The Only Productivity Hacks You’ll Ever Need

You’re busy and tired, I know. Too many people are in the house. So many things are out of your control. No one knows when and how life will be back to normal. How to be productive during the lockdown? Here are the only productivity hacks you’ll ever need.

You’re busy and tired, I know. Too many people are in the house. So many things are out of your control. No one knows when and how life will be back to normal.


The lockdown is affecting your mind, your body, and making you feel mad at your own helplessness. You know what you should do, but nothing gets done even though you’re busy all day. Everything around you distracts you whenever you try to work, plan, or just to think.


How to be productive during the lockdown?


Here are the only productivity hacks you’ll ever need.


Productivity Hack No. 1 – Eliminate and delegate


Start by making a list of all the things you need to do.


Naturally, you’ll want to get a lot of things done at home. With all the extra time saved from commuting, going out for lunch, etc., you should have more time to tackle the things that pile up on your to-do list. But the truth is far from this.


Home isn’t the most work-friendly place. Your kids and partner aren’t on the same agenda with you. The snack bar is dangerously close to your work zone, and no one will watch over you if you lose yourself in the never-ending YouTube world, Facebook posts, and the volatile Twitter feud.


You need discipline, but that takes a long time to develop. What to do meanwhile to improve your productivity?


Eliminate unnecessary tasks.


As crucial as it is to figure out what to do, you also need to decide what not to do. Because you have limited time and

energy, you want to eliminate distractions and focus on essential things.


First, automate time-consuming routine tasks such as buying household supplies by setting up scheduled deliveries online. With the 6 feet rule, grocery shopping has become a time-consuming task. If you can afford automation, try for a few weeks to see if it works for you.


Next, set up automatic bill payment online and check once every two weeks for any erroneous or fraudulent charges on your bank accounts.


Last, examine all your automatic recurring payments to see which services you haven’t used much and end those subscriptions. This way, you’ll save the money that can be used for online deliveries.


Delegate tasks to your kids.


Kids are studying at home. Most of them are bored stuck indoors. Studies show that physical activities reduce stress and improve mood. Delegate age-appropriate chores to each of your kids and set up a weekly competition to reward your best-performing “employee.” They’ll gain essential life skills, and you’ll have time for the important stuff.


Sometimes you have trouble deciding what is important to you. Remember, time is money. Think about your end goal

when examining your list of responsibilities. What are the action steps that can get you closer to that goal? If something

serves your purpose, keep it; if not, eliminate it.   


Productivity Hack No. 2 – Prioritize tasks to maximize the gain on your time investment


After the elimination round, it’s time to prioritize tasks to maximize the gain on your time investment. This is a two-step process.


First, evaluate the urgency of each task. Rank them from the most urgent to the least. You should always do the most pressing one first.


Second, prioritize the less-urgent tasks by estimating the ratio of reward/time requirement. The higher the ratio, the higher the task ranks.


For example, I have the following tasks to do:


Proofread the blog post I wrote the night before

  • -Pick up allergy medication at a pharmacy

  • -Outline my next book

  • -Take my mom to an outpatient procedure


So my ranking process will look like this:

Based on the urgency level, taking my mom to a procedure should rank first on my list. Outlining my next book has high reward but will probably take days, so the reward/time requirement ratio is low. Proofreading my blog post only takes ten minutes and will award me with great satisfaction, so the reward/time requirement ratio is high.


Picking up medication may take some time, given the social distancing rule. It gives me a medium level of satisfaction. Because I have to wait for my mom to finish the procedure, I can use that time to pick up the medication.


Here’s my final ranking of tasks:

  1. 1. Take my mom to an outpatient procedure, then pick up the medication

  2. 2. Proofread the blog post I wrote the night before

  3. 3. Outline my next book


Productivity Hack No. 3 – Start with bite-size daily tasks.


Ever wondered why New Year’s resolution rarely succeeds? It’s because most people set goals too ambitious to follow through. It’s like wanting to eat an elephant on day one. When people realize their mistakes, they blame it on their lack of discipline and fall back into their old routines.


Setting an ambitious goal and force yourself to be productive doesn’t work. What you need to do is to start small, form a good habit, and gradually build up your tolerance. In other words, you need to scale down first and build the momentum before scaling up.  


  • -Break down a big project into many sub-projects.

  • -Break down each sub-project into mini-projects.

  • -Complete one or more mini-projects each day to stay on track


Making a tiny step every day is the most encouraging way to make progress toward a big change.


Here’s an example.

A friend of mine who is a librarian has been staying at home since the lockdown. She wants to clean up her house, given the time she now spends at home. She’s been thinking about it for weeks, but nothing was done.


“I’m tired just thinking about it,” she said.

“Start clean for 5 minutes a day,” I said.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Start with the messiest room. Set a time for 5 minutes and start cleaning. When the timer goes off, you’re done for the day. Do it every day for a week, and let me know what happens,” I said.


She called me a week later and told me proudly that her messiest room was now her cleanest.

“It worked!” I could hear the smile in her voice. “I never thought you could get anything done in 5 minutes, but there it was. After a few days, I couldn’t just stop when the timer went off. I’d made such progress that I wanted to keep going. Now my kids see me getting so much fun out of this, they want to join me as well. We’re going to clean up the garage next. Gosh, we haven’t touched it for over 10 years!”


Utilize your wait time.


Break a large task into mini-steps and get them done during your wait time. Don’t underestimate fifteen or twenty minutes here and there: you can get a lot of things done within that time frame. When my son was in middle school, the campus opened late on Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. Since he usually arrives around 7:50 a.m., I checked out books he liked from the library and asked him to read while he waited for the school to open. For the three years he studied there, he finished about ten books

just by optimizing that wait time! Talking about productivity, start small and build your way up.


Productivity Hack No. 4 – Plan ahead to work smarter


Proper planning is essential for productivity.


It keeps you on track and minimizes waste of time and resources. With so many distractions around us, you need to know where you’re heading at all times. Having a well-thought-out plan gives you a sense of purpose and control. It also allows you to assess your progress and make room for improvement.


I’m a list person. I make a to-do list at the end of each day. As a pharmacist, working in the intensive care unit is stressful. My job involves participating in medical rounds, providing treatment recommendations and drug information to the care team. The patients’ conditions could change at any minute, and I need to constantly adjust my tasks to meet their needs. It’s crucial for me to reflect on the day’s events and jot down the items to follow up on later. Without the list, I’ll struggle, trying to recall what exactly happened the day before. If I miss anything, it could impact patient care. List-making is the core of my professional life.


I do the same at home. Whenever I receive an invitation or make an appointment, I record it right away on my calendar. This way, I always know how my week or month looks and can easily rearrange if something comes up.


Productivity Hack No. 5 – Set up a reward system for your progress


Just like kids, you need recess, too. No one can keep going at top speed forever. You’ll run out of gas sooner or later. Once your concentration weans, forcing your butt in the chair doesn’t make you any more productive. You only make yourself miserable.


We all need pit stops along the way, take in the view, laugh a little, reflect on what we have achieved, and feel proud.


The Pomodoro Technique –work less and achieve more


Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute blocks separated by 5-minute breaks. These intervals are called pomodoros [from the Italian word for ‘tomato‘, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that inventor used as a university student]. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes.


This method helps you stay hyper-focused and productive during each 25-minute block. The intermittent rest periods allow you to relax your eyes and release the tension in your neck and shoulders. As a result, you’ll feel less tired and exhausted after a long workday.


If you don’t want to be bothered by setting timers many times a day, marinartimer is a free online timer to help you with productivity. You can also customize your timer to a longer or shorter interval based on your personal preference.


Reward yourself for progress


Have you ever traded any small carnival toys for a large one at one of those casinos for kids?


My family skies in Lack Tahoe every winter. When my son was little, he loved those cheap carnival toys we won at the kids’ corner at our hotel. Once we won a small toy, my son would beg us to win again to trade for a slightly bigger toy. That would go on for many times until we traded up to the largest toy the vendor had. Even though it was much more expensive to ‘win’ the large toy than to buy it, my son loved the idea of winning the ‘ultimate prize.’


The same applies to our small wins. Your productivity deserves rewards.


For each day you complete your mini-project, you deserve a small prize. If you continue ‘winning’ for a week, you get to trade-in for a bigger prize. If you continue the ‘winning’ streak for a month, you deserve a big prize. If you continue for a quarter, you deserve a major prize, and so on.


If you’re a book lover, you can set a specific budget for buying hardcover books. If you love cooking, you can work toward ‘winning’ expensive cookware, or some cool kitchen gadgets. Your choices are unlimited, as long as you put in the work every day.


What do you think of these productivity hacks? Comment below!

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Dr. Ivy Ge

Dr. Ivy Ge

Doctor of Pharmacy, author of The Art of Good Enough. She writes to inspire women to design their own fate. Her writings and interviews have been featured on MSNBC, Thrive Global, Working Mother magazine, Parentology, and The Times of India.

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