10 Hacks To Be More Productive

Practical ideas from Team Emmre on how to increase productivity to give you more time to focus on what matters most.

With Christmas activities in full swing, families to keep up with, and a business to launch, we’re constantly looking for ways to be more productive. So our team poured through resources to gather some tried and true hacks to make the most of our time.  Consider it a small  Christmas gift to you during this busy season! As with any list of how to be more productive several of these items are tried and true, but if you’re anything like us, we need reminding!  Whether you are wanting to sharpen your skills or you need some new ideas to start the year with, we have gathered some productivity hacks just for you.

1. Wake Up Earlier

Numerous—even famous—productive people wake up early. There are many benefits to waking up early beyond just having time to brush your teeth before work. For one thing, you start your day by conquering that urge to sleep in for “just a few more minutes . . .” That accomplishment alone can give you a great start to your day and can ultimately leave you feeling empowered. The early start also allows extra time for other important things such as exercising, alone time, and an opportunity to eat a healthy breakfast. While these benefits may seem obvious, did you also know that people who wake up earlier are often thought of as energetic problem-solvers? That’s right! Science shows that our bodies are designed to respond to light and dark making us more alert and focused during morning hours and sleepier during night hours. In addition, early risers tend to fall asleep faster and finish their sleep rotation enjoying better quality of sleep. Finishing a complete sleep rotation can benefit you both physically and emotionally.

2. Exercise

Exercising is a healthy habit with many benefits including improved productivity. Exercise can increase brain function and defend against stress and fatigue. Exercise can also lead to more efficient sleep and an increased energy level. Scientific studies have concluded that exercise can improve mood, defend against diseases, and even help you live longer. Keep in mind that exercising doesn’t always have to be physically challenging. Good ways to exercise include yoga, walking, and mild aerobic activities. 

3. Limit Your Distractions 

Distractions can be anything from checking social media accounts to that random house project that suddenly demands your attention. While some distractions simply can’t be avoided, plenty of them can be. During designated work time, distance yourself from your social media (even your email) as much as possible. If people need you, encourage them to set up a time to address all of their questions and concerns at one time rather than just sending you multiple messages. This facilitates more effective communication and more efficient time-management.  Additionally, ask your co-workers to take a few minutes to research their questions before coming to you. It can save you time if they can find answers on their own. In the case of things coming to mind that you don’t want to forget, try keeping a list nearby. It could be a document saved on your computer or even just a piece of paper you leave sitting on your desk.  Our team certainly has a preference on what we use, but find what works for you.   Whenever those things pop into your head, just jot them down so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting them and can focus on the task at hand.

4. Delegate and Communicate

Often, one of the hardest things for people to do is delegate. Despite the challenges, it can be a valuable tool to help you get more done in your day. Delegating helps better train your team and allows you to focus on the things that you (and sometimes only you) need to do. Did you know that very few bosses think they are good at delegating? Even fewer are considered good at it by their employees. The point is that you can’t only delegate. It is just as important that you communicate well with your team. This not only helps prevent miscommunication, but it can also save you time if you do it right. Avoid long confusing email streams by giving your emails sufficient details in as concise a way as possible. Also, when delegating, don’t fall into the trap of micro-managing. For one thing, micro-managing defeats the entire purpose of delegating, and for another, it can drive the people that work under you a little crazy. 

5. Don’t Always Multitask

Despite what you may believe, multitasking rarely saves you time. In fact, it can make you less productive and cause you more stress. The human brain was not designed to multitask, and all it’s really doing is going back-and-forth between your different tasks causing you to be less focused and more vulnerable to making mistakes. Multitasking also negatively affects your brain, and it has been discovered that people who multitask frequently may be less empathetic and less emotionally engaged. Additionally, it can eat away at your intelligence and decrease your ability to learn. Instead of  multitasking, focus on completing one task before moving on to another. When you do multitask, be careful to pair the right things together to create a balance of something easy and something hard. Try mixing one physical activity with one mental activity (i.e. jogging and thinking through a presentation) and avoid pairing two mental activities together. 

6. Make Decisions Better

Know how to make decisions and learn how to make them well. Set yourself up for success by clearly understanding your goals and your reasons for attaining them. You should constantly be reviewing your goals and reasons to keep yourself and your team on track. Try to evaluate your risks by asking yourself what the worst-case scenario would be and evaluating whether or not you would be okay with that reality. If not, focus on how to lessen your risks. This type of logic can definitely speed up your decision-making process. Educating yourself can also play a big role in your ability to make quick and effective decisions. Spend some time reading books and articles from experts in your field. This can help you make choices and decisions significantly faster and with more confidence. 

7. Clean Your Workspace

A clean workspace or home office makes it easier to find things and can keep you from becoming distracted. Have you ever wasted time digging through piles of papers just trying to find one form? Or what about that time you couldn’t find your stapler? A clean workspace or home office makes you more productive because it cuts unnecessary things out of your schedule. A clean workspace can also drive more creativity, increase happiness, lessen stress levels, and increase the ability to focus. If you are working from home, keeping your space clean can be a sort of double-benefit since you’ll also be keeping your actual home clean too. 

8. Include Nature 

Believe it or not, nature can increase a person’s creativity and focus. Though this may sound difficult to some, nature is easy to incorporate even in your home office. Did you know that natural sunlight can actually lower stress? It can also help foster a better mood in yourself, boost your productivity, and help you enjoy your job more. Plants have a similar impact while also adding a calming effect to a workplace; this can help even in the most stressful environments. Some helpful plant choices may include peace lilies, heartleaf philodendron, or devil’s ivy. In fact, even pictures of nature can prove to be calming so including some landscape pictures in your wall decor can help create a sense of peace in your workspace. Other ideas to bring nature in from the outside are to incorporate fountains, living green walls, or wood into your space. 

9. Plan and Schedule Tasks 

While planning may not be your forte, it is incredibly important and beneficial. Planning can greatly impact your productivity for several reasons. First, planning ahead of time better prepares you for the day and gives you direction towards your goals. Next, a plan ensures that the most important things on your list will be finished first. That way, you won’t get to the end of the day and realize that you haven’t done anything that was at the top of your list. Planning can also help organize all areas of your life and prevent the things important to you from falling between the cracks.

When you plan ahead, you will be able to fit more of what you want into your day. If you don’t know how to start planning, just think through your goal(s) and schedule towards accomplishing them. Don’t just schedule your work tasks. Schedule all aspects of your life so that no areas are forgotten or ignored. Keep your schedule somewhat flexible so that unexpected happenings don’t throw your plans into chaos. Through it all, don’t cram. Fill your days realistically, and remember to include buffers and time for fun things too. Planning is supposed to be helpful, not aggravating or controlling. 

10. Say “No”

We’ve all had those times when we’ve said “yes” to something that we knew we really should have said “no” to. For some, telling another person that they can’t do something (or won’t) is really difficult. While it may feel harsh, saying “no” is actually a very healthy thing to learn to do and practice. If you say “yes” to everything that everyone asks of you, it’ll take little to no time for you to be stretched too thin. How can you do the things you need to do well if you have twenty other things on your mind? 

The real priorities of your day need to stay your priorities even if it means you have to say “no.” Saying “yes” all of the time simply isn’t sustainable, and you cannot succeed if you’re burning out too quickly. Obviously, the authority of the person asking something of you does play a role in the situation, however, if you are honest and explain your priorities, most people will accept and respect your decision. Also, instead of apologizing for having to say “no,” just let them know that you appreciate their understanding. 

11. Bonus: Look at Cute Animal Photos!

This is going to make your day! Did you know that looking at images of adorable baby animals may actually make you more productive? It may sound crazy, but an experiment conducted by scientists at a university in Japan concluded that seeing cute baby animal photos can have powerful effects on attention and focus. Additionally, it may cause you to be more careful and pay more attention to details. The research suggested that people have an instinct to care for things that are little, and, well…cute! So seeing pictures of baby animals may cause you to care more for the details of the tasks in front of you. 

We hope that you have discovered or rediscovered some exciting ways to become more productive in your day (or at least a good excuse to show off those baby animal photos!) May you step into your day with a new sense of confidence getting the most out of your time with the least amount of stress. We pray this season finds you feeling better about how your days are spent and even getting some extra “me time.” Merry Christmas from the Emmre Team!

Emmre - Software for Assistants and Leaders

Emmre is executive assistant software created by an executive and assistant for executives and assistants. Emmre's mission is to help supercharge productivity and maximize the strategic partnership between executives and executive assistants.

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