50 Ways To Get More Done Today

Get More Done Today

‘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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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…]

How To Be Bigger Than Yourself

How To Be Bigger Than Yourself

What We Live For

Once upon a time a wise man asked a group of people who he cared about to convene.  A month later twenty of us are assembled on the front porch of a log cabin near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Most of us don’t know each other, as we are from different parts of the country and travel in different social circles.

As our two-day meeting begins, it becomes clear to me that we all share at least two things in common:  The first is that we want to make a difference in the world and be of service to others, and the second is that none of us have the foggiest idea what it is we are supposed to do here at this remote location.

Our gathering feels somewhat reminiscent of early colonist meetings before the Revolutionary War.  It wasn’t trained soldiers or official public leaders that got together then.  Rather, it was ordinary people – young and old, rich and poor, carpenter and farmer – who met because they believed in a vision more abstract and bigger than themselves.

They wanted freedom, whatever that meant… and democracy, however that worked.  And although they were willing to die for these ideals, the spirit of their early meetings was driven by the passion for living.  Because ultimately it’s not what we die for that motivates us, it’s what we live for.  They convened because they knew in their hearts what they lived for.

We Want To Create

I am convinced that the twenty people here have a conviction about life that – like the colonists – goes deeper than superficial, self-centered desires and wants.  We each believe – using words and expressions that are our own – that we are acting on behalf of an energy bigger than all of us, while also contained within each of us.

So here we sit, all twenty of us, holding a space and filling it with energy, speaking quickly and slowly with voices of curiosity.  We’re occupying this space because our journeys took us here, even though we’re uncertain what it is we’re here to do.

And we continue to sit and breathe and think and converse, until the wise man walks out of the log cabin and onto the porch.  He asks each of us to tell the group what brought us here.

Yes, the wise man was the inspiration for all of us, so we name him.  Yes, we want to learn, connect and be present, so we name that.  Yes, we felt moved by our intuition and curiosity, so we continue to acknowledge the obvious.  But what else?  Abstractions are inspiring for only as long as we can use them to create something.  But what is it that we want to create?

The 800 Pound Gorilla

As we sit and move through the first day together, it is clear that none of us are sure about how to address the massive, hungry, obnoxious, smelly, sly and very much alive 800 pound gorilla standing in the center of the porch.

The wise man continues to inquire, in various ways, about our collective motivation beyond casual conversation, about our unified purpose beyond friendship, about what might be the driving force behind coming here this weekend.  But he doesn’t receive a single answer.  Nobody feels ready to acknowledge the truth behind the question.

Until finally, it is the end of the night and the wise man asks us to sleep on it – to look to our thoughts and dreams in an effort to determine why we’re here, and then perhaps let the group know in the morning.

I return to my cabin bedroom, which overlooks the patio where the 800 pound gorilla stands.  And instead of holding the question, I let it go.  Because it’s easier for me to take responsibility for an answer than it is to acknowledge that I don’t know the answer.  And lately I’ve been learning there’s a lot I don’t know.

As I let the question go, my mind feels free and wanders off to sleep, peacefully.

The Opening We Need

I wake up just before sunrise and prop myself up in bed with my laptop to write, as I often do at home.  I think that I might write about love and the importance of honesty.  But instead, I find myself unexpectedly holding the 800 pound gorilla… in my heart.

And although my mind wants to think about anything but this gorilla, who is still standing on the front porch, but now also in my heart, my heart knows better and forces me to write.  Even as my mind desperately struggles to make the gorilla disappear – to distract me with fleeting thoughts about other things I could be doing – my heart remains focused.

Because my heart tells me there is something beautiful about the way the gorilla holds herself.  And that she is asking for her beauty to be acknowledged, reflected and represented justly.  And finally, as words pour onto the screen, our role here at the cabin becomes clear to me:  We are here to acknowledge, reflect and represent what is beautiful and true in this world.

We came together to visit an 800 pound gorilla.  And although each of us sees her, we are afraid to tell each other that we see her.  Because we are unsure of ourselves, and because we don’t feel totally comfortable.  But it is the moment we let go of these binding fears that we give ourselves the opening we need to truly know the gorilla.

For her beauty.  For her grace.  For her truth.

And it is this knowing that creates an opening for all our hearts and minds to convene.  For energy to radiate.  For revolutions to transpire.  For what we once perceived as separate to be known as one.  And it is in this state of unity that our collective answers surface, allowing us to be incalculably bigger than ourselves.

PS:  If you enjoyed this short story, I recommend reading the The Alchemist.

Photo by: Martin Chen

12 Devious Tricks People Use To Manipulate You

Devious Tricks Poeple Use To Manipulate You

If you give them a chance, people will try to manipulate you.  It’s a sad fact of life.  And since knowledge is the best defense, here are twelve techniques they will likely try to use to pull a quick one on you.

1.  Targeting your lack of time and attention.

Someone purposely convinces you to commit to something at just the right time, when you would have otherwise said “no.”  This commonly occurs when you’re in a hurry or mentally fatigued.


At 5PM on a Friday, as you’re walking out of the office, your co-worker asks you if you mind handling X, Y and Z for him next week while he’s on vacation.  “Sure,” you say quickly.  “Shoot me an email with the details.”  On Monday morning you learn that X, Y and Z are fairly substantial tasks that you wish you hadn’t committed to.

2.  Misrepresenting facts based on popular beliefs.

When someone claims something is a proven fact simply because it’s a popular belief.


“Don’t just take it from me, 9 out of 10 doctors agree that Diet Pill XYZ is safe.”

3.  Using complex words to explain something simple.

Especially in the high-tech business world, complex jargon and obfuscation are tactics often used to intimidate you into agreeing with something you don’t fully understand.


“Our dynamic flow capacity matrix uses an unparalleled downtime resistance protocol.”

4.  Exploiting a position of authority.

You are far more likely to be persuaded by someone you like or by someone who is in an authority position.


A police officer tells you, “It’s legal for me to search your apartment right now.”  And since he’s a police officer, (even though he never showed you a search warrant) you believe he must be telling the truth.

5.  Making an unreasonable request first.

When someone first makes a request of that is excessive and to which you will most likely refuse.  Then they look disappointed and make a second request that is more reasonable.


“Will you donate $100 to our cause?”  “I can’t afford it.”  “Oh.  Well could you donate $5 then?”

6.  Drawing loosely-related conclusions.

When someone tries to convince you of something by drawing a conclusion that is loosely related to the information they gave you.


“This baby food is fortified with the vitamins and minerals.  It’s extremely healthy.  If you’re still buying other kinds of baby food, you’re neglecting your baby’s health.”

7.  The illusion of scarcity.

If the product is scarce, there must be a ton of demand for it, right?  Oftentimes scarcity is an illusion engineered by the product maker.  Because products (and opportunities) seem a lot more appealing when there is limited availability.


“One day sale!  Limited supply!  Get here before we’re sold out!”

8.  Lightly sugarcoating reality.

When someone gets you to agree to something that’s not ideal by telling you it’s slightly better than it is.


“The table will be ready in five minutes.”  Because it sounds a lot better than fifteen minutes.

9.  Changing the topic.

When someone diverts attention away from the topic of discussion to a totally new (but vaguely related) topic in an effort to persuade you.


“So you don’t think green energy is a top priority right now with the current state of the economy.  Well, we all saw what happened with the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster in 2010.  Is that what you want?  You want to see innocent sea creatures covered with oil?  Then go ahead then, vote against the green energy bill this year.”

10.  Presumption of guilt.

When a question or statement automatically presumes the subject is guilty.


“I saw the bruises on your son’s back.  So when did you decide that spanking your child with all your might way okay?”

11.  Creating fear and a solution for it.

Someone plays with your emotions and subtly invokes fear in you, and then when you start thinking about a possible solution, they provide one for you.


Your performance has been lacking around here recently and the CEO suggested that I put employees who are struggling on probation.  Don’t worry, I won’t do this now.  But I do want you to show me what you’re capable of.  Do you mind working this Saturday to help build-up your numbers?

12.  Start off small and up-sell.

Someone asks you for something small, and when you give it to them, they ask for something bigger.  And then, maybe, something even bigger.


Son:  “Mom, can I go out for an hour to see Anthony?”

Mom:  “Sure.”

Son:  “I just called Anthony and he’s going to the movies.  Can I go with him?”

Mom:  “Sure.”

Son:  “I only have $5.  Could you lend me a few bucks to get in?”
Son:  “…Could you give us a ride there?”
Son:  “…Could you pick us up afterwards?”

Also, check out these great reads on influence and persuasion:

Photo by: Rebecca Finch

20 Ways To Make Today Unforgettable

Make Today Unforgettable

The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime.
– Pink Floyd

Today is a perfect day to make lasting memories – the kind you may someday share with your grandchildren.  Here’s how:

  1. Try something totally new. – Variety truly is the spice of life.  You can see or do something a million times, but you can only see or do it for the first time once.  As a result, first time experiences usually leave a reflective mark in our minds for the rest of our lives.  So spice it up!
  2. Entertain yourself with real-world experiences. – Great memories are the product of interesting life experiences.  So turn off the television (or the computer) and get outdoors.  Interact with the world, appreciate nature, take notice of the simple pleasures life has to offer, and just watch as life unfolds in front of you.  (Read 1001 Things To Do If You Dare.)
  3. Work on something that’s meaningful to you. – Engage yourself in a meaningful personal project.  Or pull the trigger on doing something you’ve wanted to do for a long time, but haven’t yet had the resolve to do.  Life is short.  Today is the day to take action.
  4. Challenge your mind and body.Learn a new skill.  Be creative.  Build something from the ground up, no matter how small.  Run farther than you’ve ever run before.  Push yourself to the limits!
  5. Concentrate on less, but give it your best. – Slow down.  Pay close attention to what you’re doing.  Don’t waste time juggling forgettable tasks.  Instead, concentrate on a few things that really matter.  Engage fully in this day.
  6. Say “yes” to a spontaneous opportunity. – Everything in life can’t be planned.  Some of the greatest opportunities will knock on your door when you least expect them to.  Be flexible, be spontaneous, and just say “yes.”
  7. Complete an important piece of unfinished business. – Today is a perfect day to finish what you started.  Few feelings are more satisfying than the one you get after an old burden has been lifted off of your shoulders.
  8. Document your day. – Take lots of pictures.  Keep a journal.  Document your day so you can review it in the future.  Many moons from now, these old photos and journal entries will ignite your recollection of great memories from the past.
  9. Smile and notice what’s right. – Everything that happens in life is neither good nor bad.  It just depends on your perspective.  And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should.  Either you succeed or you learn something.  So stay positive, appreciate the pleasant outcomes, and learn from the rest.  (Read How Full Is Your Bucket?)
  10. Be authentic.  Be true to yourself. – Judy Garland once said, “Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of somebody else.”  Live by this statement.  There is no such thing as living a good day in someone else’s shoes.  The only shoes you can occupy are your own.  If you aren’t being yourself, you aren’t truly living… you’re merely existing.  And no day spent in a phony state of mere existence will ever be memorable or worthwhile.
  11. Assist someone in need. – In life, you get what you put in.  When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life.  Do something that’s greater than you, something that helps someone else to be happy or to suffer less.  I promise, it will be an extremely rewarding experience.  One you’ll likely remember forever.
  12. Take part in something you believe in. – This could be anything.  Some people take an active role in their city council, some find refuge in religious faith, some join social clubs supporting causes they believe in and others find passion in their careers.  In each case the psychological outcome is the same.  They engage themselves in something they strongly believe in.  This engagement brings happiness and meaning into their lives.
  13. Share time with a good friend and experience life together. – There are few things more satisfying than recounting the greatest moments of your life with your closest friends who lived these moments alongside you.
  14. Make a new friend. – People are interesting creatures, and no two people are exactly alike.  So meet someone new today.  Find out what makes them tick.  They’ll likely open your eyes to fascinating ideas and perspectives.  And you never know, they just might change your life.
  15. Do something fun and laugh it up. – Some of the most memorable moments in your life will be moments spent in laughter.  (Read This Book Will Change Your Life.)
  16. Spend quality time with children. – Children live by their instincts openly and without hesitation.  They are enthusiastic about life, eager to learn, and curious about everything.  Watch how they play, how they live, how they create, how they ask questions.  Play with them.  If you have some of your own, great.  If not, play with a child you care about.  Lose yourself in the play.  Be a dinosaur, or a gorilla, or a superhero.  Make them squeal in delight, and feel free to do the same.  If you don’t play with children often, I guarantee it will be a memorable experience.
  17. Forgive someone and reconnect with them. – Grudges are a perfect waste of happiness.  If there’s someone in your life who deserves another chance, give it to them.  If you need to apologize, do it.  Give your story together a happy ending.
  18. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. – Take a small dream and make it a reality.
  19. Act like today is already an awesome day. – Do so, and it will be.  Research shows that although we think that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act.  A great attitude always leads to great experiences.
  20. Be present.  Be here now. – I purposely left this bullet for last because it perfectly encompasses all of my previous points.  Don’t let your life slip by.  Instead of dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future, just practice being and living in the ‘now.’  Remember, right now is the only moment guaranteed to you.  Right now is life.  Don’t miss it.

Go now and make today unforgettable!

Photo by: Chimper