Productivity Hacks To Love Or Loathe

Hacks are probably the worst part of working as a business owner or freelancer.

Like self-improvement or housework, there's something about them that doesn't sit right. Hacks have no point or purpose.

I'd much rather spend my time writing a great email or researching a task, than searching for the best tool to track something or make something faster.

However, hacks do work, and with some, you can get more done than you thought possible. Others are a waste of time.

There's no magic bullet, no secret trick, and no magic web page that will let you keep your brain at the top of your day.

However, there are some good ones and others that are a little worse than you thought they would be.

So, here are five productivity hacks to love or loathe:

1. Take breaks

Smart adult female student reading book in studio

It sounds weird, but taking breaks actually gives you more done at the end of the day.

Breaking up the work you've got to do can make the difference between whether you fall into a coma or stay awake until the wee small hours of the morning.

Breaking up the work gives your mind a chance to relax and re-focus.

When you re-focus, you give yourself a chance to start thinking about the next project.

2. Work in small pieces

One of the worst habits I've picked up like a boss is working on a large project for too long.

I'll go from one task to the next without doing a lot of the individual steps along the way.

When I finish one large project, I'll have 50 new one-off tasks waiting.

I'll start the 50 new tasks with some other larger projects I'm working on, so they don't add up too quickly.

I keep several personal projects going that don't use up my time, and I set aside one day per week to get through the bigger projects, doing the small tasks, so I'm not trying to do everything at once.

It takes time to break a large project down into smaller tasks, so put together a plan and schedule in advance.

3. Sprints

Brainstorming over paper

Forget the band name. I've got two cents on sprints.

Sprints are short periods of intense work, followed by time for recovery and relaxation.

This allows you to finish your tasks in a short time, and without damaging your creative or professional abilities.

Often, when people are working on a project, they do one part of it at a time, working on it for 10 minutes, for 10 days, for 10 weeks, etc.

Sprints change that. You do one thing for a few minutes, then take a rest, then do something else, then take another rest.

4. Multitasking Is the Devil

Multitasking doesn't work. It slows you down. It slows down your teammates. It slows down your company.

Multitasking makes you less efficient. It makes you less creative. And it means you aren't finishing the things you should be doing.

A classic study that shows this was done in 1999.

It showed that people are better at completing a complex task if they are asked to complete that task under two conditions: one condition is to actually give full attention to the task at hand, while another condition is to multitask.

When you're taking on two things, you pay attention to both at the same time, but you don't complete either task.

You get a very high score on completing the complex task, but the more work you've taken on, the worse you are at actually finishing it.

You complete less than half of it when you are multitasking, and less than one-third of it when you are fully focused on the task at hand.

One question to ask yourself is, am I giving full attention to the task at hand or trying to multitask on something else? The answer is likely to be the latter.

5. Break down big projects into little tasks

man looking at marketing analytics

When you do a big project, and you're trying to get it done as quickly as possible, it can seem like there are never enough hours in the day.

That's a good time to do something about it.

Rather than try to focus on all the steps of a project, break down the project into smaller tasks.

You'll find the number of steps you have to do and their level of complexity go down quickly.

Make a note of what each task is going to require, and come up with a detailed plan to accomplish each task.

Review your plan often, and adapt it as you go along, but having a concrete plan is a good step forward.

Hold off on disruptive teamwork

One of my most important rules in the workplace is that I don't have to accommodate disruptive teamwork.

I don't allow people to come to meetings unprepared, and I don't need to accommodate other people's plans, so that means I don't let other people change things on the fly without telling me.

Sometimes this works out. Sometimes people get there early and just need to add their comments, and I am very accommodating and just wait for them.

The problem is that when I have to change something on the fly, I usually make the change, but if I know what the change is going to be, and I don't let the people making the change into the meeting, I either get a disgruntled group or a bunch of stressed-out people who don't know what they're doing.

It's a lose-lose situation.

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