel any guilt over getting rid of these.
Eat that frog
If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one firstMark Twain
We all have frogs on our to-do list.
Those tasks that you know really need to do, but you reeeeally don’t want to.
If you don’t know what your frogs are, take a look at the Eisenhower Box technique – they’ll be those priority tasks that you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
We’re unmotivated to do them, so they get pushed further and further down the list. And knowing that you still have that frog to tackle drains your energy and stresses you out.
But if you Eat That Frog first thing in the morning you spend the rest of the day knowing that the worst is behind you.
You’ve tackled that big task with a clearer mind, while your willpower is at its highest. And that sense of accomplishment gives you the momentum to stay focused, productive and motivated to achieve more!
Procrastination is attitude’s natural assassin. There’s nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted taskWilliam James
41% of things on a to-do list will never get done.
Without a plan a to-do list is pretty much a glorified wish list.
The solution? Ditch the to-do list and start time blocking.
Once that task is off your list and on your calendar it’s been prioritised as an appointment with yourself. And it’s amazing how well this works.
You wouldn’t stand up a friend for a coffee date or skip that dentist appointment (no matter how much you’d love to!), so treat yourself with the same respect and show up for that appointment. Get it done. After all, it’s going to help you meet those goals.
How it works
You can use a planner or a bullet journal, but I highly recommend something like Google Calendar. Life can be unpredictable, and a digital calendar is way more flexible if you do need to shuffle things around.
It can also help you be more realistic with your time – I might be able to squeeze in an email in the 15 minutes before my meeting, but there’s no way I can draft a whole article in that time.
Yes, at the beginning you might find it hard to estimate how much time each task will take, but stick with it. The more you do this the more accurately you’ll be able to block your time. And that’s another plus for a digital calendar – you can adjust your time blocks at the end of the day to reflect how much time you actually spent on each task.
The Pomodoro Technique
Time blocking is great for transforming your to-dos into actionable tasks and planning out your day, but how do you make sure that you focus on the task at hand during each of those time blocks?
Thankfully, the Pomodoro Technique has you covered.
The Pomodoro Technique is a simple time management method which involves splitting your time into work intervals with breaks in between.
How it works
The basic idea is to set a timer for 25 minutes.
For those 25 minutes you focus entirely on the task at hand, no distractions. Fully immerse yourself.
Once your 25 minutes is up, stop working and step away from your desk for 5 minutes. Go make a cup of tea, take a short walk, flick through a magazine or just stare out of the window.
You’ve just completed one pomodoro.
After you’ve finished 4 pomodoros you can take a longer break of about 15-30 minutes.
The end result should be increased focus and productivity during those work sessions.
Regular breaks help keep your mind feeling fresh and motivated, and the strict time element is great for curbing those procrastination tendencies.
Our brains can’t focus on multiple things at the same time.
What your brain actually does is switch back and forth between the tasks.
The mental price for this is time and a reduced attention span. And although the individual time costs are small, they all add up over time and make us less efficient.
Minimising this time loss is one of the great benefits of task batching.
It can take your brain around 25 minutes to settle in and focus on a task.
Which is why batching tasks is so great. And
How it works
Batching involves grouping similar tasks together in a scheduled block. This avoids the need for you to switch your back and forth between different skills. And it’s a great partner to time blocking.
Email: Instead of checking your emails constantly throughout the day, save them all up and do them all once or twice a day
Cooking: If you’re pushed for time then try meal prepping once or twice a week to cut down on the amount of time you have to spend in the kitchen
Meetings: Try grouping all of your meetings on the same day
Shopping and errands: If you’re leaving the house (a major occasion if you work from home like me!) try grouping all of your errands together. Pick up groceries, go to the post office and schedule a coffee date all for the same afternoon.
See how simple it can be?
Managing your time and turning up your productivity doesn’t come naturally to most people, but it is possible to master this skill so that you can work towards your goals!
Let me know your favourite if any of these tips have worked for you, or if you have any other productivity insights to share!