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Productivity

20 Important Hacks to Help You Work Efficiently and Smarter

April 1, 2014

Let’s be honest –there are no real hacks that will send your productivity levels sky-rocketing in a blink of an eye. However, these tips might give you just the right lifestyle tweaks that can, in time, bump up your output to input ratio. Here are 20 important hacks that, with consistent practice, will help you to work more efficiently and smarter.

1. Get off social media

Establish a ‘No Twitter/Facebook/Instagram’ zone by switching off mobile phones or working away from your laptop. Whether you are studying for an exam, filling out paperwork or vacuuming the house, you’ll get more done when you are not constantly refreshing your newsfeed.

2. Don’t multitask

This applies not only to social media or networking sites; avoid trying to get too much done at once. You’ll get more done writing each report at a time, instead of three at a time.

3. Take a cold shower

Cold showers might not be the most enjoyable feeling at first, but the cold water can improve blood circulation and breathing. In addition, you’ll feel much fresher after shampooing your hair.

4. Get organised

Have a place for everything, and make sure everything is in its place. A disorganized workspace is full of distractions and a trigger point for stress. Clear out the clutter and you’ll save yourself precious time when you are not constantly looking for things you need.

5. Exercise

Exercise is a great way to break the monotony of daily work. Steal away from the desk for a quick gym session. It will make you feel more energetic and improve your focus, especially since it is believed that an hour of aerobic exercise every day can improve intellectual capacities.

6. Move around when you study

Be it brainstorming for a big article, or a presentation for an important meeting, try to go over notes and material at different places. By forcing your brain to make different associations between the same material and the subtly different background sensations you experience, you’ll improve retention of content for more productive work time.

7. Reward yourself

It’s easier to stay focused on the task at hand if you know there’s a treat waiting at the end of it. Reward yourself at regular intervals with a short walk or a bite of chocolate. After all, Mary Poppins was right when she said, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”.

8. Regular breaks

In addition to rewards, it’s important to step away from the work you are doing at regular intervals. A common strategy is to have ten full minutes away from your task, for every 50 minutes of focused work.

9. Music

Breaking out your earphones may not be a bad thing. Music is believed to greatly improve productivity for repetitive work or unappealing tasks by improving the listener’s mood state. Cleaning out the garage becomes instantly more palatable with some rock and roll. However, for written tasks, music without words is recommended. Lyrics can interfere with the brain’s language functions and reduce your focus on the task.

10. Grape is great

Treat yourself to some red wine. If an alcoholic beverage is not an option, grape juice works just as well. Concord grape juice is believed by James Joseph, chief of the Neurosciences Laboratory of the Human Nutrition Research Centre on Aging to increase production of the neurotransmitter dopamine to improve cognitive function for more efficient work.

11. Set time checkpoints

If you have a tendency to get distracted, set goals to achieve by certain times each day, say every one to two hours. Use a timer or an alarm clock and review your progress in achieving these goals after the stipulated time.

12. Use a reward-penalty system to complement the checkpoints

Here’s an alternative to a system with only rewards. For every time check that you fail to meet your goals, set aside a dollar to be given to charity. For every time check that you do meet your goals, set aside a dollar to buy yourself a treat at the end of the day.

13. Drink plenty of water

Dehydration kills productivity. You will enjoy much more energy and better focus if you drink water throughout the day. Again, if you tend to forget your water breaks, set an alarm.

14. Avoid queues

Avoid peak periods to save precious time that can be spent on more fruitful tasks. Visit the copier once the queue disperses, go for lunch a little earlier to avoid crowds. You’ll have more time to focus on other things that need your attention instead of frittering away time waiting.

15. Get things right the first time

Try to make as few mistakes as possible. Keying in data carefully and double-checking as you go along is much quicker than thumbing through a spread sheet looking for that one mistake you made.

16. Avoid perfectionism

Nonetheless, a balance must be struck. Author and psychologist Art Markman declares that a good project is a completed project. Trying to do things right the first time is great, but expecting a piece of work to be flawless can be unrealistic and leave you paralyzed.

17. Use breaks to handle personal matters

Personal problems and issues can greatly reduce your focus on the task at hand. Take phone calls and arrange family gatherings during lunch, and not before.

18. Be accountable to somebody

Arrange to have a friend check in on your progress every week or so. According to author Laura Vanderkam, it is easier to buckle down to work than to call your friend at the end of the week and explain why you did not.

19. Catch some Z’s

Fatigue is at best a distraction from work, and at worst a real threat to your health. Get enough sleep every night and avoid burning the midnight oil.

20. Remember your motivations

Before starting on a task you don’t feel like doing, list out at least three major plus-points you’ll get from completing it. If you’re cleaning the bathroom, you’ll have a more orderly medicine cabinet and a more hygienic environment. And the mildew on the bathroom tiles will cease to be an eyesore.

Daniel manages content strategy for a number of companies, and is a (sometimes) writer-for-hire. He is madly passionate about entrepreneurship, marketing, and productivity. His byline can be found all over the web, but his home is at danieltay.me

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