20 Favorite Productivity Hacks

Productivity hacks are mostly worthless and can be boiled down to these things:

  1. Do one thing at a time

  2. Do them fast

  3. Don’t do anything useless

This can be further boiled down to “have a vision.” If you have a vision then you won’t ‘multitask’ (aka getting nothing done), you won’t be taking your time, and you won’t be wasting time on what I call ‘shiny activity.’ Another name for wasting time on things that seem interesting for a brief moment.

While productivity hacks are mostly worthless, there are a few gems that I’ve uncovered over the years. Here’s my favorite:

My favorite productivity hacks

  1. Get to the point

    Know the end goal. Know the ‘why’ of what you’re doing and how it ties in to that end goal. There should be no fog on why you’re doing what you’re doing.

  2. Record everything

    It’s easy to just post about what you ant to post about, but the act of recording everything will create a bank of knowledge that can be manipulated for many purposes. The cool thing is that is compounds over time so that in the future, you’ll hardly have to create anything new, but only need to tweak and rediscover what you have already been working on. It also helps to avoid running in infinite loops.

  3. Say no to everything

    Not actually everything, but 99 percent of opportunities should be declines. That’s because they aren’t opportunities, but distractions dressed in opportunities clothing.

  4. Take breaks

    You’re not a machine, so don’t try to be one. Think “Sharpen the saw” so you don’t have to beat your head against the desk to produce more. Flow. Take breaks.

  5. Cut distractions

    This means having a clean desk, locking away the phone, installing a website blocker, and doing whatever you have to do to guard your attention. None of us are immune to the pull of modern distractions. They were made to be maximally distracting, so take them seriously. We don’t lose our lives in big chunks, but one sliver at a time on twitter or Facebook. IOS tip: set up a screen time limit for apps then have your SO set a pin for it.

  6. Cluttered home, cluttered mind

    I see this often in older generations, but a cluttered desk and home lead to a cluttered mind. You will not be thinking as well if all that crap is demanding some mental energy. (and it is). Think of it like a meditation: during meditation we close our eyes, make the room quiet. Why is that? It’s not for fun, it’s so we can focus! Do the same with your desk/office/home. The less things demanding a sliver of your mental horsepower, the more you can allocate to your vision.

  7. Themed days

    Some days you can get everything in. Other days it’s like pulling teeth. So, my suggestion is to have themed days. Themed days allow you to split up deep work and everything else. A good example is to have deep work on Tuesdays and Thursdays while having MWF as normal days. (Sky is the limit here. Experiment to find what works best for you)

  8. Limit incoming information

    If you need to learn about a new topic, limit the incoming information to the top three books on the subject and then go from there. Don’t google, don’t twitter. Only 3 books. After 3 books you’re ready even if you don’t feel like it. Don’t feel ready? Synthesize the information: flashcards, recreate it, etc. Just don’t get more information.

  9. Use systems

    Decisions require slivers of mental horsepower. Eliminate those decisions through systems. Systems in daily living are extremely helpful in shaving off those little mental horsepower leaks, and we use them a lot: morning routines, using a calendar, etc. Take it a step further:

    1. The Eisenhower Matrix

    2. Pomodoro Technique (my favorite, fosters intensity)

  10. Do one thing at a time

    Multitasking is another word for doing a shitty job. Nobody can actually do two things at one time, at least not well. If you’re doing things that you can multitask at, then you’re not providign value. You’re doing something that’s just a ltitel better than what a toaster can do, and no doubt a computer will replace that action in a few years. If you take nothing else from this list, take this. It is powerful. SImply doing one thing at at time, one project at a time, one goal at a time will change your life.

  11. Limit email

    Email is a drain on almost everyone. Set your auto-response to “I check email once a ____. I will reply to your request then.” If your current job status does not allow this kind of focus, look somewhere else.

  12. Limit phone use

    My favorite app is forest and my favorite IOS feature is airplane mode. Try them together, or find a way to mimic the end result. Gamification of your focus is a good thing.

  13. Plan the next day

    Have your ‘top 3’ tasks for the next day and use your calendar to block time into important tasks before your time gets snatched up by urgent/non-important distractions. It makes for a great excuse to not do the things that don’t align with your vision: “Sorry, I can’t. Calendar conflict.” (They don’t need to know that it’s your items in your calendar thtat are conflicting with their need for attention).

  14. Don’t think too much

    There’s a time and place to stew thoughts. This isn’t one of them. Keep the pondering to a minimum.

  15. Train daily

    We think better, perform better, and focus better when we exercise our bodies on a regular basis. That means that squats can make you a better _____

  16. Relax

    ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’

    If the work isn’t scheduled on your calendar, then you need to relax. Don’t plan out your unstructured/family/you time.

  17. Ditch meetings

    All meetings are a waste of time. I have never been to one where my presence was needed.

    Note: If you are the one in charge then this applies as well. Are your subs empowered after your meetings? If not, cut them back.

  18. Use the Eisenhower Matrix.

    Two spectrums: important – not important, and urgent – not urgent. Attack what is urgent and important, then work on what is not urgent, yet important. (These are the things that usually help people get ahead). Ignore what isn’t important.

  19. Your network

    Be part of a network that is high-performing (go-getters). “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

  20. What else?

    Ok so I have 19 and not 20. What do you think I should add to the list?

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