10 Simple Hacks to Boost Your Work Productivity

A woman running with sky in background
ByVivian Giang

When you're doing a million things at one time and your to-do list keeps growing, it's not always about working more. It's about working smarter.

You'll never be able to keep up without maximizing your effectiveness, and you'll end up exhausted because you're doing twice as much work.

There are specific environments that will help you brainstorm when you need new ideas and specific things that help you get things done when the brainstorming session is over.

When are your golden hours? What bumps your brain power up? Below are 10 simple hacks best for your work productivity:

1. Drink beer to think more creatively and solve brain teasers.

Bernt Rostad via flickr

OK, not just beer, but any alcohol is great when coming up with an initial idea. Basically, a moderate amount of alcohol frees up your mind and allows your creative juices to flow.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found in a study that about two beers (just below the legal limit) gave participants enough boost to have creative problem-solving skills.

Moderately intoxicated participants were able to think creatively and solve brain teasers more accurately.

This may be why so many amazing businesses were launched with the help of beers and friends, such as Warby Parker, Reddit, Google and Thrillist.

Obviously, don't drink too much beer (everything in moderation) or you'll just end up completely forgetting your idea.

2. While you're brainstorming, keep your desk messy, too.

Marshall Astor - Food Fetishist via flickr

Others may judge you when they walk by and see the chaos on your desk, but don't mind them. Your ideas are about to blow them away.

study published in Psychological Science found that a messy environment promotes creative thinking and unconventional ideas. This may be why many creative individuals — even Nobel Prize winners — prefer messy environments.

"Disorderly environments stimulated creativity, which has widespread importance for culture, business and the arts," said researchers in the study.

3. Do creative work when you're most tired.

marvin L via flickr

If you're a morning person, do creative work at night. If you're a night owl, do your brainstorming in the mornings.

A 2011 paper from researchers at Albion College and Michigan State University found that those feeling sharp in the morning were better at solving problems at night. The inverse was true for night owls.

"Creative thinking requires us to approach problems from a different perspective, which is actually harder to do when we're clear-headed and can only see the obvious answer," the paper said. "If we need to concentrate, it's good for our brains to be 'on.' But if we need to think differently, it's easier when our brains are a little distracted and can short circuit the first answers that come to mind."

4. Drink coffee to get things done.

Within five minutes of drinking a cup of coffee, espresso or latte, you'll be ready to focus and finish your tasks.

Basically, specific chemicals in your brain (glucose, dopamine and glutamate) are working overtime, and that's how you get your "adrenaline high." In short, your body is in fight-or-flight mode. Here's how the entire process works:

The peak times for this adrenaline high is between 15 minutes to two hours after you consume caffeine. This is not the time to brainstorm. This is the time to put the ideas that you've already brainstormed into action.

5. Also, clean up your desk before you get to work.

BenjaminThompson via flickr

Researchers found that participants with cleaner desks tend to donate more to charity, choose healthier snacks and make better choices altogether compared to their messier peers.

"Being in a clean room seemed to encourage people to do what was expected of them," Kathleen Vohs, lead researcher, said in an article published in ScienceDaily.

This also means getting things done.

"There exists a large and growing industry around instilling environmental orderliness. Proponents claim that people see measurable life improvements from becoming neat and tidy, and they can point to multiple billions of dollars in annual revenue as evidence of success," the study said.

6. Send emails between 6 and 8 a.m. or between 4 and 5 p.m.

moriza via flickr

Even though management experts advise not to check emails first thing in the morning, people check their emails anyway as soon as they wake up, according to reseach by marketing software company HubSpot.

The highest rate of this is at 6 a.m. and lasts until around 8 a.m. Within the next hour or so, people enter full work mode, so responding to emails will end up lower on their priority list.

The same thing can be said for the end of the day. People want to check their emails right before leaving the office becuase it doesn't take too much effort, and they're usually drained from the day's work.

If you need to make a cold call, these are also the best times to do it.

7. If you have a big project, Tuesday may be the day to tackle it.

Your are most productive on Tuesdays, so clear your schedule and put your head down to concentrate on this day. According to a survey:

"There's limiting distractions [on Tuesdays]. You've got your head focused after the weekend is over; you've caught up on everything; and you can do your regular work schedule most effectively."

After the hump of Wednesday, people start thinking about their weekend so Thursdays and Fridays tend not to be as productive. After Tuesday, Wednesday is the next most productive day in the week.

8. Schedule important meetings on Tuesday at 3 p.m.

If you need to schedule a meeting and want people to listen to you, schedule it at 3 p.m. on your most productive day (ahem, Tuesday).

A study by online scheduling service When Is Good found that Tuesday is the most productive day, and 3 p.m. is a good time for people to take a break from their work to meet. If you schedule your meeting too early in the day, people are still trying to prepare and get things done. If you schedule it too late in the day, people are already thinking about what they need to do after work.

9. Never have meetings with more than two pizzas.

yashima via flickr

The more people there are, the less productive most meetings will be. This is why Amazon's Jeff Bezos has a hack called the "two pizza rule," which means Bezos will never have meetings where two pizzas couldn't feed the entire group.

The idea is that most attendees will end up agreeing with each other instead of voicing their own opinions and ideas if the group gets too big.

10. If you're naturally a pessimist, don't force yourself to think positively.

Moyan_Brenn via flickr

The next time someone tells you to think positively, tell them that might kill your productivity.

Wharton professor Adam Grant wrote on LinkedIn that if you're naturally a pessimist, thinking positively won't help you outperform your generally happier colleagues.

"The encouragement boosted their confidence, quelling their anxiety and interfering with their efforts to set low expectations," Grant wrote. "When they're in a good mood, they become complacent. They no longer have the anxiety that typically mobilizes their effort. If you want to sabotage defensive pessimists, just make them happy."

Grant based his thinking on a series of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which found that both pessimists and optimists perform at the same rate, but their strategies for attaining success are different.

Optimistic people set high expectations and benefit from confidence, whereas pessimistic people set lower expectations but their anxiety and negative thinking push them to try harder. The study claims, "Positive mood impairs the performance of defensive pessimists."