The 20 Best Productivity Hacks, According To Experts
When it comes to productivity, it’s often easy to get distracted — your phone may beep endlessly with notifications or you may have a coworker who constantly stops by your desk. You may implement various tactics to get things done, from disabling your WiFi to taking a five-minute break every hour, but you still feel you’re not as productive as possible. However, there are some productivity hacks to try if you want to maximize your workflow without getting distracted 101 times along the way.
Natalie Wise, self-discipline expert and author of The Self-Discipline Handbook: Simple Ways to Cultivate Self-Discipline, Build Confidence, and Obtain Your Goals, agrees. “Managing your to-do list can sometimes feel unmanageable,” she tells Bustle. “But, it is an essential skill for accomplishing your goals, and one that can be learned, and learned quickly, with the help of productivity hacks.” She says that by adding a few extra tools and techniques, you can hone your workflow and learn to master your time. “Then, you’re well on your way to peak goal-achieving efficiency,” Wise says.
Below, experts weigh in on the best productivity hacks to help you get more done than you probably thought possible. And, like Wise says, the more you can master these techniques, the more productive you’ll become.
1Focus On Single-Tasking Versus Multi-Tasking
While you may be great at multi-tasking, you might want to try single-tasking instead. “To enhance your productivity and revolutionize your life, do one thing at one time,” Shefali Raina, a New York City-based High Performance Coach, tells Bustle. “Single-tasking means completely focusing on one complex thing at a time — for example, be fully present in your conversations and meetings and stop checking new incoming email while drafting another email.”
Research shows that your brain can only handle one complex task at a time. “If we force our brains to multi-task, we force it to switch rapidly between the two tasks, leaving us mentally exhausted and depleting our attention and productivity,” Raina says.
2Turn Off Push Notifications
Perhaps you like getting push notifications on your phone or computer so you can keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the world through pop-ups, such as news alerts. However, they can negatively affect your productivity.
“Turning off push notifications, especially on all social media apps, is essential to being productive,” Nicole Durosko, a broker at Warburg Realty, tells Bustle. “This will minimize your distractions while checking your emails or getting done with those cold calls you’ve been putting on the back burner.”
3Put Your Phone Out Of Sight
Even if you have disabled push notifications, your phone can still cause you to be unproductive. “Get your phone out of sight,” Jeremy Redleaf, co-founder of Caveday, a company that helps people shut out distractions, tells Bustle. “A study published by the University of Chicago found that having your phone in sight — even when turned off — can temporarily impact your cognitive abilities.”
4Take Advantage Of The Alarm Feature On Your Phone
If you do have enough discipline to keep your phone nearby while you work, you may want to utilize its alarm function. “Let’s say there are multiple things you need to get done yesterday — set an alarm for each,” Daniella Flores, creator and author of iliketodabble.com, a blog about creative money tips and side hustles, tells Bustle. “Guesstimate how long each task might take you, so if it is a 30-minute task, set an alarm for each task 30 minutes apart from each other.” She says that, this way, you can work on each task — one at a time — without self-sabotaging by multitasking.
5Be Intentional With Your Time
Even if your to-do list has dozens of items on it, it’s all about being intentional with your time, Lauren Berger, author of Get It Together: Ditch the Chaos, Do the Work, and Design your Success and founder of CareerQueen.com, tells Bustle. “For instance, don’t just sit and answer emails — have an action plan such as, ‘I’m going to spend 30 minutes answering emails and then I’m going to switch tasks.’”
Berger also suggests creating a map or plan before you start working. “We all know that you can put 100 things on your to-do list, but have a clear list of five deliverables you need to accomplish by the end of the day,” she says. “You have to start somewhere.”
6Move — Don’t Sit All Day
Yes, you may need to sit at your desk all day during work, but Payal Kadakia, founder of ClassPass, tells Bustle to switch things up by taking time to move, too. “I like to be present all day long, and movement helps me to hone my focus so I can be at my best when it counts,” she says. “Even in the workplace, shake up your productivity routine by taking a call during a stroll around the block or hold a walk-and-talk meeting around the office.”
7Use A Productivity Extension To Help You Stay Focused
If you find yourself browsing websites too much when you should be working, a productivity extension may help, such as Freedom. “I use a Chrome Extension called StayFocusd,” Todd Weitzman, founder of MoneyHax.com, tells Bustle. “You can select certain websites that distract you and it will block you from using that website until you remove it.” He says it’s a simple service, but effective. “You’d be surprised how automatic your browsing habits are,” he says.
8Eliminate Unnecessary Things From Your Life, Like Extraneous Emails
You probably have certain things that slow down your productivity, such as reading unnecessary emails. Jacqueline Gilchrist, creator of Mom Money Map, tells Bustle to eliminate them. “Unsubscribe from emails that don’t add value to your long-term goals,” she says. “You’ll get all the future time you’ll spend deleting these emails (or reading them) back!”
She says the same is true of watching TV, especially if you work from home. “Limit TV watching,” she says. “I love watching TV, but when I think back, I don’t remember most of the movies or shows I watched; most importantly, they didn’t add any value to my life!”
9Regularly Reflect On Your Progress
Although you may be checking several things off your to-do list, do you regularly reflect on your accomplishments? If not, you should, Spencer Gerrol, neuroscience expert and CEO of the neuroanalytics startup, SPARK Neuro, tells Bustle. “Checking things off a list can feel great, but there is another way to feel a sense of success: Reflect on your progress by looking at and seeing how far you’ve come,” he says. “This will inspire you to continue being productive in the future.” He says he set up his task management view so that he can see his historical accomplishments, which provide another boost.
10Take Minute-Long Breaks
You may be working on a project for your boss without stopping, but breaks, even short ones, can help you be more productive. “If you feel tired, take a short break — this is much more effective than overcoming your fatigue,” Marina Shumaieva, CTO and co-founder at CruiseBe, tells Bustle. “If you are tired, you work slowly, make more mistakes, and get distracted more often.” She says you can try taking one-minute breaks, whether that means standing up, walking around the room, swinging your arms or legs, or inhaling deeply and exhaling.
11Break Down Large Tasks Into Smaller Ones
When you get a big project to do, it may feel overwhelming — but to make the most of your productivity, it’s best to break it into more doable pieces. “Jot down all the tasks you need to accomplish for the week,” Jonas Sickler, marketing director at ReputationManagement.com, tells Bustle. “Don’t list major projects that will take a month to complete; instead, break larger jobs down into manageable parcels that you can complete in less than one day.” He says to then prioritize your week’s list by importance or job size and to limit phone and computer notifications to once per hour, max. “Don’t stop working to address minor concerns: Micro-interruptions happen about four times per hour, and it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on track after you’ve been sidetracked,” he says.
12Respond To Emails When People Are Not Online
Chances are, emails are a big distraction in your work day, even if they’re relevant to the work you’re doing. But Elizabeth Douglas, CEO of wikiHow, has a solution. “Spend some time working when no one else is online,” she tells Bustle. “Whether it’s early in the morning or later in the evening, this allows you to spend a few uninterrupted hours sending replies to teammates without getting distracted by instant back-and-forth conversations.”
13At The End Of The Day, Make A Mental Note Of What You Need To Do Tomorrow
One way to prepare for the work day ahead is to make a mental note of what you want to complete tomorrow, Rob Powell, CEO and founder of the Rob Powell Biz Blog, tells Bustle. “This allows you to tap into the vast powers of the subconscious,” he says. “While you sleep, your subconscious will go to work on the next step in your project and, in the morning, you’ll have insights and ideas that you never would have had otherwise.”
14Take Self-Care Breaks During The Day
“Like physical energy, mental energy waxes and wanes during the day,” he tells Bustle. “Taking short non-work respites — a short walk, conversing with a coworker, or a meditation or mindfulness exercise — are critical for replenishing mental energy.” He says this enables employees to be more engaged and innovative in their work.
15Organize And Score Your Tasks Based On Your Goals
You may know that completing your tasks is all about prioritizing them, but you can also go a few steps further. “First, decide what tasks are essential to accomplish your overall goals for the day/week/month,” Lisa Fox, a business productivity expert for Lead Gen Hype, tells Bustle. “Then, organize and score these tasks by prioritizing them based on urgency, their importance, and the amount of time needed to complete them.” She says that if a task does not contribute to your goals, put that in the lowest priority, even if it seems urgent or takes little time to do. “To organize your tasks, you could also create a visual system of listing them and color coordinating your calendar,” Fox says.
16Schedule Distraction Time
If you limit your distraction time — Facebook or Instagram, anyone? — you can greatly improve your work performance. Jordan Wan, founder and CEO of CloserIQ, a recruitment firm that helps companies build high-performing sales organizations, agrees.
“Long days at the office can be tough, and if you don’t give yourself time to relax or unwind, you can burn out, so try adding ‘distraction time’ to your schedule,” he tells Bustle. “This can be anything from checking your phone, social media, or going for a walk.” He suggests doing this every few hours. “By scheduling these ‘distractions,’ it helps keep them out of your work time,” he says.
Wan says the same goes for checking emails. “An easy fix is to manage your email in chunks,” he says. “Block off some time every few hours to go through and respond to emails versus constantly checking them while you’re in the middle of other tasks.” He says that, this way, you’ll be able to move on to your other responsibilities, knowing your inbox is taken care of until the next block.
17Prep The Night Before
At the end of a hectic work day, people have different ways to prepare for the next day. “As a practicing nurse, my days are often extremely busy and long,” Jocelyn Nadua, care coordinator at C-Care Health Services, tells Bustle. “One productivity hack that I have found to be useful is making sure I’ve done anything I can the night before to make the following day smoother: I will prepare any meals, lay out my clothes/scrubs, and make my to-do list for the next day.”
18Take A Quick Nap
While you may think you don’t have time for an afternoon nap, you probably do, whether it’s in a private break room or even your car. “A quick midday nap boosts your mood and increases energy levels by 30 percent,” Christopher Lindholst, nap expert and CEO of MetroNaps, tells Bustle. “In fact, a 15-20 minute nap could really help you wow your boss because you’ll have better memory, be less distracted and burned out, and, in turn, make better decisions.”
19Don’t Look At Work-Related Computers Or Phones After Work
You cannot truly leave the office if you are still connected to your work emails and phone 24/7. “Put work-related computers and smartphones away at the end of the day,” Dr. Johnson says. “The practice of psychologically disengaging from work when outside the office is related to higher engagement and performance the following work day.”
20Don’t Put Off Tasks You Can Do Today
Of course, you need to prioritize your work tasks accordingly, but that sometimes may cause you to put off too many other tasks. “Don’t wait until tomorrow for what you can do today,” Leslie H. Tayne, Esq., and founder of Tayne Law Group, P.C., tells Bustle. “When it comes to meeting deadlines or finishing projects, the first step to avoid procrastination is to address any tasks that come your way as soon as they are met.” She says waiting can put unnecessary stress and pressure on yourself — and also hinder your ability to accomplish other tasks that may be pending.
As you can see, there are many productivity hacks to help you accomplish your job tasks with more ease and efficiently. Now, the key is trying them out and implementing them into your life.