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100 All-Time Best Ways to Hack Your Workday

October 1st, 2009

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It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of alarm clocks, commutes, meetings, office politics and dead-end jobs, but life doesn’t have to be that way all. Here, we’ve revealed 100 of the all-time best lifehacks for your workday, which will keep you motivated, productive and energized each week.

Waking Up and Getting Ready

Learn how to wake up on time and get moving each morning by reading these hacks.

  1. Go to bed at the same time every night: A regular sleep schedule will help you wake up at the same time in the mornings, too.
  2. Get up when your alarm goes off: Don’t kid yourself about wanting an extra 10 minutes. Before you know it, 10 has turned into 20 or 30, and then you’re late.
  3. Put your alarm clock across the room: If you’re afraid of snoozing in, put your alarm clock across the room so that you have to get up to turn it off.
  4. Open curtains or a window: Help your body wake up naturally by letting the sun and fresh air peek into your room.
  5. Pick out your clothes the night before: Pick out two outfits — one should be a backup — to wear to work the night before. Bonus points for ironing and picking out your shoes and accessories, too.
  6. Shower strategically: For your morning shower, use bath soaps that smell like eucalyptus, peppermint, spearmint or pine, which can help you wake up faster.
  7. Exercise: Wake up 30-45 minutes early to get a quick workout in, which will help you wake up and get your exercise out of the way for the whole day.
  8. Eat breakfast: Cereal, a banana, a granola bar or even yogurt will jump start your metabolism and give you fuel for your morning.
  9. Pack your bag the night before: Get all papers and supplies (including umbrellas, shoes and jackets) organized the night before and set everything out by the front door.
  10. Think of something to look forward to: For early morning motivation, think of something about the day ahead of you that will be fun or challenging.

Commute

Make your commute more effective and enjoyable by bringing distractions, having a back-up plan and sharing rides.

  1. Check e-mail: If you ride the subway, train or city bus to work, use the time to catch up on e-mails and set up appointments.
  2. Ride your bike: Make your commute doubly effective by getting a workout in, too. Plus, you’ll help the environment.
  3. Bring your iPod: Tune out to music, an online course or audio book when you bring your iPod along for the commute.
  4. Find the cheapest gas: Don’t waste time — and gas — driving around the for the cheapest place to fill up your car. Use a site like GasBuddy.com to look up the cheapest rates before you leave the house.
  5. Carpool with reliable people: Make sure everyone in your carpool is punctual.
  6. Have a backup plan: If there’s a strike, your bike tire is flat or your carpool partner can’t make it, always have a backup plan.
  7. Keep up with car maintenance: Avoid unexpected car problems that can make you late by keeping up with car maintenance all year long.
  8. Pack for a rainy day: Remember to pack an umbrella and any other supplies or accessories that will protect you from bad weather.
  9. Consider cost: Calculate your commute’s cost and decide what ridesharing option is best for you.
  10. Keep your cool: Distract yourself from obnoxious commuters, delays and bad weather by reading, eavesdropping on the right people, and playing games.

To-Do Lists and Deadlines

These hacks will help you organize, prioritize and work down your to-do lists each day.

  1. Write a to-do list at the start of every day: Don’t wait until lunchtime to begin your to-do list: keep one handy for the entire day.
  2. Break things down: Break projects down into individual action items that you can cross off faster.
  3. Consider the essentials: If you don’t want your to-do list to overwhelm you, only include the essentials.
  4. Delegate: Delegate "busy work" like fact-finding, data entry and photocopying to assistants and interns to give yourself more time.
  5. Rearrange based on changing priorities: Your to-do list will need to change periodically based on new priorities and projects. Don’t be afraid to revise.
  6. Color code your calendar: Color code your calendar so that it’s easier to identify projects, meetings, appointments and more.

Time Management

Avoid procrastination so that it’s easier to get out of the office on time every evening with these hacks.

  1. Clean off your desk: Rid your desk of any distractions and allow your mind to focus on the project at hand, not the mess on your desk.
  2. Hold office hours: Keep your door closed when you want to stay busy, and set aside "interruption" times for colleagues to come in and ask you questions.
  3. Identify your distractions: Once you’re able to identify the websites, e-mails and phone calls that distract you the most, it’ll be easier to stay away from them.
  4. Filter and file emails: Filter out spam and file away emails based on priority and subject.
  5. Try time boxing: Instead of working on a project until you finish, work on it for predetermined time slots, like 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon.
  6. Make yourself accountable to someone else: If you’re leading a project or working on your own, make sure you’re being held accountable for deadlines and updates.
  7. Do unpleasant tasks first: Breeze through unpleasant tasks when you have more energy.
  8. Hire an assistant: If you can justify it to your boss, ask for an assistant or intern to help you with menial tasks, scheduling and organization.
  9. Use shortcuts: Keyboard shortcuts can make you navigate the web and your files a lot faster.
  10. Use RSS: Subscribe to RSS feeds instead of checking news sites and blogs every 20 minutes.

Meetings

Make your meetings less of a nuisance by being prepared, taking breaks and following up a couple of days later.

  1. Limit chat time: Chat time is sometimes necessary for brainstorming and letting off steam, but set a timer to keep yourselves on schedule.
  2. Have an agenda and stick to it: Even if you’re not leading the meeting, jot down a few notes and questions you want to address, but save all the extras until later.
  3. Hold silent breaks: After discussing or proposing a topic, have everyone be quiet for 2 minutes to mull it over.
  4. Follow up: When you get back to your desk, take a few notes while your mind is still engaged, and then follow up in the next couple of days to check on everyone else’s status.
  5. Schedule breaks: Allow people to check messages and go to the bathroom so that they retain focus and energy.

Break Time

Learn how to take strategic breaks that help you rebuild focus, stretch, and get a second wind.

  1. Make better coffee: Sprinkle salt into ground coffee for a better taste.
  2. Keep it short: All you really need is a 2 or 3-minute break to stretch, use the restroom and get some water.
  3. Be productive during your break: You can take a break from computer but still stay productive by doing something physical, like running an errand, folding laundry (if you work at home) or making a phone call.
  4. Vent: If you’re really upset about something, take 5 minutes to call a friend or write in a journal.
  5. Don’t take breaks on the computer: Taking a break to check your Facebook page doesn’t count. You need to stretch and get some fresh air.
  6. Take a personal day: When you’re heading towards burnout, take a personal day to relax, reevaluate and have fun.

Ergonomics

Protect your body by following these ergonomics hacks at your desk.

  1. Analyze your work space: Evaluate your work space for ergonomics no-nos.
  2. Have a padded seat: Keep your bum comfortable while elevating yourself at the appropriate height with a padded cushion.
  3. Prevent eye strain: Consider things like contrast, brightness, screen height, dry air, dirty monitors and monitor closeness to prevent eye strain.
  4. Take stretch breaks: Taking 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes is recommended to prevent overexerting your body.
  5. Support your back: Make sure your back is supported at the right angle.
  6. Work out your neck: Try to keep your neck relaxed during the day but also take time to breathe in, rotate your neck from side to side and up and down.

Office Relationships

Here you’ll learn how to get along with your co-workers and your boss.

  1. Watch your jokes: Keep un-PC jokes, bathroom humor and vulgar or offensive language out of the office.
  2. Learn how to say no to your boss: You can say no to your boss if your extra work will compromise your other projects and clients.
  3. Be the bigger person: Avoid gossip and learn to tune out annoying co-workers instead of being dramatic.
  4. Be careful of office romances: Don’t get intimate with a co-worker just to cure the office blues and never let your relationship interfere with work.

Nourishment

Your diet can play a large role in your energy at work. These foods and snacking hacks will keep you focused and healthy.

  1. Water: Keep yourself hydrated and productive all day by filling up a water bottle in the morning and drinking from it at your desk.
  2. Bring three pieces of fruit every day: Set up each piece of fruit on your desk and eat it whenever you get hungry. This trick will keep you away from the vending machines.
  3. Make popcorn: Popcorn seems like a junky snack, but snack-sized bags without butter are satisfying without being too indulgent.
  4. Stock your desk: Keep your desk and office refrigerator stocked with healthy snacks, like small bags of nuts, rice cakes, baby carrots and hummus so that you don’t have to feel guilty about noshing.
  5. Pack a lunch: Save money and calories by packing your own lunch. If missing lunch meetings hurts your image at the office, eat beforehand and order a small salad or side of veggies when you go out.
  6. Drink green tea: Take a break from sodas and coffee to get a healthier dash of caffeine from green tea.
  7. Eat lean meats: Bring a chicken salad or sandwich on whole wheat bread or a whole wheat pita topped with lean meats for energizing protein.
  8. Try to influence the office: Ask for healthier catering options and take-out menus to make it easier to eat right at group events.
  9. Oatmeal: Make oatmeal for a late afternoon snack or bring it for breakfast to avoid hunger pangs and drowsiness throughout the day.
  10. Get a plate: If you’re eating at your desk, it’s easy to just reach for the box or bag to get your munchies on. But just because you’re not at home doesn’t mean you have to eat like a pig. Avoid mindless munching (and mess) by getting a plate or bowl.

Work-Life Balance

Don’t let work get the best of you: these hacks will help you achieve a work-life balance that leaves plenty of room for family and fun.

  1. Pace yourself: Pace yourself each day and each month to avoid burnout.
  2. Inspire your work space: Hang up inspiring pictures, listen to music and find a way to spoil yourself in your cube, all for the purpose of inspiring creativity.
  3. Write down your priorities: List your top 5 priorities to help you reevaluate the amount of time you’re spending on each one.
  4. Talk to your boss: If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed and are comfortable talking to your boss about personal issues, set up a meeting to discuss how you can make your work life less stressful.
  5. Make every day feel like the weekend: Learn how to tune out the stressors and work at your own pace, just as if you’d come in on a Saturday.
  6. Set up boundaries: Turn off work phones at home and give yourself a 10 minute window of personal time after lunch to create safe, "sacred" space.
  7. Ask for help: Enlist the help of your spouse, kids and co-workers when you need help with a project, chores, or running errands.
  8. Stop procrastinating: Sometimes the easiest thing you can do to ease your stress is to amp up your productivity.
  9. Believe in yourself: Feeling confident about your job performance will help you deal with stress. Learn how to believe in yourself and shake off obsessive self doubt.
  10. Let the small stuff go: You can’t be perfect all the time, at work or at home. Accept the fact that you’re human, and don’t let little mistakes get to you.

Goals

Don’t get too complacent with your job. Here you’ll discover ways to set and achieve career goals that will change your life.

  1. Learn to think "from" your goals: Don’t think of your goals as something you’ll never achieve. Make a goal and act on it right then.
  2. Consider how far you’ve come: Don’t just think about the future: consider how far you’ve already come when you need some extra motivation.
  3. Review your goals every day: Remind yourself why you’re at work each day by keeping a list of goals nearby.
  4. Embrace negative outcomes: When things don’t go your way, reevaluate the situation and find the positive.
  5. Do your research: There’s a difference between goals and fantasy: Understand the reality behind salaries, job titles, and more before going after your goals.
  6. Get your boss to pay for school: Find out if your boss will be willing to pay for your continued education.
  7. Get on a committee: Build your reputation and increase your exposure by applying to sit on boards and committees.
  8. Get a mentor: Find a mentor who can help you with networking opportunities and point you in the right direction.
  9. Talk to your boss: If you want to move up in your industry, talk to your boss about taking on new responsibility.
  10. Never stop networking: Network with old and new clients, on social media sites, and with everyone in the office.

Office Parties

Survive office parties by checking out these hacks.

  1. Show up for a little while: Whether it’s in the office or off-site, you’re obligated to at least stop by. Make up an excuse to leave early if you want to.
  2. Come up with a list of things to talk about: This includes networking topics and personal small talk.
  3. Limit alcohol content: At the office party, it’s best to limit your booze if you have any at all.

After Hours

These hacks will help you unwind and get ready for the next crazy work day.

  1. Leave work at the office: If at all possible, finish up at work even if you have to stay a little late.
  2. Jot down a to-do list for the next day: Make it easier to pick up where you left off by jotting down a to-do list to get you started in the morning.
  3. Write down what’s bothering you: Don’t let work stress dominate the rest of your evening: write down what’s bothering you so that you can pick it up again in the morning.
  4. Escape: Escape in mindless TV, a good book, a glass of wine or an evening run.
  5. Socialize: Quality time with people you enjoy — not the people you’re forced to see every day — can help you relax.
  6. Have quiet time before bed: Get ready for bed by meditating and having some personal time to think.
  7. Go easy on the chores: Don’t leave work just to work yourself to death cleaning when you get home. Do one or two chores each day.
  8. Exercise: Leave the stress of work behind you by working out when you get home.
  9. Clean up: Take a hot shower or bubble bath to clear your head and start fresh for the evening.
  10. Go to bed earlier: Give your body and your mind time to recover and prepare for the next day by going to bed earlier.

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