September 16, 2017 Rodney Cowled
Productivity Hacks

Productivity Hacks? Just Don’t Bother

Productivity. You want more for less. I want more for less. Who doesn’t?

Productivity, or more specifically productivity hacks, are the ultimate get-more-for-less solution. There are productivity hacks for your job, your house cleaning, your email, your [insert boring task here].

The ultimate productivity hack for a task? Don’t do the task at all!

Boom…done, cross that off of the list.

Okay, okay, I get it, not all tasks can be simply crossed off and ignored; but, I bet there are things on your to-do that just simply shouldn’t be there. Here’s how to deal with them.

Step 1: Ask Does This Really Need to be Done?

Before you add anything to your to-do list (literal or metaphorical) ask yourself this, “does this really need to be done?”

Far too many times I’ve done a task just because “that’s how it’s always been done”, or just because I was asked to do it. Only to later realise, that it was a complete waste of time.

It’s embarrassing to think of the number of reports I wrote and charts I created in my early years as an analyst only to later realise that no one even looked at them. A quick phone call could have told me that before I spent hours writing the report.

So before a task is started, make sure it’s worth doing. If the answer is “yes”, and only if the answer is yes proceed to step 2.

Step 2: Should YOU be doing the task?

Just because a task is worth doing it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re the one who must, or should, be the one doing the job.

In some scenarios, it just doesn’t make sense that you should be the one doing a task. Sure you might save a few dollars doing it yourself but it might cost you more in time (and sanity?).   

There are few indicators that I use to tell me if a task is one I shouldn’t be doing myself.


Will it actually cost me more to do myself? I consider actual costs and the value of my time. E.g.

Actual costs: I might save a little money doing that home renovation job myself; but, if I have to go and buy a bunch of tools I don’t already own, is it really cheaper? Probably not.

Value of My Time: I could wash and iron my own business shirts. After all, I already have a washing machine and an iron, so there are no additional costs there. However, when I consider that it costs $15 to get a weeks’ worth of shirts washed, ironed and returned to me, it just doesn’t make sense to me to do myself. It would probably take me 2 hours to sort, wash, dry and then iron all of my shirts (I’m slow at ironing). That means if I do it myself, I’m valuing my time at less $7.5 an hour.


If you hate a task, then sometimes it could be worth paying someone else to do it, even if it costs you more financially.

On the flip side, if you enjoy the task, then potentially the value equation above isn’t all that important. If you love to iron, then iron you should.

So where’s the big productivity hack?

That’s it. There isn’t anymore. It’s not some fancy faddish productivity magic; it’s as simple as giving a task a little thought before you start it.

Here’s the whole thing summarised into 2 questions:

  1. Should the task be done in the first place?
  2. Should I be the one doing the task?