A few weeks ago, a friend approached me because he felt he wasn’t being as productive as he should. While I had written about productivity many times in the past, I didn’t want to point him to the many articles I had written on the subject.
As a result, I brainstormed a collection of quick tips to help him increase his productivity dramatically in a very short period of time. I walked him through the list and he immediately managed to implement a lot of these quick tips.
Then this evening I thought, if that was useful for him, maybe it could be useful to a lot more people!
So here’s the list of quick tips that originated from the brainstorm to help my friend increase his productivity (in order in which they were brainstormed):
1. Shut down communications outside scheduled time
As much as possible, schedule a block of time when you will answer all your non-time-sensitive messages. For me, I answer to my emails and most Slack messages between 1pm and 2pm.
2. Place all current activities in Eisenhower Matrix
If you’re not familiar with the 4 quadrants (Urgent and Important, Not Urgent and Important, Urgent but Not Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important), I suggest you get familiar with it to get some perspective on how your time is spent and how it should be spent going forward.
3. Any audio or video should be at (at least) 2x speed
It takes some getting used to, but once you can listen to anything at 2x speed, you save so much time. A lot of learn is happening through audio or video, so you greatly accelerate your learning this way.
4. Put your computer mouse/trackpad at maximum speed
A lot of people use a computer to accomplish things. Learn to use your mouse or trackpad at max speed. You can save hours every week just by learning that.
5. Know all keyboard shortcuts for any software you use
Like above, learn all keyboard shortcuts to minimize the amount of time you spend going back and forth between your mouse and keyboard. Again, you can save hours every week by learning that.
6. Schedule distraction time
We all have activities that distract us. I was obsessed with stats checking (across different projects). I now check everything only once a day.
7. Do your productive activities when no one is around
Distractions are probably the greatest killer of productivity. Do your important things when you are certain you won’t be distracted. For me, that’s very early in the morning.
8. Do things at best known times
According to the Power of When book, different types of people have different best times to do different types of activities. Know yours.
9. Plan your week ahead of time
As much as you can, never start your week without knowing what’s coming. Be aware of how you can best spend your time during the week.
10. Break everything down in chunks of at most 15–25 minutes
Whenever you have a task that seems too daunting to do, break it down it more manageable size, taking about 15 to 25 minutes each.
11. Save your small wins in a “success” journal
Every time something good happens to you, save it somewhere you can retrieve for later. The act of recognizing it makes you feel rewarded, and when you’re not feeling great, you can always refer back to good things that happened to you to cheer you up.
12. Have monthly goals
Think of a month as you would a new year resolution. What do you want to accomplish during the month that would change your life for the better. One month is a lot more motivating than on year.
13. Start your productive day by working on one or two easy tasks first
No one is really motivated to work on a super hard task to start with. Completing small tasks builds your energy up for future tasks. Which brings us to…
14. Work on your hardest task next
With that new found energy, it’s time to work on your most complicated task for the day. If you fail to do anything else that day, at least you’ll have done the hardest thing!
15. Put the right music at the right volume
I know that one doesn’t work for everyone, but experiment with what music at what volume puts you in flow state. This doesn’t only apply at work but for other fun activities and chores.
16. Learn to power nap
Power napping is a skill that takes practice. It took me about 2 years to master. Power napping is when you nap for 10–20 minutes. I nap on relaxing music and set an alarm for 25 minutes. It takes me 10–15 minutes to fall asleep, so I nap for 10–15 minutes. More than 20 minutes disrupts your rhythm.
17. Consistency is always key
It’s always better to do, even if just a little. Inaction breeds inaction. Do with consistency and build some momentum up!
18. Be accountable
Have someone or something hold you accountable for the things you want to accomplish. Find a partner. Make your goals public.
19. Take tons of notes on all your learnings
No one is good enough to recall everything without referring to resource material. Whatever you are learning, always take notes. Even just the act of taking notes will make you remember.
20. Answer this question: “Why do you do what you do?”
The hardest question of all. Once you can clearly answer the question, your goals and actions start to align. Peter Drucker said: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
21. Journal your heart out
Learn to write anything that comes to mind in a journal. This will bring clarity in your life.
22. Understand and use the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule)
Do 20% of the work that yields 80% of the result. Seriously think about that before jumping into a time-consuming endeavour.
23. Build yourself a strong morning and evening routine
Mornings set up your mood for the day. Evenings affect your quality of sleep and thoughts given to your subconscious. Both are of utmost importance.
24. Track how your time is spent
Most people don’t know where their time is spent. For a week, analyze every minute of your day and realize where time is wasted. Use tools like RescueTime on the computer.
25. Walk fast
Walking fast is both good for your health and brings you to your destination faster. Once you’re used to it, it’s just as meditative and enjoyable as slow walking.
26. Listen to podcasts or audio books while walking/commuting
Free education on the go! There are tons of great podcasts and audiobooks to listen to on any subject you may be interested in. Use commuting time for passive learning. Don’t forget to learn to listen at 2x!
27. Learn to say “no”
Saying “no” is much easier than saying “yes”. Here’s a list to help you.
28. Use mornings and evenings for personal growth
Most people are at their most creative after waking up. Use that time to learn new skills. Your brain works on things you feed it while sleeping. Feed it with thing you want to remember most before going to sleep.
29. Meditate for context-switching
Learn to meditate and do it between different activities. For example, before and/or after work.
30. Do a quick workout routine shortly after waking up
Spend at least 10 minutes doing physical activity to “activate” your muscles.
31. Put your phone in airplane mode from 9am to 9pm
Don’t be reactive, be proactive. Make this 12 hour period your own. Customize times to your preference.
32. Done is better than perfect
In most scenarios, it’s better to have something ready and get feedback before pushing through “blindlessly”.
33. Read uplifting content before going to bed
Again, what you feed to your brain before going to bed is crucial. Read things that uplift you so you wake up energized the next day.
34. Experiment to find your best sleep schedule
Common wisdom says to sleep 8 hours every day. This doesn’t work for everyone. Our cycles are of 90 minutes. I found that for me 6 hours (4 cycles) or 7.5 hours (5 cycles) work best. If I sleep 8 hours, I wake up in the middle of a cycle and it’s terrible. Experiment to find your sweet spot.
I hope some of these tips useful to you. Ultimately, being productive means making the most out of the 24 hours you have available to you each day. These tips should help you with that.
You can do this!