10 Productivity Hacks to Trick Your Brain into Working Smarter, Not Harder

Is productivity a battle each day? Do you go to sleep feeling motivated for tomorrow, but unable to get anything done when tomorrow actually comes? Do you feel scattered when it comes time to get stuff done and your brain doesn't want to cooperate?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then this post is for you! Here are 10 productivity hacks to trick your brain into working smarter, not harder!

1. Time Management

Did you know you're only born with 30,000 days? That's it. All you get. 30 thousand days to live the life you want to live-and maybe even less than this.

So, let me clarify something before we talk about productivity. The point of working smarter is not, I repeat is NOT, to work more. You shouldn't go into this blog post with idea that you can get everything you need to get done to just go get more stuff done.

Instead, get the stuff you need to done so you can do the stuff you want to do! You only have 30,000 days. Don't spend all of them working!

Part of working smarter is learning time management. It's essential to go into each day with a basic plan of what you need to get done and when you need to do it. This helps you stay on track! Working on time management and giving yourself a structured schedule is the first step to working smarter!

I do this by buying a physical planner and using pretty markers to write my tasks down. But, maybe you prefer using google calendar or a scratch piece of paper with your to-do list on it. Or, maybe you just have a vague plan in your head. Whatever helps you manage your time the best is fine, just have some sort of management in place!

2. Put the Worst Tasks First

If you're reading this in the first place, there's a good chance you have a to-do list. If you don't have a to-do list, stop right now and go make one!

When you wake up in the morning and take a look at your to-do list, are there things you want to do at the top? Are the most appealing projects and tasks the first ones? If so, let me warn you of a danger.

The danger is that you will finish the tasks that are more enjoyable for you and give up when it's time to get the tough stuff done. Even if you go into your day with the opposite intent, this is just likely to happen.

So, one of the best productivity hacks to try is putting the worst tasks first. Here's an example. Let's say it's tax season and you have a big list of things to do. One of them is filing your taxes, which you absolutely hate. If you do all the other tasks on your list first, there's a good chance you'll put your taxes off until tomorrow.

Instead, break the cycle by sticking that unwanted to-do right at the top of the list. Circle it if you have to. Heck, highlight it with a sharpie pen for all I care. Just get it done first so the rest of your list is a breeze! The same principle applies if you have multiple unwanted tasks. Stick them all at the top and finish them first so the rest of your day is easy!

3. Learn at Every Opportunity

One productivity hack that I've valued through my entire life is to learn at every opportunity. Here's why.

Let's say you're in biology class and the teacher is going over the cardiovascular system. Now, this might sound really boring, but hang with me. Eventually, you're going to need to learn how the cardiovascular system works, right? But it's the beginning of class, you tell yourself, I can learn this later.

The outcome to this story is one we're probably all familiar with. You snooze during class while the teacher talks about something that isn't tested on for weeks. You think, I'll learn this later. What you probably did was stay up all night before the test cramming information into your short term memory instead.

If you're a student, take this advice to heart. If you're a working adult trying to maximize productivity, apply this advice to every area of life. While you're at work, soak up information. If a coworker or your boss is explaining how to do something and you're within ear shot, listen! This gives you a head up to the competition because, when it comes time to impress your boss or help someone else, you'll already know what to do!

Knowledge is everything, so learning now means less learning later and more doing later! And, voila. Productivity maximized.

4. Take Care of Your Body

This hack may not seem related to productivity, but it is so important! You can't possibly be productive without your body. You need to be working properly and healthy in order to function the most effectively.

You are your best resource! If you think about it, you are the only one who is always present in your life. So, if you aren't taking care of your body, your productivity will suffer too.

This can even become a cycle if you're not careful! You may not get enough sleep or fuel your body with the nourishment it needs, which will mean you have less energy throughout the day. With less energy, you will be less productive, and you'll have more left to do when the day is over. You will work longer hours and use more energy in the long run if you don't take care of your body!

Long story short: break the cycle and take a nap.

If you aren't sure where to even start taking care of yourself, it's okay. Self-care and health aren't always prioritized in our society which tends to be obsessed with the hustle and grind instead of resting. But they're vital aspects to getting stuff done without sacrificing our health in the process.

Here are a few basic ways to start looking after your greatest resource:

  • Exercise. Try yoga, biking, taking walks, or running.

  • Rest. The body needs anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, so make sure you're reaching this number most nights.

  • Drink enough water!

  • Be kind to yourself.

  • Make room for self-care! Not sure how? Check out these 7 self-care activities to try today!

5. Don't Try to Work Both Smarter and Harder

One mistake to seriously avoid is working both smarter and harder. Working smarter should mean you don't have to work as hard. That's the whole point! But, if you're working smarter and harder at the same time, you'll likely become exhausted and burn out.

Instead, use the time and energy you save by working harder to do something you enjoy! Take a break from work when you're done instead of piling on more work in your free time.

6. Don't Forget to Take Breaks

Taking breaks throughout the day is one of the best ways to optimize productivity. In fact, research has shown that taking just 15 minutes to get fresh air, rest, and move your body can increase productivity when it's time to get back to work. Plus, resting and exercising are great for your physical and mental health too!

7. Sprint Through Tasks if You're Stuck

There are going to be tasks that you try to accomplish and just feel stuck in. And when this happens, there are two approaches! You can either skip it and come back to it later, which is totally acceptable.

OR, you can try a method I personally really like. You can do a messy sprint through the task to get at least some of it done. Don't try to do a perfect job or even finish it completely. Just muster up enough energy to do a really messy sprint through the task.

The productivity hack is that, once you start a task, you're more likely to just finish it anyway! If you don't finish it, there's no big deal. You've done your messy sprint, you've started it and half the battle is done. Take a break and come back to it later. But, if you end up finishing it in the process, you can thank me later!

8. Don't be Afraid to Fail

Here's the unfortunate truth: you won't make everyone happy all the time. You will fail at projects. You will make clients unhappy. You will mess up. You will do things wrong.

And when fear rears its ugly head, look it in the face and ask yourself, "so what"? So what if you fail? Instead of asking yourself what you'll lose if you fail, ask yourself what you'll gain! Failure helps us gain perspective, life lessons, knowledge about what not to do in the future! It supports our ability to bounce back.

Failing is never the worst thing we can do. The worst thing we can do is to never try in the first place. So, give that thing a shot! Don't be afraid to fail, because even if you do, you can get right back up and try again.

9. Don't Multitask

So many people pride themselves at being able to do four or five tasks at once. While it seems like an efficient way to get things done, research shows that multitasking simply doesn't work. It leads to less efficiency, a higher rate of error, and overall worse performance.

Working smarter is great, but multitasking isn't the way to do it. Now, I'm not saying you can't multitask when necessary. I get it. You have twenty things to do and want to get them done all at once. But I am saying that it's not going to help you work smarter.

10. Leave Work at Work!

The last and most important tip for increasing your productivity is to leave work at work. Separate your life!

Part of what motivates us to get stuff done is knowing we can come home to rest and enjoy a life separate from work. When we bring work home with us, we take this joy out of life!

Even if you don't finish every little thing on your to-do list, try to leave it at the same time each day. Most people aim for 5 or 6 pm to be done with the work day, but find what schedule works best for you. Get in rest mode at the end of the day and really let yourself soak in what you love.