With the workload increasing, and the world running at a crazy pace, we are all looking for ways to achieve the optimal level of productivity. As the popular Daft Punk song says, “We want to work harder, better, faster and stronger.” But the question is: How?
“It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
– Henry David Thoreau
So what are productivity hacks? These are the shortcuts, strategies or tools of optimization you can use to get more work done within the same time period. As time as that.
When the deadline is hanging over your head, an extra venti latte won’t cut it if you want to finish everything on time. In order to double your output without overworking yourself, you need to identify the times of your day where you’re not utilizing your time in the best way possible.
“Like everyone else who makes the mistake of getting older, I begin each day with coffee and obituaries.”
– Bill Cosby
The point is not to get you more busy — but to follow a proper strategy so that you can make your work feel more inspiring while over delivering to your team.
Here are the 6 best productivity hacks that have worked for some of the most successful entrepreneurs. Give them a try!
1. Begin with the Critical Emails
“There have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live.
Why do you want to live? What's the point? What inspires you?
What do you love about the future?
If the future does not include being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, I find that incredibly depressing.”
— Elon Musk
This is the success mantra of Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Neuralink, all future-focused technology companies. He begins the day early, and addresses all his critical emails. And by the time he’s done, he’s already moved the needle in order to grow his businesses in the first hour of his day.
When you sit down in front of your inbox, you might be tempted to cherry pick the ones which are easy to act on and avoid the ones which contain a problem to solve. But that’s the very thing that sets you back from getting ahead of yourself.
Instead, filter out the emails and messages that are most important, and focus only on them until they’re acted upon. Jump right at the most complicated ones and ignore the easy-peasy notifications.
The order should be this:
- Emails that require action from you related to something that others cannot move ahead with until you respond.
- Emails which are related to an urgent deadline.
- Emails which are related to an important project with an unclear deadline.
- Everything else.
At a less productive time of the day, schedule 15 minutes for yourself to clear your inbox from reports and unsubscribe from newsletters that you never actually read (be honest with yourself).
Our inbox is one of our biggest time-wasters — but following this thought process with help you fix that easily.
2. The “Two-Pizza Rule.”
“Part of company culture is path-dependent – it's the lessons you learn along the way.”
– Jeff Bezos
We have all been in meetings that we walked out of and thought “What was the point of sitting there for an hour?”. While meetings are opportunities for communication and collaboration (at least they should be), there are way too many that end up being a complete waste of time. This is either because they are poorly planned or not executed well.
The more people are involved in a meeting, the more work hours are wasted for the team in total as those hours accumulate. It’s simple math: For every 15 minutes of an unproductive meeting, the total of time lost is three hours if there are 12 people in the room.
Jezz Bezos, the CEO of Amazon came up with an amazing alternative to deal with the wasted of time spent in pointless discussions. He calls it the “two-pizza rule”.
What this means is that he never invites more people for a meeting than those who could finish two pizzas. That’s about six to eight people maximum. Most of the time the rest of the people don’t actually contribute much value to the meeting and it’s sufficient for them to receive an output afterwards. It’s also way easier to reach conclusion if you only include a few people who are directly involved in the issue.
If you have a team, you might want to consider this rule when you book a meeting. And if you’re an employee, you can talk to your manager to review which meetings in your calendar you are actually required for and which ones you’re not. If you can exclude yourself from one weekly meeting, you’ve already earned 4-5 hours of productive time in a month.
3. Keep one day of the week meeting-free
“There's an idealization of being an entrepreneur, but the most important thing is to have a really great idea.”
— Dustin Moskowitz
The rule by which Dustin Moskowitz, the CEO of Asana swears by is letting at least one day of week completely free from meetings. This allows the employees to give in at least one full workday to focus on their projects completely without interruption.
He borrowed the idea from Facebook, and hosts “No-Meeting Wednesdays”, keeping all Wednesdays completely free from calendar events and eliminating the possibility of time wasted on meetings.
4. Ignore your notifications
Notifications on your phone and desktop are constantly seeking your attention and follow you everywhere you go. They demand your attention and soon you’ll find yourself in a loophole where one click leads to another, one article leads to another video, and you’ve just wasted an hour sitting in front of a task doing nothing to move forward with it.
The fact is that none of these notifications actually matter but they seem more important or interesting at the moment and so they eat up your time.
The same goes to news sites. They create an illusion that they keep you well-informed when in reality, 90% of the news are just seeking your attention but don’t affect your life in any way.
If you want to educate yourself about current issues, search for specific terms and be mindful about what you read. Schedule 30 minutes for reading the news and checking your notifications and don’t open them during the day when you’re supposed to focus on work. You’ll be surprised how this one habit alone can bring back hours to your day that you can spend on moving forward in your career or spending time on things that make you feel better.
5. The Right Way To Record Ideas And Tasks
Richard Branson, the business idol uses handwritten task lists for just about everything. He is known for carrying a notebook everywhere he goes to, and prefers handwriting to digital tools when it comes to ideas on the go and things he needs to remember. But it doesn’t mean he manages his projects on paper.
There’s something about the good old paper and pen that lets creativity flow when it comes to sketching a newborn idea or looking for correlations between them. It still works perfectly for capturing your thoughts on the go and freeing up mind space so you don’t need to remember them.
But when these ideas turn into actual plans, projects, and tasks, there are way better tools that help you think clearly and gain clarity about the execution. The biggest mistake people do when it comes to acting on ideas is that they think on only two levels: a project and it’s tasks.
In reality, a single focus can have multiple projects, projects have subprojects, and subprojects have various tasks. Every time you list down a task, ask yourself – can I break this down into even more action steps?
6. Focus on only the best ideas
You'll find boredom where there is the absence of a good idea.
— Earl Nightingale
Steve Jobs is one person who was known for being brutal in his approach to management and leadership, intolerant of bad ideas and demanding of his employees. But this is exactly what got him results too.
His strategy for achieving productivity includes filtering out everything that is not the best and will not generate the best outcome. He used to collect a list of 100 ideas from all his top executives on how Apple could improve for the upcoming year. He crossed out every “dumb” idea and continued until he was left with the list of “top 10”. He then selected only 3 and used it for the company.
This is exactly how you should go about your work too. Do not entertain every idea, aim for the best, and you will get the best.
“The true price of anything you do is the amount of time you exchange for it.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Make the best out of every minute you have. With a little smarter approach to work, you can achieve a lot more in the given time that you have. Let the strategies of these successful people inspire you to bring about a positive change in your life.
It’s time to get things done, be more efficient, and achieve success.