Overworked? Stressed out? Most of the time, being more productive means striking a better work-life balance and knowing how to mitigate the little stressors that eat away at our efficiency and our psyche.
Here are the 11 best productivity hacks you can implement in 2016.
1. Know Thyself
Know exactly when you’re at peak productivity during the day and schedule your most crucial tasks during that time. If you’re a genius between the hours of 10 p.m. and midnight, then by golly, do whatever you have to do to block off that time and get ‘er done.
If you need a little help discovering your peak productivity, check out this app that promises to help you find it.
And if you work from home, here are some special hacks just for you.
2. Skip Facebook
It may be tempting to log in and just *peek* at what your news feed is up to, but that’s a dangerous move when you’re trying to get something done. Before you know it, you’re tangled in a web of cute animal videos and profile stalking, and it’s 30 minutes later before you realize you’ve entered the Facebook time warp.
One study showed 23 percent of workers cited Facebook as the destination to “waste time.”
But what if it’s your job to manage social media profiles for a company? Try staying within scheduling apps like Hootsuite so you’re not tempted to log in — or check out the Facebook at Work product that promises to keep work and personal separate on the network — and limit distractions from screaming goats.
3. Ditch the Smartphone
The average smartphone user checks his or her device 221 times a day. Putting your cell phone out of sight during work hours helps get it off your mind — unless you’re so far gone that you experience phantom cell-phone vibrations. In that case, it’s probably time you start rethinking your relationship with technology.
4. Forget Multitasking and Just Focus
You might think you’re being more productive by sending those emails during a conference call, but think again. Multitasking reduces efficiency and the quality of work (plus, research shows it literally lowers your IQ). So when you have to get something done, just focus on the task at hand for best results.
And keep in mind that studies show the human brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes at a time before it needs a break.
5. Reimagine Your Inbox
Emails build a to-do list that other people create for you. So you need to manage that daily annoyance somehow.
First, organize your inbox like a drawer full of files. Use the features available to you in whatever mail client you’re using to create folders, tags, tabs — whatever will make your inbox more manageable.
Schedule certain times of the day that you check email, and stick with it. You can try tackling email first thing in the morning, after lunch, and at the end of day. And for God’s sake, turn off your email notifications.
If you think this is going to be a problem for your teams or clients, let them know ahead of time how you communicate throughout the day.
6. Change Your Scenery
If you’re feeling a little foggy midafternoon, try looking out the window into nature. No window? No problem — one study found simply looking at a computerized image of nature helped increase focus.
Even better though is to take a short walk outside. Research shows that a 30-minute lunchtime walk can help people cope with stress and boosts enthusiasm for the remainder of the afternoon.
Just 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can lead to more rational business decisions — not to mention better teamwork, being more creative, and a whole slew of health benefits.
Not the yogi type? Try the Headspace app, which has brought meditation to the masses. So go ahead and get your ohm on.
8. Ask for Help and Delegate
There is power in numbers. And frankly, there are things you’re just not good at and probably don’t want to do. When you’re feeling overwhelmed with tasks or underwhelmed by the tedious work on your plate, ask for help.
Guaranteed there is someone out there who can do the tasks you don’t want to 10 times better (try looking in Upwork), so find the person and delegate! That’ll free up your time to focus on what you do best.
9. Create Innovation Time
Google made famous the idea of giving team members a percentage of time to work outside their normal projects and on what they think would most benefit the company.
See, if you’re constantly “doing,” you have no time to innovate. Making the same widget day after day does not allow you to think about what new widgets you might make.
Try setting aside time — be it a percentage of time each day or one full day of the week — to work on something that will move the needle.
10. Be Agile
The agile approach to building products and software and managing projects is finding its way into other areas of business and even into people’s personal lives. A popular method is Scrum (an agile framework), which breaks large tasks into smaller items that are worked on and completed typically within a one-week sprint.
If you’re looking for a whole new way to tackle your to-do list, you might find agile to be a more efficient method.
11. Get Ergonomic
Sitting is the new smoking, don’t you know. And some research suggests that even if you exercise but still sit for long periods of time, your health is at risk. Not to mention aches, pains, and fatigue can be a real productivity killer.
Luckily, there’s been innovation in workstations that offer affordable sit-stand options, chairs that move with you more naturally, desks that recline and even allow you to take a nap. (By the way, napping has also been linked with productivity.)
They say it takes about two months before a new behavior becomes automatic, so if you start using some of these productivity hacks this month, it’ll be second nature by early 2016!
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