4 Hacks to Productivity

Hack 1 – The two for one

The myth of multitasking has been busted many times over at least the way the business world has glamorized it. 

Two ‘thinking tasks’ cannot be done at once. 

Our brains just can’t do it. 

Many sources validate this including McGill University Psychology Professor, Daniel Levitin. What some call multitasking is actually rapid focus shifting that depletes the brain of chemicals we need to concentrate. It doesn’t improve productivity. Period. 

But this is not the whole story you see. There are thinking tasks you can do while working on non-thinking ones. Consider these examples:

  • Treadmill walking while reading or catching up with your emails
  • Folding laundry or getting dressed for the day while listening to podcasts or audio books
  • Making hands-free phone calls while driving or cycling to work. 

Hack 2 – Value your time in dollars & cents

What is your time worth on an hourly basis. Figure it out and then trade off decisions based on whether you have more time or money. You choose. One will give you the other. This thinking has given way to great business opportunities like cleaning and maintenance services that are cost-effective for the high earners. In other words, you can buy time to some degree. 

Job marketplaces like TaskRabbit or Upwork have flattened the world according to Thomas Friedman (great book summary if you don’t have time), removing competitive barriers and increasing access to skilled labor. Now our caution here is that you can go too far with this principle if you make people feel like they aren’t worth your time, so be careful.

Still, get smarter with your time Todo Great Stuff.  

Hack 3 – Just say no. Really, do it.

To get stuff done that matters, say no to things that don’t. 

James Clear, productivity author, spells out the details. Say no to meetings unless you know your role. Get the meeting agenda and ask to join just for your part. Request to get off email threads that are just informational. 

Hard to do, yes it is. 

But, liberating it is. You bet.

Note that if you use such a tactic, spend the time in the beginning to explain yourself so that people don’t take offense.

Hack 4 – Feeling stuck? Go for a walk. 

Great thinkers have long gone to nature to unplug and discover great insight. Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix has studied great thinkers and doers and their relationship with nature and her conclusions are fairly conclusive: more time outside can increase your productivity.

How, I hear you ask?

The sounds of nature quiet the mind; if you picture your mind during peak stress it looks like jammed traffic in rush hour. The sounds of nature can get your brain moving again opening it up again to inspiration and insight.

William’s studies show that merely gazing at green landscapes reduces anxiety and replaces stress with calmness.

So next time you cannot focus, take a walk in the nearest park or neighborhood with greenery. By the time you get back to your task, you’ll likely feel energized and less stressed, ready to conquer that to-do list with clarity and purpose. 

If you liked these tips, join The Productivity Hackers group for more actionable hacks.