Career LMBDW

Work Smarter, Not Harder: The Best Productivity Hacks

18 January 2019

We’re all human. We all get distracted. But procrastinating all day, every day only hurts us in the long-run. It means we have to scramble at the last minute, stay back later, and work on weekends. So light these essential oils to boost productivity (#vibes), and let’s tackle that to-do list with these productivity hacks!

#1 Do the hardest, most time-consuming tasks first.

Get that task you’re dreading out of the way in the morning. That way, you can finish it while you’re still fresh, and then move on.

#2 Power through time-sensitive tasks in the morning.

For the most part, adults are at their sleepiest between 1 and 3pm. Since siestas aren’t a thing Down Under (dammit), try to get that high-priority work done before lunchtime.

#3 Can’t figure out what’s a priority? Pretend you’re going on holidays tomorrow.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, this will help you to focus on what you need to finish ASAP.

#4 Download a web blocker.

I like Freedom. It blocks social media, apps and even the internet for a specific period of time so you can get shit done.

#5 Put your phone on airplane mode.

If your phone is your #1 distraction, switch on airplane mode. Or lock it in a drawer and give a colleague the key with strict instructions not to give it back for X minutes… Whatever works!

  • This hack is the BEST for people who work from home and don’t have a boss glaring at them every time they reach for their phone.

#6 Turn off the WiFi.

I read an interview with Zoe Foster-Blake where she said she unplugs the internet when she’s working on a book. So now I do the same when I’m on a major deadline. Try it!

#7 Disable email notifications on your phone.

We’ve talked about how email is the worst – so why let it invade your phone too? Opt to refresh your email manually, so you’re not distracted by notifications demanding your attention.

#8 Unsubscribe and unfollow.

If you’re always deleting the same newsletters, unsubscribe. This will clean up your inbox and save you from waking up to 74619816 unread emails.

#9 Make your to-do list more manageable.

Don’t write down a bunch of large, general tasks. Instead, break them up into smaller, actionable tasks.

Before: “Write thesis.” This is way too daunting.


  • Read X paper and summarise
  • Collect any references for further reading
  • Write introduction

This is more realistic, plus you’ll get to go crazy with the highlighter! Is there anything more satisfying?

#10 Categorise your emails.

Own your inbox. When you get an email, don’t ‘mark as unread’ and deal with it later. Decide what to do now: 1) address it, 2) file it, 3) forward it, or 4) delete it.  

#11 Set boundaries with your email.

This will depend on your job, but you can boost your productivity by checking emails at specific times. Maybe you only read them between 9am-10am and 5pm-6pm. Soon enough, your colleagues will get used to it.

#12 Consider a phone call.

No one likes chatting on the phone anymore, but sometimes it’s faster. If you have clients/colleagues who love sending 10+ emails for a simple issue, get into the habit of quick calls.

Being productive

#13 Follow the one-minute rule.

If a task will take you less than a minute to complete, do it now! This stops those small, annoying tasks from piling up and taking way too much time.

#14 Try the Pomodoro Technique.

Can’t concentrate for long periods of time? With this method, you do 20-minute bursts of focused work, followed by a 5-minute break.

#15 Stop multitasking.

Do you have a million tabs open at once? Your brain feels the same. To make your life easier, do one thing at a time and give it your full attention. Chances are, you’ll get it done more quickly.

#16 Know your ‘golden hours’.

When are you most productive? Plan your day around that. For example, I’m a freelance writer and I find it hard to be creative at 9am. I usually spend the first 2 hours of my workday doing research and interviews while my brain wakes up.  

#17 Get to work 1 hour earlier.

Are you a morning person, or a manager who fields questions all day? A peaceful office is a beautiful thing. By going to work early, you’ll be able to sip on your coffee and get work done before the staff streams in.

#18 Or block out time in your work calendar.

Public calendars are convenient, but they can quickly fill up if you don’t take control of your time. Rather than leave tons of empty space, block out any time you need to put your head down. You can also try “timeboxing,” which is when you set a deadline for each task.

Here’s an example:

9am-9.30am: Answer emails

9.30am-10.30am: Staff meeting

10.30am-12pm: Project proposal

12pm-1pm: Lunch

1pm-1.45pm: Prepare sales pitch

And so on.

#19 Take mini breaks.

Humans weren’t designed to stare at a computer for 8 hours straight. You need to give your eyes and brain the chance to recharge.

#20 Map out your week ahead.

On Fridays, Sundays or whenever makes sense for you, get organised for the following week. Set your priorities, write your to-do lists and block out time in your calendar. That way, when you walk into uni/work on Monday morning, you won’t waste time.

#21 Switch up your scenery.

If you’re feeling a little foggy, a change of scenery can work wonders. Move to a conference room, the kitchen or outside, and actually take your lunch break.

#22 Introduce stand-up meetings.

When people sink into a chair, they’re more likely to get comfortable. This is a bit sneaky, but it might encourage people to get to the point!

Stand-up meetings

#23 Make one day a week meeting-free.

CEOs are starting to implement this rule at their companies, and we’re big fans.   

#24 Automate anything you can.

In today’s high-tech world, we can do anything at the click of a button. Do some digging – you might be able to automate emails, quotes or even the weekly grocery shop for the office.

#25 Boost your energy.

It’s easier to be productive when you’re energetic. For better energy, go to bed earlier, exercise regularly, meditate, get out in the sunshine, and stash healthy snacks in your desk drawer. You can also work on easing your anxiety, and spend time with people who lift you up, not drag you down.


 Words by Katia Iervasi.