THE INC. LIFE

Five Mental Hacks to Supercharge Your Productivity

It all begins with good planning and the right mindset

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 06 Jun 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Start-up founders depend on their own productivity to get through the million different things that demand their attention. Wouldn’t it be a dream to accomplish all the things you set out to do for the day and still have time to catch up on that Netflix series you’ve been obsessing about?

It all begins with the right mindset. For starters, try doing these five mental hacks:

1. Plan each day ahead

Erik Cheong, co-founder and COO of Singapore-based logistics solution company Park N Parcel, suggests spending 10 to 20 minutes every night creating a to-do list and ranking the items in terms of priority. This will help you organize your day around the most important tasks.

“Remind yourself that these are the tasks that need to be done to push forward [and achieve] big goals,” advises Cheong.

Simon Kearney, co-founder and CEO of Singapore-based content agency Click2View, is a fan of to-do lists, as he shares in this Inc. Southeast Asia article, “I need to get things out of my head. I’m not that good at following up on them.” He categorizes his tasks by urgency and his ability to accomplish them right then and there or schedule them for later.

2. Start bright and early

Though not all entrepreneurs can be morning persons, there are perks to being an early bird.

Cheong recommends leaving home slightly earlier to beat traffic or to avoid packed public transport. “Being stuck in traffic will do nothing but frustrate you and set a negative tone for the rest of your day,” he says.

Paul Rivera, co-founder and CEO of Philippine job-hunting platform Kalibrr, is usually up by 5:30 a.m., prepares breakfast, does a quick scan of his e-mail, and spends the rest of that first hour thinking and planning the day ahead. “I try to get to the office with a lot of my e-mail/day cleared so I can spend as much time with my people and team,” Rivera says in this Inc. Southeast Asia article.

3. Learn to say no

One of the best productivity secrets is being mindful if you’re already spreading yourself too thin. “There are many helpful productivity and time-management tips, but I believe the most powerful one is the art of saying no,” Marla Tabaka writes in this Inc. article.

She recommends not responding immediately to a request, and instead taking the time to assess the pros and cons of saying yes. “And don’t over-explain or apologize profusely because you don’t have to say sorry for doing what’s right for you and your business,” she says. Besides, long explanations may backfire and cause the other party to push harder and question your decision.  

4. Make time your friend

We only have so many hours in a day, so put those precious minutes to good use. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into smaller parcels, thereby coaxing the brain to focus. It involves working without interruption for 25 minutes at a time, followed by a five-minute break. After four 25-minute sessions, take a longer break—around 20-30 minutes.

Going out for a quick tea or coffee break, for instance, can help clear the mind and allow you to re-focus. “Try to keep it short because having a long break can make you lethargic,” Cheong says.

5. Learn the difference between urgent and important

Not everything that falls on your lap needs to be dealt with right away or even at all. As such, it’s helpful to categorize them into important and urgent tasks using the Eisenhower Matrix, as described in detail in this Inc. Southeast Asia piece.

What the matrix does is map out your urgent/important tasks and recommend a course of action. For instance, “urgent-important” tasks deserve your full attention and must be done within the day, while “not important-urgent” tasks are better off being delegated. Tasks that are “important-not urgent” should be scheduled. As for tasks that are “not important-not urgent,” well, you can deal with them some other time.