How to Follow Productivity Hacks

We’ve already posted lots of articles on how to increase personal and team productivity. All these pieces of advice could be called a productivity hack. But productivity hacks don’t come ready-made. Everyone has a different life, current mindset, social environment, etc. So the secret is knowing how to actually follow and how to adopt certain productivity hacks to your life.

Former Google employee Smitha Milli has published her own instructions on how to start following life hacks in order to improve productivity. According to Smitha, most people do not correctly understand such productivity hacks, so they think the hack is impossible to implement in to their life.

People shouldn’t be thinking about a hack as an end in itself. Improving productivity is a process, not simply just a collection of hacks. It’s essential to understand that it’s not a failure if you don’t succeed at using a productivity hack. Actually, “Failing” at a productivity hack can give you a deeper insight into the reasons of your problems and find the steps that you can take to overcome them.

As Smitha Milli says, there are three things you’ll need to understand in order to effectively hack a hack: yourself, the hack, and where the problem is between yourself and the hack. This correspondents to the following three questions:

  1. What problem I’m trying to solve with this hack? Try to be as specific and as concrete as possible. If you can’t see the problem, then you might want to rethink how useful this productivity hack will be.
  2. How will the hack help me solve this problem? What is the technique really about, why is it effective or ineffective? The most important part of a hack isn’t the hack itself, it’s why the hack works. Having an awareness of how the technique helps other people makes it possible to adapt it “for yourself”.
  3. What might prevent me from using the productivity hack? Will it be because of an external or internal reason? It’s important to understand why everything that was listed in the 2nd question of this list might not work out.

To make it more clear, we will use one example of what the thought process could should look like.

Limiting Time Spent in Social Networks


Productivity Hack: Use a browser extension that blocks access to Facebook or other social networks after you have spent 30 minutes on the site.

  1. What problem I’m trying to solve with that hack? Spending too much time on social networks.
  2. How will the hack help me to solve this problem? The extension blocks my access to social networks and forces me to stop using them as much.
  3. What might prevented me from using the productivity hack? According to the author, she thought that blocking Facebook after 30 minutes would prevent her from using it later during the day, but her friends didn’t know about her hack and sent her messages and links in Messenger, so she needed to message these people back and ended up spending more time than she had planned. Also, Smitha is an administrator of one group, so she needed to create events for it. This was just one more reason the hack hadn’t really worked for her. She also wasted a lot of time on Facebook because she was checking updates in the mobile app, and not on the desktop website.

According to Smitha, answering the third question made the first one more clear. She realized that she spent most of her time just updating the newsfeed. Since she can’t ignore messages on Facebook and her duties being an admin of the group, she downloaded a browser extension to block her newsfeed. Also, Smitha realized that she wasted a lot of time using the mobile app, not the desktop website. So, she deleted the mobile app.

In this case, the original hack didn’t work for her. But by attempting the hack, she understood more about her problem and about other solutions that would not work for her. Understanding yourself and your problem is as important as understanding the hacks themselves.

That’s an example of how a problem can be very specific to the individual. But one productivity hack what works almost for everyone is to carve 50 minutes of work time and 10 minutes of break time out of every hour of your work. Maybe it’s even better to schedule your work time vs break time on your calendar.

Once you start thinking about productivity hacks in this way, you won’t be limited to just hacking other people’s hacks. Soon you will be able to make your own productivity hacks that are focused on your personal problems.