I’m going to assume you know to batch process tasks, to prioritize your top three to-dos for the day, and to handle anything that can be done in less than two minutes right away. And I’m guessing you’ve seen all kinds of common life-hacking productivity tips, such as starting your day productively, working during your peak productivity times, shutting off distractions, and saying no when you need to.
This is 2017. If the same productivity advice that’s rehashed over and over again hasn’t gotten you where you want to be, it’s time for a new approach.
Below, I’ve compiled five strategic suggestions you may not have tried yet, all of which are designed to help you make 2017 your most productive year yet.
1. Hack Your Health
If you’ve ever tried to work through a cold or the flu, you know that it’s easier to be productive when you’re healthy and energetic. That said, staying healthy – both by eating healthy food and exercising regularly – is easier said than done when you’re pouring all of your available time into your career.
Ramit Sethi has a great solution for this (but, spoiler alert, it also costs him $50,000 a year to execute). Sethi works out with a personal trainer, who sends his workouts to his assistant, who sends this information to his nutritionist, who follows up with the personal chef who delivers pre-packaged meals to his home.
Talk about making healthy living as easy as possible!
If you don’t have an extra $50,000 laying around, you can still hack your health with tools like Swole.me and Eat This Much, which automatically generate meal plans for you based on your dietary goals and food preferences.
2. Zuckerberg Your Wardrobe
Tech savants, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, take a lot of heat for their less-than-innovative wardrobes, but the secret they know that you don’t is that every bit of mental power wasted making unnecessary decisions is energy that can be spent on higher-need tasks.
According to a quote from Zuckerberg in The Telegraph:
“I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”
Treat your energy and focus with the same respect. You might not want to pare down to a single t-shirt or hoodie, but you can hop on board the capsule wardrobe trend that’s all about wardrobe minimization (instructions here for men and women).
3. Automate Everything
Automate, automate, automate.
In your personal life, automate your bills to pay themselves. Use Amazon Subscribe & Save to send regular purchases to your home at periodic intervals (check out digital nomad Steve Corona’s list of automated purchases to get a feel for what’s possible). Set up IFTTT or Zapier for everything from archiving your life to searching for jobs. With the number of tech tools on the market today, there’s a tool that’ll automate pretty much anything you do routinely.
Carry this automation mindset with you to work. Use chatbots to automate your customer service. Process payroll automatically with services like Wagepoint. Automate HR and business tasks with Hubworks. Any time you start to think about hiring a new worker, ask yourself if there’s an automation tool that can handle the task for you.
4. Use More Concrete Language
I never see this suggestion pop up on lists of productivity hacks, but it’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give you. Rather than thinking about new strategies for saving time, look at how you can optimize the things you’re already doing. And one of the best ways is to make sure you’re using clear, concrete language whenever possible.
Say I give one of my employees a project, and the instructions aren’t clear because I haven’t taken the time to really think through what needs to happen. Sooner or later, the employee is going to come back to me for more details, wasting both of our time.
Karen Payton of Bright Communications shares the following on The Language Lab blog:
“As much as 40% of the total cost of managing business transactions is spent on problems resulting from poor or misunderstood communication. One research study showed that a business with 100 employees spends on average 17 hours each week clarifying email communications. Over a year this costs the business more than $500,000.”
5. Do the Work
This isn’t just a productivity suggestion – it’s a book recommendation as well.
If you haven’t read Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work yet, read it. In it, he makes an incredible point that you have to understand whether you’re trying to improve your personal productivity (say, by fitting in a regular workout), or get more done at work.
Here’s one passage that’s stuck with me since I read it:
“Don’t prepare. Begin. Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project, or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.”
All the productivity hacks in the world won’t help you if you can’t sit down and do the work. Learn to turn off that “monkey mind,” get down to business, and make 2017 your best, most productive year yet.
Got another tip for this list? Leave me a comment below with your favorite productivity tips: