5 Productivity Hacks You Need to Know - Smart Money Seed


5 Productivity Hacks You Need to Know

Success = ... Well, it depends

Despite what anyone tries to tell you, there is no secret recipe for success. Whether it is your job, your personal life, or a hobby, there is no magical formula that will catapult you into excellence. Trust me, if that recipe existed, I would be applying it to my golf game ASAP! The truth is each person's recipe for success is a little different. If Alex needs to work on his iron shots and I need help with my putting, it would be pretty dumb for us to practice the exact same way. To be successful, we each need to create a recipe that is unique to our situation.

"There is no substitute for hard work." - Thomas Edison

There is one ingredient, however, that we all can use in our success recipes; hard work. I know what you're thinking, this is a ground breaking discovery and I'm going to become famous for uncovering such a monumental secret. I'll do my best to remain humble.

All joking aside, hard work is probably the single most important ingredient if you're trying to find success. In my years of playing baseball, I never ran across any great hitters that didn't take thousands of swings in the cage or any spectacular fielders that didn't spend countless hours fielding ground ball after ground ball.

I can't condone drinking at work, but this graph may have a point.
Don't worry, hard work doesn't mean that you need to start spending 60 hours a week at the office. Hard work means that you need to heighten your focus and maximize your productivity each and every day you go to work. If you're consistently more productive than your co-workers, I guarantee you're setting yourself up for a promotion or a nice raise. (And if that's not the case, you need to find a new place to work!)

So, what is productivity? 

In my opinion, being productive is simply making the most out of your time. Here are five productivity hacks you can start using today:

  • Make to-do lists - having a visual reminder helps prevent forgetting assignments and allows you to easily prioritize your tasks. I like to use sticky notes for smaller, day-to-day tasks, and a white board for longer-term tasks.
  • Stop eating lunch alone at your desk - if you have a desk job, stop eating by yourself everyday. It might seem like it saves you time, but not only can taking a break provide your brain with the refresh it needs to be effective, you can also increase your network by sitting down with others. You never know when you may need to call on John in accounting for a favor, and I bet he'll be quicker to help out if you already have a relationship with him.
  • Turn off notifications - not many things can stop a train, but an email or text message can stop your train of thought right in its tracks. Before you dig in and start working on that big assignment, take a second to close Outlook and put your phone on silent. Those emails and messages will still be there when you get done.
  • Step away - walking away from your desk may sound like the opposite of being productive, but sometimes a small break is what you need to get refreshed and energized. Even LeBron needs a breather from time to time, so don't think you're some macho man that can do everything at once. Do this when the creative juices stop flowing or when you start to feel fatigued.
  • Write down your thoughts - have you ever had a great thought only to realize a few hours later that you completely forget it? Sometimes your best ideas are your first ideas, and you don't want to lose those valuable thoughts. Carry a small notebook with you to make sure your next million dollar idea doesn't fall by the wayside.

If you really want to be a productivity all-star, you can't just adopt those habits; you need to be aware of what can destroy your success. Here are four things that can kill your productivity:

  • Not knowing your bad habits - if you don't know your weaknesses, you can't manage them. Be mindful of your areas for improvement so that you don't let a bad habit bring you down. My biggest productivity weakness is stepping away for a break. When I have a big to-do list, I often try to bust through everything at once, only to feel fatigued and less engaged by the last task. One strategy I found that helps is purposefully scheduling small breaks throughout my list of projects. 
  • Too much big picture - it's always good to dangle the prize out in front of your face from time to time (i.e. the weekend, a vacation, or retirement), but if you're only looking at the prize way out in the future, you're going to trip and fall over the rocks and roadblocks you have to cross to get to the prize. Make sure you game-plan for those smaller hurdles so that you can get to the prize without too many bumps and bruises.
  • Saying yes all the time - this is difficult for many people, but learning to say no is absolutely critical if you want to be successful. Saying yes to every request is a guarantee that your work product is going to suffer on those important projects. Practice setting the right expectation by saying things like "I'd love to help with that, but I probably won't be able to until next week." Disclaimer: even though Smart Money Seed is an awesome blog, this post does not serve as permission to tell your boss no!
  • Not taking care of yourself - it seems obvious, but don't forget to get some sleep and eat right, otherwise you're going to feel like crap. If you read any article about the habits of highly successful people, one of the frequently recurring themes is having a daily routine which includes ample amounts of sleep and healthy eating. I am by no means great at this (I stay up too late playing video games and probably drink too much beer), but I still try to be mindful.

You've got the tools, now it's time to get out and kick some ass. Start using these tips so you have more time for baseball, fishing, and beating Alex in video games!

What productivity hacks did I miss? What do you do to keep yourself on track? Let us know in the comments!


  1. (1) Schedule your to do list items. This way you have a specific plan for getting those things done and it will block out your calendar so others don't consume that time with a meeting. (2) Know why you are doing something. If you don't know why, maybe you don't need to do it, or maybe there's an easier way. (3) Instead of scheduling a meeting to talk about a problem, schedule an online chat where participants stay at their desk and work through the problem.

    1. I love those ideas! #2 really hits home for me - it can be so easy to go through the motions just to get something done rather than taking a critical look at it. Asking lots of questions and challenging the status quo are great ways to get an edge at work.

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