10 Productivity Tips From Hacker News

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“Suck it up. Stop reading blogs, stop reading HN, stop making excuses. Start working. There are no tips that will break you out of it – just self discipline.” – krschultz

This is the Nike approach to procrastination and productivity (“Just do it”). I like that the advice pulls no punches but I believe it will falter for most people in that it doesn’t reduce big projects down into small, manageable steps. Productivity is as much, if not more so, about state of mind as it is use of time.

“Work on only one thing.” – edw519

Trying to get many things done at once leads to not getting anything done in the amount of time it should take. Irrefutable logic. Additionally, and I think this is particularly important for entrepreneurs, a finished project creates value for your business while you work on the next project. For example you have two projects. Project A will take three weeks to finish and project B will take two weeks to finish. No matter what you are going to be spending five weeks getting both of the projects finished but if you work on and finish project A then it is going to be delivering value (e.g. content that adds leads to the top of your funnel, a new feature that will reduce churn, etc.) while you work the next two weeks on project B.

“Get enough sleep.” – Mz

Sacrificing sleep to meet a deadline is something that a lot of us have done countless times. For me personally I find that those late hours are at 25%-50% as productive as my morning hours the next day on a full night’s rest. So it often makes sense for me to throw in the towel in the evening and start fresh. Additionally, lack of sleep has a cumulative effect (as any young parent will tell you) so too many sleepless nights in a row will have an outsized negative effect on your productivity.

As a corollary to this, identify where in the day your most productive hours tend to be and block those off on your calendar if you can. Use the other parts for the day for the phone calls, meetings, email, etc.

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“Find a team partner – and you will be cornered to start “get things done”. Otherwise, you can’t keep show up everyday without any progress.” – hwijaya

Having an accountability partner is a great practice for staying on track. Commiting to a deadline and telling someone else about it is a powerful method for driving focus and accomplishing the task in front of you. For entrepreneurs mastermind groups are often recommended and there are numerous ways to accomplish this in a corporation including what the commenter suggested.

“I write things down. I set micro-deadlines. I force myself to move on after the deadline, or if I really need to finish it, set another deadline.” – snikolov

Writing things down is the key to Getting Things Done. Get everything that is not the current task in front of you out of your head and on paper. This helps keep your mind from wandering and holding onto distracting thoughts.

“Once a week, take something you’re doing ad hoc and systematize it, or take something you’ve systemized and measure it, or take something you’ve measured and improve it, or take something you’ve improved and automate it.” – patio11

Creating processes and automating repetitive tasks is a hit on your short-term productivity but an investment towards long-term productivity and ultimately your success. This permanently takes something off your plate (note there is some time required to maintain upkeep as all processes will change over time) and opens up time every week to invest elsewhere.

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“Walk – Any time I am feeling distracted or stressed I take a walk outside. It reboots my mind and I come back refreshed. If something was eluding me before the walk it typically reveals itself quickly after returning from the walk.” – endswapper

This is something that I did daily for five years when I lived in a climate where I could do it year round without putting on a parka. I still try to do it as much as the weather and my schedule allow. When I get back to my desk I am much more prepared to tackle my ONE thing.

For some a mediation break might work as well but getting the fresh air and a bit of exercise really worked for me.

“What helps the most for me is just closing out all other applications, chats, and browser tabs and not reopening anything else until I’m finished with work.” – apolymatth

I’m pretty terrible about opening tabs and then not closing them for sometimes a month or two. The problem with this is that they are a continual reminder of things undone. Those chip away at your focus just like those ideas in the back of your head and things you need to remember day to day.

One thing I try to do (and still need to be better about) is taking each open browser tab at the end of the day and creating a task for it in Asana. That way I can schedule reading those webpages along with all of my other tasks. If they aren’t applicable to what I need to accomplish the next day then I’ll schedule them for next week, next month, or possibly even just close and forget them.

“Shut off social media. Kill the noise. (FB, Twitter, Snapchat, HN, $SOCIAL_MEDIA_NETWORK)” – akulbe

Social media is probably the biggest time sink of our generation. Sure it can lead to interesting new ideas and discussions but the reality is that it doesn’t make any positive material difference in your life. By making communication so simple it has lowered the level of what people share thus creating so much more noise. (If you are old enough you remember writing emails to groups of friends–or even letters–which took more effort to write. That meant you tended to not share the shape of the milk in your cappuccino or what you overheard on the bus in the morning. Still couldn’t avoid the politically motivated chain mails though.)

You would be amazed and how much time in the day is spent looking a social media feeds. Add those hours (yes, hours) up and picture what you could accomplish with that time!

Btw, for me Reddit is the killer that is not on that list.

“Love what you do. Productivity is easy when your heart is in it.” – orky56

When work doesn’t feel like work you are in a good place. This reduces the stress you feel about being productive and stress is a productivity killer. It is a vicious cycle that ensnares many employees and one that is hard to step out of. If you aren’t doing something you love you should be doing something else. (I know that is way easier said than done but you can start by mapping out a plan and taking baby steps. It might take a while–years even–but eventually you hopefully will get to a place where getting up and going to work is something you look forward to.)