Every once in a while I heard people saying how busy they are, and how little time they have. There are busy managers, producers, leaders, entrepreneurs, workers. Everybody seems to be busy. I compiled a list of 100 items that can help you get more productive hours. Check this long list, and perhaps you’ll get some ideas on how to become more productive.
#1 – Less is more
Don’t get more and more work. Don’t think that you can finish “one more task” when you’ve already behind your deadline. Just pick the tasks that you really need to do, and don’t try to do more than it’s possible.
#2 – Desktop wallpaper
Get yourself a motivating wallpaper – something that reminds you what you should be doing.
#3 – Use pen & paper
I’ve never encountered a “blue screen” and never lost anything because pen & paper would stop functioning (well, once my dog eat some concepts but I assure you that doesn’t happen often). Use them more in your work.
#4 – Get rid of fancy, pocket sized, high-technology toys that are labeled to “save your time”
There’s some features fancy gadgets have that I don’t like much. Fancy gadgets jam, get lost, require skills, have too tiny buttons to name but a few things. Get rid of them. Any pocket-sized thing that has more colors than 2 (black and white preferrably) is probably a high-tech gadget you won’t need.
#5 – Watch television after finishing something
No tasks done, no watching television. That’s the rule of thumb that will save you more time than you need.
#6 – Outsource your email
Not perhaps the greatest idea for everybody, but you can save time by screening somebody to get through useless mail you get. Your assistant can also help you on routine tasks, thus saving your time for more productive matters. In today’s global world you can get yourself a virtual assistant to help you out.
#7 – Get proper spam protection
Junk mail eats your time. Certainly you can spend couple of bucks to get a good spam protection. Think it as a very good investments.
#8 – Remember what Treebeard the ent said
Treebeard said to the little hobbits: “Don’t be hasty”. That should be your motto too in case you plan to get something done.
#9 – Don’t do things half-way
If you intend to finish tasks, don’t think the right way to do that is to do “little bit everything”.
#10 – Don’t postpone decision making
I’ve seen too many people worrying making a bad decision. They think that they might make a mistake if they decide. Here’s the news: yeh, that might happen – so what? Just decide something, and if it doesn’t work out then you are free to decide something else in the future.
#11 – Don’t keep asking “Am I making the most of my time right now?”
You shouldn’t worry about that sort to stuff if you follow the next tip.
#12 – Use the new way to prioritize your work
It’s quite common that people prioritize their work by using letters “A-E” depending how important tasks are. Some use “1-5″ (or “green/yellow/red”) priorities. My suggestion is: don’t do that. Instead, compile a list. The topmost item is your first priority. When that’s done, move to the item next on the list. This will force you to see what’s the most important task right now.
#13 – breaks, breaks, breaks!
Go out if possible – fresh air is something you don’t breath inside buildings.
#14 – No coffee breaks
Skip the coffee, and teach your body to survive without this modern day drug.
#15 – Lock the room where you work
Keep dogs, rats, children and other family members away from your home office, that helps you stay focused on your work without interruptions. Improve the efficiency by listening to music loud enough.
Notice: You still need to ensure there’s somebody to watch what the kids do. After all, you don’t want to end your day and notice that your home has burned, do you?
#16 – Now as I think, that previous tip works also at typical offices too
Locking your co-workers from wasting your time sounds even better idea, don’t you agree?
#17 – Vacation!
After locking your family out you need to show that you still want to spend time with them too. A vacation is a great tool for that, not to mention you get to charge your batteries.
#18 – Let people call twice before answering
Most of the calls are time wasters anyway, right? If people have really important stuff to tell, I’m sure they can call you again.
Ignore this tip if the caller is a customer.
#19 – Just say no
Most people accept anything by default. Stop being responsible for everything and just say no. There’s no need to be rude, and make sure you look like somebody who does only the work that’s necessary. The goal is to do the work that’s important.
Combine this with the previous tip and you’ve reached a heck of a level in productivity.
#20 – Keep whiners far away
Whiners and complainers are such a disease that they can bring down any team’s motivation. Don’t let yourself be dragged into conversation with complainers.
#21 – Put a deadline
Deadlines aren’t the answer to every solution, but sometimes they might work very well. Try setting some deadlines for yourself and see how they work for you.
#22 – The beer reward (K18)
After completing some major milestone, reward yourself with something you enjoy. Anything from ice cream to beer is fine (kids should use pizza or soda instead).
#23 – Remember limits
The previous beer reward doesn’t mean you have a case of beer with you every time you go to work… but you can drink that one bottle after beating the tough deadline that you finished well.
#24 – Just do it
That’s where the bottom line eventually is: at some point you simply have to do those important tasks that help you get where you want. There’s really no shortcuts.
#25 – Guard the time on meetings
Somebody has to be the timekeeper, so it might be as well you. Make sure meetings start and end on time. If there’s not enough time, make sure you have less issues to discuss the next time.
#26 – Take the “Ultimate test on How Organized Are You”
It takes just a few seconds to finish and will tell if you need to get organized to save time.
#27 – Don’t launch your Internet browser before midday
That will save you half of the day to actually do something useful.
#28 – stop using Mac
Everybody knows that Mac (and Leopard) is something where you wait to see beautiful applications running slowly. Truly productive people use PC where speed is the essence, that’s something we all know.
#29 – Stop being so offended if somebody insults you using Mac
If you keep taking flame baits, then you really must realize it just wastes everybody’s time.
Remark: Please see also tip #98
#30 – Start outdoor activities
Walking outdoors, jogging, running – all these are good activities that help get you in better shape. Good health means more productive hours.
#31 – Test working only 4 hours per day
Try this for one week, and you’ll immediately see how you simply have to boost your productivity. Suddenly you might get anything from 25-50% more work done, yet spending less hours. Try it for one week, or just for couple of days to see how well this tactic can work.
#32 – Stop finding clues for motivation
If you aren’t motivated to work, then you aren’t doing the right work. Start doing more stuff that are naturally fun to do. Soon you’ll notice that you don’t need to do much to motivate yourself, now the motivation comes from inside.
#33 – Money rewards
Bonuses might work in some cases. Not perhaps long-term, but at least for shot term. Instead of buying that nice new television you’ve dreamed of, you could make it so that it’s a gift for you if you find ways to work more productive hours.
#34 – Don’t bring work to home
Keep your hours in around 40 (or less, see tip #31) and don’t bring more work to your home. If you think you have too big workload, then use the tip #19.
#35 – Do more than asked
The least motivated employees do the absolute minimum that’s required, and spend rest of their time whining. If that’s the case then you should get yourself busy schedule, and then do even more than what’s asked. This doesn’t mean that you should still do more hours than others (see the previous tip), it simply means that you do more productive hours – and cut the chit chat.
#36 – Stop doing annual performance reviews if…
… all you do is blame others and point where they did something wrong. If there’s one thing to learn from the dogs, it’s the fact that dogs do anything for treats – and same goes with people too.
#37 – Kill 80% of your RSS feeds
The 80% of your current RSS feeds are just waste of time. Get rid of them (or put them in such place where you cannot find them), and keep the top 20%.
#38 – Stop reading news
They are timewasters, and really won’t bring much to you. When was the last time you heard something useful from a news site?
#39 – Okay, you can keep reading one or two news sites
For some people news sites can be beneficial, but often they don’t boost your productivity. It’s okay to have one or two news sites, but make sure you have a clear idea and a good reason why you are reading those sites (“Because I’m used to reading them” is not a good reason.)
#40 – Begin with the End in Mind
This one I learned from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Think about how you will feel after the work is done, and you can become more productive.
#41 – Stop watching sports
That’s something where you can put countless of hours. Wake up people. Golf is something where adult people hit tiny ball around a field, and get paid well. Is watching that really most productive ways to use your time?
#42 – Stop wasting other people’s time
Do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. Stop wasting other people’s time by bothering them all the time. That way they’ll stop wasting you.
#43 – Be on time
The habit of being late from meetings (yes, it’s a habit you develop – along with the talent to come up with the excuses why you were late) is killer for everybody else. Being late from meetings means less time for efficient working as a group – and adds up towards the end of the day.
#44 – Don’t postpone small (and important) tasks
If some people ask you to do something that takes 1 minute your time (or 30 seconds or 3 minutes, or something very little) then don’t postpone doing that task. It takes more time to put that task on your future todo list than it is to do right now.
#45 – Get a faster Internet connection
If you spend couple of more bucks than you are currently paying for your Internet, then the sites you visit load faster. Your emails load faster. Your RSS feeds load faster. If Internet plays a big role in your work, then why not get a decent connection?
#46 – Don’t launch instant messaging software until end of the day
Or you can rest assured that people will try to keep you from doing any work.
#47 – Stop playing online games
As fun as they can be, they really don’t bring any productive hours.
#48 – Same goes with the online videos too
Like previous tip, online videos can waste lots of your time.
#49 – Get yourself an MP3 player
Getting an MP3 player and listening to information products (music doesn’t count) can help you learn something while doing some routine tasks (anything from cleaning your desktop to doing the dishes). Don’t go overboard with this though. The point is to listen audio when you are doing something simple tasks that require very little of your attention.
#50 – Reduce stress
Stress doesn’t bring you more productive hours, quite on the contrary. Meditate, relax, read a book about Zen and take it little easier.
#51 – Focus on the completed tasks
Don’t worry if you have a big list of tasks to do. The list won’t get any smaller by worrying. Instead, concentrate the completed tasks and think how much you’ve already achieved.
#52 – Take naps
If you can take a nap that lasts 30 minutes around 3 pm, you can bring more efficient hours in one day. Experiment what times and length of nap fits for you. For some people 15 minutes (or 45 minutes) can be a better choice.
#53 – Get rid of tasks you won’t do
There might be tasks that aren’t useful anymore, so get rid of them. Eliminate them from your task list right away.
#54 – Break your tasks into manageable action items
Some people schedule tasks such as “create a new product” or “write a book”. These should be listed as goals or objectives, not specific tasks. Make sure your tasks are small enough that you always have a clear idea about what to do.
#55 – Stop doubling or tripling your work estimates
Some people think that tasks are never done on time. Some people suggest to add 100% more buffer to your estimates. I recommend splitting the task into a smaller one. Doubling your estimates suggests that you are taking really wild guesses on how something goes – and might lead to planning to much work.
#56 – Plan (some of) your work outdoors
Best ideas don’t come in front of your computer screen. Go out, take your note pad with you and plan your work there.
#57 – Learn to type faster
Fast typers get more stuff written on computer.
#58 – Stop planning (at some point)
At some point you gotta stop planning and start doing. Planners are the worst procrastinators.
#59 – Start planning (if you’ve never done it before)
The previous tip applies if you are a guy who gets lots of ideas, but lack execution. Some people might benefit if only they would plan more of their work. Spending some time to plan your work is fine, but at some point you need to remember tip #58
#60 – Read less (useless stuff)
People who enjoy reading a lot might not realize how much time they are spending reading “strategical information” that has no practical use. If you think that reading seven hundred different productivity guides will make you more productive, think again. Just pick couple of good books and read less useless stuff.
#61 – Buy a proper computer
Spending an extra $500 or $1000 for a machine that is supposed to be fast every day is money well spent. Spend little more to get faster CPU and more memory. It will speed up loading times, and save your time.
Plus, you get to play nicer video games.
#62 – Don’t let the curiosity kill the cat
Okay, there are some interesting links you just have to click, but let’s face it. If you go to some stupid website just for curiosity, chances are you will waste your time.
#63 – Do more what’s important
Some people are busy doing as many things as possible. These guys are after a quantity. Doing lots of tasks that doesn’t get you to your goal is waste of time. Instead of doing more tasks, try do few – but important tasks.
#64 – Let go
Control. People want control. Some people want control so badly that they just need to do everything by themselves. Learning to delegate some tasks (and remembering tip #19 too) goes a long way.
#65 – Don’t buy cheap
I could have named this “don’t buy crap”, but I decided to use the word cheap. Let’s face it. If you are using your computer most of your working hours, then wouldn’t it make sense to buy decent hardware and software? Buy a proper printer that doesn’t jam papers. Get some good software, and don’t always go just what’s the cheapest option. Cheap and quality won’t often meet.
#66 – Think what’s useful for you
If you’ve read this far without breaks… then I really recommend you stop now for a few seconds. Is reading this list really something you can apply right away? Does these tips bring you any value? If you’ve got this far without getting anything, then I think it’s better stop reading. If you found the info valuable, then feel free to go on – or print this page for later use.
#67 – Avoid micro-managing
Some team leads have the tendency to micro manage their team members. Giving guidance is okay, watching every action not. Micromanaging means there’s at least one too many doing the task.
#68 – Say less
Say less, but with a meaning. There are people in meetings who seem to make sure their voice gets heard. What if you’d take the approach that you think before you say something. Not everything you are going to suggest is relevant, so you might as well say less.
#70 – Work from home
If possible, do some work from home. This can give you extra 30 minutes every day, that would otherwise be spent on getting to the workplace.
#71 – Plan your transportation
If you must go to your workplace, then consider alternatives for your current transportation. Perhaps a bus or a bicycle could be faster option that whatever you are currently using.
#72 – Don’t take long breaks
30 minutes or 60 minutes long breaks can easily kill productive hours. Have breaks, but don’t let them slip longer than necessary. Sometimes 5 or 15 minute breaks can be sufficient.
#73 – Make sure the room temperature is for humans
When it’s freezing cold, your fingers won’t work. When it’s too darn hot, your brain won’t work.
#74 – Automate routine work
If you have some routine work that you need to do every day, then you might want to consider automating those tasks.
#75 – Stop wasting time posting at irrelevant forums
Seriously, do you really have time to get as many posts as possible in irrelevant discussion forums? Go to places that give you something, and stop visiting some forums.
#76 – Learn to read faster
Skimming, checking only the index, skipping paragraphs. All these can save hours for you.
#77 – Ask for help
Some people are too stubborn to ask for help. You know what, sometimes asking might be worth it. After all, do you want to be stubborn or get things done? Don’t be afraid to ask help if you get stuck.
#78 – Set a process for doing stuff
There are certain routines, certain tasks that need can benefit from having a strict process they go through. For example, let’s suppose your team members are always asking you for help. Instead of making a habit telling everybody to ask you first, perhaps you could get people to (1) first check out the manuals, (2) then consult team leads and (3) after that consult you in case there’s a problem with the project.
#79 – The laziest people need to work hard
It’s quite tricky, but I’ve noticed that if you want to be really lazy – you gotta start working hard. If you want to be lazy and lie on your sofa when you want, you really need to start working hard now. Working hard now is like putting money in the bank: it pays interest. If you work hard now, you won’t need to work that hard later. If you are lazy now, rest assured you need to work for long.
#80 – Get automated 3rd newsletter system
I’ve seen entrepreneurs trying to set up their own newsletter sending systems. They spend ages finding proper solutions, when they could spend a few bucks and get a reliable third party system like aweber. No point wasting time programming something that can be so easily purchased.
#81 – Walk faster
Instead of walking slow, you can think about walking faster. If you save 5 minutes per day by walking bit faster, you would be saving 30 hours in one year.
Don’t try this if you drive a car. That just gets you speeding tickets and a big hospital bill.
#82 – You get what you choose to get
Let’s face it. If you have lots of stuff piling on your desktop – that’s because you’ve made such decisions in the past that created your current situation. If you are busy, then the only place to look is to a mirror. The good news is that since you created the current situation, you are free to create a new future where your workload is lighter and you have more time to do what’s important.
#83 – Buy a notepad
Instead of having thousand and one post-it notes, get yourself a notepad where you start putting important stuff. File in your computer hard drive is okay, but then you have the problem that you might not always have the computer at hand. Just make sure you don’t scatter all your todo notes all over your home or work. Put them in proper place where you can actually find them when needed.
#84 – Write things down
It consumes your energy if there are things that bug you. If there’s something “you need to remember”, then simply write it down. That way it stays on your notepad and your energy won’t be needed to remember the task.
#85 – Deal with the the ugly tasks first
There might be some tasks that might not be the most important for reaching your goals, but consume your energy just by existing. If there are some things you worry daily, then it impacts your productivity. It’s better to do these ugly tasks before they consume you too much. By getting these ugly tasks completed, you’ll get more energy to do other tasks.
#86 – Schedule for surprises
It’s easy to fill your calendar 100% with all kinds of tasks. Then something additional tasks come and mess up the week. To avoid this risk, consider leaving some breathing room in your calendar. You can always take additional tasks if time permits.
#87 – Focus in the results
Some people think that there are specific action steps that one must take to finish certain tasks. Some people pay too much attention on how something is done when in reality they should focus on the outcome. After all, who cares how cell phones work as long as you can make calls.
#88 – Daily and weekly focus
It’s easy to do two hours this, two hours that and two hours something else. One could think that it doesn’t matter if they do three different things, and spend 2 hours per day for three days. In reality, more will be achieved if each task gets 6 hours per day. Changing your attention from task to task daily (or sometimes even weekly – or monthly) has an overhead.
#89 – Make it simple
Complexity can waste your time. If finding your task is complex, you’ll lose time. If your todo list isn’t easily telling you what you need to do, it’s time lost.
#90 – Toilet is your friend
They are great places to read books. Sure, you need to make sure that the book pages don’t get dirty and all that but overall they make a great peaceful place to learn.
Besides, you never get into trouble even if you run out of toilet paper when you have a 300 pages long book with you…
#91 – Answer this question: where you want to go?
It’s pretty hard to get anywhere if you don’t even know where you want to go. Answering to this simple question will help you become more productive than ever: make it really clear you know where you are aiming.
#92 – Don’t get too excited
Getting a spike of motivation and doing something super productive for one week is not going to help you. Instead of trying to be fast runner you should become a long distance runner. You might go little slower, but that’s the way to get somewhere far. Fast runners get tired after 100 meters, and you are aiming for 10 miles.
#93 – Let your idea rest for a week
There are people who get excited (see tip #92) for something and then week later they don’t feel like motivated to continue. To solve this problem, resist the urge to start your fancy idea for one week. After the week is over – check out how motivated you are and think how good the idea feels now. If it still feels good, feel free to proceed.
#94 – Think “only these few steps to go”
If you are near the end, then a fine way to motivate yourself is to remind that there’s only very little work left – and you are almost there. Just think about this and remind yourself that the work is done in no time if you put your mind to it.
#95 – Learn, learn, learn
Some people go forward without thinking what they did in the past. If you stop and reflect a bit what you did last year or last month, you might get some ideas to boost your productivity in the future. Take some time to learn from the past, that will give you more productive hours in the future.
#96 – Just give it a go
Sometimes you might fear what might happen when you try something new. You might worry whether it turns out well or like you planned. Here’s the thing: just give it a go. Some people can come up with lots of excuses, and never try anything. Just try something new, and if it doesn’t work out – at least you’ve learned what isn’t working and are free to try something else.
#97 – Backup
Some people believe that making backups is an overhead, and requires too much effort. Well, do you have any idea how much effort it requires to get everything back if your computer hard drive crashes and wipes out everything you’ve got there?
#98 – Use what works for you
Apple users: I was really just kidding there on tip #28. The key is to use the tools that work for you. There are different people. Others prefer Mac, others prefer PC. Use what fits your needs.
#99 – Don’t use the force, Luke
There was once a time period where use of force was essential to survive. That was when the cave men existed. Today, the rules have changed a bit. If you try to force your own way – you are really just digging yourself a deep hole. A better idea is to be flexible and adapt in situations. Soft way can sometimes get people to work more effectively, so forget Star Wars.
#100 – Stop reading lists like these
You might be thinking that “now you have got some great tips”, but that does little good if you continue hunting more and more tips. The tips #24, #32 and #91 contain everything that you really need.
Feel free to give your own tips at the community forums.