There’s nothing more intimidating than a jam-packed to-do list. There are only so many hours in a day (despite how much we try to stretch time) which means there are only so many things we can accomplish during office hours but with a little help it is possible to make some magic happen.
Thanks to some sly work hacks, handy new age apps—and avoiding the distracting alerts from the social ones—and some old-school time management tricks, we guarantee you’ll see your productivity sky rocket and successfully streamline your day so you have more time for yourself.
If you’re finding the days are just slipping away from you lately, then keep reading to hear the work hacks of 20 successful people we admire that keep them at 100.
Suzanne Hall, Founder, Chalkboard Magazine
The Hack: Bluetooth keyboard
Why It Works: “This work hack has changed my life. If I'm driving across L.A. for events and meetings for the day or traveling away for the weekend, I prefer to travel as light as I can. I leave my laptop at home and throw a bluetooth keyboard in my bag instead. I find a cozy spot in a hotel lobby or coffee shop here and there, sync the keyboard with my phone and hammer my email box like nobody's business.”
Brittany Kozerski, Owner and Designer, JADE Swim
The Hack: Trello App
Why It Works: “I'm obsessed with Trello. It’s a list-making app that allows the user to make lists (called boards), organize them into categories, code with colors, add due dates and share with other users. This is how I give my team members tasks for the day or week and set deadlines. What I love most is that I can open the app and see how their work is progressing; what tasks they’ve finished, what tasks they’re currently working on, etc. This allows me to see what is getting done without having to interrupt my team for updates throughout the day or week. It has become so invaluable that I actually use it to keep my personal life organized as well.”
Chelsea Moore, Jenni Olivero, and Sabena Suri, Co-Founders, BOXFOX
The Hack: Reminders App
Why It Works: "We're the most productive when we are hyper-aware of what's going on at every aspect of our business. We, three founders, live and breathe through the Reminders app and use it to share important tasks, meetings, and follow-ups with each other to help them stay top of mind. Management can sometimes take away from our high-level innovation headspace, so we collectively also try to schedule one day a week with no meetings or calls to help us get into the right mindset to move big projects forward. "
Lily Kunin, Founder, Clean Market
The Hack: Listen to your body.
Why It Works: “Take a break when you need to. Walk around the block or meditate for 20 minutes. You will end up being more productive with short spurts of focus mixed with breaks. Mono task. We have a million browsers open and ways for people to contact us. Try to do one thing at a time and don’t leave the screen or meeting until the task is complete. Stay hydrated and well fueled with healthy fats and protein. Supplements help too.”
Rachel Krupa, Founder and CEO, The Goods Mart
The Hack: Self-Care
Why It Works: “Schedule your self-care routine like you a schedule your professional meetings. Get out of the office routinely. Around 4pm daily, I take a walk, grab a tea and clear my head. Talk to friends. When you have a difficult decision to be made and you’re not sure what to do, talk to a friend about it. Talking through a situation out loud can help bring clarity to the situation.”
Adriana Najera, CEO, ACN Public Relations
The Hack: Miracle TimeCube Timer
Why It Works: “Lately I've fallen into a deep productivity wormhole, and I am happy to share with you my one simple, inexpensive gadget that has made a significant change in my work habits—the Miracle TimeCube Timer. I first heard about it from an influencer that I work with. I was 'Influenced' myself. Go figure. Whether it be a 5, 15, 30, 60 minute deadline, the Miracle TimeCube Timer keeps me on precise track. I start every morning by jotting down of things to tackle for the day, and as any publicist would know, random tasks/asks from talent and clients get thrown at us daily.
“With that being said, the Miracle TimeCube Timer helps me to not get side tracked and work till the given designated minute deadline buzzer. When I have the TimeCube out, I know to put my phone away, and that's part of what helps to keep me distraction-free, and IG scroll-free. Additionally, the five-minute side is my best friend when it comes to work breaks aka 'social media break.’”
The Hack: Organize your inbox.
Why It Works: “Statistics say, on average more than a quarter of your working day is spent reading and replying to emails. In order to stay on top of my inbox and ensure that I prioritize replying to the most time conscious correspondence first—and not just the easiest. I approach my inbox by reading every new email to ascertain importance.
“I then mark these emails unread once again, and flag each email according to priority. At any given time my inbox is consistently up to date with what needs to be addressed first. The color code I use is red flag for highest priority, which requires that I reply as soon as possible; orange flag implies I should reply by end of day; and yellow flag suggests I reply at my next available opportunity.”
Lauren Bozicevich, Founder, Lauren Bozicevich Consulting
The Hack: No meetings Mondays.
Why It Works: “Two years ago I took the leap and started my own PR and Events consulting business working with clients across the fashion, travel, and beauty. When I first started, everyone gave me all kinds of advice, some good, most bad. I work from home when I'm not traveling, which I prefer—the idea of going to a coffee shop and not getting a seat is a complete day ruiner for me—but when you lose the traditional office you have to create your own structure, which can be tricky. Every day, after 9 a.m. (sometimes earlier) my apartment becomes my office, i.e. TV off, headphones in, time to work.
“My tip is keeping Monday's for yourself. For me that means no calls or meetings unless absolutely necessary, which allows me to get organized for the week, follow up on any open ends from the week prior and prioritize what needs to be done for whom across the next few days. It also allows me to follow up with anything before my status calls on Tuesdays. It seems silly but in a very client-focused industry that involves lots of personalized request and attention, creativity, and communication sometimes you have to set time (i.e. calendar invites!) to actually work.”
Lauren Urband, Founder and President, The Consultancy PR
The Hack: Work calls in the car.
Why It Works: “As I’m based in Los Angeles, I often take work calls with contacts on the east coast while driving to/from spin class while it’s still dark out in the morning.”
Jackie Brockman, Principal, Narrative
The Hack: Time Management.
Why It Works: “My biggest work hack is time management. As a mother of two toddlers, every second counts. I commute about an hour each way to the office so scheduling conference calls during my commute is a must. Whenever I have calls where I do not have to look at my screen, my first suggestion is the hours that I am in transit. That is a major time saver during my hours actually in the office and opens up more time for in person meetings.”
Lindsay Wolf, Director, PR & Brand Marketing, Anine Bing
The Hack: Multi-tasking.
Why It Works: “I'm a big multitasker, so finding ways to optimize my time by tackling a couple things at once always works for me. For example, I live in L.A. so if I can take a call in the car on my way into the office or on the way home to minimize the amount of time I'm on the phone during work hours, then that's a win for me. I'd rather spend my time at the office collaborating with colleagues, taking time to be strategic, working with my team so as long as a call doesn't require taking notes, then I'm good. Also, it's not like I'm going anywhere on the 101 at 5 p.m., so I've got nothing but time.”
Rebecca Atwood, Founder, Rebecca Atwood Designs
The Hack: Asana and a Business Coach.
Why It Works: “I use Asana to manage my to-do list for smaller tasks that could get lost in the shuffle. It even integrates with slack (our team chat channels), and you can create tasks from conversations. I also work with a business coach. It keeps me accountable and focused on the big picture so I can prioritize what is most important to do to reach our goals.”
Christina Bryant, Founder, St. Frank
The Hack: Getting 8 hours of sleep.
Why It Works: “This may sounds too basic, but I honestly think my #1 productivity hack is sleeping eight hours a night. I notice a huge boost in my productivity when I’m well rested, so this is something I really commit to. My Sunday night routine is to make a to-do list, but really it’s more to organize a to-do list. I make a list of what’s achievable Monday, for that week, and for several weeks out, including a list of long-term projects. I can’t do everything, so regularly pulling up to organize urgent and important tasks helps me to put my efforts towards the highest impact projects.
“ I thought everyone does this, but apparently not? I use the Mail app that comes with my Mac computer, so that even when I’m offline I can be chipping away at my inbox.”
Jeannie Jarnot, Founder andCEO, Beauty Heroes
The Hack: A work uniform.
Why It Works: “I am always moving fast, so being comfortable and having a wardrobe uniform helps me stay efficient as I get dressed for work. I have a collection of sustainable fashion brand DINO Apparel pieces that are super comfortable, stylish and easy to mix and match so I don’t look exactly the same every day. Having a wardrobe of work clothes are comfortable, functional and easy to get on and out the door has definitely boosted my efficiency and comfort so I can get to work faster and feel good.
“I, like most of us, have a to-do list. Mine is quite long and I update it every night for the next day so I can wake up and hit the ground running. But on my to-do list, I have the names of my key team members, and I move as much off of my list and onto their’s, delegating as much as I can so I can stay focused on my zone of genius.”
Julia Chalmers, Founder, Lucky Chalm
The Hack: Be nice. Track your time. Schedule emails.
Why It Works: “There's an old adage 'nice guys finish last', and I couldn't disagree more. Everyone has an extra 30 seconds to, at the very least, address someone by name in an email, or thank them when signing off. People remember people who are easy and pleasant to work with, and it pays to show others the same level of respect you'd like to receive in return.
“Begin tracking your time: I've only recently started tracking my time through the Harvest App, and it's changed how I structure my entire day. You might already be tracking the hours you commit to your clients, but tracking your personal hours can be a game changer. If you add a monetary figure to those minutes you spend mindlessly scrolling, you'll soon see just how much money you lose without even realizing it.
“Scheduling emails: This is my favorite Gmail addition. Working internationally across multiple timezones is challenging enough, but ensuring your timely pitch or important message is actually seen requires appearing in inboxes at the perfect time. Gmail offers a scheduling option, but I personally love Boomerang for Gmail. Boomerang even tells you how likely you are to receive a response based on the content and word length of your email.”
Courtney Claghorn, Founder of SUGARED + BRONZED
The Hack: Google Voice. Pixelmator. Notion. Instacart.
Why It Works: “I feel like the Google Voice app allows me to have two phone numbers on one iPhone. I created a free Google voice number and give it out to vendors and then I title my Google voice phone number "work call" and that way I know when I see my phone ring if I need to drop everything and answer it or if I'm out to dinner and can send it to voicemail.”
“I love the Pixelmator iOS app for graphics editing. It''s far less bulky and much more intuitive than Adobe Photoshop and I feel like I can teach myself and complete semi-basic graphic design work without waiting on my graphic designer to turn something around or watching a long YouTube tutorial.
“I just started using Notion and it's a great way to keep both personal and collaborative to-do lists because otherwise my inbox becomes my to-do list, and I feel like that's always a bad habit to get into.
“Instacart! I don't know if this counts, but if it does it's probably my all-time favorite work hack. I think I get at least an hour more of work done every day by having my groceries delivered within an hour.”
Rachel Sanders, Co-Founder and CEO, Rootine
The Hack: Calendar everything.
Why It Works: “I block out my calendar for everything—emails, calls, weekly strategy review (and even meals and exercise). I only work on what is blocked on my calendar which keeps me focused, on task, and able to accomplish much more with minimal distraction.
“As a CEO there are 1000 things you need to get done every day. To stay organized I keep my task list in Trello to make it accessible from anywhere so I can always review it and add to it regardless of where I am. New tasks always go at the bottom so as to not get distracting and each week I review my list and prioritize the top 10 things I have to get done (and yes only 10).”
Lana Elie, Founder and CEO, Floom
The Hack: Scheduling calls for travel time.
Why It Works: “Instead of taking calls while I’m in the office (and could be better set working on my computer or with the team) I try to schedule calls for in between meetings that I have to travel back and forth from. So, there's never wasted time.”
Bobby Berk, TV Personality, Interior Designer, Founder, Bobby Berk.com
The Hack: Check your calendar the night before.
Why It Works: "It's a habit that I have gotten into right before bed and it allows me to mentally prepare myself for the next day. It takes away the anxiety of getting to the office and then being overwhelmed with what meetings are on your schedule that day, and also helps you know that you have everything in order. It takes less than a minute but makes such a big difference in your day to day schedule and headspace."
Sarah Paiji Yoo, CEO and Co-Founder of Blueland
The Hack: Instapaper
Why It Works: "I Instapaper any interesting articles I come across each day. It keeps me from shifting gears when I'm doing other work, and then provides me with great reading material when I'm on the subway or plane with no WiFi.”
What are the secret work hacks that streamline your day? Share them with us below and you could be included in an upcoming story on Create & Cultivate.