Amal Tapalov
Amal Tapalov

5 productivity hacks I wish I knew earlier

In recent years, productivity has become a top priority for companies and individuals, with this performance metric receiving more attention than ever before. It became especially apparent in 2020, when the whole world switched to remote work mode. There’s also been a surge in productivity software and philosophies, which is beneficial in the sense that we have a lot of tools at our disposal.

However, the practices and routine modifications that produce a meaningful difference in productivity are the subject of this article, not the tools. In this post, I want to share some techniques that help me in day-to-day life and work.

Habits are key

The emphasis on being busy is among the most significant issues with modern work culture. This mentality implies that if you’ve finished your to-do list, you obviously don’t have enough on your plate. This is a challenge we need to overcome and forget, like a horrible dream.

The productivity hacks we’ll be looking at in this post are habits that modern teams and workers should develop. Many of them will need you to break some conventional working routines and retrain your mind as a group.

1. Stop multitasking

The first step toward increasing productivity is to quit multitasking. This is one of those time-saving behaviors that busy individuals have developed by completing many things at once or switching between projects.

Unfortunately, multitasking is a fake efficiency technique that wastes more time than it saves. To make matters worse, research has found that multitasking has a variety of harmful effects on the human mind.

I found out that multitasking is not the right way to perform while at university, when I tried to study several topics at once without clear delineation between disciplines. As you can imagine, all the knowledge combined and I needed to start over again to separate the topics.

It’s better to complete one task at a time with a great success rate than several tasks with mediocre results.

2. One goal for one day

You should retrain your mind to focus on single activities to forget about multitasking. This goes against everything in our fast-paced, digital lifestyles. Still, the answer to this problem can be found in the same digital technology.

There are plenty of different software applications which can be used to track daily tasks. In the Design team, I recommend to use any project management tool (Asana, Wrike, Monday). Each designer decomposes their own big tasks into smaller action items for each working day, reinforcing the concept of focusing on specific activities. You can divide daily goals into various tasks or work sessions, during which you’ll focus solely on that activity for the allocated time.

3. Short work sessions

Scientific research shows that the human mind can only focus on one subject for a relatively short time — around 10–20 minutes. Furthermore, people’s attention spans are considerably shorter in the digital age, where we are bombarded with an endless amount of information.

An hour is a long time to retain attention, which is why working in small bursts makes sense. The Pomodoro Technique, which advises working in 25-minute intervals followed by a five-minute rest, is one of the most popular productivity techniques.

I use a Chrome extension named Pomodoro Assistant which allows me to stay productive during the day, so I don’t feel tired. Sometimes, when I have a big project, I schedule 50-minute sessions and take a ten-minute break to make up the rest of the hour so that I can be in a “working flow” for a longer amount of time.

4. Meaningful meetings

The number of meetings increased significantly while I was working remotely. I had to make sure that whatever meetings I attended were meaningful. As a remote worker, one of the most prevalent issues I’ve seen is attending meetings that could be easily replaced by Slack chats.

In some cases, I cancel digital meetings when I feel like there is no need for a 30-minute video conference that I can conduct as a message chat (for example, in Slack) to discuss every detail. Believe me, it saves a lot of time in general for every member of the team.

5. Turn out the lights

When the whole world switched to remote working mode, I bet the majority of people started working overtime without knowing it. According to Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work researchBuffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work research, the hardest element of working remotely is not being able to unplug after work.

For me it comes down to knowing how to say “I am not available right now.” It’s a personal struggle that has nothing to do with your stakeholders or teammates.

When I was working remotely, I observed that I spent more time in front of the laptop screen than I would in an office setting.

One of the easiest ways for me to “switch off the light” after work is to pause notifications and set my working profile to “Don’t disturb” mode so that I can have better work-life balance.

Be productive

I have shared some hacks in this article that help me every day. I’d like to emphasize one thing — even though there are plenty of different software apps and tools to keep focused at work, I know that the first step should be to change habits. You must be willing to modify the way you organize and complete things if you want to become more productive.

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