By Leo Babauta
We all need a productivity boost now and then — sometimes throughout the day. We each want to be productive for very personal reasons — to accomplish more, to make more money, to get done earlier to make more time for our personal lives, to accomplish our goals. But whatever the reason, these Productivity Hacks will do the trick.
Here they are, in reverse order (click on links for more on each):
#10: Take care of your Most Important Things first. Your Most Important Things for the day — the things you most need to accomplish that day — should take priority over everything else. However, we all know that fires come up throughout the day, interruptions through phone calls and email and people dropping by, new demands that will push the best-laid plans aside. If you put off your MITs until later in the day, you will end up not doing them much of the time.
Try to get all three of your MITs done before moving on to anything else. If you can do that, the rest of the day is gravy!
# 9: Wake up early. Decide what you’d like to accomplish each morning, and build your morning routine around that. Like to exercise? Put that in there. Healthy breakfast? Go for it. Check email? Fine. The mornings are a fresh start, peaceful and free of ringing phones and constant email notifications. If you get your Most Important Things done in the morning, the rest of the day is just gravy. (see How I Became an Early Riser.)
# 8: Simplify information streams, crank through blogs & email. Think about all the information you receive (email, blogs, newsletters, mailing lists, magazines, newspapers and more) and edit brutally. You will drastically reduce the time you spend reading. For everything else that begins to come in after your editing process, ask yourself if you really need to be getting that information regularly. Most of the time the answer is no. Now, after this process, you should be left with less to read. Here’s the next step: crank through it all, really only reading the really interesting ones.
Editing and cranking through the information you receive can free up a lot of time for more important things — like achieving your goals.
# 7: Declutter your workspace; work on one thing at a time. The decluttering your work space part of it is simply to remove all extra distractions, on your desk and on your computer. If you’ve got a clean, simplified workspace, you can better focus on the task at hand. (See more on how to do this.)
Now, with distractions minimized, focus on the task at hand. Don’t check email, don’t work on five projects at once, don’t check the stats on your blog, don’t go to your feed reader. Work on that one task, and work on it with concentrated focus until you are done. (See How NOT to Multi-task.) Then celebrate your achievement!
# 6: Get to work early; work fewer hours. My best days come when I get into work early, and begin my work day in the quiet morning hours, before the phones start ringing and the din of the office begins it crescendo to chaos. It is so peaceful, and I can work without interruption or losing focus. I often find that I get my MITs done before anyone comes in, and then the rest of the day is dealing with whatever comes up (or even better: getting ahead for the next day).
Added bonus: you skip rush-hour traffic.
But just as productive is the second part of the tip: leave early and work fewer hours. It’s paradoxical, but if you work fewer hours, and know that your time is limited, you will be more focused. Then you have more hours to yourself! Everyone wins.
# 5: Avoid meetings; when you must meet, make it effective. I find it best to say no to meetings up front. I just say, “Sorry, I can’t make it. I’m tied up with a project right now.” And that’s always true. I’ve always got projects I’m working on that are more important than a meeting.
Now, you probably won’t be able to get out of most meetings, so here are some tips for making meetings more effective.
# 4: Avoid unnecessary work. If we just do any work that comes our way, we can be cranking out the tasks, but not be productive at all. You’re only productive if you are doing work that moves you towards a goal. Eliminate non-essential tasks from your to-do lists, and start to say no to new requests that are non-essential.
If you do not take these steps and speak up, and say no, then you will be overloaded with work that you simply do not need to do. Cut out the non-essential tasks, and focus on those that really matter.
# 3: Do the tough tasks first. You know what those tasks are. What have you been putting off that you know you need to do? Sometimes when you put things off, they end up being things you don’t really need to do. But sometimes they are things you just gotta do. Those are your tough tasks.
Do them first thing in the day.
# 2: Work off-line as much as possible. To increase your productivity, disconnect your Internet connection. Have scheduled times when you’re going to check your email, and only let yourself check your blogs or surf the web when you’ve gotten a certain amount done. When you do go online, do it on a timer. When the timer goes off, unplug again until the next scheduled time.
You’ll be amazed at how much work you’ll get done.
# 1: Do something you’re passionate about. This might not seem like the normal productivity tip, but give it a thought: if you really want to do something, you’ll work like hell to get it done. You’ll work extra hard, you’ll put in even more hours, and you’re less likely to procrastinate. It’s for work that you don’t really care about that you procrastinate. Read the full post for tips on how to find your dream job and do work you truly care about.