Productivity Hacks From Someone Who Dislikes Productivity Hacks
The Internet is saturated with tips and tricks from influencers around boosting productivity and achieving superhuman output. Hundreds of apps are available that purportedly help us stay on task, avoid distractions, and organize our complex digital lives. Productivity books dominate the New York Times bestseller list.
I loathe most productivity hacks. Many attempt to introduce new levels of complexity into our lives; another app to check in with, or process to follow. Our offline and online worlds are filled with endless distractions, and adding one more to the mix feels counterintuitive.
However, I have adopted a few tricks over the past few years of working in a hyper-growth startup that have helped me tremendously. Most of these “hacks” are common sense approaches to the burdens of our modern lives – too many distractions, and not enough discipline around our interactions with technology.
Why do you need one more guy preaching the same stuff? Hear me out.
From the moment we wake up to the minute our heads hit the pillow, we’re thrust into a rapid fire of tasks to juggle. What to make for breakfast? Which Slack to respond to first? Which notification to tackle to next? Decades ago, multitasking became the must-have skill set and go-to buzzword in resumes and job descriptions. A random sample of postings on Indeed show the word on 8/10 job descriptions.
Skilled multitasker with excellent organizational skills.
Must be able to multitask with an exceptional eye for detail.
Extreme multitasking is now the new norm – and it’s harming our productivity (and happiness). We’ve become so inundated with digital interruptions that we spend big chunks of our time jumping from one small task to the next. This prevents us from engaging in deep work. It’s the adult version of whack-a-mole.
When I monotask, I find myself frequently sliding into flow, and meaningfully engaging with projects that require deep concentration and critical thinking. My meetings are more productive, and the 1:1s with my team are impactful and action-oriented.
Focusing on one thing at a time is challenging with so many brief interruptions. It takes some serious planning and habit formation. Let’s start with notifications.
The endless supply of buzzes from our devices is ruining productivity. ADDesquebehaviors are the new norm. We’re literally addicted to being distracted.
The last time I had all notifications turned on, my technology distracted me over 500 times during my workday. Slacks, emails, text messages, Instagram likes, Facebook birthdays, calendar invites. I constantly lose my train of thought, and it takes me a few minutes to concentrate again. Two text messages arrive, and I pause to respond. I eventually finish my first task, but it only received a quarter of my attention. And the cycle continues.
During the day, I turn off most of my notifications and check inboxes at the top of the hour. I take five minutes to clear through the easy responses and save the complex ones for the end of the day.
Urgent requests for information are often not that urgent at all, and my team can pick up the phone or walk to my desk if there’s a serious fire drill. Notifications are designed to keep us dialed into our digital lives. They’re also killing our productivity.
Experiment with toggling off low priority notifications like Instagram and calendar invites. Schedule time to check in with these services. These proactive over passive interaction points make a big difference.
Decision fatigue is a well-documented phenomenon, and just like our notifications, it’s a productivity zapper.
Think of the thousands of decisions we make over the course of the day. Many are inevitable, but it’s surprising how many you can avoid by some planning at night before bed. Pick out your clothes for the next day. Plan your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Think of stressful decision points and anticipate how you’ll react.
The less I have to worry about where I’ll get my next meal from, or remembering if I packed my gym clothes, the more productive I can be with the big stuff.
This is different from going into daily autopilot – it’s taking an active approach to anticipating future decisions and negating the small distractions.
Keep it simple, and make it a habit
Ultimately, you don’t need another process to follow or app to track. Take an inventory of the things that pull you away from important tasks and invest some time to simplify your day.
Easier said than done. Many of us (including me) have deep-rooted habits formed around our devices and multitasking routines. Spend some time reading about habit formation. It takes 30+ days of mindfulness and stumbles to form new habits.
These strategies won’t work overnight. You’ll likely fall off the bandwagon from time to time and cycle through fifteen apps in five minutes.
We have more power than we think to boost our productivity. No app or 12-step plan will rival the power of monotasking, minimizing trivial decisions actively avoiding easy distractions.