When you’re busy, the aphorism “worker smarter, not harder” really comes into play. You’re working as hard as you can, and yet, you have a sense you could be using your time more wisely. But how?
While there’s no shortage of generic tips for boosting productivity (magically becoming a morning person is a popular one floating around the Internet), we prefer more concrete tips we can actually apply. So, we turned to six hard-working professionals who accomplish a shocking amount on a daily basis, in part because they’ve developed their own time-saving strategies. Here are a few of their hacks for conquering the daily grind.
1. Take advantage of tech
Cliff Worley, the digital engagement director at Kapor Center for Social Impact, uses tech to his advantage. After breakfast, he asks his Amazon Alexa for the morning news brief as he goes about his morning routine. That way, he can get ready and get the news at the same time.
This sort of hack continues once he arrives at the office, “I start my day at my desk updating my to-do list on Trello, the project management software that helps me keep track of all of my projects and incoming requests,” he reports. Then, “I run through our social media accounts on Hootsuite (my go-to platform for scheduling social posts, engaging with our fans and followers, and reviewing social performance media metrics) … [and] I also log into Union Metrics, the software we use to track Twitter metrics, to make sure it’s configured to track everything online.” Leaning on technology for support can help you optimize processes, freeing up time and helping you make the most out of your day.
2. Prioritize self-care
It may seem counterproductive, but blocking off time for self-care can actually help your productivity – just ask Josh Torres, formerly the social media marketer at Asana. “I wake up and enjoy some quiet reflection time while taking Wes, my Formosan mountain dog, for a walk. Next up: I meditate, grounding myself in what I’m grateful for and what I want to achieve. I’ve been practicing meditation for about five years now, and it has become a really important part of my routine,” he shares. These reflective moments provide fuel for the rest of your day. They also help you pause to identify your goals, instead of feverishly working to get somewhere you may not want to be.
Later in the day, Torres makes time to take a quick walk after lunch and squeeze in an afternoon workout, prioritizing his health. And, he carves out “one night a week to not consume media,” instead using the time “to converse, read, and write. It’s a nice way to wind down.” After all, in the long run, if you’re not taking care of yourself, how productive can you really be?
3. Become a “phantom user”
Byron Adams, formerly the outreach director a Panorama Education, has a very busy schedule, so he takes a passive role when it comes to social media. He explains his strategy for Twitter-use: “I browse the app every day to laugh and keep up with news, but I never actually tweet (unless my flights are delayed and I need a place to vent).” Using social media platforms to consume news and find moments for respite can be rewarding even if you aren’t an active participant yourself. If you keep yourself from crafting personal posts on a daily basis, you’ll be amazed at how much time you actually add back to your day. Save your urge to post until you have some bonafide downtime.
4. Develop a system for your inbox
When your job requires managing multiple projects at once, it’s easy to occasionally lose track. But AdRoll operations specialist, Jessica Matos, is determined not to let that happen. “the minute I see a message hit my inbox, I color-code it, and, once I fully read and reply to it, I file it away in the correct folder. Anything I want to revisit remains starred for later,” she explains. This approach keeps you on task and prevents you from wasting time scrolling through old emails multiple times.
Read more about Matos’ day at AdRoll
5. Block off chunks of time in your calendar
Jaime Guzman, the director of local programs at My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, blocks off time in his calendar to focus on projects with multiple steps. Instead of haphazardly fitting in small tasks between calls and meetings, he designates a consecutive chunk of time to get things done. If you implement this strategy, everyone knows you’re unavailable and they’ll leave you alone (hopefully!). That way, you can dedicate your undivided attention to a multi-step process and complete tasks much more quickly.
6. Make lists
As the communications manager at Bravo & Oxygen, Imani Ellis spends her day putting out fires. She stays on track by writing everything down: “With so many moving parts, I live by lists,” she says. By delineating her day, she’s able to stay focused and prevent herself from losing track of her priorities. “I want to make sure anything that’s urgent is handled right away.” Making a to-do list helps bring your day into focus. You know where to place your attention and strategically optimize your time. Plus, there’s no greater feeling than crossing things off once they’re completed, right?
This article originally appeared on The Well, Jopwell’s digital magazine. The Well is the digital magazine of Jopwell, the career advancement platform for Black, Latino/Hispanic and Native American professionals and students. Subscribe to receive weekly stories and advice in your inbox.