• Millian Gehrer Contributor.

Ensuring we work smarter, not harder, is indispensable in today’s world. Balancing an increasing number of tasks and our personal lives requires focus. Here are ten sure-fire ways to increase that your productivity.

10 Next-Level Productivity Hacks

1. Categorise and Prioritise – Make a list of the tasks you need to tackle, and group similar tasks. Then, rank categories in order of priority. Work on the highest-priority category, and then move down the list. This ensures you focus on what matters. Also, it allows you to establish a flow in regards to a certain project/cluster of related tasks. Knocking out many assignments in one go feels more significant than competing them one by one. You’ll work on what’s important first, with greater focus. Tackling larger issues at once by completing a set of smaller tasks is manageable. Also, working in “focus” groups allows for high productivity.

2. Set Up an Auto-Response for Your Email – Set up an automated email response notifying senders that you are currently working/unavailable and they should call if its urgent. Make sure the response is only active during your working hours. An automated email removes the pressure of immediately responding. Yet, it lets people know you will get back to them after your designated focused work time. Also, it allows senders to reconsider the relative importance of their email. If it’s not worthy of an immediate call, they’ll figure they can talk to you in person at a later stage. This strategy lets you restrict superfluous emails while remaining available for what matters. Your focus improves, and along with it your productivity.

3. Carry a Notebook – Especially as an entrepreneur, it’s tempting to switch focus from the task at hand to a sudden idea that appears in your mind. Carrying a physical notebook ensures you can relieve your mind of the distraction. You can always come back to the idea later on – it’s recorded. Also, writing out your ideas ensures you will be able to remember them. It’s reassuring to record any important information for future reference. A notebook clears up your mind for productivity right now.

4. Close all Apps – Rather than having your email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. open and switching tabs whenever a notification comes in, it is easier to chose a few (I’d recommend two or three) times per day where you log in the respective web or mobile apps and check all at once. Dedicate a few minutes at a fixed time to responding to any messages. This prevents the inefficient cycle of switching between tasks. That way, you are more productive when you need to be.

5. Turn off WiFi/Mobile Data – This is another way to manage distractions – turning off your WiFi and/or mobile data allows only cell phone calls to come through. That way, you can leave ringer or vibrate on for your phone in case of any important calls/messages. But, you don’t get all the email and social media notifications every time you need to use your phone. Taking control of distractions is paramount to giving the task at hand your best effort.

6. Batching – An effective work-break balance can have a huge impact on your productivity. No one can concentrate without interruption for hours at hand. Taking regular breaks when your focus begins to drift avoids semi-productivity.  The Pomodoro Technique (25-on, 5-off minutes) is a great guideline to follow. It requires a commitment to remaining focused on the goal for a full 25 minutes. In a state of “flow”, those 25 minutes fly by. 4 sessions of 25 minutes with 5 minute breaks are far more effective than 100 minutes with a 20 minute break at the end. Productivity lags are going to happen. Why not take the 5 minutes every half hour to refocus and hit those next 25 minutes with high productivity.

7. Set Specific Goals – To achieve what you need to, knowing your goals is vital. Without a specific aim, a lot of time and effort goes to waste. Defining a target helps you allocate time in an efficient manner. Also, it ensures you focus only on what is relevant. It is key to make these goals specific so you can pinpoint the instance you have achieved it. A vague goal could have a flexible completion point and is thus hard to achieve. Subdividing a larger task into smaller ones may help if this is your predicament. If you set goals and make them specific, you’ll know when you’ve completed your goal. Then, you can move on to the next task. Efficiency!

8. Clean Up Your Workspace – Working at a tidy location (I clear all but absolute necessities from my table) transforms your productivity. There’s more space to move around and place resources relevant to the task at hand. There are no books or other potential distractions when your desk is almost empty. Also, an organised and clear desk reflects an organised and clear mind. Cleaning up your workspace is thus conducive to your clarity of thought and organisation.

9. Automatise Scheduling – Instead of engaging in the so-called “email ping-pong” of trying to set up an appointment, let your colleagues and clients select a time that works best on your calendar. Sunrise and Calendly are great apps that facilitate scheduling. They offer your free times to the person trying to make an appointment. Upon selection, they book  the appointment it in your calendar. Amy even acts as an AI assistant who handles the emailing for you. “She” is often mistaken for an actual human secretary. Automising your schedule saves you time. Plus, it is often perceived as more polite if you offer someone a large selection of times. You can focus on chugging away while the technology coordinates all appointments.

10. Get Up Earlier – Starting your day out in a proactive manner begins with action, not reaction. Early in the morning, there are rarely notifications. Going to bed earlier isn’t missing out; after work hours you won’t hear much from your time zone anyway). Getting up early allows you to enjoy an absence of distractions and take control of your day from the start.  This should not be mistaken for sleeping less. Going to bed at 9:00 P.M. and waking up at 5:00 A.M. ensures 8 hours of quality sleep. It’s also a great feeling to be a few hours ahead of everyone else once you show up to work. You can focus on the rest of the day, knowing you’ve used the most productive time of day well.

If you try these hacks out or already use them, I’d love to get in touch and hear your feedback.

Wishing you a productive and fulfilling day,
MillianOpinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Millian Gehrer is an entrepreneur and currently pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering degree at Princeton University