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15 Genius Tricks For Working Smarter, Not Harder

Trouble focusing? Listen to Baroque music and rub some rosemary oil on your pulse points.

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1. Record all of the tasks you work on each day, and then review them at the end of the week to see how much you actually accomplish with your time.

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You'll probably be surprised by what you find. Sometimes you'll get a pat on the back you didn't know you needed, but often you may find that you're working way less efficiently than you realized.

2. Or use RescueTime to track how productive you're being while online.

RescueTime tracks the amount of time you're spending on different websites and applications, and turns it into readable data that you can use to get an accurate idea of how much you're actually working and how much time you spend messing around. You can use a lite version for free, but if you pay for premium access ($9 per month or $72 per year), RescueTime will also block your distracting websites, log daily highlights, track your activity offline, and allow you to set alerts.
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RescueTime tracks the amount of time you're spending on different websites and applications, and turns it into readable data that you can use to get an accurate idea of how much you're actually working and how much time you spend messing around.

You can use a lite version for free, but if you pay for premium access ($9 per month or $72 per year), RescueTime will also block your distracting websites, log daily highlights, track your activity offline, and allow you to set alerts.

3. Make a plan for how to tackle a task you've been putting off, instead of letting it hang over your head.

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In Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Chris Bailey recommends breaking up daunting tasks into short, quick bursts of work. He suggests taking lots of breaks, and working on these small tasks at the time of day when you're most alert.

For more tips from Bailey, get his book from Amazon for $12.95, from Barnes & Noble for $13.14, or find it at your local bookstore on Indiebound.

4. Take a whiff of peppermint essential oil — or chew a stick of gum — when it's too late in the day for coffee.

According to Essential Oils: All-natural remedies and recipes for your mind, body, and home, peppermint has stimulating properties that may give you a jolt of energy when you're in that afternoon slump.
Emily Shwake

According to Essential Oils: All-natural remedies and recipes for your mind, body, and home, peppermint has stimulating properties that may give you a jolt of energy when you're in that afternoon slump.

5. Or rub a drop or two of rosemary essential oil on your pulse points if your attention is wandering.

Rosemary is said to increase circulation to the brain, and cause you to feel more alert. Studies also suggest that this oil might even improve your short-term memory function.
Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

Rosemary is said to increase circulation to the brain, and cause you to feel more alert. Studies also suggest that this oil might even improve your short-term memory function.

6. Set hard limits for the amount of time you're working because the longer you work, the less productive you are.

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Several studies have shown that the more you work, the less productive you are while working. For both scientists and creative types, it seems that the right amount of work is somewhere around five hours a day. Obviously the amount of time you dedicate is dependent on the schedule of your office or school...but it's still a wise idea to resist the urge to work overtime, and make sure you're taking regular breaks.

Interested? Learn more from Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Get it from Amazon for $16.99, Barnes & Noble for $16.99, or find it at your local bookstore on Indiebound.

7. Postpone checking your email until later in the day so it doesn't disrupt your morning schedule.

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Email is a time-suck, especially if you, like me, don't actually get a ton of urgent emails. If you can, check your inbox after you've already got some shit done, so you can stop emails from interrupting your thought process. We tend to be our most lethargic between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., so consider clearing out your inbox then, since it's less likely you'd be doing other great work during those hours.

8. Or check your email in chunks rather than giving them attention as soon as they arrive in your inbox.

Emily Shwake

Every time I get that notification, I'm distracted from what I'm doing. This super cool study on fragmented work actually shows that the time it takes you to switch back and forth between tasks all adds up. You can't get rid of these distractions completely, but minimizing the avoidable distractions such as email can make you a lot more productive. Even if you check your email every hour or every 25 minutes (per The Pomodoro Technique), you should be doing it on the schedule works for you rather than against you.

9. Listen to some tunes — as long as they are lyric-free and have a relatively slow beat.

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Several studies have indicated that listening to baroque music can increase attentiveness and concentration. In general, though, music can be really helpful for both efficiency and creativity as long as there are no lyrics, it's not too loud, and it's got a steady, moderate beat.

My personal favorite study tunes are the Harry Potter film scores (make fun of me all you want, they're great), but you could also try out this playlist of baroque music or this one of ambient rock.

10. Or play some white noise if you just want to block out the chatter.

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If you work best in complete silence, try out this colored noise generator that allows you to customize the brightness and frequency.

If you enjoy pink noise, which sounds a bit deeper and more hollow than white noise, you might want to listen to it while you sleep, as well. One study determined that there may be a correlation between playing pink noise during sleep and improved memory storage.

11. Turn off any push notifications that you don't actually need.

I recently turned Facebook notifications off and it changed my life. OK, sure, I'm being dramatic, but I rarely (if ever) get sucked down the Facebook video rabbit hole anymore.Think about virtual junk like you would the junk in your closet: Do you actually like it? Do you actually use it? Does it spark joy?? If it doesn't, then get rid of it! That little red notification bubble will still appear next to the app so you know to attend to it when you have time.
Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

I recently turned Facebook notifications off and it changed my life. OK, sure, I'm being dramatic, but I rarely (if ever) get sucked down the Facebook video rabbit hole anymore.

Think about virtual junk like you would the junk in your closet: Do you actually like it? Do you actually use it? Does it spark joy?? If it doesn't, then get rid of it! That little red notification bubble will still appear next to the app so you know to attend to it when you have time.

12. Or just turn Do Not Disturb mode on, so your phone isn't yanking your attention away from the task at hand.

Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed, digitaltrends.com

A study from Florida State University found that notifications are just as distracting when you don't respond to them, as when you do. Even anticipating a notification can divide your attention.

If you've got an iPhone, you can just hit the lil' moon icon whenever you need to focus, or you can set blocks of time in your settings. The same thing goes for Androids, but you can actually choose to let in prioritized calls or reminders that you may actually need to receive.

13. Use the Forest app to give yourself even more motivation when you need it.

Forest

In Forest, you "plant a seed," which will close out your phone, then show a timer and a seedling. The longer you stay off your phone, the bigger the tree grows. Once you've finished the task you needed to get done, check out your trees — aka the length of time you stayed off your phone — and try to grow an even bigger one next time.

Get it for iPhone here or for Android here.

14. Start a bullet journal so you have all of your to-do lists, notes, and meetings on one page.

A bullet journal is an organizational system for literally everything that's on your mind — you can use it for work, mental health, to create good habits, or all of the above! It'll give you a break from all that screen time and hold onto all of the things that you need to remember, so you can stay focused on the task at hand. I tried it, and it's actually pretty great.
Emily Shwake

A bullet journal is an organizational system for literally everything that's on your mind — you can use it for work, mental health, to create good habits, or all of the above! It'll give you a break from all that screen time and hold onto all of the things that you need to remember, so you can stay focused on the task at hand. I tried it, and it's actually pretty great.

15. And finally, make sure your daily to-do lists are manageable and well-structured so you don't feel overwhelmed.

Whether it's breaking big projects into smaller jobs, making the toughest tasks your first objective, or re-scheduling something to the next day — do whatever you need to do to make your goals actually doable. Set yourself up for success rather than failure, so you feel encouraged to take on the day instead of stressing out about all of the things you didn't accomplish yesterday.
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Whether it's breaking big projects into smaller jobs, making the toughest tasks your first objective, or re-scheduling something to the next day — do whatever you need to do to make your goals actually doable. Set yourself up for success rather than failure, so you feel encouraged to take on the day instead of stressing out about all of the things you didn't accomplish yesterday.

Now get to it!

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