Sam Reader


12 Productivity Hacks to Get Stuff Done

In the spirit of getting stuff done, let’s get on with it.

1) Remove Distractions — Notifications, News and Other Nuisances

Every time we’re distracted from a task we waste approx 25 minutes getting back to the job at hand.

It’s predicted we waste 60 hours a month at work purely because of distractions.

1 out of 10 people admitted to achieving just 30mins of productive output a day!

  • Turn all unnecessary notifications on your phone off.
  • Remove ‘News’ from your life. 
    You don’t need to be the first to know about it (unless it’s your job to know obviously). If it’s important you’ll find out some other less invasive way.
  • Take charge of the next 11 things below, zone in and watch your productivity explode!

2) Prioritise Everything Down to 3 Things

Every morning, write down 3 important things to get done and make them clear and specific.

Success is the sum of small efforts done day-in day-out — Robert Collier

Not “Research competitors” but “Research competitors who offer gardening equipment for the UK market”

Not “Contact bloggers” but “Contact bloggers who write and vlog about leadership in the European fashion industry”

Clear and specific, is easily understood and actionable.

3) Max 30 Min Meetings

There is nothing that cannot be said, discussed, understood and actioned within 30 minutes.

Researchers in Texas found that, as humans, we develop a ‘cognitive backlog’. The more information we acquire, the heavier and weightier that knowledge becomes on our minds, which ultimately leads to an inability to retain information until we take in and do nothing.

10 to 18 minutes is the ideal time to keep someone’s attention before they zone out — hence why Ted Talks are approximately this duration too.

A few ideas:

  • Take away chairs — make everyone stand up. The longer you stand, the more uncomfortable you are. The more uncomfortable you are, the more you’ll want the meeting to finish.
  • Leave phones at the door — they’re inappropriate during any kind of interaction but especially meetings, plus they’re a distraction and quite frankly not needed.
  • What are we meeting about? Everyone should answer this with a max. of 5 words. If everyone’s on the same page, discussions will go quicker. 
    Short and sweet is the perfect mantra here.

4) Drink Water

Your brain consists of 100 billion neurons and is made up of 75% water.

Water increases energy, reduces fatigue, promotes weight loss, flushes out toxins, boosts your immune system and keeps those neurons of yours replenished.

5) Batch Tasks

Batching improves productivity because of Neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the ‘muscle building’ part of the brain; the things we do often we become stronger better at, what we don’t use fades away. That is the physical basis of why making a thought or action over and over again increases its power. Over time, it becomes automatic; a part of us. We literally become what we think and do.”

When you’re putting your task list together, scan over those “next-to-dos” and group similar tasks together.

Batching helps you make the most of your pattern of thought and helps build momentum towards nailing those tasks.

A bit like streaks, you’ll start hitting a rhythm and becoming more and more productive as you go, optimising your brain with every stride.

6) The Pomodoro Technique

“If you’re not getting measurable results, there’s a strong chance you’re wasting your life, one hour at a time.” 😯

Strong but true.

There are only 675,450 hours in the average human life. Every hour that’s wasted is an hour you won’t get back.

The Pomodoro technique is about breaking down all of the tasks you have into 25 minute blocks. Between each ‘block’ you give yourself a 5–10 minute break, and after every 3 or 4 Pomodoro blocks you take between 15–30 minute breaks.

Are you the type of person who likes to jump between projects when your mind wonders; a pro at starting 20 different things but never really nailing any of them?

This is definitely one for you to try.

  1. Choose your project and gauge a total time to work on it.
  2. Set a timer to 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task for 25 minutes. Avoid all distractions and urges to multi-task.
  4. TAKE a 5 minute break to re-energise (no excuses and no telling yourself “you’re okay” — that’s missing the point).
  5. Start another Pomodoro.
  6. After four Pomodoros, TAKE a 20–30 minute break.
  7. Repeat.

7) Learn To Say No

It’s good to help people, say yes to opportunities, attend events and support friends, colleagues and clients.

However, now and again you have to say no. For your own sanity, here are a few ways to respectfully decline:

The management sandwich (layers: positive | negative | positive)— 
“That sounds a great opportunity, but I’m all booked up until [insert date]. I’m happy to put this on my list for then if you like.”

Straight up — 
“I’m so sorry, but I can’t.”

Remove all doubt — 
“I wish I could, but it is just not possible right now. Thank you for thinking of me.”

The Helpful ‘No’ — 
“Thanks, but I can’t. Let me help you find a solution.”

It’s not you, it’s me — 
“Thank you for asking, but I’m not doing any [request made] while I’m working on [project].”

10 Guilt Free Strategies for Saying No — if you’re stuck in a difficult situation, this article provides some interesting examples from weddings to lending money.

50 ways to say no in different ways and varieties— who knew there were so many!?

8) Site Blockers

Studies show, sites that distract us from a particular task destroy the abilities of even the most proficient multi-taskers.

Block the sites that you find usually pretty useless, but take up a lot of your time.

*cough* Facebook *cough*

  • Chrome blocker — Block Site
    Downloaded by nearly 14,000 people
  • Safari blocker — Waste No Time
    This one allows you to block sites on Chrome as well as Safari.
  • Firefox blocker — Leech Block
    I haven’t tried this one, but it has great reviews.

9) Music Boosts Productivity

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind,
flight to the imagination and life to everything. — Plato

You may find it hard to argue with one of the greatest minds of Ancient Greek philosophy, but actually research now shows you’ll find it impossible to argue with him.

A study by Teresa Lesiuk from University of Windsor, Canada, found that where there was a lack of music in the workplace the quality of work was impaired and tasks took longer.

Have you ever found that music without lyrics helps you work easier? That’s because when you are affected by numerous noises and differing tones it can cause disturbance in your thought process. However, listening to melodic music helps you regain concentration quicker.

Studies show that background music also helps you become more proficient at repetitive tasks but Lesiuk’s research suggests that certain types of music can improve our mood, which may be the more significant factor for improving productivity.

If you’re looking to be insanely creative, research shows that ambient noises may be best.

“Deep basses and screeching synths might get you energised, but when listening and engaging in deep work, favour a more mellow sound.”

10) Start With Tough or Small

Start your day with the most important or hardest task.

When we start the day with the most important task, we are able to move into our other tasks for the day with a clear mind and positivity.

If you don’t, that BIG thing that you need to do, looms over you for the whole day causing you to procrastinate and never really focus, as you work on the other tasks.

If you want to build up to it, start with small easy tasks that don’t need too much effort from you and build momentum towards taking on the important task.

Eventually, run into the spike and address the issue.

The suns rays do not burn until bought to a focus.

11) Two min rule

This is really simple.

If something can be done in a couple of minutes. Get onto it straight away.

When you come across tasks that are literally 2 minutes, it is better to get them done immediately. Otherwise, you’ll be scheduling for the sake of scheduling and building up things to do in your mind, which will increase anxiety and stress over something that doesn’t need to exist.

12) Listen to Elon Musk. Always.

Wherever you’re from, whoever you are and whatever you’re doing, I’d always recommend listening to Elon Musk for advice on productivity, business and pretty much anything in life.

Forget his net worth of $15.9bn 
Forget his hugely influential role across space exploration, electric cars and renewable energies

His belief that if,

“Something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”

touches on something we should remember to evaluate in ourselves:

Is the thing you’re doing interesting to you? Is it important to you?

If it’s not, stop those efforts. No productivity hacks will improve things in your life if you hate what you do.

Happiness Inspires Productivity
— Shawn Achor

Community Guy and Co-Founder of WONDR. Drop me a line on sam[at] or check out what we’re building and let’s chat :)

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