5 Easy Productivity Hacks to Help You Tackle Your To-Do List
Don’t know where to start? Feel like you’ve hit a wall? Having trouble staying focused?
There are all sorts of reasons why people struggle to be productive. Anxiety, distractions, and poor management all play a huge role in sabotaging professional productivity. These factors all lead to a feeling of disengagement and low self-esteem, which, in turn, can have a huge effect on your work. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 to $550 billion per year in lost productivity.
So what can you do to defeat these productivity killers? Read on for a list of simple tricks that will help make your to-do list more manageable.
1. Eat the Frog
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”-Mark Twain
No, I’m not telling you to incorporate more amphibians into your diet. Rather, the “frog” represents anything unpleasant in your day.
For example, if you’re like most people, you hate making phone calls. Say you have to call your internet service provider about a WiFi issue. Would you rather spend your day dreading the call or get it over with first thing in the morning?
Hopefully you’ll choose the second option. If you do your most dreaded task first, everything else you have to do that day seems easier by comparison. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to concentrate on other tasks more easily without worrying about the “frog” sitting on your plate.
2. Schedule Blackouts
When I say “blackouts,” I’m not referring to Friday nights during your college days. In this case, blackouts are periods of time when you’re “off the grid.” No phone calls, no client meetings, no social media.
Being constantly connected can kill your productivity. Every time you take a second to check your email when you hear the notification ping or pick up the phone for a “quick question,” you break your concentration, and it becomes more difficult to get back to what you were doing.
Set aside time every day to shut your office door, close your email tabs, block out your schedule, and focus entirely on the tasks that require your full attention.
3. Don’t Break the Chain
Jerry Seinfeld swears by this trick and claims that it’s helped him to become a better comedy writer.
Obviously, the only way to improve a skill is through consistent practice. Knowing this, Seinfeld hung a large calendar on the wall and marked each day he spent writing with a big red X. After a few days, he’d have a chain of red Xs across his wall, and it motivated him to keep adding to his streak.
This hack works because it turns productivity into a game. Think of mobile games. In these apps, you’ll often find that you’re rewarded for logging in every day, and it becomes a habit to check in. “Don’t break the chain” works in the same way. Even if you don’t feel like working on your project, you’ll do it simply out of habit and to keep your record going.
4. Use the 2 Pizza Rule
This rule was implemented by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to increase productivity in his work meetings.
Everyone has been in a meeting where you look around and ask yourself, “why did we all have to be here for this?” With too many people on the invite list, these gatherings become unfocused and unorganized, and you’ll end up leaving without accomplishing anything substantial.
To counteract this problem, Bezos never invites more people to a meeting than two pizzas can feed. This usually translates to about 6–8 people (depending on your coworkers’ appetites).
When you’re thinking of trimming your guest list, consider what you would want to accomplish and who needs to be in the room to accomplish it. If you have two big, separate issues to tackle, consider breaking your one meeting into two. Then tailor each meeting’s guest list to its specific goals. That way, each meeting will be focused, and your conversations will be more productive.
5. Follow the 2 Minute Rule
Small tasks add up fast. Little things like shooting off an email to a coworker or reading that report before a meeting often get pushed to the back-burner, but, before you know it, you’ll have a to-do list as long as your arm filled with these little time-suckers.
The two minute rule states that if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, you should tackle it as soon as it comes up. Don’t add it to your to-do list. Just do it now.
If you get an email that requires a simple answer, go ahead; draft it and send it off. If you notice that your desk has gotten disorganized, take a couple minutes to straighten up. The beauty of this productivity hack is that it keeps you from getting overwhelmed in the minutia. Plus, you’ll get a nice boost of confidence from getting things done.
You can also use the two minute rule to tackle larger projects. Say you have to write a blog post, but you don’t know where to start. Set a timer for two minutes and just free-write with any ideas that come to mind. Don’t think too hard about it or worry about the quality, just write.
If, at the end of the two minutes, you’re feeling inspired, keep going. If not, set it aside for a couple hours, and try again later. This takes away some of the pressure of coming up with ideas, and, often, you’ll find yourself unwilling to stop after those first two minutes. After all, an object in motion stays in motion.
Thanks for reading! If you’ve tried any of these productivity hacks, leave a comment, and let me know what you think!