Productivity (Environment)

Top 20 Productivity Hacks that Will Change Your Life

I’ve been reading books and blog posts about productivity for years now and over time, I’ve come across several productivity hacks. They all promise to be revolutionary and life-changing, but the truth of the matter is most of them are not for me. In this article, I’ve compiled twenty of the best productivity hacks, most of which I use on a daily basis. This isn’t a popularity contest, so you won’t find the two-minute rule or the Pomodoro technique here simply because I don’t use them on a regular basis. Whenever possible, I included a link to a book that references the technique in question in case you want to read more about it

The Five-Minute Rule

If you have problems doing something, convince yourself that you’re going to do it for five minutes. The idea is that after the five-minute mark, you’re going to be so invested in the activity that you won’t be able to stop and you’ll continue doing it. To a certain extent, procrastination is human nature, but the more we put off something, the more anxious we feel about it. This quickly becomes a negative cycle that’s hard to break. There are several ways to beat procrastination, but most aren’t as simple and effective as the five-minute rule.

Batching Similar Tasks Together

Instead of doing a time-consuming activity several times over the course of the day, you pick a time and deal with it once. This is a way to prevent switching between two or more tasks which takes both time and mental energy. So, for example, instead of checking email every 30 minutes, you can take an hour and deal with emails once a day. Although “task batching” and “time blocking” sound similar, they are not. The former is about grouping similar tasks and doing them at the same time and the latter is about blocking off a set amount of time to do something.

Block Distracting Apps/Websites

You can find anything on the internet whenever you want, but that doesn’t mean you should. As a way to prevent you from going to your favorite social media website and wasting hours of productivity, you can use website blockers. So instead of relying on your willpower alone, you can install a program or browser extension that prevents you from using a specific site. Personally, I use one called Freedom. This is a free Chrome extension that whenever I visit a website from its blacklist (this includes Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, and so on), Freedom encourages me to “pause for a few seconds” before I access the site. There are numerous site blockers and some of them straight up block a website for a specific amount of time, so make sure you choose one that works for you.


In his book Atomic Habits, author James Clear makes a distinction between goals and systems. He suggests that instead of focusing on the goal, we should build a system that helps us achieve that goal. Of course, the system will be different for everyone and one of the ideas from the book is that you use a series of small, “atomic” habits to create a system that works for you. It may take time, but coming up with a system that helps you achieve your goals is invaluable.

Daily Highlight

In Make Time, authors Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky encourage readers to choose one daily activity they want to do. Then, they help you “make time” so that you actually do it. This activity should be the most important for you and that can be work-related or not. The idea behind the daily highlight is that if you apply the principles of the book for an entire year, that translates into 365 daily highlights and that should definitely have a positive impact on your life.

Listening/Watching at Speed Multiples

I know a lot of people have never touched the speed buttons on their media players, but I use them all the time. Whenever I’m listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or watching YouTube videos, I’m doing it at 1.3x speed. This enables me to do more in less time. To be fair, I don’t watch movies or listen to music this way since this would prevent me from enjoying something I like. But for everything else, I change the playback speed and enjoy the benefits.

Conscious Use of Technology

I’m writing this on a PC, right next to me I have a Kindle and a tablet. If I turn around, I can see a laptop and most of the rooms in my house have a TV in them. We’re surrounded by technology and while it can certainly make our lives easier, it can also distract us and prevent us from reaching our potential. So constantly set boundaries when it comes to technology: block distracting sites, limit screen time, turn off notifications, prevent Netflix or YouTube from auto-playing videos, and so on. Technology should work in our favor, not against us. I also discussed this topic in the article “6 Lessons from ‘How to Break Up with Your Phone‘” and let me tell you, few productivity hacks can have such a tremendous impact on your life as using technology more consciously.

Wake Up Early

For the past few weeks, I’ve set an alarm that goes off one hour and a half before another family member wakes up. That’s allowed to make this blog from scratch which means doing research, writing articles, and so on. By waking up early I feel like I’m taking advantage of the day ahead and that’s a small sacrifice you have to make if you want to accomplish anything. But waking up early is easier than done and there are several hacks to do it. Personally, I wake up at the exact same time every day and I put my alarm far enough that I have to get up to reach it and turn it off. It’s been working wonderfully so far.

Say “No” More Often

In the book Effortless, Greg McKeown advises readers to say “yes” to essential activities and “no” to everything else. You could apply this principle to pretty much every aspect of your life and you should, but what I take from this book and from that idea, in general, is that not only should you say “no” to people, but also to things. Most things should be clear “nos” so that you can save enough “yeses” to what’s essential in your life. Think about it, you’re surrounded by “nos”: look at your Netflix list, your Amazon wish list, open your closet, or your fridge. Keep asking yourself questions and unless the answer is a resounding “yes”, your default answer to everyone and everything should be “no”.

Don’t Multitask

According to the American Psychology Association, “Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity.” In other words, multitasking is hurting your productivity, not helping you do more in less time. Several authors have discussed the benefits of focusing on a single task, but at the end of the day, rather than being a productivity hack, multitasking is another excuse to be distracted. By not multitasking, you can gain control of your life in a world full of distractions.

Declutter Your Workspace

Over the course of last year, I read numerous books about organizing. There’s something to those books that captivate me, but I really love the idea that, at least in the workplace, less is definitely more. I find minimalist workspaces soothing and I feel that keeping the clutter to a minimum improves my focus. Whenever I leave my desk, I organize the few things I have on its surface (that includes my Kindle, daily planner, notebook, pen, and tablet). When I start using it early in the morning the next day, I clean the space in a few minutes and start using it. This is a simple yet effective habit that’s improved my life for the better.

Work Offline

Have you ever heard of Peter Shankman? The entrepreneur signed a book contract with a two-week deadline. To write the manuscript he bought a $4000 round-trip flight to Tokyo and wrote the entire first draft in less than 30 hours. No distractions, but more importantly, no internet. In Chris Baley’s The Productivity Project, the author argues that “the internet is killing your productivity” and he provides a series of tips to disconnect. These include everything from using airplane mode, closing all browser tabs, and not using your phone after a specific time of the day. We need the internet in our lives, but do we need it all the time?

Have a Distraction Pad

There are several ways to clear your mind when you’re worried or anxious about something: you can exercise, talk to someone, organize your house, or listen to music. Something that works for me is having a daily planner by my side at all times. Whenever I have an idea or I remember something I want to Google, I write it down and continue doing what I’m doing. I write down what I need to do over the course of the day, but also the random ideas that come to mind when doing other activities. Thanks to this idea, I have a clearer mind, and I worry less.

Automate Repetitive Tasks

In the book Effortless, the author discusses how automating repetitive tasks makes your life easier. That means something different for everyone since we all work with different digital tools. One way in which I automate is by using Grammarly, a Chrome extension that lets me edit documents and proofread in real time. Instead of re-reading entire emails or blog posts, I do it automatically right then and there. Nowadays, there are powerful tools at your disposal that allow you to auto-respond emails, make coffee as soon as you wake up, and let bills pay automatically.

Learn to Prioritize

When you dive into a project for the first time, everything seems important. But the closer you look at the individual tasks, the more you realize that only a handful of activities are actually of great significance. Whenever I have to prioritize, I write down a list of activities and organize them according to their importance. I also ask myself “Does this activity let me achieve the ultimate goal?” You can also highlight the most important activity and go from there or do the most urgent tasks first and then continue with the next urgent one.

Avoid Decision Fatigue

The average adult makes around 35,000 decisions per day. Making too many decisions jeopardizes your ability to make even more decisions. This is called decision fatigue and it makes you both physically and mentally drained. Decision fatigue can be avoided by removing most choices, everything from selecting the clothes you’re going to wear the night before, paying your bills automatically, embracing routines, or having the same breakfast every day.

Take Breaks

Taking breaks effectively increases your productivity, so go do some meditation, eat a healthy snack, or simply stretch your muscles. Experts even recommend what they call “microbreaks”, a brief activity that can last a few seconds to several minutes and breaks the monotony of the work you have been doing. There’s evidence that taking regular breaks can reduce stress, boost productivity and make work more enjoyable.


There are numerous benefits to exercising regularly, but when it comes to productivity, the results are tremendous. Even doing low-impact activities such as walking, doing yoga, or aerobics, will make you feel more energized, less stressed, and happier in general. Doing a 30-minute session, five times a week is more than enough to start doing more productive work.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.” By focusing on what’s essential and removing everything else we can have laser focus, freedom, and balance in our life. There are numerous things we can simplify, including our possessions, environments, goals, screen time, multitasking, and diet, among many others.

Strategic Goal Setting (Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly)

Setting goals gives you a sense of direction and lets you see “the big picture”. Oftentimes, though, we don’t take time to re-assess or reevaluate the goals we have and that can be a problem. If our goals change, but we don’t take the time to reflect on those changes we can feel aimless or demotivated. Something as simple as taking a few minutes to review our goals can help us stay on course when it comes to our personal or professional lives.

So there you have it. Twenty productivity hacks you can start implementing in your life. As I said before, I left out some techniques, but feel free to share the ones you used in the comments section below. I’m looking forward to reading your ideas!

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