We all dream of working less. Sure, some people live to work, but most of us work to live. That doesn’t mean it’s all about the money though - it’s about time. It’s about having time to travel, time to spend with friends; time to head into the great outdoors. But making time isn’t as easy as it sounds. Here are some of our favourite productivity hacks to help you work smarter, not harder.
Make a listLet’s start with the basics. Writing a to-do list is a great way to organise your thoughts and prioritise your tasks - but there’s nothing worse than a to-do list that never gets done. Try writing short, achievable lists and bask in the satisfaction of checking off every item.
Do the worst jobs first thing.You know those jobs you dread? A tough phone-call, an awkward meeting, a painful decision. Deal with it first thing, and you won’t spend the whole day worrying about it and losing focus on other things that matter.
Go for easy wins.If there’s a task that will only take a few minutes to complete, do it, and check it off your list.
Do Something. Anything!This is one of my favourite productivity hacks. If I’m working through a list of tasks and I get stuck on something, I move onto a different task for a while. That way, I’m still making progress on something.
Productive Procrastination.Instead of procrastinating by checking facebook or reading your favourite blog, try looking for ways to save you time in the long term. Maybe it’s an app that will organise your calendar, or perhaps it’s tweaking your daily schedule. Whatever it is, procrastinate by researching ways to be more productive, more often.
Consider a Work Uniform.Some of the world's most famous entrepreneurs wear the same thing every single day. Steve Jobs had his signature black turtleneck. Mark Zuckerberg has his simple grey t-shirts. While it might seem lazy to some, it’s actually a great way to save time every single day. Settling on your own personal ‘uniform’ means you don’t have to think about what you’ll wear every single day, so it’s one less decision to worry about.
Apply the 80/20 Rule.The 80/20 rule (aka the Pareto Principle) is one of the best productivity hacks. In a nutshell, the rule states that roughly 20% of your work creates 80% of your successes. That means that on a list of 10 tasks, only two of them will yield worthwhile results. The beauty of the rule is that it seems to apply pretty much everywhere. Many companies find that 80% of their problems come from 20% of their projects. You probably wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time. 20% of your time using your phone might be productive - the other 80% probably isn’t.
If you can identify that 20%, and prioritise your work accordingly, you can focus on what really matters and save a whole lot of time.
Respond to emails twice a day.Emails are quick to write and easy to send - and when you receive an email, it’s easy for someone else's urgent problem to become your urgent problem. This can be very distracting, and often, the pressure of providing a quick response means you don’t have time to give the issue the thought and consideration it deserves.
Instead, try responding just twice a day - once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. Use an auto-response to let your colleagues and clients know that this is how you work, and you can avoid constantly checking your inbox. It might seem drastic, but you’ll soon realise that most emails aren’t that time sensitive, and with fewer distractions, your productivity will soar!
Cut your Screen Time.What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Make a coffee? Drink some water? Probably not. Chances are, you check your phone.
But the first 10 minutes of the day are crucial to setting the tone for the rest of the day. By checking your phone, you start the day by reacting. You’re not in the driving seat. All those notifications are saying ‘here’s what you missed yesterday’ when you should be looking forward to the day ahead.
Turn the Internet Off.If there’s a job to do that doesn’t require the internet, turn your wifi off and remove the temptation to watch cat videos on youtube.
Know when to quit.
We’ve all been there. You’re working on something, get halfway through and realise it’s probably not going to work but you’re determined to finish it.
Just because you’ve already spent time on it doesn’t mean you should waste more time finishing it.
Batch Similar Jobs.We use this technique every single day in our workshop. We don’t make bags one at a time - we make 10 or twenty at a time. By batching work in this way, we cut down on start-up and slow-down time and it’s easier to get into a rhythm, so it’s good for our focus. The same principle can be applied to anything. Try batching similar tasks together - phone calls, emails, errands, shopping - even thinking time. Allocate some time for each batch of tasks, and you’ll save time and be more focussed.
Turn off your notifications.Nothing kills productivity like distractions, and technology is actively designed to distract. Updates, notifications, breaking news alerts - they are all designed to get you to engage with whatever app they’re shouting from. While some are useful (like calendar notifications), most aren’t. For me, Facebook is the biggest offender. Turn off the notifications, and check in when it suits you - not when it suits Facebook!
Invest in Noise Cancelling Headphones.This tip comes from our Studio Manager, Madeleine. She wears her headphones when she’s trying to focus. Sometimes, she’ll listen to music, but often, she uses the noise cancelling feature to get some peace and quiet in our busy workshop. What’s more, when she’s wearing them, it’s like wearing a ‘Do not disturb’ sign - we know she’s busy, so we try not to bother her.
Have Fewer Meetings.Meetings take up a lot of time, and if a lot of people are present, it can be hard to reach an actionable conclusion. See if you can hold some of your meetings remotely, via email or skype, but if you can’t, make an agenda, set a timer and stick to it. That way, you’re less likely to digress, and more likely to get a positive result. If a timer is too intrusive, try standing up during your meetings. It makes people more attentive and is less likely to drag on.
Automate!How many repetitive tasks do you do every day? How many times do you send the same email? Use the internet to your advantage, and automate as many tasks as you can. Create email templates to respond to common questions, use filters and auto-responses to organise your inbox, or scheduling apps like Doodle to plan your meetings.
Don’t Multitask. Monotask.Multi-tasking sounds great, but the truth is, it doesn’t really work. Try and work through one task at a time, without distraction.
Unsubscribe!You probably check your emails more than any single website in any given day. If you’re a Mac user like me, it’s hard to resist the little red bubble that reminds you how many unread emails you have. But how many of those emails are actually important? Sure, the Trakke emails are full of absolute gold, but do you really need an update from Amazon about other USB cables you might like to buy? No. So unsubscribe and clean up your inbox!
Say No.It’s easy to get overwhelmed by too much work, so try and say no more often.
Sometimes it’s tough, but often it’s just a case of being realistic about how much you can do well. If your boss is putting the pressure on and you can’t say no, try framing it differently. Instead of saying yes, try saying ‘which other task should I delay so that I can do this job instead?’. That should help to put things in perspective!
Take Time Off.
It’s easy to get sucked in to working long hours, or being so committed to work that you forget to take time for yourself. The trouble is, this style of working isn’t always that effective. While you might work longer hours, you’re not necessarily doing more work because you’re tired, and your brain needs a rest. Try taking some time off, or stick to your contracted hours for a while. You might just find you can do the same amount of work without burning out.
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If you’re overworked, struggling for time, or on a short deadline, try using these twenty productivity hacks. Everyone is different, so some hacks might work really well for you, some might not. Keep experimenting, keep optimising and be ruthless. And remember - work smarter, not harder, so you can spend more time doing what you love.