We tried 5 productivity hacks so you don't have to

Kathleen Escarcha, staff writerKathleen Escarcha, staff writer

There's no shortage of tips that aim to help you power through the workday as the happiest, most efficient version of yourself.

But combing through the seemingly hundreds of productivity tips can feel more like a time suck than a time saver. And while some strategies look great on paper, they don't always integrate well into your day-to-day routine.

To help you distinguish between the time savers and time wasters, we asked folks at EAB to put a few of the most popular productivity hacks to the test. Here's what worked and what didn't.

Hack 1: Set anti-goals

Seren's anti-goals

What was your experience like? I enjoyed setting anti-goals because it forced me to imagine the negative emotions I might feel in the future. Foreshadowing my worst day pushed me to work harder to avoid those pitfalls. I did find it difficult to set reasonable anti-goals that didn't require me to alter my workflow significantly. I'm a very process-oriented person, so trying to break my habits was tough.

Would you recommend it? Definitely. I suggest starting out with short-term anti-goals before you move on to more complicated, long-term ones. – Seren Snow, staff writer  

Related: How to make strategic goals meaningful for departments and faculty

Hack 2: Find one task to delegate

What was your experience like? I tried to delegate a task last week, but didn't get any takers. Instead, I had to complete the task on a shorter deadline because I spent the first few days waiting for a response. Because I don't normally delegate tasks, I didn't have enough time last week to win buy-in from my team.

Would you recommend it? Delegating a task has potential to save you time, but only if you have the bandwidth and ability to gain buy-in from your team. – Aly Seidel, web editor  

Hack 3: Try the Pomodoro Method

Pomodoro timer

What was your experience like? Pomodoro's 25-minute working sessions helped me stay on track and feel more productive. When I felt the urge to reach for my phone to take a quick break, I'd glance at the clock and remind myself that I had a break coming. But when my tasks didn't neatly fit into the 25-minute working sessions, I found that the 5-minute breaks disrupted my workflow.

Would you recommend it? If you enjoy following a routine and want to build more breaks into a heavy workload, Pomodoro may be a good fit. – Alexis Depuyt, web editor  

Hack 4: Feed your creativity by going on a walk

What was your experience like? On my first walk, I set out determined to think creative thoughts—and quickly learned that feeling creative doesn't happen by sheer force of will. Instead, I spent the first few laps writing down my doubts and questions around becoming more creative.

In the moment, I didn't feel all that inspired. But later, when I skimmed through the questions I had jotted down, I noticed that a few of the ideas could make interesting writing prompts down the road. At the very least, my walks outside felt more invigorating and interesting than taking a 10-minute-break on my phone.

Would you recommend it? Absolutely! You may not dream up a brilliant idea every walk, but you'll probably return to the office feeling refreshed and less stressed. – Kathleen Escarcha, staff writer  

The world's most creative people—and what colleges can learn from them

Hack 5: Clear your inbox

Empty inbox

What was your experience like? Clearing out my inbox on the first day was a little hard, partially because I had to force myself to make decisions about emails I’d been holding on to for a while. But after that initial time investment, maintaining the Inbox Zero was much easier and required only a few minutes per day.

Inbox Zero helps you break the habit of holding on to emails. But sometimes it can be helpful to keep an email in your inbox for a day or two, for example, if you know you’ll need to refer back to it at a meeting tomorrow. I ended up creating a folder just for emails like this and clearing it out at the end of the week.

Would you recommend it? Definitely—I plan to stick to it myself. My advice to others would be to set aside a good chunk of time to clear through your inbox on the first day (or declare email bankruptcy), then set aside a couple small blocks of time each day to maintain your Zero status – Kristin Tyndall, editor

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