Get started in the right way with these productivity hacks for 2021


When people think of New Year’s resolutions, productivity at work is usually pretty high up on the list. Alongside cutting out junk food, quitting certain vices and learning a new skill. 

At Intelligent Talk, we like to think that any day is a good day to make positive changes and we don’t need a New Year to make it happen!

We understand the appeal, especially after the year we’ve all had (Even TIME magazine declared 2020 the “worst year ever”). We’re all looking to the new year as a way to make a positive change in our lives.

However, with 80% of resolutions being broken by February it seems like we could all use a helping hand to make meaningful change that last the year and beyond.

Although we may still be facing COVID-19, lockdowns and a lot of economic uncertainty, it’s still possible to create positive change.

So, if you’re looking to boost your productivity, here are our favourite ways to go about it.

1. Remove the need to be motivated in order to be productive. 

Usually, when considering productivity, the first thing that comes to mind is motivation. We all tend to think that productivity needs to start with a rush of inspiration and energy in order to do things.

This isn’t necessarily the case. All productivity actually requires, is action.

Waiting to be motivated can cause a lot of frustration and friction as we wait for the ‘perfect’ time to work on something, we end up giving way to procrastination and guilt.

If instead you tell yourself, this will only take a few minutes, once you sit down and start the rest will flow easier.

2. Newton’s First Law of Motion.

It is more difficult to start than it is to continue. If you’ve ever started going to the gym, you’ll know how true this is. Once you have incorporated your new habits into your routine, you become more productive and they are much easier to maintain.

3. Incentivise completing your to-do lists.

Human beings work with impulses. And much like Skinner’s rats, you can become more productive by adding more pleasure to the action you want to do, or painful consequences if you don’t do it. For example, you can listen to your favourite music whilst completing a task or reward yourself once certain objectives are complete.

This can also work on the flip side, set yourself forfeits like doing 10 push-ups if you don’t hit certain deadlines or targets you’ve set yourself.

4. Follow the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule essentially means that 20% of your actions produce 80% of your results.

For example, if you have 10 things to do, identify the 2 goals that will bring you closer to your overall goal and which can wait a little longer. It’s essentially prioritising in it’s most basic form.

5. Substitute old habits with new habits.

When dealing with habits it is much easier to substitute an old habit than to create a new one or break an old one completely. For instance, if you are trying to cut down on caffeine – instead of stopping from drinking coffee completely, replace each cup you would normally have with a cup of tea or water instead. 

6. Use the Pomodoro technique.

This time management technique uses a timer to break up your work into intervals with a short break in between. 

Traditionally using blocks of 25 minutes, this can be adapted to suit your needs with the idea being that you focus solely on one task during that block and nothing else, once the timer rings you take a short break to refresh yourself before starting another timer and block of activity. Once you have completed four blocks, you take a longer break. You can find more about this technique here.

7. The 2-minute rule.

If something takes less than two minutes, do it now. A simple, yet effective way to clear those smaller tasks that often get put to the side.

8. Stop multitasking. 

As our lives continue to get busier and busier, most of us have looked for ways to get more done by multitasking.

Technology has made it easier than ever to multitask, but constantly multitasking can lead to a reduction in overall brainpower and memory problems.

9. Track your time online.

If you work online, or from home, it can be incredibly easy to get distracted and off-track.

Social media and other distractions are only a click away. Making it all too easy to check Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or other apps and websites that time can be wasted on for hours.

Apps such as Rescuetime can help you audit your day to tell you where you’re really spending your time.

It may feel like you’re putting in 8 hours of work but after a closer look, you may notice that’s not the case at all.

Keeping on top of your distractions can be a great way to ensure your time is spent more productively. 

10. Procrastination happens – make the most of it.

Procrastination is natural, sometimes the harder we try to be productive, the harder it becomes. 

Sometimes the best thing we can do is embrace it. Embracing it doesn’t necessarily mean giving in to it completely though. Instead of being sucked into a Netflix show, watch a TED Talk. Instead of reading inane Facebook updates for 20 minutes, read a blog post (we’ve got plenty here). 

Being gentle with yourself reduces the pressure that can cause burnout and a decline in mental health. Allow yourself a few minutes of distraction then refocus and get back to the task at hand.

Applying even one of these tips will help you become more productive, save you time and allow you to focus on the things that really matter to you in 2021. 

We’d love to hear if any of these tips help you, or if there are any you would add!

Published: 11th January 2021

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