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12 productivity hacks

Personal productivity is a key differentiator between people who succeed in their chosen fields and those who do not. Individuals at the top of their game have learned how to achieve more and better results in less time than most other people.

Increasing your productivity is a critical step in achieving your personal and professional goals and creating the success you envision for yourself.

To achieve a high level of productivity, try the following 12 hacks:

  1. Prioritise and write an action plan. Turbocharge your productivity by making sure you have a clear written plan of action. Knowing what tasks you have to complete, which you should complete, and which are bonus tasks means you will repeatedly hit headlines and stay on top of things.

    Many successful professionals claim they have set periods where they check their emails, because constantly responding and acting on them can mean you don’t get your planned tasks done. Every minute you spend in careful planning will save you as many as 10 minutes in execution!

  2. Grouping. Work out which jobs are similar. Responding to emails, making phone calls and having meetings are all contact based. Doing them together means you’ll be ‘in the flow’ of this type of task, and will likely complete them quicker. Similarly, group admin jobs together, creative jobs together etc., and you’ll find your productivity gets better!
  3. Set SMART goals. You probably learned about SMART goals in school, but they are fantastic to use as adults. This applies for work, personal life, life goals, big goals and small goals. Setting a goal using the following guidelines makes you much more likely to achieve it.

    • Specific. Make sure your goal has a clear outcome. You can either have achieved it or not, there should be no grey area. E.g. I want to complete Task A within 6 months. 
    • Measurable. Think about what is your indicator of progress, or how you’ll know if you’ve achieved your goal. E.g. I want to complete task A within 6 months. I will complete one stage every month.
    • Achievable. There’s no point setting a goal that you cannot achieve, if only for your mental health. Don’t try and complete a task in 4 months that should take 6.
    • Realistic. Are you able to put the work in, and do you have the resources to be able to do this task? If you want to complete Task A in 6 months but you’re going on holiday in the middle, and you know you won’t be able to complete part of it until you get that new software, then the task isn’t realistic.
    • Timely. Set a deadline. If you want Task A to be done in 6 months, pick a start and end date. This will also enable you to break the task down into what must be achieved by set dates, to know if you are staying on target.

  4. Concentrate on each individual task. Choose one task and get cracking. If you can, finish the task in one sitting (not including coffee breaks or short walks). Focusing single-mindedly on one task allows you to complete it far quicker than stopping and working on other things in between. This is called single handling, and works really well, though is not suitable for every task – like those that will take a long time to complete.

    People who can multitask are often praised, but really having to multitask is a due to a lack of time management. Research shows that focusing on one task at a time is more productive and less stressful than multitasking.

  5. Love what you do. This isn’t necessarily something you can put into practice immediately, but think about what you would actually love to do. The old phrase ‘Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life’ has relevance here. The most productive people tend to love their job – it’s not hard to get motivated and enthusiastic about something you enjoy.
  6. Get rid of distractions. We’ve all procrastinated more than we should – so put your phone out of sight, sign out of LinkedIn, and consider putting headphones in if appropriate. Music can really help you focus, particularly classical or other instrumental genres.~
  7. Set a timer. There are two reasons this can help. Firstly, it can help you take regular breaks to keep your concentration strong. Have a coffee break, take a walk, or do some stretches every 20 mins to keep blood flowing and focus strong. This can also help by making sure you split your time effectively between all the tasks that need to be done.

    It’s easy to focus only on one thing, but time management is not necessarily getting one task done at a time – rather it’s making sure you stay on top of everything that needs to be done.

  8. Start your day with the most dreaded task. Many people have that task that they’ve been putting off for a while, feels enormous and complicated, and really doesn’t appeal. The best way to tackle this is to clear your schedule for an upcoming morning, then come to work with the sole purpose of cracking on with it. Doing the dreaded task before anything else in the day is much easier, just dive straight in with the intention of just getting started.

    Do what you can, then move on. If you complete it then congrats! If you don’t, usually just starting it will reduce the ‘fear’ and make it easier to work on it next time.

  9. Delegate. Not always possible, but consider if you’re holding onto tasks that could be outsourced or delegated. Don’t be caught up spending time on things that could be done by someone else, while you get on with more important tasks. 
  10. Organise your workspace. Before getting started, tidy your desk or workspace to clear out any waste or rubbish, and grouping any piles of paper. There is truth to the phrase ‘Tidy house, tidy mind’ in relation to your work area, as it allows your mind to focus on what needs to be done.
  11. Hone your skills. If your work is computer based, take some time to learn relevant keyboard shortcuts and typing skills. Shortcuts may feel clumsy at first, but you’ll be amazed how much time they can save you. Research shows you can save up to 64 hours per year by using keyboard shortcuts, so there isn’t really an excuse not to! There are also many typing courses online. You don’t need to be super speedy, but being able to type faster will enable you to work faster which will obviously help your productivity!
  12. Reward yourself. As children, we’re usually rewarded for good homework or doing chores, but as we get older it’s easy to forget how good it feels to give yourself a pat on the back. Find something small to congratulate yourself on completing each task. This could be a cup of tea, a sweet, a quick walk round the office, a short (timed) session on Facebook or LinkedIn, or whatever makes you feel good for a short space of time. 

    If you have a big task you’ve finally completed, perhaps consider a bigger reward after work like going to the cinema, getting a takeaway or going shopping.

These are all skills you can learn with practice until they become automatic, and you'll notice your productivity go through the roof. If you're chasing a promotion it's great way to stand out, or even if you're happy in your role but want to be less stressed these tips will halp you achieve that.

If you'd like to learn more about improving your work life, career and business why not attend the Northern Business Expo? It's held on 17th & 18th March at Manchester Central and is totally free to attend, you'll just need to get your free ticket online here. You'll find key skills workshops, keynotes, networking, suppliers, expert advice and more, all for free!
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