Do you ever look at the clock and think to yourself “Where did the time go?”
Don’t worry: You’re not alone.
We get so busy with all our earthly obligations that it often seems we’ll never catch up with everything we need to get done. When this happens, it can make us feel like hamsters on a treadmill every day of our lives.
We might feel as if keeping busy is the same thing as being productive – but it’s not.
With only so many hours in the day, it’s important that we take control of the time we have to get things done. The best way to do this is to understand exactly how we spend our time. Here are some great productivity hacks you can use today!
Productivity Hacks: Know How You Spend Your Time
Start tracking the time you spend working on tasks, as well as the time you waste in-between – whether by constantly checking your email, scrolling through Twitter, or playing some silly game on your phone. Not only will you get a good idea of how much time you should be spending working on specific projects, but you’ll also most likely be astounded by how much cumulative time you waste throughout any given day.
Productivity Hacks: Do Housekeeping First
As just mentioned, you may be spending too much time engaged in fairly mindless activities such as checking and replying to social media posts, text messages, and emails.
While these things do need to get done, you should never let doing them take you away from the major tasks on your list of errands for the day.
When you get to work in the morning, check your emails, voicemails, and text messages before you get started on anything else. These messages are probably not terribly important, or the person leaving them would have gotten in touch with you some other way immediately. You shouldn’t have to spend too much time checking and replying to them. In fact, make sure you don’t spend more than 5-10 minutes doing so, or you’ll end up wasting even more time.
Taking care of the small stuff first frees your mind of the nagging voice telling you “You still haven’t checked your voicemail!” and allows you to focus on the major projects you have to work on throughout the day.
While we’re on the subject of electronics…
Productivity Hacks: Unplug
The Digital Age has been a great boon for productivity. The ability to communicate with almost anyone in the world with the click of a button saves us countless hours that would otherwise be spent waiting in some way or another.
But, as alluded to before, technology can also be a huge distraction. Since we’re constantly connected to each other, it can be hard to focus on a single task at any given time without being interrupted by a text message or phone call. We’ve become conditioned to instantly reply to incoming messages the minute we receive them – perhaps because we know what it feels like to be on the waiting end of the transaction.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Those pieces of technology we believe to be convenient – our phones, televisions, radios, and Internet-ready devices – can distract us from actually getting any work done. It might not seem like taking 15 seconds to reply to a quick text message can have an effect on your overall productivity. But studies show it can actually take another 25 minutes to regain the level of concentration you had gotten to prior to interrupting flow.
You might argue that you need technology to accomplish certain tasks, so unplugging simply isn’t plausible. While this may be the case, you can certainly get everything you need from the Internet or your email before you start working, then pull the plug and do your work offline.
Humans were able to go thousands of years without electronics. You can make it a couple hours.
Productivity Hacks: Get Healthy
Whether you have trouble getting started in the morning, or you hit the wall around two o’clock, your health may factor into your lack of productivity.
The benefits of a hearty breakfast cannot be overstated. When you’re hungry, your body simply can’t function at its highest capacity. Keeping your body well-nourished with vitamin- and protein-rich foods will keep you going throughout the day, and won’t result in the mid-afternoon crash that results from snacking on sugary treats all morning. You should also stay well-hydrated at all times to keep your body and mind energized and fully-functioning.
Believe it or not, the amount of exercise you get can also influence your daily productivity as well. While the prospect of working out may be daunting, volunteers in various studies consistently report a drastic increase in mood after an exercise session. Of course, if you’re in a good mood when you approach a day’s work, you’ll be much more likely to get things done.
Finally, your productivity is affected by the amount of sleep you get on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, many of us burn the candle at both ends, believing the more time we spend working the more we can get done. But if you’re spending a lot of that time trying to keep your eyes open, you’re definitely not functioning to your highest potential. It’s better to get to sleep an hour earlier and hit the ground running the next morning.
Productivity Hacks: Take Breaks
You might be thinking “How can taking a break from everything I have to do help me get more done?”
As with everything else on this list so far, it all comes down to your ability to focus on the task at hand. Simply put: Humans weren’t meant to work for hours and hours on end. In fact, we’re not even made to work for one hour straight.
Scientists have discovered that we do our best work when we focus for 52-minute spurts, followed by a 17-minute break. Though these lengths of time may seem arbitrary, it’s important to remember our bodies weren’t designed with hours and minutes in mind. That being said, you’d do well to ignore the more conventional “take five” break and listen to what science tells us.
Of course, just because you take a break from your major project for 17 minutes doesn’t mean you can’t get other things done during this time. Use this time wisely: Check the messages you undoubtedly received while you were working, or look up the information you realized you didn’t print out before you unplugged.
While there’s nothing wrong with taking a couple minutes to yourself, it’s best to keep your mind at least somewhat engaged during your break time. That way, when it’s time to get back to work, you don’t need to waste precious minutes getting back into the right frame of mind.