Updated: Mar 15, 2020
With more people working from home offices, at least part time, how to stay productive has become a hot topic. I'm going to share my top 10 favorite productivity hacks. The hacks work best when used together.
Hack #1: Make your bed. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg says, “Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget." The two-minutes it takes you to complete this task sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Hack #2: Set a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Yes, setting a goal seems basic but it's been shown that the majority of workers fail to do it. So take time to set an overarching goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. You should know what you are doing, how you will do it, how you will know when you've done it and by when you will complete it. Learn more about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals here.
In order to keep the productivity energy high, it needs to be a goal you feel jazzed about. Don't settle for others defining your goal for you. When you take the time to define your own goal, it is more likely to be something you feel connected to and take ownership of.
Hack #3: Every morning, start with a success that helps you make progress on your overarching goal and feel successful. Start it early, be done by 9:00 am if possible, or no later than noon. You'll be amazed at the boost in productivity and motivation this simple practice will give you.
Hack #4: Work inside your peak times throughout the day. If you don't know anything about circadian rhythms, this article is a good place to get up to speed quickly. Working inside your peak times keeps you energized and motivated so you'll feel less resistance throughout the day.
Hack #5: Work in 90-minute blocks of time with a 10-20 minute break in-between. Researcher Anders Ericsson found that the common pattern among musicians, writers, athletes and chess players that led to their best performance was to work in three 90-minute increments with a break in-between. I like to call these increments "power hours." Here's a great productivity tool you can download to your desktop to keep you on track with your power hours.
Hack #6: Limit your to-do list to the top three things you must accomplish during the day. Use a power-hour interval to tackle each of them. Be sure to capture your top three to-do's at the end of each day for the following day. That way you can leave your day behind when you stop working.
Hack #7: Nap. Yes, most of us know that napping is one of the best ways of recharging throughout the day, but how many actually do it? Taking a short (20-30 minutes) nap during the day boosts productivity, energy, focus and actually improves mood (hello crankypants). Use one of the rest periods between power hours to simply put your head down and close your eyes. Don't worry about falling asleep — you either will or won't. Just rest without thinking.
Hack #8: Drink water. Did you know that most people in western culture are chronically dehydrated? Dehydration leads to poor focus, memory loss, irritability, poor productivity, headaches and lethargy. Sometimes a cool, refreshing glass of water is all you need to reset your day. Try it now.
Hack #9: Walk. Exercise, in all its forms, has been linked to greater productivity. But sometimes it's hard to keep to your exercise program when you're bogged down with a project and running up against a deadline. Brisk walking is great for productivity because it increases oxygen in the blood and works to clear the mind. When you feel stuck, unmotivated or tired, take a 10-minute brisk walk during one of your rest intervals.
Hack #10: Braindump. Capture all of the tasks you're afraid of forgetting in a notebook. Don't mistake this for your to-do list. This practice is simply an opportunity to allow your brain to stop tracking all of your good ideas. Once they are captured elsewhere, you don't have spend the time and energy trying to remember them. It's great to do this either at the beginning of the day (for better focus) or at the end of the day (for better sleep). Do what works for you.
Staying on track while working from home can be challenging. These simple hacks can make the difference between a so-so day and explosive productivity. Let me know your favorite productivity hacks!