There are plenty of articles online with clickbait titles designed to give you life-altering advice. But most of them only offer vague suggestions you’ve already considered, or worse, aren’t actually all that helpful. Here are four secrets that will radically increase your productivity that will almost certainly surprise you. The biggest challenge will be taking them seriously. If you’re not open minded about becoming significantly more efficient, stop reading.
This first suggestion requires recognizing one of the tiniest parts of your day that adds up to hours and hours of wasted time. It’s the moments spent moving your dominant hand between the keyboard and the mouse. It only takes a second to reach across, and then only a second or two longer to move, scroll, or press a button, and finally only a quick second to bring your hand back. But all those seconds add up. They represent incredible inefficiency that’s easy to correct.
To solve the problem, tape a piece of paper to your mouse as a distracting reminder for you every time you start to point and double click. The purpose of this 21st century splinter is to force you to learn the keyboard shortcuts for your computer. Many of them are listed in the menus you’ve been using all along. Others can be discovered through combinations of the control, alt, shift, escape, arrows keys, enter key, and more. And if you don’t stumble across the right sequence by accident, search online. Avoid using the mouse, and recover hours of your day.
Another secret for productivity relates to the horror that is other people. There is no area of your workday that can be more difficult to predict than ringing phones or affable colleagues who want your attention. Here’s what to do: write out your policies for interruptions. These must be specific and applicable. How many times will you let the phone ring? During what hours of the day will you allow calls to go to voicemail? What’s the soonest you’ll reply to an email? What’s the longest you’ll engage in small talk? Write them down and post them in sight, and review them every day. You’re guaranteed to get more done.
The challenge of this idea is being rigorous without becoming a jerk. If someone knocks on your door when you’re working on a high priority project asking if you’ve “got a minute,” find the sweetest way to suggest they buzz off and send an email instead. But if you put your own policies into practice and work to become 100% consistent, other people will unconsciously start to learn your patterns.
Secret #3 involves total humility. Chances are there is someone who is more tech-saavy than you in your office, and chances are they’re also ten or more years younger. Offer them a free meal in exchange for sitting in silence and watching you work for a full thirty minutes. The temporary co-pilot will be aching to give you suggestions on ways to be more efficient, from tricks on the computer to better ways to deal with buzzing devices. But don’t forget the bribery and the time commitment, otherwise, you’ll learn almost nothing.
One final secret for radically improving your productivity involves fooling yourself. Go get a package of your favorite candy (or a handful of almonds, if you’re on a health kick) and line them up in a neat row on your desk. When you have to perform a series of mind-numbing, highly-repetitive, nearly-zero-value tasks, reward yourself after each cycle with a morsel of delight. Take a moment to enjoy the flavor and the mouth feel. Then, repeat until you’re out of work or out of treats. Just like training a dog, you’ll teach your subconscious mind to find a little pleasure in the monotony. And pretty soon, you won’t need a trip to the vending machine to justify tackling that recurring task.
To review, the secret to radical productivity is to actually try these novel ideas with genuine commitment. Don’t idly think that you need to learn more keyboard shortcuts; make it painful to use your mouse so that you actively try to use the keyboard. Don’t promise yourself you’ll ignore your email once in a while; intentionally design your own policies and make yourself follow them. Don’t just envy the youngsters in your office that seem impossibly efficient; sit down with one and let them squirm for a solid half-hour before they pelt you with advice. And don’t merely reward yourself with a glass of wine at the end of a long day; create a micro-reward system based on the smallest of repetitive annoyances.
It’s all too likely, however, that you’ll nod your head and go off to do something else. So these four radical productivity secrets will mostly remain a secret. Or at least, they’ll be something you keep meaning to try.