I tried the 5 highest rated productivity hacks — Here’s what happened

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The list of so-called productivity hacks is a mile long. From creative to downright weird techniques, everyone seems to have their own idea of how to maximize productivity. 

I tried the top 5 productivity hacks from Blinkist, just to see what would happen. 

I was surprised by the results. Here’s what I did.  

Technique #1: Pomodoro. Instead of working on a single task for hours, the Pomodoro technique suggests that we should work for about 25-minutes on each task before taking a 5-minute break to clear our minds. Research suggests we focus better at the beginning and the end of each task we do. In the middle, we tend to lose focus. 

The idea is to create more beginnings and endings for every task. 

Here’s what happened: I thought this would drain my productivity. But to my surprise, it made a huge difference to my focus. I spent about 30-minutes on each task before taking a short break. Each time I re-engaged with the task, I had a new idea to try. Better focus and motivation. Tasks just seemed more manageable and felt less like “work”. 

Technique #2: Checklists. I am not a natural checklist person. I just don’t work that way. But for the sake of this experiment, I broke down more complicated tasks into smaller tasks and put them on a checklist. I checked each item off the list as I completed them. 

Here’s what happened: It worked. Not only did it help me to avoid forgetting a step, but it also helped me to visualize each task by breaking down their sub-tasks. And, it made even the more complicated tasks that involved emails, spreadsheets, and phone calls seem more achievable.  

Technique #3: Single-tasking. I am notorious for trying to do multiple things at once. But for this experiment, I focused on a single task at a time. A lot of us think we multitask well, but I’ve read that isn’t true, and after this experiment, I found out why. 

Here is what happened: I had considerably more focus on each task I worked on. I never lost momentum on a task by diverting my attention to something else, and it enabled me to complete each task that much quicker and, to my surprise, with substantially fewer mistakes. 

Technique #4: Personal Kanban. A Kanban is a method of visually representing your tasks and workflows. I used Post-It notes and arranged them on my desk into three categories: To-Do, In-Progress, and Complete. This helped me to keep track of various tasks and their current status. 

Here is what happened: This took some practice, but eventually my personal Kanban became hugely influential in my day-to-day workflow. The constant reinforcement helped me to understand everything that needed to be done for that week, and made it easier for me to prioritize each task based on its current position in the Kanban process and its importance. 

And, using my desk meant that I could not avoid looking at it! 

Technique #5: Early to rise. I got up at 5 am every day, including weekends. This definitely took some practice at first, but it’s also one of my favorite productivity hacks that I kept after this experiment. Getting up early in the morning adds hours of productivity to the day. 

Here is what happened: Getting into the office early meant that the office was nice and quiet. I got more work done between 5:30 am and 7:00 am than I did the rest of the morning. Around 7, the staff began filtering in and flooding the office with commotion and disruptions. 

If you work from home (or it’s a weekend), getting up before your spouse and kids has the exact same effect. The house is quiet and I can focus on tasks much easier, compared with after everyone is awake and doing things. Getting up early isn’t always easy, but if you train yourself to get out of bed before everyone else, you will add hours of productivity to every single day.