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The Top 27 Productivity Hacks of 2018

This new year, kiss your inefficient and time wasting habits goodbye.

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BY Larry Kim - 30 Nov 2017

The Top 27 Productivity Hacks of 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

As 2018 gets closer, many professionals focus on what they can do better next year. Increasing productivity at work is a common New Year's resolution, as there is almost always room to improve anyone's practices.

To help you get started, here are 27 productivity tips that will help you start 2018 off right.

1. Build Up Your Energy

Highly productive people seem to be brimming with enthusiasm, but that doesn't come naturally to everyone. To help you get your energy levels up, take a moment every morning to write down your purpose, or the why behind your current pursuit. It serves as an excellent reminder as to why you're giving your work your all and can function as its own source of motivation.

2. Control Your Calendar

While working in an environment where everyone can view your Google or Outlook calendar can be convenient, it can also set you up for problems with you don't take control of your time. Others may view empty spaces as opportunities to schedule meetings, even if you intended to use the time for other tasks.

Instead of leaving your calendar in the hands of others, block out the time you need to handle critical tasks. That way you won't be derailed by an unexpected meeting request.

3. Create a Mini Crisis

Some people thrive under pressure, allowing them to accomplish more than they originally thought possible in the timeframe. You can recreate that sensation by blocking out less time than you actually think you need. Often, you'll find your focus improves when you begin working and ultimately finish on time.

4. Ditch Your Smartphone Notifications

While completely shutting down your smartphone isn't always practical, managing your notifications is. Frequent pop-ups are distracting and almost guaranteed to pull your attention away from the task at hand.

When you need to complete detail-oriented work, shut all non-critical notifications off so you can focus with greater ease.

5. Schedule Email Time

Email notifications are another notorious concentration-breaker, so giving in to every alert is guaranteed to make heads-down tasks a challenge. Don't let email take over your day. Instead, schedule time at the beginning and end of the day specifically for email. Then, unless something especially critical is coming in, feel free to ignore it the rest of the time.

6. Put Time-Suck Websites in Time Out

If you find yourself losing time to sites that aren't essential for work (and use a Mac), consider blacklisting them for periods using the SelfControl app. Websites you add to the list will be automatically blocked for the selected time, ensuring you can't distract yourself with your hunt for a perfect unicorn meme to share with your friends.

Windows users can try similar applications, like StayFocusd for Chrome or ColdTurkey for additional controls.

7. Avoid Lyrics

A lot of professionals enjoy ambient sound when they work, but music with lyrics (at least those in languages you speak) can actually be distracting. Choose either instrumentals for ambiance or white noise to block out sound instead, and you won't be as tempted to stop and sing along with the tune.

8. Tackle Must-Dos First

While it seems like common sense, many people forgo certain must-dos in favor of more straightforward, though less critical, tasks. But this can leave you scrambling if you don't allow for enough time to get the work done.

To break the cycle, always start with essential projects first, no matter what. You'll thank yourself for your diligence come the afternoon.

9. Take on Two-Minute Tasks Second

Small tasks can make your to-do list seem insurmountable. So, to pair things down, after handling your must-dos, head straight to your quick tasks. You'll get to check items off your list, which is rewarding in its own right, and make the rest of your day feel less encumbered by minutia.

10. Get into a Groove

Whenever possible, group like tasks together. Since your brain is already engaging in a particular way, use it to your benefit by focusing on similar activities in rapid succession.

11. Cut Meeting Times by 25 Percent

While meetings can be vital to your business, they have a nasty habit of expanding to fit the available timeslot, even if those extra conversations don't provide value. To avoid the meeting version of scope creep, cut the time by 25 percent. You'll still tackle the important topics, but are less likely to be caught in unnecessary discussions.

And, if getting together in person isn't completely necessary, consider eliminating the meeting entirely. Your staff will thank you.

12. Consider Stand Up Meetings

When people settle into a chair, their more likely to get comfortable in the space. If you need things to progress quickly, embrace a stand up format, forgoing chairs completely. This keeps people from settling in and encourages them to get to the point and move on with their day.

13. Perfect is the Enemy of Good

When it comes to your business, you probably want to make sure everything is perfect. But perfection can ultimately be the enemy, and is often an illusion, especially if you keep pushing to improve something that is already good as is. Don't drill away at something that is already in respectable shape. Instead, move on to other tasks and accept that good can be good enough for success.

14. Know When to Delegate and Outsource

Most business owners want to keep everything in their hands, but this can leave you overloaded. Learn which tasks truly require your input and which can be handled by properly skilled professionals. Once you split up the work, delegate or outsource quickly so that everyone can get started on their to-do lists.

15. Don't Neglect Professional Development

Regardless of your position, there is always more to learn. Professional development helps you acquire new skills and perspectives, letting you be more effective. If a new competency allows for a higher level of productivity, then work to gain it.

You can take a class or explore free resources online, depending on your schedule, so make a commitment to learning something new today.

16. Embrace Automation

In today's technological world, there are some many options for automating processes, like emails and proposal or quote delivery. If there's a task you can automate, look into it. It can shrink your to-do list significantly.

17. Unsubscribed and Unfollow

If a newsletter or Twitter feed isn't providing you with value anymore, then unsubscribe or unfollow immediately. This will clean up your inbox and feed, letting you find helpful information quickly and lessening the time you must dedicate to inbox maintenance.

Repeat the process weekly or monthly for optimal effect.

18. Check In with Yourself

At least once a week, check in with yourself by assessing how you're feeling then make plans to remedy any negative emotions that may be lingering. Self-care is important for productivity, so don't continually neglect yourself in the name of getting more done at the office.

19. Have a "No" Strategy

Saying "yes" to every task leaves you overwhelmed, but saying "no" can be its own source of stress. To make saying "no" easier, create a strategy in advance, including email templates or scripts, to simplify the conversation. This will decrease the amount of time you spend in the discussion while ensuring your point gets across effectively.

20. Invest in Dual Screens

Having two full-sized computer screens is incredibly beneficial, especially if you have to refer to one report while creating a document, or any other resource + activity combination. The larger screens make text easier to read, and the dual monitors prevent constant switching between pages or applications, making it worth the investment.

21. Don't Fixate on Where You Start

When people begin a project, they often default to starting at the beginning. But, if you're stuck, don't be afraid to abandon the introduction and, instead, focus on another segment. Sometimes, it's easier to start in the middle of a document, or even the end, so don't restrict yourself to a particular order if it just isn't working.

22. Use Templates

If you are repeatedly recreating the same documents, you're wasting time. Instead, create or download templates for your most commonly used formats and content types. Then, you can simply start with a template instead of reinventing the wheel.

23. Save, Save, Save

If you're working on a long document or report, hit the save button as often as possible. While many programs have autosave features, the delays can be quite long. To preserve your work, make a habit of saving after every key point.

You can either quick the icon or use a keyboard shortcut to get the job done, either of which only takes a second. But, if it saves you from having to rewrite paragraphs of information, it's worth it.

24. Learn the Keyboard Shortcuts

Speaking of keyboard shortcuts, make it a priority to learn them. They're incredible time savers and are available in almost every program. Start with those associated with your go-to applications and expand from there to get the most value.

25. Ignore the News

Trying to keep up with the news is essentially impossible, allowing it to generally function as a time sink. Plus, it can be trivial and even unreliable, and isn't necessarily great for your brain. Do yourself a favor and ditch the onslaught of news that can easily take over your life. It's worth it.

26. Stop Multitasking

Ultimately, multitasking is a myth that many of us fall for at some point. Instead of dividing your attention and rapidly switching between activities, commit your focus to the task at hand and you'll see your productivity rise.

27. Get Everything You Can Out of Excel

Microsoft Excel is everywhere, and most people encounter it regularly during their career. But few professionals are truly Excel Power Users. In as little as an hour, you can learn to use advanced features like pivot tables, graphing, and vlookups, all of which give you access to business analytics capabilities that help you visualize data in just minutes, which is a feature that shouldn't be ignored.