24 Ways to Increase Productivity for Busy Professionals
Wouldn’t we all like more hours in a day?
Well, it’s possible. It simply involves spending less time wasting your time.
Easier said than done, right? That’s why we’ve compiled the best ways to increase productivity by streamlining your daily time sucks.
Learn how to eliminate distraction, sleep better, and focus more intently with these brilliant hacks and tricks.
1. Make your notes Google-able
Your meeting notes are filed….somewhere. If you’re not using Evernote, your note-taking game is suffering. Never misplace a note, to-do list, or bar-napkin brainstorm again. It allows you to take notes that are taggable, searchable, and infinitely organized, and it syncs across every device.
2. Cut all meetings by 5 minutes
Say it nicely, but firmly: “Wrap it up, folks.” Cut meetings down by 5 minutes by asking everyone to bring organized talking points and a 30-second recap of action items. We love this quote from Entrepreneur’s David Lavenda: “If you cut one five-person meeting per day from one hour down to 45 minutes, you will gain back 25 hours a month of work time. That’s roughly 300 hours a year – almost two months of work.” Boom!
3. Work in 10-minute bursts
Use this formula from author Merlin Mann: (10+2) X 5. That’s 10 minutes work, plus a 2-minute break, multiplied by 5, making up 1 hour. With every 10-minute sprint, you should focus on a new task. You do not need to finish it, you just need to move it forward.
You’ll blaze through an hour’s worth of work/not work and will find yourself looking forward to both the breaking and working parts of the cycle. How’s that for a change?
4. Use short-term experts
Talent outsourcing sites like Fiverr and Growth Geeks allow you to hire experts for short-term projects. Save the time and money it would take to hire a new team member and get to work immediately. For example, if you’re building out your marketing strategy, you could buy two Growth Geek gigs: one to get traffic and another to get conversions. And Fiverr’s talent pool features everything from landing page designers to this epic voiceover artist – for $5!
5. Hire a personal secretary
So you’re not Don Draper, and Peggy isn’t just a dial tone away. However, virtual assistant services are reliable, efficient, and surprisingly cheap. Hire a VA for a few hours a week and outsource time-sapping tasks like Internet research, database entry, travel bookings, or appointment scheduling. Try eaHelp, Fancy Hands or RedButler.
6. Auto-clean your inbox
The Unroll.Me app scans and collates newsletters and automated emails into a digest where you can choose to keep, read, or unsubscribe in batch operations.
7. Consolidate your apps
Spend less time peeking at your phone notifications. EasilyDo anticipates daily tasks, gives customized alerts, and consolidates notifications. It also remembers birthdays, updates your weather and traffic, automatically adds itineraries to your calendar, and even tracks packages – and you don’t even have to navigate between endless app screens.
8. Try “If This, Then That”
The IFTTT app, short for “If This, Then That,” automatically performs tasks while you’re away from your phone so you can go offline to focus. Some examples: if you receive a meeting invite, add it to the calendar. If you miss a call, add it to your to-do list. The app connects with Gmail, Slack, DropBox, Evernote, and TONS of others.
9. Schedule meetings early
Organize meetings early during the day. The time leading up to an event is often spent feeling distracted, stressed, or preoccupied. Book meetings first thing in the morning, clearing your mind for a productive afternoon.
10. Just say “No”
The key to being productive is less multitasking and more single-task focus. Saying “no” more often requires pragmatism. Ask yourself each time another task crops up: “Am I the best person for this? Who could do it better? Can it wait?” Take fewer phone calls. Agree to fewer lunch meetings. Forward questions you can’t answer to a team member with more specific knowledge. Need help saying no nicely? Here’s a list of responses from 99U, including our favorite:
“Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to give this my best right now.”
Soft, yet firm.
11. Get instant focus
Drown out the background noise at a coffee shop or the fluorescent buzz at the office with focus-enhancing soundscapes. Both brain.fm and a soft murmur boast sonic backgrounds that help you increase productivity and limit distraction. Put in your earbuds and get in the zone.
12. Learn to “batch”
What do emails, meetings, phone messages, and chocolate chip cookies have in common? They should be completed in batches. You don’t waste time compiling all the ingredients to bake just one cookie. Instead, you make a dozen in one fell swoop. The same should go for office tasks. Like Tim Ferriss writes, “Wait for critical mass, then process.” Set aside one specific hour of the day for email and phone messages. Otherwise, stay away. “Every time you hit refresh you’re scrambling priorities and sapping productivity,” Ferriss says. See more of his techniques on batching here.
We’re always more focused and productive with limited time.
13. Sleep less, feel more awake
You don’t need more sleep, you just need better sleep. In fact, research says that people who go to bed earlier don’t actually feel more rested. Instead of trying to sleep more, fine-tune your wakeup time between REM and stage-four sleep to wake up feeling more refreshed. This involves timing your circadian rhythms. It sounds complicated, but don’t worry, there’s an app for that. Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock analyzes and graphs your sleep quality and times your wake up during your lightest sleep phase so you feel more rested and focused – even if you get fewer hours.
14. Only wear black or blue suits
Obama famously only wears black or blue suits. That’s because the fewer choices you make, the more decision-power you have on reserve. When you spend brain bandwidth on banal daily choices, it causes decision fatigue, sapping your willpower and concentration. By automating those decisions – what to have for lunch, what to wear, when to go to the gym – you’ll save energy and willpower, meaning you’ll be less likely to give in to take-out or skip your workout. Check out our full article on how to beat decision fatigue.
I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.
-President Barack Obama in Vanity Fair
15. Don’t work out more than 12 minutes
Go hard for a 12-minute HIIT workout with Krista Stryker of 12-Minute Athlete, and you’ll torch more calories and get more muscle tone than you would after spending 45 minutes on the mind-numbing treadmill. We love her five-day HIIT challenge, combining planks, pikes, and lunges.
16. Use a better fitness app
We love Fitness Fast and Cody. You can choose a preloaded workout or quickly drag and drop exercises into custom workouts to target specific muscles. Fitness Fast has a session timer and rep counter to keep you on track, and Cody has an integrated calendar that tracks all your activities, photos, and stats. Their detailed graphs allow you to visualize and chart your progress automatically, saving time and boosting motivation.
17. Add 10 lbs to your barbell
Lifting heavy weights increases your metabolism, torches fat, and keeps calories burning long after you’re done working out. If you’re lifting two-pound dumbbells, you’re simply wasting your time. Make your workouts more productive instantly: reduce your reps, raise the weight. Try this test: add 10 pounds to your squat bar this week. You’ll do fewer reps, but you’ll see more definition (not bulk) in just a few weeks. For more tips, check out how to build muscle faster and why women should be lifting.
18. Put butter in your coffee
To get more focus, fewer cravings, and steady energy, you need to follow this rule: eat more fat. Putting butter in your coffee is a great way to start. Higher intake of fat elevates ketone levels in the blood, the brain’s most powerful fuel. This is the mechanism behind the ketogenic diet, which fires up your metabolism and supercharges your focus. Try butter coffee with this recipe.
19. Buy a mandolin
Speed up your food prep. I don’t care how sharp your chef’s knife is, bro, a mandolin is going to slice, mince, and julienne everything faster. Here are the best ones according to The Kitchn.
20. Eat brainfood snacks
21. Try intermittent fasting
An intermittent fast (not eating from 10 p.m. until 12 p.m. the next day) is a no-hassle food hack that gives you laser focus and zaps food cravings. Your body burns energy (and body fat!) more efficiently, and this practice eliminates mood swings while sustaining energy levels. Here’s a quick start guide. Combine with a ketogenic diet for even more efficient fat burning.
22. Drink your veggies
Save time chopping and still get all your vegetables. Reach for a powershot of vitamins and minerals to keep your focus on lock. Our favorite green juice is Organifi.
23. Get ingredients delivered
Services like Blue Apron and Plated send all the ingredients to your doorstep so that you get the satisfaction of cooking and learning a new recipe without hunting down exotic ingredients at the grocery store.
24. Have meals cooked for you
Sounds luxurious, but it’s crazy affordable and optimized to increase productivity. At Factor 75, we specialize in healthy, nutrient-packed meals that increase focus and energy. Think grass-fed meats, ancient grains, and organic vegetables. Plus, the meal shows up ready-to-eat at your office or home. Score.
See? We don’t need more hours in a day, we just need to use those hours more efficiently. Now you have all the tools you need to win that time and energy back.
Which of these hacks did you find most helpful? What other tricks did we miss? Add to the list in the comments below.
Featured image: Shutterstock/ Cristian Lungu