Franz Drack is a Growth Strategist and CMO at J. Hornig, an Austrian coffee brand with a strong digital footprint, and Tagger at Talent Garden Vienna. With the company purpose of “supporting people in making the most of their time”, he provides us with useful insights on how to use time more effectively and be more productive in everyday work. Especially in times when remote and smart working is becoming more and more common and accepted, it is even more important to understand your personal productive times, as this helps to get more work done in less time. Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, Franz Drack has the right hack for everyone.
Before we dive into the productivity hacks, let’s first have a look at why we sometimes don’t get as much done as we want to.
When we think about working fewer hours, we would assume that we are spending time on truly productive things, such as catching up on work, increasing your followers in social media, preparing a new launch strategy, or perhaps even writing your first novel. But instead, it probably looks like this: We watch Youtube or Netflix, spend hours on Instagram and sleep half the day.
Why is it so difficult for us to have those big goals in our head, but every day we seem to spend our time differently?
Dopamine. Dopamine is a substance that is produced by your brain and creates pleasure. Our brain is programmed to guide you to experiences that produce dopamine. And here is the problem: There are things in our everyday life that produce dopamine much faster than others, for example those beautiful pictures when we scroll through Instagram. This is called instant gratification. And although writing a novel still produces dopamine, it’s delayed satisfaction because it takes much longer.
It’s not you, it’s business. Random Gratification Technologies are developed by scientists and engineers with the sole aim of providing you with instant gratification. It is simply their business model and is constantly being improved over time. Some years ago Youtube introduced the “Autoplay” feature. Later, “endless scrolling” made it even easier for us to see even more content without having to click on the next page. And “Content Exposure Algorithms” select the displayed content based on your previous engagement, resulting in even higher instant gratification aka dopamine production.
How to change that: 4 Productivity Hacks
This technique helps you to make sure that you start your (working) day with answering the following four important questions:
- Body: What food, which exercise?
- Achievement: What is my highlight today?
- Connection: Who to reach out to? Who do I want to talk to?
- Enjoyment: What to look forward to?
Doing this exercise in the morning not only helps you to get your day started productively, but it also reduces the stress level. It also helps you to prepare for difficult meetings or encounters you know you will be having throughout the day.
2. Golden Hour
Every person goes through a natural cycle of energy peaks and troughs during the course of a working day. However, it is important to know that the maximum amount of concentrated work per day is limited to 3 to 4 hours per day. But when are these hours?
For most people, the golden hours are between 10:00 and 12:00 (-2 hours for early birds and +2 for night owls). But of course, everyone is different, so the best way to find out what works for you is to just try it out.
One mistake many companies make is to use these concentrated hours for meetings. The best time for connection work is actually in the afternoon at around 16:00 to 18:00. So if you make your coworkers aware of this principle, it could help to increase the productivity level of the whole team or even the company!
3. Message in Stuff
Probably everyone knows this problem: you have to do this really important project or task, but in the end you always do other, smaller things first. For example, you should really work on the launch of a new feature for your website, but instead you rearrange your furniture.
To avoid this pattern in the future, just take a piece of paper or sticky notes and visualize all your tasks of the week. This will help you find out if you really didn’t have time for this important task. When you start working on the important tasks, it usually happens that the smaller tasks are solved somewhere in between and your stress level decreases significantly.
4. Impact Planning
This principle comes from social enterprises that do not focus primarily on introducing a product or service, but first look at the impact and make clear why they are doing so.
Use your planner and start planning the weeks backwards from Friday. Let’s take the example from above and say that you want to implement a new feature on your website: You place this task on the last day of the week, then look at the days before that and see where you can place the tasks that will lead you to the final result. This way, you divide a large, time-consuming task into smaller “highlight” pieces, making it easier to stick to it.
Typically, most tasks – whether small or large – take some time to prepare. The deliberate addition of preparation time on Mondays or Tuesdays helps you to keep track of the highlight tasks and the main objectives, because usually by mid-week we have collected so many other “small to dos” from colleagues etc. that we don’t find the time to complete the tasks we have defined for ourselves.
Depending on your efforts, you can also add specific connection tasks to your planner, such as calling a person from whom you need some information to complete a task.
Impact Planning is not only easy to combine with the daily BACE exercise, but is also useful for monthly or annual planning.
Daily Victory Dance
A super simple but funny hack is the daily victory dance. Before you finish your working day or week, just spend some time to look at all the tasks you’ve done and acknowledge your achievements with a victory dance.
By acknowledging all the tasks we have done during a day or week – be it phone calls, answering emails or a major campaign – we notice the added-value we have created, feel better, more successful and again less stressed.
And of course, Coffee ☕️☕️☕️
Add frequent power breaks to your workday with a cup of great coffee 😉
Franz’ sources and book recommendations:
- Sam Conniff: Be More Pirate
- Tim Wu: The Attention Merchants
- James Williams: Stand out of our light
- Ellen Petry Leanse: The Happiness Hack
- David Rock: Your Brain at Work
- Ellen J. Langer: Mindfulness
- Cal Newport: Deep Work
- Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky: Make Time – How to focus on what matters every day
- Hurry slowly from Jocelyn K. Glei (Podcast)
- Daily Shine App (available for IOS und Android)
Franz presented this topic in his TAG Talk on May 12, 2020. Rewatch it here.
Copyright Cover Image: Doris Himmelbauer Photography