Imagine your day-to-day life suddenly got a whole lot easier, and not because anything major changed. You still have your same job, friends, and family, but as if by magic—everything is simpler. Sounds good, right?!
Here’s the thing: It can happen for you. All you have to do is employ some creative, intelligent, and time-saving strategies to boost your productivity and efficiency. You can thank us later. So read on, and introduce a little coasting into your life. And for more stellar life hacks, read up on these 50 Genius Tricks to Improve Your Life.
Sleep 30 Minutes Later Than Usual on Days You Need to Be Super Productive
Waking up early gets a lot of hype for being the ultimate life hack, but research suggests that sleeping just 30 minutes more than you usually do can do wonders for your productivity levels by reducing daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and tension. And for more on sleep, check out the 40 Ways to Sleep Better in Your 40s.
Trick Yourself Into Being on Time
Always running late? Schedule important events as starting 10 to 15 minutes earlier than their real start time to ensure you don’t make a late entrance—and stick to it. “This means no rushing, no speeding, no big deal if you miss a turn or hit a minor delay,” professional organizer Layne Brookshire told The Everygirl. “Being early gives you enough time to find your way to a new location. Make this a habit and enjoy becoming a person who is always on time!” And for more on time, check out Military Time Made Easy: The Best Ways to Use a 24-Hour Clock.
Automate Your Bills, Savings, and Investments
Instead of spending time worrying about when your bills are due, how much you should save each month, and how your investments are doing, take advantage of what technology has to offer set up automatic transfers, bill payments, and investment actions.
“When I leveraged the power of automating my savings, insurance, and investments, my world transformed almost overnight,” says Leanne Jacobs, a wealth expert. “When we leave things up to ourselves to manage, it seems to always be on tomorrow’s to do list.” And for some money inspiration, meet the man who made $16.5 million on YouTube just last year.
Limit Yourself to One Habit Change at a Time, One Month at a Time
Deciding you want to change something about your life for the better is undoubtedly positive. But instead of revamping one entire part of your life all at once—maybe you want to become more productive do decide to become a morning person, ditch your cell phone during the day, and stop multitasking—experts say it’s better to tackle one thing at a time, with just one new habit per month.
“No matter how much enthusiasm we have for all of these goals, taking on even just two habits at once is setting ourselves up for failure,” according to habits expert Leo Babauta. “I would estimate that you triple or even quadruple your chances of success if you focus on one habit at a time, for one month at a time.” And for more amazing, self-improvement advice, here are the 40 Ways to Get Your Best Body in Your 40s.
Record a Smart Voicemail Message
Some people prefer phone calls, but in today’s digital age, shooting off a quick text or email can be much more time-efficient. “On my outgoing message on my cell phone, it says for a faster response, send me a text message,” says Jennie Gall, lifestyle expert and trainer.
Letting people know the best way to contact you for a fast response saves time and cuts down on unnecessary phone calls. For more facts about your phone, check out these 20 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Your Smartphone.
Do Your Toughest Work Between 2 and 3PM
Research conducted at University of California found that for most people, focus begins to rise at 11AM and peaks between 2 and 3PM, after which attention span drops significantly. By setting aside this afternoon hour for your most important, most challenging tasks, you’ll be able to capitalize on your brain’s natural height of concentration. And for more on hacking your daily rhythm, here are the 29 Best Body Clock Hacks to Maximize Your Day.
Designate Optional Events on Your Calendar
When you’re having an absolutely insane day, week, or month, it’s natural to want to give yourself a break. It turns out, you can use a separate “optional” calendar to do exactly that. Caroline Liu, a writer for The Muse, explains: “Put anything that isn’t mandatory on this calendar. In my life, that includes professional events, enrichment programs, local activities, and leisurely TV watching, too. These are events that, ideally, I’ll be able to fit in, but they’re the first to go when I’m feeling stressed.”
And when that stress hits and you need a break? Toggle your “optional” calendar off, and take a look at what you really need to get done plus where you can fit some downtime. And for more ways to automate your existence, here’s Why You Should Leave Your Out-of-Office Alert On Permanently—Even if You’re in the Office.
Pick Three Wardrobe Colors and Stick With Them
Do this and you’ll never have to think too hard about getting dressed again. Everything matches, and mixing pieces becomes incredibly simple. Sound too boring? Pick a few color combos you know work and only buy clothes in those colors.
For example, Black, red, and white; navy, turquoise, and white; brown, orange, and beige, suggests Kathy Wertheim, a fundraising executive who uses this method. This strategy also makes packing easy for frequent travelers. Select one color combination and stick to it for your fastest packing session ever. Just remember the 40 Tips for Dressing Well in Your 40s.
Bring Back Flashcards… Except Make Them Digital This Time
You may have used flashcards back in your school days, but they can help you learn new things as an adult, too. Michael Nielsen, a research fellow at Silicon Valley’s Y-Combinator, explained on Twitter how he uses a digital flashcard app to learn and remember new, complex ideas and facts quickly.
By looking at the flashcards during downtime—standing in line, waiting for a train, going for walks—you can put huge amounts of new information into your brain. While this method has obvious applications in the tech world, it can also be used to simply remember things that will make your life more interesting. Some of Nielsen’s flashcards topics include: “Learning places and all kinds of facts about my city, from the best things to order at a particular restaurant to demographic statistics (really), to favorite places in parts of the city I don’t visit often.”
Take a 60-Second Breathing Break Before Making a Decision
Avoid bad decisions by taking just a minute to focus and calm yourself before making a move. “When life gets stressful, we tend to breathe from the throat instead of the diaphragm,” says Rebecca Cafiero, a lifestyle expert and TEDx Speaker. “Focus on your breath for 60 seconds and ground yourself. As you do, visualize a calming memory, something you’re looking forward to, or think of a loved one.”
Doing this before making a choice—big or small—can help you make the right decision the first time, rather than creating a mess for you to deal with later. And for more ways to get a healthy outlook on life, here are 5 Easy Ways to Be More Satisfied with Your Life.
Only Check Your Email Three Times Per Day
Many people end up feeling like they’re chained to their inbox all day, constantly putting out one fire after another. Instead of engaging in that steady stream of to-dos, set a limit on how many times per day you’ll check your email.
“I don’t check my emails more than three times a day because work begets work begets work,” Anna Kaiser, celebrity trainer and entrepreneur, told Well + Good. Plus, you may find that emails that needed your “urgent” attention end up working themselves out. “If you stop and allow it to just simmer for two hours, usually everything resolves itself.”
Say Something As Soon As You Realize You Won’t Meet a Deadline
It’s human nature to put off bad news, but giving whoever needs to know a heads up about the fact you can’t get something done on time well in advance is beneficial for everyone involved, according to Chelsea Fagan of The Financial Diet. What’s in it for them? A timely warning that they need to adjust their expectations. What’s in it for you? Less lingering dread about having to break the news.
Narrow Every Decision Down to Three Options
“We feel we want many choices, but science suggests that in many cases, lots of choices just lead to lots of stress and less happiness with the choice we make,” says Scott Crabtree, a consultant who teaches the science of happiness in the workplace. “If you choose from 100 options, you feel overwhelmed, and there are 99 things you don’t get when you pick one. If you choose from three options, you can easily compare and feel happier with the choice you make.”
Ask Someone You Admire for Advice
Most people think asking for help or advice makes them look weak, but at least in a business setting, the opposite is actually true. A Harvard Business School study found that asking for advice made people look more competent. So kill two birds with one stone: Make yourself look good to someone you respect and get some helpful advice along the way. And for more great career advice, here are the 25 Best Ways to Score a Promotion.
Set Up Your Fridge and Pantry in a Way That Lets You See Exactly What You Have
Maybe you’re not ready to go full-on Marie Kondo, but her advice about how to organize your food makes a lot of sense: “When you can see everything in your pantry at a glance, you will stop purchasing duplicates and stocking unnecessary items.” Because the last thing you need is another trip to the grocery store to buy stuff you already have.
Instead of Thinking About What You Don’t Have Time For, Consider What You Do Have Time For
This mental trick involves using your doubts to your advantage. “So many of us wake up with the belief ‘I don’t have enough time,’” points out Sonia Satra, a life coach and founder of Moticise. Next time you have that thought, try this trick: Ask yourself, “Well, what do I have time for?” Then, do that. “Even if it’s just a 10-minute run, or knocking out a half hour of work before a meeting, take advantage of those smaller chunks of time. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish.”
Save Time by Scheduling a Meeting to Start at 11:17AM
Or any other irregular time. People often show up late to meetings, which is a waste of time for everyone involved. To make sure everyone arrives on time, try scheduling a meeting to start at a very specific hour—not on the typical 15-minute mark. “No one will be late with such an odd starting time,” Laura Stack, author of Leave the Office Earlier, told SELF. Bonus: Know the 5 Secrets to Running the Perfect Business Meeting.
Write Something Down You’ve Been Putting Off… and Then Do It
“Write down one thing, no matter how small, that you’ve been putting off for a while for basically no reason,” Fagan suggests. “Put it in front of you where you’ll see it all day, on a post-it on your laptop if you have to. Get it accomplished within the day, and treat yourself to something—even if it’s just a home manicure or a glass of wine.” And if you do it before bed, you’ll discover that your sleep will improve.
Instead of Delegating Easy Tasks, Offload Things You’re Not Good At
You probably already know your strengths and weaknesses, and while it’s tempting to delegate tasks you know others can complete without issue, it will make your life easier if you instead delegate the things you know you struggle with.
This idea applies at home (hire someone to paint your home rather than doing it yourself if you know you won’t do a good job, and use that saved time to something productive), but it’s especially relevant in the workplace. Think of it this way: “When you look at the cost of your time and the length of time it takes for you to do a task you could pay an expert to do, the decision is simple,” says Janet Zaretsky, an executive coach.
Smell Some Lemons While You’re Working
It might sound strange, but research conducted by Takagaso, Japan’s largest fragrance producer, found that 54 percent of people who work with computers made fewer errors when the scent of lemon was present their workspace. And no, you don’t actually have to cut up lemons and bring them to your desk. Invest in a lemon-scented essential oil and you’ll be good to go.
Tell Yourself “I Am Doing Enough” When You’re Stressed
“Let go of the belief that in order to succeed, you have to be stressed,” Satra suggests. Once you do, your life will be a lot easier. “Many people believe that productivity and stress come hand in hand, so they unconsciously invent something to stress about just to make themselves feel more productive. Change this belief by consciously telling yourself, ‘I am productive, I am doing enough.’”
Take Up a Hobby You’re Sure Can Get Good At
Instead of picking a hobby that you’re already skilled at or one that’s impossible to master, pick something you feel confident you can see major improvement with. Whether it’s cycling, painting, or playing an instrument, allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment by selecting a pastime that sets you up for success.
Limit Yourself to One Browser Tab at a Time
This is not easy to put into practice, but a great strategy when you really need to get something done, whether it’s responding to emails you’ve been putting off, finishing up a project or work, or planning a family vacation. Focus on what you’re doing, and then move on to your next task.
Let Go of a Grudge by Forgiving Someone
Whether you actually take the time to call up your ex best friend and tell them you forgive them or you mentally forgive your parents for the less-than-ideal moments in your childhood, science is clear about one thing: forgiving people makes our lives easier, less stressful, and potentially even longer.
Stop Washing Dishes Right After You Use Them
Seriously. “If you do the dishes after every meal, run the washing machine every time you have a load of laundry, and do an errand every day, you’ll spend much more time over the course of a week than if you did those things in batches,” says Kate Hanley, an author and coach. “When you let the dishes sit in the sink until the end of the day, do laundry once a week, and run all your errands in one two-hour trip, you save time and brain space.”
Next Time You Have a Negative Emotion, Write It Down
Difficult emotions—sadness, regret, shame, etc.—take up a lot of attention and brain real estate. Instead of lingering on them, allowing them to swirl around in your head, relieve some of the mental pressure by writing down exactly how you feel, crumpling up the paper, and tossing it in the trash can. Not only is this a satisfying exercise, but science shows that writing your feelings down can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings and then move on to better things.
Create a Cheat Sheet
If you find yourself constantly looking up the same types of information over and over again, whether it’s statistics about your business or industry, the correct format for a certain type of document, or someone’s phone number, there’s an easy way to fix that: a cheat sheet. Compile a document with all the information you most often find yourself in search of, and keep it at the ready.
Have Sex The Night Before a Big Day at The Office
Yep, sex makes you more efficient and happier at work, according to a recent study. Researchers asked participants (all married, employed adults) to fill out a daily survey about their sex and work lives for two weeks. What they found was that when employees had sex, they had a higher levels of job satisfaction and productivity.
Use Technology to Organize Your Passwords
Get with the times and use one of the many options available for securely storing your passwords. Whether you use your web browser, an app, or something else, there are plenty of ways to do this safely and ensure you never have to waste time guessing your password—or worse, guessing your security question answers—ever again.
Unfollow People You Don’t Know on Social Media
They’re probably just making you feel bad about yourself, according to a survey done by Pace University. Researchers found that people who used Instagram frequently and followed a higher number of strangers (think: celebrities, influencers, and randoms) were more prone to making social comparisons and depressive symptoms. Plus, with less posts to look at, you’ll probably waste fewer hours of your day endlessly scrolling. For more on Instagram, read up on these 20 Ways to Make Your Instagram Way More Compelling.
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