Simple productivity hacks to immediately improve your effectiveness

Perhaps you find yourself continually challenged to meet escalating expectations and “do more with less.” Or maybe you aspire to a life centered around a three-day or 25-hour work week. Or, you may just feel like you’re slogging through each day, accomplishing less than what’s possible and desirable.

If you’re like most Americans, you want to be more productive. In fact, research conducted by suggests 80% of us want to be more effective — and even identified the dynamic of “efficiency envy” in one of three subjects who admitted that efficient people make them jealous. Productivity advice abounds in the form of books, courses, podcasts and more.

But, let’s face it: Long-held habits are hard to change, especially given the stress and speed of business. What’s necessary are straightforward, doable strategies that simplify your day and transform potential into productive outputs. Strategies like:

Buy into your biorhythm
Much of the advice about productivity centers on when to do what. Whether it’s eating “frogs and veggies” first to make the rest of the day easier, stepping away at noon no matter what or leaving mindless tasks for late in the day, these are generic suggestions that may or may not meet an individual’s unique needs.

Instead, carefully evaluate your personal energy system. When are you clearest, quickest, most curious, less energized? Lean into your biorhythm and leverage your own personal highs and lows to construct a schedule that aligns activities with the energy you’re capable of deploying at any given time.

Diminish decision-making
Decision-making is central to many workplace roles. It’s also a highly demanding activity that requires considerable mental energy and can compromise productivity. As a result, it’s critical to preserve cognitive resources for the decisions that directly drive outcomes and results. This means reducing the volume of less valuable or impactful decision making. (Think Steve Jobs’ uniform, where no unnecessary mental processes were deployed on wardrobe choices.)

Beyond pre-planning what to wear, consider pre-planning your day the night before. Spend a few minutes to flesh out your calendar beyond pre-arranged meetings to include the actual work you’ll do, hour by hour. Schedule in specific time to address email, respond to phone calls and even work through projects and stress over problems. Then, don’t think about it again. Trust your previous night’s self and obediently follow your plan. You’ll be amazed at the mental resources that are freed up for higher value work.