With the start of a new year come New Year’s resolutions, and for many people that means drafting up a wish list of things they wish to achieve but will probably fall short of. Looking to break the annual cycle of regret? Here are 7 productivity hacks to help you #getthingsdone in 2016.
1) Looking to be More Productive? There’s an App for That!
While many view tablets and smartphones as little more than expensive toys designed for distraction, the truth is that it’s actually never been easier to get things done—downloading the right apps can transform your mobile device into the ultimate productivity boosting machine. Apps like Any.do, Trello and other list making apps have revolutionized the art of making To-Do lists—just find the right one that matches your personality. Other apps like Dropbox and Google Docs let you keep your work in the Cloud allowing you to work anywhere at any time across all your different devices. The fewer obstacles there are to your success, the less likely you are to procrastinate.
2) Practice Structured Procrastination
For many of us procrastination is an inevitable fact of life, one for which resistance is futile, But for Stanford Professor John Perry, author of “The Art of Procrastination,” procrastination can actually be the solution to getting things done. If “procrastination means not doing what you’re supposed to be doing,” says Perry, “structured procrastination means you don’t waste your time.” The idea is simple, if you’re avoiding some task and are going to procrastinate anyway, do something else instead. The key is to make sure the alternative task accomplishes another goal. For example, while procrastinating working on that academic paper, you may opt to do your taxes instead. As long as you occupy that time with something productive, no matter how small, the net result is that you #getthingsdone.
3) Master the Habit Loop
Ever wonder why we do what we do in our everyday lives? If much of what we do is merely habit, the key to a more productive life would be to develop more productive habits, but how does one change a habit or create new ones? Charles Duhigg set out to answer these questions in his award winning book, “The Power of Habit.” It turns out that all habits can be broken down into three basic phases: the cue, the routine and the reward. The cue is the thing that triggers a habit, like eating lunch when the clock strikes noon. The routine is the habit itself, the behavior you wish to change or reinforce, like going to the gym. The reward is the reason the brain becomes addicted to the previous two elements in the first place, like the endorphins your brain produces after a hard workout. Understanding the habit loop in this context can allow you to create plans or to-do lists that actually help you change your behavior for the better. For example, one of the reasons people fail to continue to go to the gym, is that they never work out hard enough for that endorphin boost. An alternative reward that is easier to achieve, is to go to the gym with a friend, as the reward of social interaction is enough to encourage a person to develop the habit of going to the gym.
4) Learn to Communicate on the Go
Are you in a management role and find it difficult to keep things under control when you’re away on business travel? Mastering apps like Skype or GoToMeeting can help you conduct web conferences from abroad and maintain a high level of communication with your subordinates while you’re on the go. These days all you need to conduct a conference call is a tablet and a good connection. Whether you’re working on a project for school or trying to coordinate a visit with relatives, taking advantage of existing communication tools can help you make more efficient use of your time while you’re on the go.
5) Do a 10 Minute Workout Routine
Exercise is a tried and true method for increasing blood flow to the brain, and stimulating the release of “happy hormones” like endorphins which lead to increased productivity. However for many people, the commitment of 30 minutes to an hour every morning may seem too daunting to motivate them to jump out of bed early enough to exercise before their morning commute. Fortunately, it turns out that you don’t need nearly as much time as you’d think to reap the benefits of exercise in the morning—working out for as little as 10 minutes every morning is enough to get the blood flowing, and wake you up to tackle the day ahead. Just remember to eat breakfast.
6) Eat a Healthy Breakfast
Turns out conventional wisdom still applies in 2016, eating a wholesome healthy breakfast is the best way to start your day right and remain productive throughout the day. The key of course is what type of food you eat in the morning. While a century of marketing hype may have taught you that bacon, eggs and toast are the best way to start the day, there are better foods out there to help you tackle the daily grind. Adding superfoods like avocado or acai to your breakfast are a surefire way to breathe new life into your morning routine. What makes a food super?—anything that sports a high nutritional density. In addition to the almighty avocado, consider adding salmon, blueberries, kale or sweet potatoes to your breakfast plan. The idea is to cram as many nutrients into your diet as possible, so that you get the most bang for your calorie count.
7) Tackle Big Goals one Small Task at a Time
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your “empire” of success and rich life experiences. We often start the new year with lofty lists of all the things we hope to accomplish by January 1st of next year, but fall short of those goals before the new year. The solution is to implement micro tasks into your daily To-Do list that bring you one step closer to your goals. If you want six pack abs by the start of the next year, you need to invest into a serious workout routine every week that’s proven to get the results you’re looking for. If you want to finish that novel, you need to set aside some time each day dedicated solely to writing that book. The key is to set definite attainable milestones. So if your goal was to make $60,000 a year freelancing, you might start with shooting for $5,000 a month in business as entrepreneur Stefanie O’Connell recently detailed on her blog. No matter how big your goals are, you can always benefit from breaking them down into smaller less intimidating tasks.