Beyond Life Hacks: Reusable Solutions to Common Productivity Problems [Mind Hacks]


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Beyond Life Hacks: Reusable Solutions to Common Productivity Problems [Mind Hacks]

Let's face it: when you've run into serious productivity roadblocks like procrastination, distraction, and overwhelmed paralysis, keyboard shortcuts and index cards aren't going to save you—only better patterns of behavior will.

Photo by woodleywonderworks.

Regardless of whether you use a Mac or PC, Microsoft Outlook or Gmail, an iPhone or a BlackBerry, all modern cubicle jockeys face the same recurring productivity problems inherent to having constant internet access and a gazillion things to do. While we've posted thousands of one-off shortcuts over the years that can speed up your work, what getting your crap done really requires is new patterns of thinking and behavior—broader strategies that apply no matter what tools you're using.

Let's take a look at some common problems the wired worker faces and a few approaches for dealing with them.

Distraction/Lack of Focus

You know what you're supposed to be working on, yet you're still checking the basketball scores, posting to your high school friend's Facebook wall, ripping your CDs into iTunes, and writing an entirely unnecessary email instead. Dozens of things are vying for your attention at any given second, so being utterly unable to focus is as common a malady as near-sightedness or allergies.

When you find yourself scattered—your monkey mind jumping from one branch to the next—but you've really got to get that thing done, step back, take a breath, and shift gears into single-tasking mode. To single-task, you've got to clear your dashboard, firewall your attention, roll up your sleeves and get to it. In a code red situation, gather all the stuff you need to get your task done, and get away from your regular workspace where temptations abound. (For example, head to a conference room or coffee shop with your laptop or notepad and pen.)

If lack of focus is a recurring, everyday problem, assign yourself three "Most Important Tasks" to get done per day. The night before you wrap up work, write down three items you must get done the next day. When you get to your desk the next morning, before you even open your email, start in on one of the three assignments. If three is too many, start with one and work your way up.

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