Productivity5 Productivity Hacks You're Screwing Up (and How to Do Them Better)

5 Productivity Hacks You’re Screwing Up (and How to Do Them Better)5 Productivity Hacks You\'re Screwing Up (and How to Do Them Better)

It’s no secret that almost every professional is on a quest to find the best productivity hacks out there. Whether it’s tips for answering emails faster or solutions for using your schedule more efficiently, people have all sorts of ideas for how to shorten the amount of time it takes to do just about everything.

However, despite all of the advice out there, have you ever tried out some of these magical productivity hacks and found that they didn’t help you in the slightest? If so, here’s a hard truth: You might’ve been doing them wrong.

Here are five ways you may be messing up common productivity hacks—and how to fix your mistakes.

1. Making a Too-Long To-Do List

If this is happening to you, trust me when I say there’s an easy fix.

Try This Instead

While there are tons of different theories about the length and intensity of daily and weekly to-do lists words, it’s better to have two or three big tasks and a couple of smaller tasks to do than a list of 20 things you need to get done by sundown.

2. Getting on a “Normal” Sleep Schedule

Try This Instead

Sure, the old adage of “early to bed, early to rise” works for some people, but it sure doesn’t feel that way for everyone. So, instead of conforming to the old notions of what “normal” sleep hours are, find the best system that works for you and your schedule. For example, if you feel like you’re most productive during the wee hours of the morning, take a nap earlier in the evening, wake up, then take another nap at some point during the day to cover the sleep you aren’t getting.

Not sure how to find your ideal sleep time and amount of sleep? There are some crazy suggestions out there (some involve locking yourself in a remote cabin without electricity to get on a natural cycle), but a little planning and some math can do the trick. Dr. Michael Breus, an insomnia expert, recommends heading to bed seven and a half hours before your wake time and adjusting your sleep schedule by 15 minutes depending on how you feel.

3. Being Distracted While Answering Email

Try This Instead

What’s one of the biggest productivity killers, especially in the realm of answering email? Other Distractions. Because working through your inbox is a usually a boring task, it’s easy to want to check your phone or talk to co-workers while doing it. However, these small and seemingly innocuous distractions are actually costing you from getting your work done.

Instead, find somewhere quiet to check your email during your allotted time, and turn off your push notifications and alerts (and even your phone, if possible) while you’re at it.

4. Getting Too Organized

Try This Instead

Going from zero to 60 in two seconds can leave you feeling disoriented, especially in the realm of organization. Thus, instead of completely cleaning your entire professional life in a matter of hours, work in chunks and take your time over the course of several days or weeks to get yourself organized.

For example, start with the giant stack of miscellaneous documents that have been sitting on your desk since you started your current job. Take time to carefully figure out how you’d like to store all of these documents (Filing cabinet? Desk organizer?) before you start cleaning and throwing things out.

Additionally, don’t throw out whatever you put in the “toss” pile for a couple of days after you clean just to make sure that you have everything you need.

5. Downloading Too Many Apps

Try This Instead

Treat your productivity apps for you, weigh the pros and cons of that app, and be ready to focus on improving your use of that app over time.

In my experience, investing more time and energy into how to use a single app at a time has led to me not only having an army of applications I actually like and usefully, but also knowing how to utilize all of the features on every single one of my apps.

Overall, the biggest mistake people make productivity hacks is not being deliberate when thinking about how to use them. There’s an assumption that because you’re trying something new, it’ll have a maximum impact without having to try too hard, and that’s rarely the case.

Remember, productivity hacks can help, but they aren’t a magical genie.