7 Productivity Tips to Help You Get More Things Done Like a Boss
BY STEPHANIE LEE
As a fellow human who lives in this glorious time of Netflix, 3D printed pizzas, and “you can be anything if you put your mind to it!” happy-go-lucky mantras, I share in the struggles of staying productive and generally balancing fitness, life, productivity, and my constant and very real fear of missing out. And like you, I do my best to squash a real pest called Procrastination.
But procrastination is a worthy villain. When I’ve got articles (like this one) to write, I’d strangely rummage through my fridge to find a snack to nosh on for a couple minutes. And when that’s done, I’d alphabetize my grocery list before even opening up a fresh Word document.
In order to actually get sh*t done, I had to come up with a system of habits, mind tricks, and general life hacks. Whether you’ve got a big presentation or need to get started on your dream project, these tips will help you get more things done, freeing up more time for you to melt into your couch and binge on Netflix (hey, no judgment here).
Tackle one task at a time for actual efficiency.
1. YOU’RE NOT A GOOD MULTITASKER, SO STOP IT.
The brain just can’t handle multitasking, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Researchers from Stanford University found that people who try to multitask are distracted by everything, especially when switching between tasks, and just do generally half-assed work in everything. Distractions make you lose focus, and more importantly, time. So one thing that could’ve taken you 15 minutes to finish could end up costing you an additional 30 minutes. The message here? Do less, and you’ll actually accomplish more.
2. EVERNOTE IS YOUR FRIEND.
Rather than just try to remember every little thing and overload your brain with tiny nonsensical details, write them all down in Evernote. I use the program to organize my thoughts, notes, and to-do’s. This way I clear out my head to focus on things that actually require a lot more mental horsepower.
And it doesn’t just work with text. You can use Evernote for images, attachments, and other forms of media, too. The best part is that you can easily sync Evernote across all of your devices. The basic version is free, though if you want the extra bells and whistles, you’ll have to pony up a bit of cash.
3. ANYONE COULD GET 25 MINUTES OF WORK DONE WITH THE TOMATO TIMER.
As delicious as it sounds, the Tomato Timer has nothing to do with pasta or pizza, unfortunately. It’s an easy-to-use timer that’s based on the Pomodoro technique, which promotes the idea of dedicating your full attention to a given task for 25 minutes. Just 25 minutes and then you can take a small break to check email, like an Instagram photo, read a Ziptopia article, or what have you.
Does 25 minutes not sound like a ton of time for, say, a sidelined labor of love? Even if you can only work on a personal project a little bit every now and then, that’s better than putting it off forever. So be forgiving to yourself when you just can’t devote a huge chunk of time to any one thing. You may end up surprised at how much it progresses, albeit more slowly than you may like.
Track your online usage, so you don’t fall victim to “just one more post to check out…” syndrome.
4. FIND OUT WHERE YOU’RE WASTING THE MOST TIME.
Even the best productivity tips in the world can’t help if you can’t catch yourself whiling away your time. A time tracking tool called RescueTime gives you a ton of insight into your productivity (or lack thereof). Once you’ve set it up, it’ll run in the background of your computer while you go about your day normally. If you’re spending a bunch of time on Facebook, RescueTime will track that. If you’re watching videos of tiny hamsters eating tiny food while trying to work on a report, RescueTime will break down time spent on each.
This visual map of your productivity can help you figure out what needs to be done to maximize your time spent on a task. For example, if you’re spending too much time on Facebook between the hours of 10 AM and noon when you need to be working on a project, you can use either the paid feature of RescueTime or another tool like StayFocused to literally block your access. Out of sight, out of mind—but not out of time.
5. DO IMPORTANT WORK FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.
Certain tasks like writing and big decisions in general demand a lot of mental energy. I find myself sharpest in the mornings, and so I’ve made it a rule to do some of my most important tasks in the AM. That means not wasting away your precious brain power for answering emails or checking Facebook. Do something that really matters to you and usually gets away from you during the day when things get more hectic. For me, that’s writing for myself.
For many people, morning times are also when they can get uninterrupted work done. So, if you live with people, you can get up before they do. If you’re a night owl, you can flip the idea on this head and dedicate your most productive work to a certain time at night.
Work/life balance should actually be, well, a balance. Keep yourself even-keeled by setting clear lines for your different worlds.
6. SET BOUNDARIES FOR YOURSELF.
When I started flying solo, I had this idea that since I’d “finished” my day’s work I could just start on something else to “get ahead.” I’d assumed that if I did this I would free up more time down the road. I thought my logic was foolproof and that I was so darn smart for thinking that.
Except I wasn’t. This idea is a trap that swoops you up in this merry-go-round of “just one more” hell, and it never stops. It wasn’t until I set very hard stop times and boundaries for myself, as well as being okay with letting go of my death-grip on things, that I started taking back control of my day and time. Boundaries and knowing when to walk away are just as important as getting into a task or project in the first place.
7. OUTSOURCE YOUR TASKS WHEN NEEDED.
Getting all your to-do’s done yourself is an admirable goal, but there’s no shame in leaning on someone else for help.
Whether it’s asking a friend, family member, colleague, or significant other to pitch in (we know, you’re good to make it up to them later), or taking advantage of convenient services like TaskRabbit, Framebridge (hey, your walls aren’t gonna art up themselves), Washio (if it’s in your city), or Amazon’s Subscribe and Save, you can save valuable time by offloading (and in some cases, automating) certain chores for another person or company that has the bandwidth or resources to take ‘em on instead. Look at you, delegating like a boss.
Stephanie Lee is a nomadic writer and types to you from anywhere in the world. She writes for Lifehacker.com and her site FY!S. Her motto is “Take life by the balls, but have a ball.” Learn more by visiting www.thefyslife.com to read her lighter takes on travel, life,and shenanigans. You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook.