‘Work smarter not harder’ is one of the most popular catchphrases fueling the information age. Yet most of us frequently overlook the fact that time is the only true luxury we have in life. Being more productive doesn’t make you stronger, cooler, or wealthier. It allows you to get more done in less time so you can use the time you save to get more enjoyment out of life.
Here are 50 ideas to help you do just that:
- Do what you don’t want to do first. – If you handle the toughest tasks first when your mind is fresh, you’ll get done quicker and make the rest of the day more enjoyable.
- Focus on high impact tasks. – Figure out what will have the greatest impact today, and make sure you address the most important stuff first. Don’t get caught up in odd jobs, even those that seem urgent, unless they are also important.
- Don’t confuse being busy with being productive. – Stop and ask yourself if what you’re working on is worth the effort. Is it bringing you in the same direction as your goals? (Read The Success Principles.)
- Accept imperfections. – Perfectionism is the enemy of completion. Don’t ignore the forest for the sake of one lonely tree. Most of the time small imperfections aren’t even noticed, so don’t waste all your time on them.
- Create and refer to a TO-DON’T list. – A to-don’t is a list of things not to do. It might sound funny, but it’s useful for keeping track of unproductive habits, like playing online flash games, checking Facebook, etc.
- Use productive shortcuts. – There are productive shortcuts for almost everything you do. Finding and using them can save you a few minutes here and there on a daily basis. If you use a computer, learn the keyboard shortcuts for the programs you use most often. If you can permanently delegate one of your regular tasks to someone else, do it. Is there a route to work with less traffic? Where can you hit two birds with one stone?
- Narrow the number of ventures you’re involved in. – Productivity is not usually my challenge, narrowing the number of ventures to be productive in is. Even when you have the knowledge and ability to access super-productive states, you get to a point where being simultaneously super-productive on too many fronts at once causes all activities to slow down, stand still and sometimes even slide backwards.
- Pick-up the phone. – We’ve become so accustomed to communicating digitally, sending emails, IMs and texts, etc. that we forget we can get some tasks accomplished in a fraction of the time with one or two quick phone calls.
- Use technology to automate tasks. – From creating email filters, to automatically backing-up your hard drive, to automatic bill paying. The more you automate, the more you can get done without with the same level of effort.
- Learn to search Google effectively. – If Google is the portal to the information superhighway, Google’s advanced search operators are the most efficient vehicles on the road. Once you learn them, you will find what you seek in half the time, every time. For example, with Google, you could search for “life lessons” site:www.marcandangel.com to find all of the life lessons posted on our blog. Spending less time looking for information means that you can get more done.
- Group similar tasks back-to-back. – Switching gears between different types of tasks can be tough. It takes most people several minutes to get into a productive mental groove geared for a specific type of task. Therefore, it makes sense to group similar tasks in an effort to minimize the number of rough patches, and thus wasted time, between task orders.
- Pay attention and get it right the first time. – The better listener you are, the more you will learn. The more you learn now, the fewer questions you will have later, and the less time you will spend searching for answers. And obviously, doing things right the first time eliminates future delays.
- Eliminate all distractions for a set time. – Distractions are everywhere. They arrive via email, cell phone, coworker inquiry, etc. I’ve found that cutting out all distractions for a set time is one of the most effective ways to get things done in less time. You can’t remain in hiding forever, but you can be nearly four times as productive while you are.
- Plan ahead and start early. – 10 minutes of dedicated time planning each evening will save you from 30 minutes of ad-hoc preparation each morning. Likewise, starting your morning on purpose 30 minutes early will likely inject at least 60 additional productive minutes into your day. Think about it.
- Organize your space. – How much time do you think the average person wastefully spends searching for items they’ve misplaced? Keeping both your living and working spaces organized will undoubtedly allow you to get thing done more efficiently.
- Choose a dedicated spot. – Don’t put your car keys, cell phone, etc. in a different spot each evening after work. Choose a dedicated spot and make it a habit. There is nothing more frustrating in the morning than looking for the stuff you need. Morning scavenger hunts are a huge waste of time.
- Productively use waiting time. – Waiting time does not have to be wasted time. When you are waiting at the doctor’s office, the post office, or on hold for the next available representative, what simple tasks could you complete while you wait? How about sorting through your snail mail or email, writing those thank you notes you’ve been putting off, reading the book you keep meaning to read, reviewing/editing your to-do lists, etc. [Read more…]