9 Productivity Hacks to Make 2016 Your Year to Get Things Done

People get energized and motivated with the new year, because it’s that one time of year when we all get a fresh start! We set goals and resolutions, create to-do lists, try to form new habits, or launch new initiatives. Even if being productive is not a goal or resolution, chances are with all of the items on your list, you’re going to have to be productive to get them all done!

For some inspiration and some practical help, try some of these 9 productivity hacks to make 2016 your year to get things done!

1. The Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Method was invented in the 90s as a method of structuring your work around very focused intervals of time. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato — like the tomato shaped timer you’d normally see in a kitchen. The Pomodoro Method breaks up your work into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. Each interval is 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, you take a 5-minute break and then start over again. After every Pomodoro is finished, you make a notation, and after four Pomodoros, you take a longer break (15–30 minutes) to refresh and recharge your mind.

Before tackling your day, look at each activity and determine how many pomodoros each one will take. Next, set up your day according to your Pomodoro timeframe and then get that timer going. You can use your phone or other device with a timer, download a Pomodoro app, or purchase the Pomodoro timer.

Why it works: It helps you focus your attention in short sprints that help you power through distractions to get more done.

2. Do your least desirable tasks first

If you’ve got a big project that you’ve been dreading, or if there’s that one task every day that seems to suck your time away (because you hate doing it), do it first. You’ll feel more productive having gotten it off your plate (and off your back), and that task will be cleared from your day.

Why it works: Knocking this task off the list first thing will eliminate your desire to procrastinate, thus saving time you would have spent worrying about it and avoiding it.

3. Use technology

Isn’t technology wonderful? To be more productive in 2016, try using some of these great apps and tools.

Evernote — Evernote is a great productivity tool that syncs to any device and allows for a variety of tasks. You can collect research, write, collaborate with team members, and even create presentations from your work.

Pocket — It happens. We come across something interesting on the web that we want to read, but we’re in the middle of doing something. Pocket is a browser extension and mobile app for just that reason. With a click of a button you can save that link for later and even categorize the articles you’ve saved with tags.

Asana — Asana is a project management program that allows you to organize your workflow, assign tasks to others, and track your weekly and daily progress. You can also assign tasks that repeat regularly so you never forget to do a weekly task item.

Slack — Communication is time consuming when it’s done in streams of email chains. Slack makes online communication much more efficient by allowing everyone to communicate on one channel.

4. Find out where your time is going

Viewing how you’ve spent your time on any given day (or even in the span of a week) can be eye opening. How much time did you actually spend checking Facebook? How much time did you spend answering emails versus working on important projects? Rescue Time is a great program that tracks your activity and delivers visually appealing graphs that give you a breakdown of where you spent your time.

Why it works: You may suspect you spend too much time doing certain activities but you never really know until you actually track it. Providing a visual behind how you spend your day makes a huge impact. You don’t have to use Rescue Time. Any time tracker will do.

5. Delegate

There are likely some tasks on your daily or weekly lists that can be delegated to others. Taking things off your plate will allow you to focus on growth, goals, and new initiatives in the new year.

The first place to offload items from your to-do list is within your staff. Is there an employee who excels at something that takes you quite a bit of time to do? Could your managers take on some tasks that they should probably be doing anyway? Empower your employees to make decisions, so you aren’t spending so much time problem solving or putting out fires. Don’t allow anyone to come to you with a problem unless they have a solution to go with it.

There are also things that could be outsourced like accounting or copywriting. Hiring a virtual assistant could also help with scheduling and email correspondence.

Why it works: Delegating frees you up to focus on more important things. The weight of the world does not have to be on your shoulders.

6. Disconnect

If you have something to get done, remove all distractions so you can focus on the task at hand. Turn off your phone, turn off your email, close ALL your browsers, and get your work done.

Why it works: There’s no such thing as multitasking. When you allow your attention to become divided between getting tasks done, paying attention to emails, and answering the phone, you end up getting nothing done, because you’re not fully focused on one task.

7. Map out your week on Sunday night

Get your week started off on the right foot by spending 30 minutes to an hour planning out the week ahead. This way, Monday morning isn’t wasted easing into the week; you already know what needs to be done and what meetings are on your calendar.

Why it works: You’re mentally set for your week on Monday rather than struggling to figure out what the week holds for you on Monday morning. It’s all about being in the right mindset.

8. Manage meetings better

Meetings can be the death of your productivity. While some meetings are necessary, most are not. In fact, most meetings can be turned into a 15-minute phone conversation, saving you all kinds of time. When you get a request for a meeting, first ask what the purpose of the meeting is. From there, you can determine if maybe it would be better as a phone call. If you do need to have a meeting, ask how long the meeting will be and then cut that time. You should also never accept a meeting without a clear agenda. Finally, make sure you stop and start your meetings on time. Every time.

Why it works: Without a clear timeframe or agenda, it’s easy to get off topic and spend more time than necessary. Often, you’ll find you didn’t even need to meet — but by then it’s too late. Your time is already gone.

9. Work when no one is around

Want to work with zero distractions? Work when no one else is working. Early in the morning or late at night when there are no emails coming through and everything is quiet can be the most productive time you have.

With your list of goals, new initiatives, and resolutions in hand, take these productivity tips and get more done in 2016!

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