You’ve been there before. You start the day with the best intentions. The coffee is brewing, you’ve written your to-do list and you’re ready to rock the day. But before you know it, it’s 7 p.m. and you’ve barely crossed anything off that list. And instead of heading home at a reasonable hour, you’re stuck at the office late playing catch up. Again.
I want to let you in on a little secret: It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s possible to get everything done and still find extra time in the day to relax, recharge and get ready to take on tomorrow like the productivity pro that you are. Here are 6 productivity hacks to help you get things done and find those precious extra hours in your day:
1. Download a time tracking app
Understanding where your time goes is the first step to taking it back for yourself. Take advantage of one of the many time tracking apps on the market. They track your time and send you detailed daily or weekly reports.
You can analyze the data to figure out where you’re spending your time and determine what time wasters you can eliminate. Once you’ve figured it out, you can take back the time to spend on the things you feel are important to you.
Toggl is a simple but effective option. It’s free, has an easy-to-understand interface and will provide you with a basic weekly report. You can unlock more options with a paid account, but the free app provides the basics you need to get started with time tracking. It also comes with a desktop application for those of you who don’t want to keep logging on to a website for your time tracking needs!
If you’re looking for something more detailed, RescueTime or Time Doctor are great options.
RescueTime has an entire productivity dashboard to help you better analyze and maximize your time. You also have the ability to set alerts to let you know when you’ve been working on something for too long.
Time Doctor is great if you’re working with a team. It allows you to connect the app with your project management system, like Asana or Basecamp.
2. Use website blockers
If you find you’re spending too much time checking your Twitter Feed or reading the latest stats for your Fantasy team on ESPN, a website blocking software will be a game changer.
SelfControl is a free app that lets you block distracting sites, like Facebook or Gmail. And don’t worry, you don’t have to give up watching cat videos on YouTube forever! Your sites are only blocked during the times you choose.
SelfControl is only available for Macs. But PC users, don’t fret! Freedom is a comparable option that has similar features and functionality.
3. Take frequent breaks
It sounds counterproductive, but breaks are good for productivity. Studies show that taking short breaks increases concentration and performance. One of the best methods to manage your work/break flow is the Pomodoro Method.
Here’s how it works:
- Pick a task you want to focus on
- Set your alarm for 25 minutes
- Work on that task exclusively and without distractions for 25 minutes
- When your alarm goes off, take a 5 minute break and do something relaxing and non-work related
- Every 4 cycles, take a longer break of 20-30 minutes
The Pomodoro Method (and taking breaks in general) is so effective because it gives you the opportunity to mentally recharge, refocus and recommit to the work you’re doing. Essentially, taking breaks helps you get more done in less time.
4) Get out of that chair
Experts around the globe agree: as far as health goes, sitting is the new smoking. The effects of prolonged sitting on your health are disastrous. Research has linked sitting with numerous health concerns, including:
- Metabolic syndrome
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- High cholesterol
- Decreased energy
- Decreased concentration and focus
One study even showed that sitting for just 2 hours a day increased your risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease (like heart attack) by 125%. It also increased your risk of death by any cause by 50%.
And that’s in just 2 hours a day. Most of us spend the majority of our day sitting. So, if you want to be more productive (and protect your long term health), get out of that chair! A study covered by Business Insider showed that standing led to up to 10% more productivity.
Imagine what you could get done if you were 10% more productive every day. You would get through your projects faster, get out of the office sooner and take back your time to do the things you love. A standing desk is a great way to incorporate consistent standing into your work day. Find which model is right for you.
5. Implement the 5-minute rule
Even the smallest tasks can take major time out of your day. Especially if you keep putting them off. Let’s look at an example. Say you have a 5-minute task that you don’t want to do. So you push it off until the end of the day.
As the day progresses, you do the same thing with a few other tasks. Those tasks add up quickly and add time to the end of your day. To avoid getting stuck with extra work, implement the 5-minute rule. If you have a task that can be finished in 5 minutes or less, do it immediately.
You’ll save yourself a ton of time by getting things out of the way as they come up instead of pushing them off until later.
6. Find your sweet spot
Everyone has a time during the day when they’re at their highest level of functioning. I call it “the sweet spot.” While some behavioral scientists say people are most productive during the 2 hours after they are fully awake, it’s different for everyone. Some people are the most productive right before bed. Others hit their stride after lunch.
Figure out your sweet spot: the time of day you are most mentally alert, creative and effective. Schedule your largest and most challenging projects during those hours. You’ll get things done faster and better when you work on them at your best.
These 6 productivity hacks will help you understand where your time is going, manage your time more efficiently and take back extra time to get away from work and enjoy your life.
If you have any additional productivity hacks that have changed the way you work, we’d love to hear them! Share them on our Facebook page or leave them in the comments below.