We’re living in a world where “busy” is the standard answer to the question, “How are you?” Many of us have bought a ticket to a crazy-schedule roller coaster ride in which we’re traveling at full speed with the things we have to do while the activities we love to do come to a screeching halt.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The following are five life hacks that can slow down interruptions and accelerate your productivity.
1. Take to time-blocking. Make sure your “me” time doesn’t turn into “we” time. Actually schedule time on your calendar for specific tasks. Take 5 minutes every Sunday to schedule blocks of “me” time and think about where you’ll go to get it done. Then insist that nothing but life or death emergencies can interfere. Right before starting your task, let others know you’re focused on something important and then gasp! turn off your cell phone and actually work.
2. Download a single productivity app. We all have our favorites ranging from Wunderlist to Trello. One that consistently ranks high is Evernote. This digital notebook lets you upload notes, audio, video and pictures, and then organizes them into these little cloud notebooks that you can share across devices … and with each other. With all your writing, research and pictures in one spot (not to mention your kids’ artwork), you can quickly get to work and stay focused on your task.
3. Manage multiple computer screens. If you’re not doing this already, you really should be. The benefit of not having to switch back and forth between screens while working means you can glace at incoming emails, quickly answer instant messages, reference documents and read web pages while continuing to write, edit and design. “There’s a big difference in having what you need only an eye-glance away instead of a mouse-move away,” explains Mike Spasoff, manager in Health Net’s communications department. “Working with multiple screens makes it much easier to pause your workflow without getting full-blown distracted.”
4. Refuse to let your inbox set your agenda. Checking email upon lifting your head from the pillow is a time suck and something you won’t recover from throughout your day. Email is mostly reactive and not proactive, says Julie Morgenstern, author of “Never Check E-mail in the Morning,” which means you can easily get bogged down with everyone elseâs tiny requests, unexpected asks and reminders. A good rule is to get into a project or personal task in the morning for 45 minutes and then spend the next 15 minutes responding to email. This squelches the need to react to low-priority emails and other people’s agendas.
5. Combine a mindless task with something important. Research shows that people’s brains are often sharper while the body is active. Doodling while in a meeting or walking on a treadmill while organizing your presentation ideas can boost your memory, thinking, communication skills and, ultimately, your productivity. The key, however, is that you refrain from multitasking two like activities (reading and talking), but rather you “time-share” tasks — more habitual things — that don’t compete for your cognitive attention.