Top Tips from Professionals for Your Most Productive Year Ever

In my professional life, I’ve been amazed at how much making a few small tweaks to my habits has improved my output and daily experience. This revelation has left me wondering—what other productivity hacks are people practicing that I could be taking advantage of if only I knew about them? So, on all of our behalf, I asked 11 professionals across many fields to share the strategies that are making their life more inspired and efficient in 2018. 

Related: 17 Ways to Improve Your Productivity Today with the Notes, Reminders, and Calendar Apps

Donna Clevelamd

Editor in Chief at iPhone Life

My Favorite Productivity Hacks:

1. Just start

It’s easy to feel daunted by new projects. I find that taking the simple step of opening a document, titling it, and writing a few bullet points makes the project feel tangible and ready to dig in to.

2. Batch process everything

Do you repeat tasks that involve the same or similar steps? You can usually save time by grouping these tasks and tackling each step for all before moving on to the next (e.g., write your articles for the week, fact check all of them, then add images at the end).

3. Listen to music without lyrics

I used to listen to pop or hip-hop at work but stopped after catching myself singing along instead of actually doing my job. Recently I discovered that listening to music without lyrics gets me in the zone (Try Spotify’s “Deep Focus” or “Productive Morning” playlists).

4. Embrace the chaos

Author and professor Brené Brown is the first person who introduced me to the idea that when things feel messy, good stuff is usually happening. For me, this applies to big picture work meetings and complex writing projects. When I feel most overwhelmed and like I can’t see an end in sight, that’s when I’ve done my best work.

5. Know your next step

Before I leave work for the day, I write down my exact next task so I can jump right back in the following morning without losing momentum.

11 More Efficiency Tips & Tricks from Top Professionals

 

“Dominate Emails.”

Ari Banayan

Co-founder of Habit Nest

There are a few strategies my team uses to hit inbox zero. First, unsubscribe from unwanted emails or roll up a few newsletters into one email using the free tool unroll.me. Secondly, become strict about when you respond. My co-founder loves using Inbox Pause to gain control over when emails appear. Finally, snooze emails. I snooze emails all the way out to 1–2 months just for the sanity of only seeing the most time-sensitive to-dos in my inbox.

 

“Accomplish 3–5 Goals Each Day... Before You Look at Your Phone!”

Casey Moran

Founder at True Path

If you can win your morning, you’ll win your day. Pick 3–5 goals in the morning—they don’t have to be hard (e.g., shower, make coffee, meditate), but, the key is to do them before you pick up your phone! If you look at your phone first thing in the morning, you start your day in a reactive state. If you accomplish goals every morning before looking at your phone, you’ll start your day in control with little victories that will, spill into the rest of your day.

 

“Keep the Big Picture in View.”

Katie Trauth Taylor

CEO of Untold Content

Productivity is less about squeezing out one more activity to feel as though we’re accomplished, and more about steady progress toward long-term goals. As CEO of a woman-owned startup, I see productivity as a measure of strategic vision. The more clearly my team sees our goals and long-term strategy, the more productive we can be. As content creators, we embed our big visions into our daily routines using a Trello (free) list called our “Week at a Glance.” On this list, we have a smaller checklist that features our annual “Strategic Imperatives”—those big picture goals we must accomplish by the year’s end. Each imperative is broken down into specific monthly goals. Because this big-picture planning is right on our Week at a Glance, we look at it almost every day during our 15-minute morning huddles.

 

“Take Many Short Breaks.”

Hamna Amjad

Community Manager at ridester.com

You must be wondering how taking breaks can make you more productive. Trust me, it works! Ideally, you should take 10–15 minutes breaks every 90–120 minutes to refresh your mind so that you can work wholeheartedly and more efficiently. It will help you focus more and keep you motivated. So, put your mobile (or anything else that distracts you) away for those 90 minutes and stay away from social media to pay full attention to your work.

 

“Make Time for Rocks, not Sand.”

Olivier Plante

CEO of fleksy.com

I keep the time management analogy about pebbles, rocks, and sand in a jar present in everything I do. The jar is your total time available for all your tasks, rocks are your critical tasks, pebbles are important but nonessential, and sand is basically filler. I plan my rocks and pebbles ahead of time; they require time and are the biggest tasks I have to do. For me, sand is smaller annoyances like notifications and interruptions. If you focus on them, you’ll never have time for the big tasks. Remember that you can only fill one jar per week!

 

“Find Your North Star.”

Scott Amyx

Author and Managing Partner at Amyx Ventures

Busy-ness is not the same as productivity. True productivity moves the needle toward something greater. When you have clarity on what your passion or goal in life is, then you have a guiding North Star. This is bigger than a New Year’s resolution; it has to span the time horizon of your life. For some, this can take years to figure out. Even if you have a vague idea of what you want your legacy to be, such as wanting to help spur innovation on a global scale, that’s enough to begin to deconstruct that lifetime goal into multi-year goals. Now, when you are productive, you are intrinsically motivated because you know explicitly how your action today ties into the bigger picture over your lifespan. Only when we do the things most uncomfortable do we begin to stretch ourselves, grow, and extend our influence and power. Had you not taken those risks, you may never have met that person(s) or been introduced to that opportunity that would ultimately change the trajectory of your life to move you closer to realizing your life’s mission statement.

 

“Segment Your Day.”

Emily Wright

Director of Operations and Marketing at ONNO T-Shirt Company

I have a very unstructured job/office setting where I have a lot of autonomy. I also have ADHD, which is sort of a bad combination! My secret to staying productive is to chunk my day into different types of tasks using smartphone alarms. The first two hours of my day are for administrative tasks. When my alarm goes off, I take a short break, and then switch gears to calling clients. I start my day with easy tasks and end it with my favorite creative-outlet tasks. Right before lunch is when I handle the tasks I hate, and I think of eating lunch as a reward for getting through them!

 

“Turn Off Slack for an Hour.”

Neil Andrew

Marketing Manager at PPC Protect

As the marketing manager of a tech startup, I’m often bombarded with emails and Slack messages throughout the day. Not only can this be incredibly distracting, but it can also be very stressful. To help me get through the day, I turn off all my Slack notifications and close down my emails for one hour a day. This allows me to focus on the task at hand without people asking me if I’ve seen the office fidget spinner anywhere.

 

“Turn Off Your Phone.”

Alexis Davis

Founder and CEO of H.K. Productions Inc.

I turn my phone off for a designated amount of time for tasks that require intense focus. It’s easy to get pulled in to other people’s emergencies, texts, calls, and emails. I’ve learned it can all wait. Prioritizing and taking care of what I need to do first is essential. That is a lesson that took me a while to learn.

 

“Exercise!”

Amy M. Gardner

Certified Professional Coach with Apochromatik

It sounds counterintuitive, but I’ve found that when I invest time in exercising, I’m much more productive and efficient, and have more energy. I am also less likely to waste time during the day if I know I need to be finished at work in time to get to the gym or need to get to bed early so I can be up early.

 

“Take a Break from Screens.”

Jake Tully

Head of Creative Department at TruckDrivingJobs.com

In today’s work environment, we have a natural inclination to move from our work computer or work phone to our personal phone when we take a break. This attachment to technology makes it difficult to differentiate between work and relaxation time. Instead of trading out one screen for one another, consider using a break to detach from technology to go on a walk, read, or meditate. You will feel more refreshed when you must return to your workspace electronics.

 

“Frontload Your Day.”

Marina Pilipenko

Marketing Manager, Actitime.com

I begin my day with the most significant and time-consuming task. This way I have the large part of this assignment done by lunchtime. It gives me the sense of accomplishment and inspires me for the rest of the day. I know my biological rhythm and that I have a productivity decline around 5 p.m. I plan my day so that I do the most routine tasks at this time. I don’t like to leave the office when a task is half done. Then I have to spend some time the next day getting back into the process. I try to leave the assignment at least to some milestone.

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      Donna Cleveland is the editor in chief of iPhone Life magazine. After a stint as a newspaper reporter, she became web editor at iPhone Life, where she continues to pair her penchant for storytelling with her love of Apple products. Donna holds a masters degree from the University of Iowa School of Journalism & Mass Communication. She also hosts a feminist podcast, Women and Radio.