5 Productivity Hacks That Will Transform Your Workflow
People often ask me about my “secret” for staying so productive all the time. The truth is, I’m one of those weirdos who enjoys working. That being said, it still took a lot of trial-and-error to nail down a process that matched my work style and maximized efficiency.
Although this article is about productivity, I will be the first to admit that I spend a lot of time on social media. And since 100% of my Instagram followers responded “yes” to sharing my productivity hacks, here we are.
Let’s dive into my five favorite tactics for getting more done.
1. Categorize your to-do list for the day.
Categorizing my action items has been a game changer for productivity.
This involves characterizing each task by importance level. I prefer using columns in Excel for this process, but feel free to use Word or handwrite.
First, I identify the top-priority items. These are tasks with non-negotiable deadlines. Next, I identify the “medium importance” projects. These are tasks that I aim to finish that particular day, but can be pushed back to the following day if needed.
Finally, I identify the “when there’s time” projects. These are typically “no-brainer” tasks that make an appearance on my list on a weekly basis. They don’t take a huge chunk of time and energy, and remain low on the totem pole in terms of importance.
In terms of my process, I focus on knocking out the top-priority items first. I then address the medium-importance projects once those are complete. During moments of free time such as a 15-minute break in between meetings, I’ll tackle the “when there’s time” projects.
2. Make outlines and messy first drafts.
Instead of feeling pressured to unveil instant perfection, don’t be afraid to get messy. For listicles, jot down your numbered points and outline a few ideas for each section. You don’t even have to include complete thoughts. All that matters is that it makes sense to you, and can serve as an effective starting point.
This saves a ton of time, and you’ll feel far less overwhelmed knowing that you’ve already tackled the hard part.
In fact, I’m currently polishing up this blog post before heading to a birthday brunch in an hour. Since I completed my messy outline last night, I have more time to get ready for a day of debauchery. #ProductivityWins
3. Don’t let unexpected tasks throw you off-course.
This is a strategy that I’ve recognized for a while, but it took some time for me to fully implement. However, it’s a crucial element of your productivity plan.
The next time you receive an email with a random request or “quick favor,” pause and ask yourself two questions.
Is it time-sensitive? It may be a request from a friend who you want to help out, but assess whether it’s worth a distraction from the larger task at hand. If there is no emphasis on a particular timeline, it can wait until your hands aren’t tied.
Is the “deadline” real? The person may be requesting completion by “end of day,” but consider the reasoning behind it. Is this a pressing client deliverable, or is the turnaround time designed to make this person’s life easier? It's okay to offer an explanation around your current commitments, and suggest a reasonable alternative when necessary.
By watching how much attention you’re giving to unplanned tasks and assignments, you’re able to stay laser-focused on your key priorities. Always remember that it’s entirely possible to set boundaries without brushing somebody off.
4. Proactively block time for top tasks throughout the week.
Particularly when working with multiple clients and overlapping deadlines, that “by end of week” target will become consistently difficult to meet.
To cover your bases, designate time throughout the week to fully focus on your high-priority projects.
This can involve blocking off time on your calendar to avoid interruptions, and reserving a conference room to steer clear from distractions.
When you schedule time to devote your energy to each task, you eliminate the last-minute scrambling and subsequent panicking.
Your long list of action items will become less daunting and more manageable.
5. Don’t force it.
Feeling unbearably burnt out and dangerously low on brain power? It’s time to shut down your computer and go home.
So rather than forcing yourself to stay three hours late to finish a project that your boss 100% forgot about, give yourself permission to let go.
Productivity may be about rearranging your priorities, but you should stay firmly at the top of the list.