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Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that matter most. The tiniest changes to your routine, your behaviors, and to your overall outlook can have a massive effect on your ultimate results. In business, no matter what your position or your industry are, your success is in some ways a product of the accumulation of your small decisions. For example, getting to work a little early every day gives you more time to work on a big project, and if you do well on those big projects, you’ll be better poised to earn a raise at the end of the year.
Whether you’re seeking a raise, a promotion, more business, or just higher productivity, these seven life hacks can lead you to greater success in business:
1. If It Takes You Less Than Five Minutes, Do It Now. Small tasks can get in the way of our bigger projects. Trying to tackle them immediately can distract you from your more important goals, but avoiding them can serve only to increase your workload and bog you down until you get them done. To remedy both of these drawbacks, apply the following rule: if there’s a task facing you that will take less than five minutes to complete, do it right now. Then, it’s out of your way, and you’ll have less existential overhead. If it takes more than five minutes, feel free to postpone it or complete it as you see fit.
2. Use Blackout Times to Get More Done. Modern communication is a double-edged sword. On one hand, having practically unlimited means of communicating gives you more access to the world than ever before. You don’t have to wait to contact your coworkers; you can do so immediately. The flip side is that you can be contacted constantly by the people around you, and despite the good intentions of these communications, they can be terribly distracting. To avoid this productivity killer, schedule “blackout times,” where you shut off all forms of communication (including your phone, IM, and email), and focus exclusively on real work. You’ll find these periods much more productive.
3. Use Dress and Posture to Achieve Your Goals. The power of nonverbal cues is enormous, even for the person executing those cues. Simple changes to your attire, your appearance, your posture, and even your facial expressions can make a big difference in your mentality and your place in the office. Dressing up can make you feel more confident and look more impressive. Smiling can make you more approachable and improve people’s impressions of you. Sitting up straight and making yourself feel big enhances your confidence and leads you to perform better in conversations.
4. Find Ways to Move Throughout the Day. Most office jobs leave us sitting idle at our desks for long periods of time, but getting up and moving can greatly improve both our productivity and our state of mind. Find excuses to exercise–even if it’s just a simple walk around the office–for every hour you spend seated. Try a standing desk -I love mine, and it has done wonders for my back pain. Activities such as these will get your blood flowing and get you away from your screen, giving your brain a chance to decompress and improving your focus and critical thinking. It’s even good for your physical health.
5. Time Yourself. Spend one or two average days timing yourself throughout your normal routine. See what tasks and rituals take the longest, and which ones take the least amount of time. Once your results are in, take a critical look at the tasks and behaviors you spend the most time on–are these necessary? What strategies can you use to cut down the amount of time you’re spending? This practice can highlight productivity killers in your daily routine you may never have otherwise suspected.
6. Use the Seinfeld Strategy. Internationally famous comedian and personality Jerry Seinfeld once revealed that he believed the secret to success was in consistency–in his case, that meant writing every day in order to improve. For you, that might mean doing an hour of research every day or anything else relevant to your job. Seinfeld’s method was to mark a giant X on the calendar for each day he wrote–a visual indication that kept him going in his consistent practice. The trick was not to break the chain; eventually, you’ll have a huge row of X’s and your motivation is simply to keep it going. So if you’re looking to build a new skill, start a new habit, or chip away at a massive assignment, make it a consistent habit, and don’t break the chain.
7. Tie Everything Back to Your Long-Term Plan. While not a life hack in the strictest definition of the term, try to tie everything in your daily work back to your long-term goals. For example, if you’re working toward a promotion and you’re considering what type of training to undertake, actively seek out acquiring new skills that will be useful in your desired position. Try to put everything–from your morning routine to your choice of projects to take on–in the perspective of your ultimate plans. This will help you make smarter, more relevant decisions and put you on the fast track toward achieving those goals.
These may all seem like small changes, but the secret lies in their aggregate effect; only through consistency and commitment will you be able to fully unlock the benefits of these career life hacks. Try one or more of them out in your job, and experiment to see which are the most effective. You may be surprised at how quickly you start to see results.