33 Genius Office Hacks for Getting More Done Quicker
Now you'll have more time for yourself.
Everyone wants to get out of work early. Our goal, day in and day out, is to complete our tasks so we can enjoy life outside of the office. Unfortunately, playing Candy Crush or online shopping behind your boss’s back isn’t going to move up your quitting time. But there are some little things you can do to get all of your professional responsibilities taken care of in record time. We’ve collected a ton of helpful office hacks that can help you get more done at work done quickly. So read this article—outside of the office, please—and then, get to it!
The most successful people get up early. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Virgin founder Richard Branson are all up before 5 a.m.
“No matter where I am in the world, I try to routinely wake up at around 5 a.m.,” Branson says. “By rising early, I’m able to do some exercise and spend time with my family, which puts me in a great mind frame before getting down to business.”
Light—be it natural or artificial—tells the brain that the day has begun and sends signals to the body to stop producing melatonin, the sleep hormone.
“If it’s dark when you want to wake up—say 5 a.m., for example—you can fool your brain into thinking the sun is up by using bright indoor lights,” says Dr. W. Christopher Winter of the Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine Center in Virginia.
Many productive people like to write out their daily responsibilities at the beginning of the day. Some will go one step further and jot down their intent behind the task.
Putting pen to paper can serve as an excellent reminder as to why you’re giving your work your all and can motivate you to achieve your goals.
Exercising in the morning can significantly improve your productivity. “The psychological benefits of morning workouts are paramount,” PLYOGA Fitness founder and CEO Stephanie Lauren says. “You clear your mind and give yourself positive energy for the entire day. Most Fortune 500 CEOs workout in the morning for this reason.”
If you can, of course. A 2017 study on dogs in the workplace demonstrated that employees who are allowed to bring their dogs into the office are less stressed and report more job satisfaction. So, if Fido is welcome in your office, consider bringing him.
Cold showers can instantly make you more alert, readying you for your tasks ahead. “The cold water is invigorating and it also activates brown fat, growth hormone, and androgens to help give you the drive to take on the day,” says diet and lifestyle expert Denny Hemingson.
Whether you’re working at home or going into the office, dressing professionally will make you feel more competent and in control, says Mason Donovan, author of The Golden Apple: Redefining Work-Life Balance for a Diverse Workforce.
In fact, one 2015 study found that when participants were asked to complete tasks, those dressed more formally engaged in the kinds of abstract thinking that someone in a position of power would typically use.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey, the average American’s commute is about 27 minutes. And it’s up to you to use that time productively.
If you’re driving into work, reading or writing emails isn’t a possibility, but calls are. Even when that’s impractical, you can boost your effectiveness at work by subscribing to industry podcasts and listening to them on your drive.
Frequent pop-ups are distracting and are almost guaranteed to pull your attention away from your work, even if you think you ignore them. In some workplaces, turning off your smartphone would be a cardinal sin, but you can shut noncritical notifications off. (We’re looking at you, Instagram.)
Clutter is extremely stress-inducing. A messy desk can make you feel overwhelmed and anxious, so go all Marie Kondo and clear those papers, throw out those old coffee cups, and straighten out your desk drawer. Suddenly, you’ll see your heart rate go down and your productivity go up.
Music can be a great way to ramp up your productivity and get things done faster, so long as it doesn’t have lyrics. Choose either instrumentals for ambiance or white noise to tune out everything going on around you.
Some work tasks are more daunting, challenging, and unpleasant than others. Though it may not be your instinct, those are the things you should do first.
“By knocking out something important on your to-do list before anything else, you get both momentum and a sense of accomplishment,” says Gina Trapani, founding editor of Lifehacker.com. “If you start every day by accomplishing something important, you’ll get more done than 90 percent of the people in the office.”
Little orphan Annie wasn’t wrong. You’re never fully dressed without a smile—and that applies to the office, too. “Happiness at work is closely correlated with greater performance and productivity as well as greater energy, better reviews, faster promotion, higher income, better health and increased happiness with life,” says Jessica Pryce-Jones, author of Happiness at Work and CEO of iOpener. (After all, Annie did become a Warbucks.)
We tend to put off the small stuff, but David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, swears by the Two-Minute Rule. It’s the idea that if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, you should do it immediately. It’s the ultimate way to avoid procrastination.
Francesco Cirillo coined the Pomodoro Technique after the tomato-shaped kitchen timers from the 1980s. But you don’t need one to use this simple method.
Step One: Work like your life depends on it for 25 minutes. Step Two: Kick back and relax for five minutes. Repeat this for four cycles, and then chill for a whole 15 minutes. This sprint-and-rest approach is key to staying on task.
After using the power of light to start your day, keep it going and take advantage of natural light in your workspace. If possible, sit near a window—and if you can, open it. That fresh air will help boost your productivity as well.
There is a time and a place for perfection. But in the office, it can be the enemy, especially if you keep pushing to improve something that’s already good. Don’t let everything else fall by the wayside as you obsess over one thing.
It’s become customary at many jobs to allow colleagues to view your calendar, which can be a great way to schedule meetings. But having others fill up your calendar can also prevent you from executing what you need to get done.
Whether it’s at the start of every day or every week, block out time to handle everything that’s on your plate. That way, all the space on your calendar isn’t vulnerable to a meeting attack.
Email is pivotal for most jobs these days. But if you can, it’s best to avoid reading and responding to emails as they come in.
Instead, choose three times a day to email: once first thing, once before lunch, and once more before finishing up your workday. One 2015 study had participants do this and those who did “experienced significantly lower daily stress.” More productivity and less stress? It’s definitely worth a shot.
For years, being a great multitasker has been considered a badge of honor. But research conducted by Stanford University in 2009 found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single task at a time. “We kept looking for what they’re better at, and we didn’t find it,” the lead researcher said of multitaskers. Ouch.
So many of us have experienced the feeling of plugging away on an important document and suddenly, your computer crashes and all your hard work is gone forever. After that, you’ll probably never forget to click “Save” again.
Prevent yourself from learning this the hard way and make saving something you do compulsively. If you’re going to be obsessive at work, make sure it’s about saving.
We’re predisposed to wanting to start a project at the beginning. But working linearly isn’t always the solution. If you’re stuck, focus on another segment.
Plus, tackling some tasks in the middle or at the end of a project will inform how you deal with the beginning.
We all have the websites we head to when we have a few minutes downtime. Often, we’ll find something that captures our attention, and before we know it, we’re down a rabbit hole and way behind on the critical tasks we have to complete.
Luckily, if you have no self control, you can download some. The SelfControl app is one great solution if you use Apple devices. You can add websites that will be automatically blocked for the range of time you select. There are plenty of similar applications, like StayFocusd and Cold Turkey, for additional enforced productivity.
If a Twitter feed, newsletter, or group chat isn’t providing you with any value, resist the urge to ignore it and unsubscribe or unfollow instead. This will clean up your inbox and feed, letting you find helpful information quickly and shortening the time you dedicate to inbox maintenance.
Procrastinators are surprisingly good at rising to the occasion when the heat is on. If you’re the sort of person who thrives under pressure, you can recreate that sensation by giving yourself a deadline that gives you less time than you actually think you need. You’ll see your focus improve when you begin working—and ultimately, you might even finish ahead of schedule.
We’ve all been there. You’re in a meeting that should’ve been relatively straightforward, and suddenly, someone goes off on a tangent. All of sudden, you start to sweat thinking about all the things that aren’t getting done back at your desk.
Institute a habit of cutting meeting times by 25 percent. When time is of the essence, you’ll tackle the crucial topics and be less likely to go on and on about unrelated ones.
The amount of time a meeting takes is closely related to the number of people in attendance. More invitees means more contributions and by the time everyone has regurgitated what the person before them said, your dreams of getting out of the office on time are squashed.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos instituted a “two-pizza rule,” meaning he never invites more people to a meeting than two pizzas would feed. With fewer people in the room, the meeting is less likely to get off-topic, and everyone can get in and get out promptly.
When people settle into a chair, they’re more likely to get comfortable in the space. If your meetings adhere to a standup format, you’ll likely cut down on wasted time considerably because people won’t want to prolong the gathering.
We all want to succeed at work, and for that to happen, it behooves us to prove to our employers that they’re getting plenty of bang for their buck. As a result, our instinct is to say “yes” whenever we’re given a task, even if it leaves us feeling overwhelmed.
But figuring out how to turn down a responsibility that you can’t feasibly take on each time this happens can leave you feeling stressed as well. Instead, create an email template that politely but clearly states that this isn’t something you can currently handle effectively.
Learn which tasks truly require your input and which can be handled by a colleagues. The need to be involved with everything just slows you down.
If you have an iPhone, turn on your “Do Not Disturb” feature at the office. Then, add anyone who may need to get ahold of you urgently—family members, your children’s school, co-workers, bosses, and employees—as a “Favorite” so that their call will come through.
This way, any potentially distracting calls will go straight to voicemail, while only those whom you flag as vital will be able to reach you.
Trying to keep up with the news is virtually impossible, and it can lead to feelings of anxiety or stress. Do yourself a favor and ditch the onslaught of news while at the office. Save it for pre- and post-work time.
At the end of the day, write down what needs to get done the following day, like entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary does. “Before I go to sleep, I write down three things that I have to get done the next morning,” he says. “What I found was once you get those three things done, the rest of your day becomes amazingly productive.” And to make yourself more productive during the hardest time of year, check out these 30 Ways to Stay Insanely Productive Through the Winter Blues.
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