We always strive to accomplish more. To do more. To increase our personal output. To foster a sense of significance. To reach the crossroads of efficiency and effectiveness - productivity. And although everyone tries to be more productive, almost no one knows what productivity actually entails. Implicitly we subscribe to a false narrative, that the most successful people in life, the highest achievers, the ultra-productive, magically have more time than the 24 hours we are allotted each day. “I would if I had more time” has become the go-to crutch for our illness of procrastination. Or we declare that all highly-productive people are programmable machines, certainly Type-A workaholics who invest faaar more into their craft than we are willing (and believe able). What we commonly fail to realize is that productivity is not only about working harder. That is only the efficiency portion of the equation. We can also try to increase our effectiveness. The working smarter. These 23 tips won’t mysteriously create more time in your day, but they will help you use the time you do have more effectively. Use Your Commute
- With the average American spending over 4 hours a week commuting to and from work, commuting is a huge, but largely ignored, part of many people’s lives. Let's Use it! Instead of turning on radio talk shows or the news, use the time to listen to an Audiobook. It is an easy way to sneak in an extra 1 or 2 books a month without even trying!
Sell Your T.V.
- Let’s face it, your T.V. is mostly a waste of time. Increased T.V. watching is positively correlated with lower household income and educational attainment - and for a good reason. Most of what is on T.V. is junk that does not stimulate the brain and acts as a distraction from reaching your goals. The extra cash from selling it is a nice bonus too!
Manipulate Pareto’s Principle
- If you aren’t familiar with Pareto’s Principle, it is the 80/20 rule. 80% of effects can be attributed to 20% of causes. 80% of business sales stem from 20% of clients, 80% of the wealth is concentrated in 20% of the population, and 80% of computer errors are caused by 20% of bugs. In terms of productivity, realize what 20% of activities generates 80% of your successes and focus your attention there!
Have a To-Do List
- A To-Do List allows you to create a general framework for tasks to be completed throughout the day. What use is “more” time if you spend it all doing nothing of lasting impact?
- The ultra-productive do not multi-task. As much as you believe that multi-tasking will allow you to complete more tasks with less time, you’ll actually just create more distractions with less to show for it. Focus on one task at a time and complete it. Live by the motto, Do It Well & Do It Once!
Stop Checking Your Emails!
- Emails are the bane of society. In many circles emails have even become a form of social media. Set aside a certain time of day (or even week) to check on your emails. Check your emails once, respond to the important, and don’t check it again. People won’t expect immediate responses if you do not immediately respond!
Use Your Mornings Wisely
- The morning is probably the most underutilized parts of the day. Instead of preparing for a 9-5, prepare for a full day. Don't limit your productivity to 8 hours when you are given 3 times that. Be highly productive in the morning to set the stage for the rest of the day!
Understand the Law of Diminishing Returns
- After a certain point, it is not worth the effort to continue. There is no benefit in attempting to sit for 12 hours and read through a novel, write a proposal, or study for an exam. Your brain has a certain threshold of attention it can deliver and if you surpass it, it will be weak in ability!
- Zones are areas that you do not enter unless you are there to do a specific tasks. It is a form of classical condition on the brain to immediately get them in the zone as soon as they enter one. A bedroom is a great zone. Do absolutely nothing besides sleep (and other enjoyable acts) in your bedroom and condition yourself to enter your bed and immediately fall asleep. No more staying up for 2 hours on Facebook and Twitter feeds!
Automate or Delegate
- Using Pareto’s Principle, automate the tasks that you regularly perform and delegate as many tasks as possible. If you pay your mortgage, insurance, and utility bills every month, have your bank make autopayments. For tasks you don’t wish to do, delegate them to someone else. Most likely, they haven’t mastered the art of saying NO!
- Speaking of the devil, saying no is one of the hardest things for people to do. Particularly if you personally care for or want the admiration of the person asking such as a close friend or a boss. But saying no is in no way offensive and people will generally understand if you carefully explain to them that you are busy with other tasks. Don't take on more than you can handle!
Give Yourself Deadlines
- We tend to accomplish tasks in the amount of time that we allocate towards them. If you give yourself 2 weeks to buy a new fan, the prospect of buying a new fan will occupy your mind for 2 weeks. If you only give yourself 2 hours, you’ll be headed for the hardware isle now!
Prioritize Progress over Perfection
- When setting new goals, people tend to prioritize perfection. I have to go to the gym 5 days a week, I have to read 30 pages today, I have to get this guitar solo just right. And while perfection is obviously desired, progress (any) is ultimately what gets you to your goals in the long-term. Think long-term!
- Derived from the Law of Diminishing Returns, feel free to take breaks! It is good for you and will help you focus when you return. A short walk for some fresh air will do wonders for your physical and mental being!
- Every day for at least 30 minutes, completely disconnect from everyone and everything and disappear. You don’t have to pull a complete Houdini and never return, but giving yourself 30 minutes to mentally detox every day will be of great benefit. Create an opportunity to contemplate!
- Adopt a minimalistic approach to life. The fewer things you own, the fewer things that can mentally occupy your space. Less becomes more!
Never Watch the News
- Unless you are in a business where keeping up to the minute news updates is absolutely critical to the operation of the business, stop keeping up with the news. It is a waste of time and mostly negative. Anything of importance will make its way to you through word-of-mouth!
Welcome to Do Not Disturb Mode
- Your friend. Your right-pocket man. Your phone. When you enter one of your zones, introduce your iPhone, Galaxy, or Blackberry to the world of Do Not Disturb.
Stop Going to Meetings
- Meetings, in their current state, are largely a waste of time. Waiting for everyone to show up, getting everyone settled down, and no agenda - only to discover your physical presence wasn’t necessary. Unless absolutely mandatory, request an agenda before every meeting you go to and see where exactly YOU are required. Most of the time, a simple email will suffice!
Important over Urgent
- Life throws at us 2 types of tasks, important and urgent. We tend to prioritize getting the urgent done, but don’t focus on the important. Seldom is a task important and urgent, so urgent tasks are the ones you should aim to delegate so that you can focus on the important
Routine Your Diet
- Eating is necessary, no doubt. Spending 20 minutes every day trying to decide what to have for lunch is not. Being highly productive requires you to capture these small moments in any way possible, including creating a largely routinized diet!
- Being disciplined is key. The ultra-productive create daily routines filled with habits that benefit them over the long-term. But creating a routine is not enough to realize the benefits. You have to live the routine. And for the long-term!
Never Stop Learning
- The highly-productive never stop learning. Warren Buffet reads 8 hours day. I’m not suggesting you go set up camp in Barnes & Noble, but realize that learning expands your mind and allows you to see the opportunities that surround you. You might even walk away with new ambitions and goals!