3 Free Productivity Hacks That Actually Work

When you get right down to it, high performing entrepreneurs execute regularly. A solid dose of daily focused work goes a long way in business. That’s because most “professionals” flit about between email, meetings and instant messenger chats. Though at times necessary, they are low value activities when it comes to your productivity and creating value.

Today, I’m sharing my top three productivity hacks to get you hyper-focused during the day and crush your goals by the week. Each productivity hack will help you, but combine for optimal results.

Productivity Hack #1: Set Goals For The Week

Goals are achieved daily and weekly, not quarterly and annually. So wouldn’t it make sense to set daily and weekly goals as well?

Instead of getting swept away with all the little urgent (low value) activities during the week. You are going to intentionally pick a few non-urgent (high value) tasks that bring you closer to your goals.

On Sunday evening, take a look over your sprawling task list. As you go through the list, compare tasks to your higher level goals. Ask yourself “What can I do this week that would take me a huge step closer to my goals.”

As you find the high value activities, write them on a post-it note, where you’ll be able to see them and cross them out during the week.

For fun, throw in big looming task you keep putting off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put an “impossible” task in my weekly list and by Friday, low and behold, its been accomplished. Chalk it up to your subconscious or what ever you’d like. All I can say is it works.

Now that your weekly goals are set, let’s get more granular with our next hack.

Productivity Hack #2: Plan Your Day The Night Before

Since you’ve planned your accomplishments this week, let’s plan our day to make sure we get our high value tasks mixed in with the urgent, low value stuff.

Open a notebook and list the hours going down the page starting with 5am (or whenever you get up) all the way until you hit bed time.

Plug in your essentials like morning routine, breakfast, lunch, dinner, exercise, meetings and other non-negotiable items in the calendar. After you’ve done this, you’ll see a few big chunks of time, I like to call this Focus Time.

While most people are haphazard with their focus time—we are not. Next to each hour, list the task you need to accomplish. Glance at your weekly goals and make sure at least 2-3 of your tasks are bringing you closer to these accomplishments.

Put the hardest task at the beginning of the day and progressively make them easier as you get later in the day. We stack our day this way because your willpower diminishes as the day wears on.

When you wake up the next morning, you’ll have your game plan by your side and will follow it all day. You won’t waste brain power worrying about what you should do next. You already know you are working on the right task at the right time.

Now that your weeks and days are planned, let’s talk more about Focus Time. As this is when the real work get done.

Productivity Hack #3: Create Focus Time

Cal Newport wrote a terrific book called Deep Work, exploring why deep intentional work is a rarity in today’s workforce. Most people are stuck in email, meetings and instant messages conversations. Rarely do they get to focus on a single task for an extended period of time.

Newport shows over and over that knowledge workers that set aside uninterrupted time to focus produce more and better results. As an added benefit, deep work creates the conditions to step into “flow” or “the zone” which makes work not only enjoyable, but brings your full ability to the table.

For professionals, finding this time is difficult. That is why many high performance executives are known for working early in the morning or late at night. This is the only time they can step away from the urgent and focus on the meaningful.

For us entrepreneurs, at least in the early stages, we can create our own focus time with some discipline. Since we’ve already completed the hard part of selecting the right task, now we just need the right environment for focus.

Find a quiet place to perform your high focus tasks. If you must use your computer, close your email and disconnect your wifi. Put your phone on airplane mode. Let your spouse know you can’t be interrupted for the next hour.

Start the task and if you need to research something online, DO NOT GO ONLINE. Instead, write a note to research it after your focus time. This will be hard at first, but you are building an important muscle—the ability to focus deeply on a task and not interrupt yourself with impulse. Think of it as your money making muscle.

The Powerful Productivity Triad

Goals are accomplished one week, one day and one hour at a time. If you’re not planning and executing on an hourly, daily and weekly basis, the “urgent” takes over and your goals continue to simmer on the back burner.

This week, pull out a post-it and write your goals for the week. Grab a notebook and plan tomorrow hour by hour. Create a distraction free zone and focus on the task at hand.

Are you already planning your weeks and days like this? Do you have other hacks to add? If so, let me know in the comments below!