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25 hacks to boost your productivity in 2020
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25 hacks to boost your productivity in 2020

Written by Anke De Bleecker on 10 December 2019 for Tech Professionals

With 2020 fast approaching, many young professionals are already beginning to focus on things they can do better next year. Work-related resolutions such as winning new clients, landing a promotion and learning a new skill or two are some of the more common options. As work productivity resolutions are near the top of most professionals’ lists, we thought we’d offer a helping hand.

25 hacks to boost your productivity in 2020

Here, we’ll discuss 25 ways how you can boost your productivity at work. The best news? There’s no need to wait until the New Year; you can start implementing these ideas right away!

#1 Stop trying to multitask

Sorry to break it to you, but just like Santa Claus and those red-nosed reindeers on the North Pole, multitasking is, unfortunately, completely mythical. The perennially popular, and sadly non-existent, notion that you can juggle multiple activities and divide your attention, simply isn’t backed up by scientific proof. So, start focusing on one task at a time and you’ll see your productivity rise. Guaranteed.

#2 Tackle your most important work first

Now that we’ve established that you can’t, actually, work on everything simultaneously, you need a strategy to tackle your workload more productively. A to-do list can help. We advise working on your most critical work first thing in the morning, as you start your day. Why? Prioritizing it when your mind is fresh will give you the best chance of doing your best work.

 

#3 Group similar tasks together

After you’ve sorted your most critical tasks, you may be left wondering how to cope now that multitasking is off the table. Simultaneously checking emails, while writing a report and reviewing some code is out of the question, so what should you do?

Try this: group similar tasks together so that your brain can process them more readily. Working on similar tasks in rapid succession is far more helpful than trying to flit between disparate activities.

#4 Take on smaller tasks in two-minute chunks

Have you ever sat down to ‘check’ your emails and then looked up at the clock a while later only to find that an entire hour has somehow disappeared? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. The trick to avoiding this is setting yourself strict time limits on smaller activities.

Use a 2-minute egg timer or your phone’s stopwatch if you like. Attack tasks aggressively and when the time’s up, stop and try again later. This strategy helps you avoid wasting vast tracts of your day on insignificant stuff.

#5 Learn keyboard shortcuts

Shortcuts? Ah yes, remember those? Almost every app and program you use has them, yet, much like your company’s vision and mission statement, you probably haven’t ever bothered to memorize them! Start learning keyboard shortcuts for your go-to apps and you’ll be amazed at the time you save. The shortcuts for certain programs are so effective that you’ll soon be able to power through your work without even so much as touching your mouse.

 

By the way, we’re talking beyond Ctrl C – Ctrl V.

#6 Hit ‘Save’ more

Sounds like a no-brainer? Trust us, it’s not.

Nothing sucks more than having to rewrite paragraphs (or pages) of a report or lines of code because of a power cut. Get into the habit of turning on ‘Autosave’ on all the programs you use and hitting ‘Save’ at regular intervals while you’re working. It only takes a second and can save you much, much longer if your computer crashes or there’s a power outage.

#7 Use more templates

If you’re ready to kick your productivity into overdrive, stop trying to reinvent the wheel and start using more templates instead. Whether you’re responding to an email, creating a presentation or even drafting a business proposal, there’s probably a template you can download and use to save yourself a bunch of time.

#8 Learn to say “No”

On the subject of templates, taking on too many tasks can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed. To become more productive, you need to learn how to say “No”, and the best way to do this is to create a strategy. Try creating a script or email template that you can use to politely, but firmly, turn someone down. This way, the next time someone bugs you for something, you’ll have a “No” email template just ready and waiting for them.

But maybe think twice about sending it when you get a request from your CEO…

#9 Switch up the order

Speaking of not overwhelming yourself, that ‘paralyzed’ feeling you sometimes get when you have too much on and get stuck at the beginning of something is bad news.  If you’re looking to accomplish more, the worst thing you can do is … nothing. So, switch things up; change the order you work in or even the order you tackle a piece of work in. Put all your energy into getting started and worry about filling in the missing pieces later.

#10 Get another monitor

If you’ve never worked with two full-size computer screens before, oh boy you’re in for a treat! Having two monitors saves you a ton of time compared with constantly switching between pages or applications on one tiny laptop screen. If you have to do a lot of ‘resource + activity’ work, such as referring to a report while writing a document, getting two monitors will send your productivity into overdrive.

Feel free to swing by our office and test out our monitors for a day or two.

#11 Know your limits

If you aren’t careful, you might run the risk of taking too much on your plate to eventually suffer from a drop in your productivity. You’ll need to learn to listen to yourself in order to avoid this. Address any negative emotions and reward yourself for your hard work by doing something fun. Like taking a break that lasts longer than a weekend every once in a while. This strategy is sure to keep you firing on all cylinders!

#12 Unfollow and Unsubscribe

To maximize your productivity, you simply can’t afford to waste reading junk emails, tweets or newsletters that don’t give you any value. Even spending a few seconds reading the subject lines of emails and then trashing them can be a distraction. Be ruthless. Be brutal. Unfollow and unsubscribe immediately. Have a clear-out at least once a month.

 

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#13 Automate everything

If there’s a task you can automate, investigate it further. Whether you want to set your documents to auto-backup to the cloud, or integrate your favorite apps and web services, or even automate functions when writing code, there’s probably plenty of things you can automate. So, get to it and watch your to-do list shrink dramatically.

#14 Delegate and outsource whatever you can’t automate

When you’re already taking your first steps when it comes to leadership, resist the urge to micromanage and learn to split up your workload wherever possible. Being able to delegate is a very important skill as it will give you the power to decide what’s worth your time and what isn’t.

This can help you to free up some time to focus on other things instead. Like what about professional development?

#15 Invest in professional development

Speaking of professional development, regardless of which stage you’re at in your career, there are always new mountains to climb and new things to learn. If a new skill or competency lets you become more productive, go for it! Making a conscious effort to learn new skills will do more than perhaps anything else in terms of helping you become more productive in the long term. Don’t have time? Free up some time (see tips 14 and 15).

#16 Focus on progress, not perfection

Like the magical pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, the concept of ‘perfection’ is mostly an illusion. To be as productive as possible, work on maintaining the highest possible standards, without getting bogged down in chasing after the illusion of being perfect. Remember; good can be good enough to be successful. Just don’t start cutting corners.

#17 Suggest stand-up meetings

No, we’re not talking about comedy (although, if you’re into that, it wouldn’t do any harm). By stand-up we meant exactly that; let people stand. Research has shown that meetings are briefer when everyone’s on their toes. So, if you’re the one calling the shots, try stand-up meetings and see where it goes!

25 hacks to boost your productivity in 2020

#18 Set time limits on your meetings

Meetings can often get sidetracked with unnecessary distractions and side-discussions. To avoid this, try setting a time limit on your meetings. You’ll still get to cover the important stuff but without the pointless chatting. Failing that, consider ditching meetings entirely. Your employees will thank you for it!

#19 Pencil in your email times

While we’re on the topic of emails, it’s best to have set times that you check your emails each day, so it doesn’t suck you into a black hole of procrastination. Pencil in some set times that you plan to check and, when the time’s up, stop.

#20 Stick with instrumental music

If you’re someone who likes ambient music while you work, you may have noticed that songs with lyrics can actually be more of a hindrance than a help. Choose instrumental music without any lyrics while you work and you’ll be less likely to get distracted.

#21 Use a focus app or program

Look. We’re only human and, sometimes, the lure of our favorite websites and apps is just overwhelming. That’s why we can all benefit from using a focus app on our computers or mobile devices. If you’re a Windows users, try StayFocusd for Chrome to help block distracting websites that suck your time. Mac users can use the SelfControl app to avoid going on a meme hunt while they should be focusing on their work.

25 hacks to boost your productivity in 2020

#22 Block notifications

Frequent pop-ups and notifications can kill your productivity like nothing else. If using a focus app isn’t your thing, try shutting non-critical notifications off instead. This will give you peace and quiet to work, without getting sidetracked. Or just use the “Do not disturb”-mode on your smartphone.

#23 Keep your calendar in check

One of the biggest reasons for unproductiveness are all those distractions over which you have no control. You know, things like unexpected requests for meetings or other things that ask your time and attention. So, whether you use Google or Outlook, get control of your calendar and block out the time you need. If you don’t take control of your own schedule, other people will!

#24 Write down your purpose

Writing down your purpose is a huge source of motivation. Get into the habit of articulating your purpose on a weekly basis and you’ll be brimming with self-confidence and become far more productive. Review your goals from time to time and stay on track.

#25 Create a crisis

What? A crisis? Yes! We thought we’d save our most radical strategy till last! Listen. How many of the ideas on this list are you actually going to do? Be honest. One? Two? None?

In the real world, you’ll always find a way to waste time. It doesn’t matter how many monitors you have or how many focus apps you download, at the end of the day, you’re going to goof off. We get it. That why, when it comes to productivity, nothing really works quite like good old-fashioned fear. Create a crisis by deliberately blocking out less time than you need. If all of the above won’t work, this definitely will!

Conclusion

By following our 25 tips for being more productive, 2020 should be your most productive year ever! We don’t recommend that you try and apply all of our tips at the same time; simply choose one or two that sound interesting, try them out and see how they go!

 

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you’ve got plenty of time during the next year to find out what works for you. Good luck!