Lifehack Tips For Productivity

Do you know anybody who’s not busy?

Most of us wake up each morning facing crammed calendars and mile-long to-do lists. As a lawyer/wife/mum/writer, I know I certainly do. Out of nerdy fascination and sheer survival instinct, I’ve made a lifelong study of productivity and time management. Here are the three tips that help to get done that I must or want to do without losing my mind:

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1. Write It Down.
Every task, every commitment should be written down. This frees your mind from the energy- and attention-sucking job of trying to remember. In his seminal book on productivity, Getting Things Done, David Allen points out how uncompleted commitments take up psychic energy, each one making you just the tiniest bit more tired, more distracted, and therefore less productive. He emphasizes that the first step to managing your life and time is getting every commitment, large and small, out of your head and into a trusted system. I use OmniFocus to capture these commitments, but you can start with a simple pen and paper.

2. Get a Head Start.
The best way to hit the ground running is to start the night before. Before leaving your workspace, or before going to bed, take ten minutes to look over the next day’s commitments. What appointments can’t be missed? What do you need to have with you for those appointments? (Make sure you’ve gathered those materials and have them ready to go.) What three to five tasks must get done? Decide what you’ll do first. Look at that to-do list and decide whether any tasks on it can be delegated to someone else or, even better, crossed off the list altogether.

The busier your day, the more important it is to do this quick survey the day or evening before. It means you waste no time in the morning deciding where to start, or gathering materials (and maybe discovering a crucial item isn’t available when you need it).

3. Do Your Most Dreaded Task First
Every one of us has one or more tasks on our to-do list that we dread doing. Maybe it’s that unpleasant phone call you don’t want to make. Or that blog post you’ve been putting off writing because you don’t know how to start. Or that project that just overwhelms you because it’s so massive. Whatever it is, it hangs over your head, distracting you with guilt because it keeps getting pushed to the next day and the next. It’s time to end that cycle. Do it first thing. Writer Michael Hyatt talks about slaying your dragons before breakfast—there’s nothing more motivating for the rest of your day than crossing that monster off your list first thing in the morning. Make that call. Pull out a piece of paper and brainstorm ideas for that blog post. Do something about that overwhelming task—maybe you can’t finish it in one day, but you can at least get started. Whatever it is, just do it. Then let the satisfaction of crossing it off your list carry you into the rest of your busy day.