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Meaningful ways to increase your productivity, performance and well-being backed up by scientific research.

Productivity Hacks

Throughout my professional career, a comment I have frequently received from clients, managers and peers, is that I am “so efficient.” I live in Minnesota, where we have over 10,000 lakes and over 10,000 ways of talking around something without saying it directly… Initially I thought maybe “efficiency” was a euphemism for something, but over time I’ve realized it’s a great strength of mine and a skill that has definitely worked in my favor!  In this post I’m going to share with you three of my favorite efficiency hacks so you can increase your productivity and be more efficient. My first hack is mindfulness. After describing myself as a productivity pro, you might think that I jump right into every day with a to-do list on fire. Although I do begin my day with a to-do list, before I light a fire I take a few moments for myself and I ask these questions:

  • “How am I feeling?”
  • “What are the big challenges for today?”
  • “How do I want to feel when my work day ends?”

These questions, more than anything, provide direction by shaping my priorities, my schedule and my energy. This is also supported by researchers, who have found that beginning our day with mindfulness helps us control our attention, be more flexible in our thinking, manage our emotions and reduce stress1.

My second favorite hack is: “do the worst first.” This is also known as the Premack Principle2. When I look at the list of important and urgent priorities on my to-do list, I choose the one I dread the most and I get started on it first. As soon as I finish that task, or make good progress on it, I move on to a task I enjoy. By doing the “worst first” I get it off my list as quickly as possible so it’s not staring at me all day, looming in the corner like a hungry creature I don’t know how to feed. Once it’s done I reward myself by doing a task I really enjoy. By doing it after the “worst” task, it is all the more enjoyable!

The last hack I’ll share with you today helps with interruptions3. During the day we inevitably get interrupted. Some of those interruptions we can’t control (managers, clients, customers, etc.) and some of them we can, but still stop to do them anyway (bio breaks, switching tasks, etc.). When we abruptly move from one task to another our brain lingers on the first task and we continue to think about it even while we are trying to turn our full attention to the new task. We may have put away the email we were answering and now we are listening to our manager, but a little part of our brain is still trying to finish that interrupted email. What we can do? When we are interrupted we can respond with a respectful, “Yes, one moment please.” In that moment we turn to our task and write 1-2 notes about what our next steps are – maybe “I need to mention Y and refer them to X.” Then we put the email away and give our full attention to the interruption/the new task. Later, when we are able to return to that interrupted task, we don’t have to go back and re-read the entire email, re-read what we had already written in response and remember what we were going to say next. Instead, when we return to it we see our notes and we can pick up right where we left off. 

There you have it – three of my favorite efficiency hacks (all of them, of course, supported by psychological research). I hope you give these a try and make them work for you!


1. American Psychological Association (2020). Premack’s principle. APA Dictionary of Psychology. https://dictionary.apa.org/premacks-principle

2. Lyddy, C., Good, D. J., Glomb, T. M., Bono, J. E., Brown, K. W., Duffy, M. K., Baer, R. A., Brewer, J. A., & Lazar, S. W. (2015). Contemplating mindfulness at work: An integrative review.  Journal of Management42(1), 114–142. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206315617003

3. Leroy, S., & Glomb, T.M. (2018). Tasks interrupted: How anticipating time pressure on resumption of an interrupted task causes attention residue and low performance on interrupting tasks and how a “ready-to-resume” plan mitigates the effects. Organizational Science, 29, 380-397.