When you have a lot going on, staying productive can be a real challenge. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, burnt out, or like you want to just give up.
I definitely have this happen. There are days when I feel like there are 1000+things on my to-do list and all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a cup of tea.
On days when I’m feeling unmotivated – or even just as a general practice – having some “productivity hacks” on hand is VERY helpful. It helps get more things done in less time and creates more time for the things that bring you non-work happiness.
Because of that, I thought I’d share 20 things that you can do as well to improve your productivity, focus, and momentum towards your goals. As always, I’ve included practical tools and resources wherever possible.
If you start doing even a handful of things from the list below, you should be able to see a near-immediate improvement in what you can accomplish every day.
Let’s dive in…
How to be productive each and every (work)day, in no particular order:
Break up bigger projects into mini-tasks
If you’re faced with a big and challenging project, you can start to feel overwhelmed and avoid making progress as a result.
To help with this, it makes sense to break your big tasks into smaller bite-sized pieces and then proceed to tackle one small piece at a time.
For example, if you know you want to make a new blog post, you might actually have 4 action steps that you do either in one day or throughout a couple days. You could include “outline the post’s main points”, “come up with a title”, “write a rough draft”, and “proofread”.
None of those individual items are overwhelming and they end up taking you to exactly where you want to go.
I talk about breaking down goals in a lot more depth in my book Take Control of Your Life so check it out if you’re interested. It’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited.
Batch your work
By “batching”, I mean, work on similar tasks all at once.
For example, if you have a couple things you need to take care of on Facebook, such as responding to messages and posting a few promotions, then try to pair those tasks together and do them one right after another.
If you have a few tasks that involve writing, do them back-to-back since they use a similar skill set.
This will help you stay in a flow state versus jumping from unrelated task to unrelated task which takes up a lot more mental bandwidth.
Set a schedule for your tasks
It’s amazing how much more productive you can be when there’s a schedule or a deadline (even if it’s self-imposed) that you have to meet. This is especially true of the more time-consuming tasks or those involving multiple parts and steps.
For the blog post example again, another way you might schedule that could be as follows:
9:00am – 9:45am – Research and take notes.
9:45am – 11:00am – Write first draft.
11:00am – 11:20am – Take a break.
11:20am – 11:45am – Proofread and edit.
11:45am – 12:00pm – Read through once more and publish.
I’ve found it VERY helpful to use a simple kitchen timer when working. It feels like I’m racing against the clock to get things done according to my timelines and makes it far less likely for me to get distracted.
Look for shortcuts
There are often ways that you can shortcut your work to make things more efficient.
For example, if you’re emailed the same customer service questions over and over, create a document with scripts that you can copy and paste so you reduce the amount of time you have to spend answering emails. Here’s a link to a blog post I made last year with a series of customer service templates and Etsy snippets.
As another example, there are many shortcuts you can use for Google research. Here’s a post I’d made about Google search operators.
There are other things you can do with automation (blog post coming up on that soon!), with outsourcing, templates, or so on.
If there’s anything you’d like me to blog about around shortcuts, leave a comment and let me know. I’d love your thoughts.
Find an accountability partner
Having a good partner can be VERY helpful.
I actually used to run an accountability program in which my assistant and I would communicate with participants about what their goals were and then we could check in with them every day to make sure they were moving forward and staying on task. I’d since closed the program but one of the participants, 5 or so years later, still emails my assistant every day because she finds it so helpful.
When you have someone holding you accountable for your work, slacking off feels a lot more uncomfortable because you don’t want to let that person down.
A friend and I do this thing called “Power Hours” (not to be confused with this, although that works, ha!). We’ll tell each other what we plan to accomplish in the next hour and then check in at the end to see what we did.
We also have something where we’ll tell each other our big 3 goals for each day. If we don’t reach those goals, we have to pay the other person $10. We both trash talk each other a lot which is very helpful, haha, because it makes us not want to pay the other person.
To find an accountability partner, you can join relevant Facebook groups and try to form connections with other group members. You can also try joining a group on MeetUp.com if you’re looking for something more face-to-face.
Erase items from your to-do list
Look at each item on your to-do list and think, “Do I REALLY need to do this? Is it driving me closer to my main goal?”
Of course there are some items you will need to do. You’ll likely also find a bunch of busy-work that is nonessential. Maybe it got there because it was a quick win of crossing something off your list, or maybe it’s something you thought would be cool to try. Remember your end goals though, and stick to the tasks that make the most sense for your overall goals.
Remove your phone from your workspace
Most people check their phones a lot throughout the day. And when you keep yours within arm’s reach, the temptation to pick it up is typically too great – especially if you hear a message come in.
Even if you only check your phone and respond to texts and calls once in a while, it can still hinder your productivity. The conversations you have don’t immediately leave your brain once you put your phone down. The content of those interactions can stay with you throughout the day and impact your progress.
To help with this, it’s best to keep your devices out of sight and mind until you have a scheduled break-time.
Do a 5-10 minute workout before starting your workday
Exercise gets your blood flowing and has been proven to increase productivity and make you feel better thanks to endorphins that get released. If you search online, there are tons of quick exercise videos you can follow along to from the comfort of your home.
Even if you just have a few minutes to spare, five minutes of exercise is still worthwhile. My trainer tells me that 5 minutes is pretty much the time equivalent of a Facebook news feed scroll. So skip that and and opt to get your blood flowing instead – it’s a much better use of your time. :)
Disable messages from your computer
Some people have it so that whenever they get a message on their phones they get an alert on their computers too. If you have this feature enabled, turn it off. The messages only distract you.
Focus on your “Big 3” tasks
Being productive isn’t only about getting a lot of things done. It’s about getting the most important things done.
While you may have a ton of things to accomplish, have 1-3 things listed out each day that, if finished by the end of the day, you’ll know you can go to bed feeling proud and productive.
Not only does this keep you focused on what will take you closest to your goals, but completing the items also gives you a way to “win” each day.
Take multiple small breaks instead of one big break
While you might think working multiple hours straight would yield higher productivity rates than taking a 10-minute break every hour, the opposite is actually true.
Studies show that more frequent breaks actually increase productivity and helps you avoid the super-burn-out feeling you can get after spending too much time focusing on something intense.
Change your location
Routines can be helpful, but if you never change your patterns, you can start to feel stuck.
If you work from a home office for example, maybe move to the kitchen or go to a local coffee shop in the afternoons.
Personally, I usually spend 90 minutes on my treadmill desk, then another 90 downstairs to the kitchen table. I have both places pre-stocked with a huge jug of water. It helps keep me motivated.
If you have a traditional job and are able to switch locations, take advantage of that.
Schedule an end to your day – and stick to it
Set a time for when you’re going to stop working and be truly done for the day. You need downtime so you can unwind and feel good about what you’ve accomplished.
Once you trust your “stop” time, you’ll be more productive because you’ll have that deadline to work against.
And by giving yourself times to NOT work, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and have less of the hamster-wheel-of-work-work-work feeling that’s so easy to acquire.
Get comfortable saying no
Things come up – extra projects at work, friends who want to get together, little favors that people may ask of you, etc…
But you can’t say yes to everything.
Obviously you need to balance and not say no ALL the time, but if you’re like most people, you could stand to say no more often.
Learn how to set boundaries and don’t be shy about saying no to non-urgent activities. You can kindly explain to people that your goals are important to you and you need to spend time working on them.
Discover your “peak performance” hours
Not everyone works best during the hours between 9 and 5. Some people work better super early in the morning, while other people are night owls and experience heightened levels of creativity and productivity bursts late at night.
Peak performance hours vary from person to person, so figure out when you work best and then structure your work day around those times.
And if you’d like to try to become a morning person, you might like this Huffington Post article I wrote back in 2015 – How to become a morning person.
Use site blockers
If you’re like most people, you spend too much time scrolling social media or watching YouTube videos than you should during the workday. It can be very hard not to just pop over to Instagram to see what your friends have been posting, but then POOF — somehow a whole hour goes by.
Using site blockers can help a lot with this problem. These will let you “block” sites from yourself so you can focus your time on being productive.
Here are a few that you can try:
Hide your email inbox
Checking your inbox and responding to non-urgent emails is one of the biggest time-sucks and can seriously take a toll on your productivity.
There’s a Chrome extension that can help with this. It’s called Inbox When Ready. The way it works is it hides your inbox along with your unread emails, but you can still search, write, and send emails if you want. This way, you stay more focused and don’t feel as compelled to check or respond to every single unread email right away.
Save menial work for the end of the day
Sometimes we have repetitive yet essential tasks that need to get done, like filling out a spreadsheet or uploading items to UseGearBubble.
Save those types of items for the end of the day.
The beginning of your workday is when you have the most brainpower to get things done. Use that time to do your creative or big-thinking tasks.
As your creativity and discipline wane, then do the menial tasks that you don’t need much intelligence for.
Prep ahead by writing out your top 3 goals for the next day
At the end of each workday spend 10-15 minutes jotting down a list of the 2-3 most important things you need/want to do the following day.
This helps your subconscious can start “working” on those items while you sleep, plus it helps you hit the ground running the next day.
Give yourself a “score” at the end of each day
At the end of each day, think about how your day went. Ask yourself what 1-3 things could have made your day better.
You may even want to give yourself a “score” for the day.
Having this as a routine will help you identify the ways you can flow more consistently and have more efficient days. And since the answers will be custom tailored to you personally, they’ll be very practical and easier to implement.
I hope you find this list of productivity hacks useful! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!