Headshot of a smiling women with dark hair and wearing dark framed classes Helene Segura, The Time Management Fixer
September 1, 2021

Productivity hacks and time management hacks are popular search terms on Google. Productivity and time management are topics that millions of people are interested in because they want to know how to be more effective and efficient with their time. Is there a better way to work? Is there a way to do more in less time? Is there a way to stop working around the clock? Do productivity hacks actually work? I get asked those questions all of the time because the go-getters I work with want to accomplish more, but they also want to have a life outside of work.

When prospective coaching and seminar clients are interviewing me, I listen for a “red flag” term: hacks. The word hacks implies a shortcut, a quick and easy way to do something. There are definitely some time management hacks that can be utilized — like keyboard shortcuts – but in the end, if you truly want to be more productive by managing your time better, there are foundational principles to be applied — and not just hacks. The term “hacks” is a signal to me that I need to dig in a little deeper to find out if they’re using that term because it’s in society’s current hip-term vocabulary and they truly want to learn for the long-term, or are they looking only for a band-aid and a quick fix?

I recently was asked some refreshing questions by a journalist. Instead of requesting the typical top three productivity hacks, she first asked what the definition of productivity even was, and — get this! — which hacks didn’t work. Revolutionary!

Here were my answers to her first two questions:

What is the definition of productivity?

My abbreviated definition is: working efficiently and effectively to produce quality results

My full definition is: Creating efficient and effective habits and systems that allow you to live, work and achieve a purposeful, fulfilling life.

Why are so many hacks ineffective?

We live in a microwave society. We want everything instantly, including solutions to our challenges. This is why hacks are popular. People think they’ve discovered a magical shortcut that will make their lives infinitely better. Hacks usually don’t work for the long-term because only the tactical portion of the hack is attempted. But when we understand the strategy behind the tactic, we can implement that hack in the way that will best work for our individual needs in any given situation.

You’ll hear me preach that “time management is all about mind management.” It’s our brains that decide how we’ll use every second of every minute of the day. Our brains are the single most important time management tool. That’s why one of the most critical “hacks” I teach my clients is intentionally pausing. Those of us who rush around to attempt to complete as much as possible and/or please as many people as possible tend to react to questions and requests instantly and in the order they’re received. However, pausing for a moment or two allows our brains to make better long-term and short-term decisions about where our time should go so we can respond instead of just react. If you understand that strategy and implement it, you’ll climb to a whole new realm of productivity.

When you understand that the strategy behind the hack is just as important as the tactical hack itself, you’ll find much more success with implementing solutions for the long-term.

During CIDM’s Best Practices Conference from September 20 – 22, 2021, we will most certainly be examining an array of time management strategies, as well as examples of tactics that can be implemented based on those strategies. What we will not dive into as thoroughly are the hacks that do not work over the long haul. Instead, I’ll give you a quick overview of those right here.

The following are seven productivity hacks that seem helpful, but aren’t – unless you have studied the strategies behind them in order to implement them effectively and efficiently:

1. Relying on Reminder Systems
How many times have you set a reminder for “later” so you remember to do something? But when later arrives, you’re in the middle of something else, so you hit snooze or delete. I’ve watched folks spend more time rescheduling reminders than actually working on their tasks. To efficiently use a reminder system, take a peek at your calendar to see when you’d have time to complete this task before its due date and set a reminder for that specific time frame. If you want to kick it up a notch for important projects, make an appointment with yourself on your calendar for that time block.

2. Turning on Notifications So You Won’t Miss Out
The brain takes an average of 60 seconds to restart, so each time that notification dings or vibrates on your device, you’ve just cost yourself one minute. Office workers receive an average of 100 communications per day, so you do the math on your lost time each day. To avoid this, check your emails, texts or messages when your brain is ready to receive the information. Whether this is every three hours or every seven minutes, you’ll get far more done during your concentrated time instead of constantly being interrupted. Get ready; I’ll remind you more than once about this during the conference!

3. Taking Set Breaks
Our brains work at different intensity levels and with varying attention spans depending on the task that’s in front of us, our current mental and emotional state, as well as the time of day it is. If, first thing in the morning, you set alarms at specific times of the day to take a mandated brain break, you might actually be interrupting your productivity levels. Instead, take your breaks when you feel your energy dwindling or your attention shrinking. Or, if you fear forgetting to take a break at all, set your alarm when you’re starting a task so you can take a break when you’ve completed it.

4. Playing Catch-Up or Getting Ahead in the Evenings or on Weekends
If this happens once a quarter, that’s not a terrible thing. But when it’s a regular pattern, you’re actually driving down your productivity levels. Neuroscience tells us that our brains need recharge time in order to be more productive. But if we’re spending our evenings or weekends working, then we’re not getting that much-needed recharge, which causes us to work at lower productivity levels the following day and the day after that and the day after…. You can bet we’ll address this during the Work-Life Balance session.

5. Relying on Apps to Solve Your Problems
Apps can be helpful tools if you’ve selected the ones that will be most beneficial for your specific needs, and you implement them as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of clients who previously spent inordinate amounts of time switching from app to app to app in order to find the perfect one that would solve all of their problems, or they spent hours making sure they’d planned everything to a T within the app, including taking into account all possible contingencies that occur in this galaxy and neighboring ones. They lose time to apps instead of saving time. Improving your mind management skills comes first before purchasing apps. This is why if you glance over the agenda, there’s nothing mentioned about studying apps.

6. Daily To-Do Lists
What makes to-do lists unproductive is when you leave off one of the most important pieces of information: time estimations. When you create your list from stream of conscience and don’t take into consideration the amount of time it will take to complete each item on the list, you’ve set yourself up for failure. So many people create 10-hour to-do lists when they actually only have two to three hours total between all of their meetings to get work done. Then they lose additional time transferring the undone items to the next day’s list. Instead, create your to-do list using time estimations for your top-priority tasks. You’ll have the chance to practice this, so have your calendar ready.

7. Time Blocking Your Entire Day
If you deal with humans or technology, your day will never go according to plan. Ever. Ever, ever. If you time block or time box every minute of your entire day with meetings and tasks, you won’t have any space for fires or opportunities that crop up. Give yourself a cushion by time blocking gaps in your day for handling the unexpected. Have no fear; we will study successful time blocking in detail.

During the conference, we’re going to deconstruct best practices, look at the ins and outs of why those practices allow professionals to more successfully manage their time, and then you’ll have the opportunity to share ideas with your colleagues in order to develop your customized solutions for your particular situation. Get ready to tell your time what to do!

Helene Segura’s passion is working with busy professionals, teaching them how to tell their time what to do. For a complimentary Productivity Kickstarter Kit, visit www.TimeManagementRevolution.com.