Productivity is a bit of an obsession for me. I’m always trying to streamline my time and get more done. Sometimes, it feels as if I spend more time trying to be productive than I do actually being productive.
Everyone goes through that.
I started to wonder what other people do to get around that — people who seem to squeeze every drop of productivity from their day. I decided to do some research, and picked up a lot of great tips and tricks I never would have thought of.
Check it out – here are the top 10 secrets of super-productive people!
1. Break the day into 15-minute intervals.
I tend to think of my work day in terms of hours. That is, I envision each “chunk” of time as being 60 minutes long.
This is how most of us are trained to think.
But here’s something interesting I’ve noticed in my own daily experience: when I think of the “chunks” as being 30 minutes long, I get more done. So I wasn’t at all surprised to read that many people take it a step further and think of time chunks as being 15 minutes long.
Why does this work? Here’s my theory…
We think of each unit of productive time (15 minutes) as being smaller, and that perception makes us aware of everything we can accomplish in a shorter time window. We no longer think we need an entire hour to complete a given task or project. We start to appreciate how much we can accomplish in a quarter of the time.
This is an empowering feeling. It’ll motivate you to get things done in a fraction of the time they would normally take.
2. Ignore your inbox as long as possible.
It took me a long time to learn this lesson. If I check my email in the morning, I end up spending an hour reading and responding to messages. When I check in in the late afternoon, I’m much more efficient.
I think most people are like that. The problem is, society expects us to be at everyone’s beck and call. People want an immediate response!
It’s worth noting how the super productive treat their email: they leave it for later. They don’t feel compelled to drop everything and respond that instant whenever they receive a message.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said he put off opening letters as long as he could, and by the time he did, many issues had already resolved themselves.
3. Memorize your etiquette rules.
I have no problem with reading emails. I can scan them quickly to retrieve the information I need.
The challenge for me is with writing emails. I spend considerable time making sure they flow smoothly, and are engaging and easy to read. I follow specific rules of email etiquette to make that happen.
You probably have similar rules. Save yourself time by memorizing and applying them to every email you send. Rather than starting from scratch each time you sit down to write a message, use a template that includes your etiquette rules.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
4. Pretend you’re on an airline flight.
Acclaimed record producer and songwriter Diplo once said the following:
“I’m most productive making music on the road, in hotels, or in planes, because that’s when I have no distractions.”
Everyone’s different, of course. You may struggle with distractions when you’re on the road. But if Diplo’s comments resonate with you, use it to your advantage.
Imagine that you’re on an airline flight when you sit down to work. Block out everything around you and try to focus. Don’t be surprised if you get a lot more done!
5. Designate a “workplace” if you work at home.
If you work from home, I strongly recommend you have a different space for work than you do for play.
Having a separate workspace does two things for you. First, you’ll train yourself to get into a work mindset when you occupy it. This will help you to get into a flow state, and get more done in less time.
Second, it will encourage you to leave work behind at the end of the day. You won’t be tempted to check your email while you’re supposed to be relaxing with a book. You won’t be compelled to finish a spreadsheet when you should be watching a movie with your family.
The result? You’ll work more productively since the amount of time you spend in your workspace is limited.
As a bonus, you can claim the home office as a deduction on your taxes (check with your accountant to make certain).
6. Don’t multitask.
“I’m great at multitasking.”
It might sound good in an interview, but it’s actually the antithesis of how our brains work.
Multitasking introduces switching costs. When you switch from task to task, you never get “in the zone.” You never manage to achieve a flow state. This takes a huge toll on your productivity.
Research shows that switching back and for between unfinished tasks hampers our performance compared to focusing on – and completing – them one by one.
The next time you’re tempted to multitask, don’t. You’ll get more done through single-tasking.
7. Learn to say “no.”
If you’re overcommitted, you’re going to have a hard time keeping up with all of your obligations – at home and at your job. Worse, you’ll start to lose perspective concerning which obligations should receive a higher priority than others.
This is the constant dilemma of folks who can’t say “no” to others. They end up getting recruited for more tasks and projects than they can handle. Eventually, things start to fall through the cracks, and their productivity plummets.
If you find it difficult to tell others “no,” practice. Develop the habit.
Need motivation? Consider that the world’s top CEOs routinely decline invitations to participate in projects that are inconsistent with their schedules. And these corporate showrunners are among the most productive people on earth.
Learn from their example!
8. Always have an agenda and stick with it.
Adora Cheung, CEO of Homejoy, prides herself on making full use of her time. She once said, “At other companies I used to work for, meetings would just go on forever.” She made sure that didn’t happen at her own company. She noted that she’ll “prioritize everything that I think we should cover, and then during the meeting we just go down the agenda. If it’s not on the agenda, we don’t talk about it.”
This is excellent advice for any type of meeting, whether with a client, your departmental team, or a board of directors. Rather than “spitballing” ideas, and seeing where they lead, create and stick to an agenda.
You’ll save a ton of time.
9. Focus on what you are accomplishing.
When it comes to productivity, we’re hardwired to measure the success of our efforts according to the passage of time. We glance at the clock to gauge whether we’re on track. We mentally note the amount of time we have left to work on the project in front of us.
Much of our attention is focused on these deadlines.
On the one hand, this does improve our productivity. As Parkinson’s law states, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” To that end, deadlines are useful.
On the other hand, it’s important to not lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish. As with deadlines, working toward a desired outcome can help to boost your productivity. You’ll be invested in your work, willing to focus on it, and motivated to bring it to completion.
10. Don’t get too obsessed with productivity secrets.
Finally, don’t overdo it! It’s easy to spend so much time focusing on how to be more productive that you actually end up wasting time.
This is one of the complaints I’ve heard about David Allen’s popular Getting Things Done© system. There’s so much to it that you can literally waste hours incorporating it into your life.
Here’s my advice: experiment with the tips I’ve outlined above. Test drive them one by one and note their effects on your productivity. If something works for you, make it a part of your daily process. If it doesn’t work, ignore it and try the other tips.
Remember, your circumstances are unique to you. It follows that your path to greater productivity should be tailored to your life.
If you’re having difficulty getting things done, you may be unintentionally hampering your own productivity. Pick up a copy of my action guide The 30-Day Productivity Boost: How To Break The 30 Bad Habits That Are Sabotaging Your Time Management.
Photo by landrovermena