BY: Jessica Malnik
There’s no shortage of productivity or time hacks out there. Unfortunately, most of them are vague at best. Or, straight up unhelpful or unrealistic at worst. What separates this post from many others is that it contains relatively small, actionable changes you can make today that will help you be insanely more productive later on.
1. Create both to-do and to do not lists on a daily and weekly basis at the minimum.
From Clear and Trello boards to Evernote, there’s quite literally a dime a dozen to-do list and productivity apps. While the format can vary widely, the end goal is the same. Pick one that suits you best and stick with it. The obvious benefit is it helps you stay organized and on track of deadlines.
The not-so-obvious use is it can help brutally prioritize what you are and aren’t going to focus on. Most of us create to-do lists on a daily and/or weekly basis. If you are like me, your to-do is always growing. You will never go through everything that you think you should be doing. This is where it’s helpful to create a to don’t list. These are all the items on your to-do list and swimming around in your brain that are “nice-to-haves” or “not particularly important at this moment.” Ex: a new idea that you just thought of or to jump on that new social media site that entered in beta last week. The goal is to free up your to-do list to the top 3-5 items to focus on that week. This ensures you remain focused and crank out the stuff that is critical.
2. Use automation apps like Zapier and Ifttt
I’m a big fan of apps like Zapier and Ifft, which quite simply put the Internet to work for you. This allows you to automate daily tasks by creating “recipes” or “zaps”, such as saving a post you saw on Twitter to read offline on Pocket, sending you a daily weather report, or automatically syncing your new Paypal customers with Freshbooks.
3. Track how you are spending your time.
Whenever you set a new business goal, you most likely set benchmarks to help you reach it. You keep a steady pace by tracking your progress against your set benchmarks.
This is arguably no different than tracking your time. The reason behind it is we waste a lot of time each day without even realizing it. Think 5 minutes here to check out that Buzzfeed story on Facebook or three minutes here to watch a video of cute kittens on Youtube. By using a Chrome plugin or app such as Rescuetime, it allows you to see exactly how you are spending your time online. In turn, you will be more cognizant of when you do your best work, and when you should take a break.
4. Put time constraints for important tasks just like you would for meetings
Another useful tip – especially if you are a procrastinator at all (I know I admittedly am) – is to set chunks of time on your calendar to focus on key tasks. The key is to block off the time for each important task, the same way that you schedule meetings. You will be less likely to blow it up off since it’s scheduled in your calendar. And, you will probably get more time faster because it’s uninterrupted time.
5. Don’t forget to schedule downtime.
Similarly, once you do complete an important task or two, make sure to allow yourself some downtime. Schedule 20-30 minutes even in your calendar. Then, step away from your computer. Take a walk, read a book, or even better allow yourself to sit and do nothing. This allows you to recharge, and will actually help you come up with new ideas.
6. Manage your energy levels.
This is a technique that allows you to structure your day around the times where you are the most energized and alert. An example is if are the most alert and creative in the afternoon, structure your big strategic tasks, writing and pressing tasks at that time. Then, set up your meetings in the morning when you are less alert as being around people will help keep you focused.
7. Focus your time on the things that matter.
This may seem obvious at surface-level. Like duh, I totally only want to focus on the items that matter the most. However, it’s easy to be led astray and start opening yourself up to being productive for the sake of productivity. You start adding items to your to-do list to check them off, only they are items that really don’t matter in the long run. It’s doing things like obsessing over inbox zero when in reality that matters very little in the long haul.
What are your favorite time-saving tips? Please let us know!
By day, Jessica Malnik is a community manager. By night, she can be found writing on her blog and helping new bloggers grow their communities. Her work has been featured in a variety of online publications, including Convince and Convert, PR Daily, Spin Sucks, SocialFresh, CMXHub and 12Most. Sign up here to download insanely actionable tips for building your blog’s audience.