Does any of this resonate with you?
- You want to do something right now to increase your productivity
- You want to know how to maintain focus and overcome procrastination
- You’re overwhelmed by the productivity tools out there and don’t know what to do
You’re not alone. I’ve been there, too. That’s why I created this resource post to help you digest the essence of productivity in a single article without all the wishy-washy stuff.
I’m not a master of all of those methods listed in this post, either. What comes below is a fine selection of productivity hacks I’ve experimented with or I’m about to pick up. Look at these methods as a kind of a framework that may be a life-changing experience for you. It has been for me. Why don’t you give it a try?
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
1. Get a good night’s sleep
The National Sleep Foundation recommends, as a rule of thumb, at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night. (This is a recommendation for adults.) They recommend sticking to a sleep schedule, developing a bedtime ritual, and turning off electronics before bed to improve your sleep.
I’m quite good with 7-8 hours of sleep, but I recognized that my peak performance is somewhere in the 8-9-hour range.
2. Move your body
Studies have shown that physical exercise preserves brain health and cognitive function both under normal or disease conditions. What’s more, physical exercise has been linked to spatial learning and memory.
The only problem with exercise is that it feels good afterward. And we humans want the immediate benefit. That’s why it’s important to choose an exercise that you love doing and make it a habit.
3. Eat well
Many of us wouldn’t consider eating as something that corresponds to our productivity. But eating, among many other factors, determines our energy levels. And the energy level is a key component of the TEA framework. The TEA framework identifies Time, Energy, and Attention as the three pillars of productivity.
Diet, exercise, and sleep are the three productivity multipliers. If you don’t do anything about your productivity, these three things will significantly increase your output.
4. Drink 2-3 cups of water in the morning
Harvard Medical School recommends drinking 2-3 cups of water per hour. Many successful people begin their day by drinking water as part of their morning ritual.
Drinking a lot of water is something that comes to me naturally. But now, I’m conscious about it and remind myself that’s what successful people do.
5. Practice daily meditation
Regular mindfulness practice can physically rebuild your brain in the same way that regular strength training can build your body.Chris Hardy
I couldn’t name a single self-development resource not mentioning meditation. I’ve long been thought of meditation as a spiritual hocus-pocus. But actually, it’s a proven medical practice. If you’re new to meditation, basically it means that you focus your awareness on the moment and your breathing while sitting in a comfortable position at least for 10 minutes. If you want easy-to-follow and practical advice on meditation, read Bliss More by Light Watkins. That book completely changed my perspective on meditation.
6. Keep a journal
This is the second most common habit of successful people. Journaling helps you find your focus, practice gratitude, and reflect on what’s going on in your life. Rereading your journal entries might help you identify how far you’ve gone or what mistakes you’ve made.
The truth is, however, most people find it hard to settle with a consistent journaling habit (myself included). Here’re some questions from my journal to help you get started. (No worries; I borrowed many of the questions from successful folks.)
- What were my biggest wins?
- What lessons did I learn?
- What am I thankful for right now?
- What can I do next to move forward on my goals?
7. Feed your brain
You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.Charlie “Tremendous” Jones
Reading is a fantastic way to set you up for a productive day. It has been listed among the Life S.A.V.E.R.S. proposed by Hal Elrod in his best-selling book, The Miracle Morning.
I read business books and self-improvement material for one hour every day just by using my commuting time. I can say that’s one of the most transformational habits I’ve developed over the years. I simply used the train as a context cue to initiate my reading habit, which is pulling out my Kindle. Over a few months, I developed a rock-solid reading habit that resulted in digesting some 80 books on productivity and personal development so far.
8. Schedule Thinking time
Have you ever found yourself coming up with a great idea or solving a big problem while you were walking?
Many successful people are advocates of the thinking time that is setting aside time to think about a specific problem while walking outside. Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, carves out one walk each day just for thinking about his research ideas.
I’ve long been practicing TWWT (Thinking-While-Walking-Time) and have witnessed enormous benefits from that.
There’re several alternatives to walking:
- TWBWT (Thinking-While-Baby-Walking-Time)
- TWCT (Thinking-While-Cycling-Time)―my personal favorite
- TWRT (Thinking-While-Running-Time)
9. Get things out of your head
One of the fundamentals of the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology is that you get everything out of your head as soon as it comes to mind and put it into a trusted system. You can maximize your productivity by focusing on one particular task at a time. When your mind starts wandering, you lose your focus.
That brings us to have a trusted system that serves as your second brain.
10. Have a trusted system
If you have a trusted system in place and use it consistently, you will be less likely to miss deadlines, forget about your spouse’s birthday, or have trouble identifying how to move things forward.
The GTD framework provides a nice way to get you up. I often hear from people that it’s way too complicated and they don’t like to adhere to a system like that. If I were to summarize what’s the essence of GTD, I’d say that you think in projects. Everything that you do can be related to projects.
What is a project anyway? In a GTD perspective, a project is “any of your desired outcomes that will require more than one action steps to complete.”
Once you adopt this project thinking and make it a habit to list the action steps to move your projects forward, you’ll experience significant improvements in your life. Check out my GTD series to get started with the Getting Things Done method and create your own workflow.
11. Avoid multitasking
Multitasking is a black hole that sucks in everything unless you discipline yourself. You know that’s crazy and it seems there’s no way out. I’ve been there, too. With discipline, however, you can make small improvements over time and learn how to find your focus.
When you find yourself in multitask mode, ask yourself the question, “What’s the most valuable use of my time right now?” Then decide on what’s your No.1 task at the moment.
Another useful tip is to get up and move your body a little bit. It will help to relieve stress and find your focus.
12. Show up early
Maybe you’re sick and tired of this morning person bla-bla-bla. Not everybody is a morning person. But one thing is for sure: Showing up early has numerous benefits to your productivity:
- Showing up early means less traffic, which converts to faster travel time
- Showing up early equals with fewer distractions
- Showing up early means that you can leave early (and who wants to work overtime?)
- Showing up early (and doing the hard work) creates a sense of accomplishment with cascading effects throughout the day
And, by the way, morning is the time when most people perform at their best.
13. Leave early
Leaving the office early translates into more quality time with your family, more time to recharge your batteries, or maybe some spare time to work on your side hustle. If you showed up early and didn’t use your time with shallow activities, you have every proof to leave the office in time.
There’s only one problem with this approach: Most colleagues hit the office later and don’t want you to leave early. So, it’s important to have strategies in place to help you out. I used to keep a Focus Defense Worksheet, which I adopted from the book Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt. I created some anticipation tactics to address the most common scenarios. I listed predefined phrases for what my answer will be when, for example, an urgent task lands on my table at 4 p.m.
14. Acknowledge that productivity is based on common sense
If you want to increase your productivity, oftentimes you have to expose yourself to weird stuff. Sometimes productivity hacks seem so simple that it’s hard to believe they work. Sometimes they seem way too technical. Don’t refuse something just because it seems so evident. Give it a try and evaluate your outcome. If it doesn’t work, just move on.
15. Get into the habit of building habits
A habit happens when a context cue is sufficiently associated with a rewarded response to become automatic.Wendy Wood
You want sustainable results, right? Such results come with consistency and hard work. And this is where habits come in.
According to Wendy Wood, author of Good Habits, Bad Habits, 43 percent of the time we act out of a habit without conscious thought. Successful individuals recognized that it’s a wonderful opportunity to build on. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they’re inevitably successful thanks to their habits.
The takeaway? Just copy what successful people do. In this post, I’ll show many examples.
16. Track your habits
Habit tracking is a useful method to keep you on track and identify the weak points. You may have come across the 30-day challenge, the 66-day challenge, or the 90-day challenge. These are based on the Seinfeld method, which says that upon successfully completing your desired habit, you put an “X” into your habit tracker. The aim is not to break the cycle for a given period of time.
You can use your habit as a cue to track your progress immediately after the action. Over time, it becomes automatic and effortless. This is what James Clear proposed is his book, Atomic Habits. While there’re a bunch of options to track your habits, I found that a simple Google Sheet with checkboxes will suffice.
17. Forget about the all-or-nothing thinking
Smart people use their intelligence to bullshit themselves.Ted Ryce
This is something I learned from health coach Ted Ryce. In a nutshell, there’s no need to strive for perfection. Just do something, anything, small consistently to move forward with your goals. The key is that you always do something. Don’t let your mood or negative thoughts dictate your actions.
That leads us to the next point.
18. Make 1 percent improvements
Brian Tracy proposed that improving 1 percent consistently will lead to breakthrough results over time. So, set aside time to improve yourself and your system. For that purpose, I created a dedicated journal in Evernote, which I call the 1 Percent Journal. At the end of the day, as part of my shutdown ritual, I record my improvements. There’re days, of course, without any, but I try my best to get better at something at least once a week.
19. Use anticipation to your benefit
I like to use an anticipation exercise that keeps my motivation level high. At the end of the week, as part of my weekly review, I fill in my Progress Planner that has a dedicated field where I list activities and events I anticipate the most. (I’ve long been practicing this anticipation exercise in freestyle and enjoyed a lot.)
What makes anticipation beneficial is that it has a strong connection with gratitude…
20. Practice gratitude
The easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.William B. Irvine
Gratitude journaling is one of the most common habits successful people share. They begin or end the day with some 5 minutes of journaling when they reflect on what’s going on in their lives. Part of the process is listing what they’re grateful for.
You can use a physical journal or a digital one. I used to keep my daily journal in Evernote; because that’s the tool I’m already using for note-taking and writing. As of today, my weekly journal is integrated into my Progress Planner.
21. Have a startup ritual
A solid workday startup ritual can help you find your focus and get your important things done before your day is taking over. My startup ritual currently consists of three items:
- Check calendar
- Check and rewrite my goals on paper
- Eat my frogs
I have to admit that I cheat a little bit: I don’t rewrite my goals on paper as proposed by Brian Tracy. This is something, however, that I definitely want to check out soon. As of now, I just check my goals in my Progress Planner.
If you have a startup ritual, you definitely should have the inverse as well…
22. Have a shutdown ritual
Having a simple checklist before leaving work ensures that urgencies are dealt with and open loops are closed.
Here’s how it looks my shutdown checklist:
- Check open loops, tasks
- Plan out the next day
- Identify my frogs for the next day
- Fill in 1 percent journal
23. Have a to-do list
People like checking boxes. It feels so good, doesn’t it? Having a simple to-do list, however, has more to offer:
- It serves as a reminder of what you’re supposed to do
- It forces you to think about how you can move things forward
- It serves as a record for future purposes (with a good task manager, you can search for completed tasks)
Before I discovered the benefits of a great task management tool, I used to keep my duties in my head or on post-it notes. Today, I couldn’t imagine life without a cloud-based, cross-platform task manager. Here’s a quick guide on how to find the task manager that’s right for you.
24. Have a not-do-do list
Having a not-to-do list ensures that you don’t spend your time with unimportant stuff. It’s a simple list you keep for your own reference. Whenever a big task or opportunity lands on your table, just consult your not-to-do list to check whether it aligns with your goals. It’s best practice to update your list once in a while, preferably during your weekly review.
25. Identify your frogs
If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.Brian Tracy
Your frogs are your ugliest yet most important tasks. These are the tasks that you’re most likely to procrastinate on.
Having them accomplished early in the morning is the best thing you can do. Just take 5 minutes at the end of the day to think about the frogs you want to accomplish the next morning and write them down. Then refuse to do anything until you get them done the next morning. If that’s the only thing you walk away with, you’re much ahead of most people. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to identify and deal with your frogs every day.
26. Procrastinate cleverly
Low-value tasks are like rabbits; they multiply continually… Since you must procrastinate anyway, decide today to procrastinate on low-value activities.Brian Tracy
I like this quote from Brian Tracy because it highlights that you can’t accomplish all the things at once. So, you inevitably end up procrastinating. Eat your frogs and procrastinate cleverly.
27. Keep records of outsourced stuff
Keep a list of the stuff “you are waiting to get back from or get done by others.” This is how David Allen defines the Waiting For list. Having such a list helps you follow up on deadlines and responsibilities. An example might be creating a dedicated folder in your email client and setting up a rule that delivers messages into that folder every time you send out an email that you want to follow up. Click here for an in-depth guide on the Waiting For list.
28. Create your Life Plan
You may have heard multiple times people talking about their long-term goals. But how do you identify the areas you want to improve, and how do you make that all happen?
Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy proposed a nice framework to plan out your life. First, you identify your life accounts, which are different areas of your life like family, career, self-fulfillment, finances—you name it. Then you visualize your future and write it down in the present tense as it was a reality. The next step is describing, in a few words, your current reality. Finally—and this is a critical step—list your specific commitments to achieve your envisioned future.
Repeat this procedure in all life accounts, and you have your Life Plan ready.
That’s one thing to have a Life Plan, taking action on it is another…
29. Write down your goals
Your goals are the flesh-and-bone reality of your Life Plan. The old-school approach says to think in annual goals. Embracing the 12 Week Year or the 6 Month Year, however, is more likely to help you overcome procrastination. Use the SMART framework to articulate your goals. SMART stands for…
- Specific: Is your goal specific enough to help you evaluate your progress?
- Measurable: Is your goal measurable?
- Actionable: Are you using an action verb to propel yourself into action?
- Realistic: Is your goal challenging enough yet achievable in the proposed timeframe?
- Time-bound: Is your goal linked to a deadline?
30. Reread your goals every day
Rereading your goals every day takes 3 minutes, yet it can be the difference between people that stay engaged and those that don’t. Brian Tracy even recommends that you rewrite your goals on paper every morning. He believes that writing down every day who you want to become helps you embrace change.
31. Do a weekly review
The weekly review is a time when you revisit all your projects, commitments, and goals. This is the time to check your calendar both against upstream and downstream events, have a look at your Waiting For list, ensure that you make progress on your goals, and prepare for the next week. Whether you want the lazy way or the hardcore way to do the weekly review, this ultimate guide will benefit your productivity.
My weekly review template as of today.
32. Do an annual review
The annual review is the weekly review on steroids. Most people do it around December. Mike Vardy of the Productivityist does his annual review in September because this is when summer is gone, and that’s the beginning of the semester. Doing an in-depth annual review takes much more time than a weekly review. It’s best to set aside a whole day to review what’s going on in your life, what went wrong, what’s that you want more of, and what’s that you want less of. Work with a template with predefined questions.
Here’re the questions I ask myself at the end of the year (borrowed from various resources):
- Achievements in <calendar year>
- AHA moments in <calendar year>
- What makes me want to wake up in the morning?
- 80/20 analysis: What activities gave me 80% of the satisfaction, joy, and happiness in the last year? What are the 20% of activities that gave me 80% of the negative emotions?
- Where do I see myself in 5 years?
- My plan for the next year
- Stop doing something
- Start something uncomfortable
33. Learn to say no
Every time you say yes to something, you say no to another thing. That’s a simple trade-off. The more you say no to new commitments, the more time you have. The more time you have, the more you can focus on the important projects that align with your goals. Learning to say no can be hard, especially if you’re hard-wired to match other people’s expectations. (This is me, have no question about it.)
Having a Focus Defense Worksheet can help you say no: Just take a piece of paper (or better yet, use Evernote for that purpose) and write down in simple if-then sentences what your answer will look like in a particular situation. Review your statements regularly, and don’t be afraid to use them to your advantage.
Learning to delegate is one of the most important skills you can develop. While it doesn’t happen overnight, it can have an enormous benefit to your productivity. The hardest thing is to acknowledge that there’re lots of tasks on your plate that can be accomplished by others without compromising quality.
Michael Hyatt identifies seven steps to successful delegation:
1. Decide what to delegate
2. Select the best person
3. Communicate the workflow
4. Provide the necessary resources
5. Specify the delegation-level
6. Give them room to operate
7. Check in and provide feedback
35. Create boundaries
Just as you have a physical boundary with your neighbors, you can establish solid boundaries around your goals and values. For example, you may want to establish a solid deep working routine in the morning. You then discuss it with your boss, coworkers, and your spouse that they should, under no circumstances, disturb you from 7 to 9. Switch off your phone, turn off all notifications, and post a Do Not Disturb sign on the door.
36. Have your boss prioritize your duties
Get a paper and list all the tasks that you’re supposed to do in your daily job. Then ask for an appointment with your boss and tell her that you want to ensure that important work always gets done before anything else. So, ask her to mark the important tasks on your list. Then make a new list from your priorities and put it on your screen or save it to Evernote (that’s what I do). When things go crazy, just consult your list to prioritize your tasks.
37. Set crystal clear responsibilities
When finishing a meeting or composing an email, always make sure what’s the next step and who is in charge. Never leave it up in the air. Taking your time to think through the responsibilities upfront will save you a lot of time downstream.
38. Create accountability
Without the help of a supportive community with like-minded folks, you’ll have a hard time to face challenges. Accountability—whether in a form of an accountability partner or a mastermind group—could be the missing key to your success. And it becomes extremely important when you’re surrounded by fixed-minded people. You can find accountability in meetups, community forums, or Facebook groups.
39. Avoid meetings
Most of us would agree that meetings are big time-wasters. But we rarely take action to avoid meetings altogether. If you can do it without being fired, stay away from some meetings. Maybe have a contribution to the agenda, come up with ideas, and deliver them via email. Ask participants to send you the memo after the meeting and get involved in the action steps. This way, you can save hours on a single meeting.
40. Block distractions
If you find yourself checking the news, your private email, or social media in the morning, develop the habit to put your phone into your backpack. This single habit has saved a lot of time for me. To ensure that you don’t get hijacked by your web browser, maybe install a blocking plugin in Google Chrome. Turn off email notifications in Outlook.
41. Unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters
Hands on your heart: How many newsletters do you receive without ever opening them? Newsletters can quickly invade your inbox. Most of them, however, have a tiny “unsubscribe” button at the bottom that will let you quickly unsubscribe from the service. Unfortunately, some sources require you to sign in first and manage your preferences. Or worse, you click to unsubscribe but those emails just keep coming. (Hey, this is time to take GDPR seriously…)
Here’s a quick tip on how to channel newsletters into a separate folder…
42. Direct newsletters to a specific folder
You can set up a rule with your email client to automatically deliver newsletters to a specific folder. I’ve learned this from the Asian Efficiency team. Here’s how you can do it:
- Create a new rule (Create Rule)
- In the dialog box, click on advanced options and select “with specific words in the body”
- Click on “specific words” and enter the word “unsubscribe,” “change subscriber options,” and “update your preferences” into the dialog box (you may want to come up with more solutions, just watch out the most common elements displayed in newsletter footers)
- On the next page, select “move it to the specified folder” and specify the folder in the dialog box below
- Name your rule and hit Finish
43. Don’t check email first thing in the morning
Firing up your email client first in the morning isn’t your best use of your time. The morning is better suited to work on your most important tasks. (Remember, these are your frogs.)
Accomplishing 1-3 challenging tasks in the morning creates momentum and a sense of accomplishment. And the best thing is that it sets you up for a productive day. No matter what will happen later, you’ve already done your most important work.
44. Don’t check email last thing in the evening
It happened to me multiple times that I checked my phone to ensure that not a single message left without a response. The end result was always regretting about my FOMO (fear of missing out). Either nothing important happens in the evening or you beat yourself up over an incoming message that you can’t address right there and then.
Successful people have an evening ritual, which helps them to unplug and prepare for a good night’s sleep. Here’re some ideas to consider:
- Planning out the next day
- Reading a book
- Having a conversation with your spouse
45. Don’t check email; Process email
I no longer check emails. I process emails.Michael Sliwinski
If you check your email, you just see what’s going on. Chances are that you’ll revisit that message multiple times before you figure out what to do. Processing email, on the other hand, means that you touch a message only once. You should deal with it right there and then:
- If the email is actionable and you can address the issue within 5 minutes, answer it right now (GTD folks use the 2-minute rule, but I like to push that up to 5 minutes)
- If it takes more time to handle the situation, put it on your to-do list (You may want to schedule it if it’s something that has to happen on a specific time)
- If the email doesn’t require that you take action on it but contains useful information, save it as a reference (I’d prefer taking some notes and putting them into Evernote so that I can easily find them later)
46. Process email with a top-down approach
I used to be the guy who reads every message from the first sentence to the last. Over time, however, I flipped over my process. I’d consume email from the top that helps me skip the antecedents of a conversation and focus on the outcome instead. This single habit saved me a lot of time over the years.
47. Don’t check email 24/7
According to an Adobe survey, people in the U.S. spend 5 hours per day checking their email.
This is peer pressure. I hear ya… Unless you work in customer service, however, chances are that nothing bad will happen if you don’t reply instantly. I bet 7 people out of 10 forget to reply to certain messages or violate deadlines without even notifying the sender. How unfair it is.
As far as you respect the sender and pay close attention to deadlines, what’s the point in replying to all emails instantly?
48. Don’t go down the rabbit hole
There’re times when you receive an insulting message via email. It’s best to defer a response until the next day or ignore the message altogether. The odds are that there’s a remedy to the problem that doesn’t require a direct response.
49. Get rid of the shiny object syndrome
You create your reality; the world is mind.Lawrence Parker (AKA KRS-One)
We live in a world of distractions. The number of available productivity resources and tools is unprecedented. I believe that finding the right tools takes time and experimentation. It’s OK to switch tools over time, but trying out every tool is probably the worst use of your time.
I’ve experimented with countless task management tools. It was Christmas morning every single day until I recognized that I create my progress, not my tools.
50. Batch similar tasks
Use batching to complete similar tasks more effectively. There’re certain types of tasks that typically fall under this category. You can make your phone calls in a batch when your energy levels are low, or do some 10-minute tasks before lunch. Eating your frogs in the morning nicely fits here. Whatever is the case, sorting your tasks according to some pre-defined categories, and having them accomplished in bulk can make a difference for you. You can even have thematic days scheduled around specific types of tasks. This is very popular among entrepreneurs.
51. Use the Pomodoro method
The essence of the Pomodoro method is that you work in 25-minute blocks by having a 5-minute break between the cycles. Each cycle (Pomodoro) is associated with a single task only. It helps you stay focused while pushing yourself to get your task done in a certain time-frame. A simple Google search returns a handful of Pomodoro timers to help you stay on track with your time. That brings us to time tracking.
52. Track your time
By purposefully tracking your time, you’ll gain useful insights into (and genuine regrets about) where your time goes. RescueTime and Toggl are popular time tracking tools, but having a daily log can be equally useful as it reflects your time spent both online and offline. Feel free to use my Daily Activity Sheet to quickly figure out what’s going on with your time. Although it requires more effort upfront, you can gain unprecedented insights into how your days unfold.
53. Use time-blocking
Time-blocking is at the heart of productivity. By blocking out time for important tasks, exercise, and the like, you establish the non-negotiable hard landscape of your week. Importantly, your time blocks aren’t set in stone. Consider time-blocking as a strategic plan that helps you achieve your goals. This is what successful folks do all the time. They block out time for working on their goals and then protect their time-blocks like hell. So, make sure that you respect your calendar and schedule everything else around your time-blocks.
54. Schedule deep work
Deep work, according to Cal Newport, is something “performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit.” But the most important characteristics of such activities are that they “create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” Make sure that you schedule deep work for every day. Choose the timing that best suits your biorhythm.
55. Schedule shallow work
It may sound weird, but planning out time for shallow work makes more room for deep work. I don’t have personal experience with this strategy yet, but this is something I definitely want to check out. Remember the shallow work definition from Cal Newport: “It’s easy to replicate, doesn’t deliver much value, and can be performed when distracted.”
56. Shorten deadlines
Shortening your deadlines might help you overcome procrastination and give yourself permission not to work on a task until perfection. It’s a powerful tool in your hands to accomplish more without beating yourself up. Just make sure that you don’t become overcommitted.
Elimination is the queen to increased productivity. Try to eliminate one thing from your life every single week. Be it a small habit, a newsletter, an alert from your PC, or an old piece of clothing, eliminate clutter and unnecessary tasks from your life.
In his book, Free to Focus, best-selling author Michael Hyatt defines four types of automation:
- Self-automation: It involves using rituals that make it easy for you to do some tasks, particularly those that are important to you. The startup and the shutdown rituals discussed above are nice examples.
- Template automation: You can use email templates, project templates, and more.
- Process automation: In Hyatt’s words, process automation is a written, easy-to-follow set of instructions for performing a job or sequence.
- Tech automation: Using keyboard shortcuts or a text expansion software are great examples.
59. Leverage commuting time
I commute two hours per day, which equals to 520 hours per year and some 15,000 hours (625 days) in a lifetime. In other words, I’ll spend two years from my life commuting. That’s crazy!
What if I make use of this time and expose myself to reading a book, listening to an audiobook or a podcast every time? That would translate into 15,000 hours of self-development over my life. Next time when you hit the train, remember those numbers.
60. Use the 3 times rule
The 3 times rule was proposed by Thanh Pham of Asian Efficiency. Basically, it means that whenever you bump into a problem the third time, you stop for a moment and try to come up with a solution. Let’s see a basic example. Say, when you fire up your computer, it’s returning an alert. Then you click OK and begin your work. If it happens multiple times, however, it becomes a burden that you may want to address.
I like this rule because it’s so basic, yet I see it everywhere in my life. I just begin to embrace this magic number and pay attention to it so that I can make room for small improvements.
61. Use the 2-minute rule
The 2-minute rule is one of the fundamentals of the GTD framework. When you receive a task, don’t put it on your to-do list and don’t do anything about it if it takes less than 2 minutes to complete. Just do it right now. So simple. And the same goes for email and text messages.
62. Acknowledge the 80/20 rule
Even if you are hard working, you can learn to become lazy.Richard Koch
The 80/20 rule or Pareto principle says that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. According to Richard Koch, author of the 80/20 Rule, you can achieve extraordinary results either by reallocating your resources from unproductive activities to productive activities or making the unproductive resources more effective.
Many times, the 80/20 rule could be a 90/10 or a 70/30. It’s not the ratio that counts, but the basic principle that some things are more important than others. This is why this principle has been so popular in the field of productivity. Developing an 80/20 mindset is probably the best thing you can do to improve your productivity in the long-term.
63. Set aside time to improve your systems
Productivity consultant Paul Minors sets aside a day each week when he isn’t working with clients. On those days, he is spending his time learning new tools and improving his systems. And he found that this habit benefits his business more than he was doing client work on those days.
Again, what it requires is a mindset shift. You need to think in a bigger perspective. Begin small: Just schedule one thing that you want to improve over the next week. The key is that you never settle and always ask the question of how you can get things done more effectively.
64. Identify the three musketeers
I’m a believer that a task manager, a note-taking tool, and a mind mapping tool are central to multiplying your productivity. I call these tools the three musketeers because they’ll work nicely together under the umbrella of productivity. Visit my recommended tools page where I share what tools I use.
65. Identify the assistants
The assistants will work together with the three musketeers to multiply your productivity:
- Your calendar: I don’t like to put my tasks into my calendar. I’d put appointments (meeting, dentist, you name it), exercise, thinking time, and day-specific information onto my calendar. Importantly, I no longer use separate calendars for work and home stuff.
- Your cloud storage service: This is the perfect place to store your documents and access them remotely. Here’s a comparison of the most popular services.
- Your text expander software: Text expansion allows you to use predefined text snippets for a longer copy. You can use it to expand email templates, links, frequently used phrases, and much more.
66. Develop the habit of using keyboard shortcuts
If you want to quickly boost your productivity, learn a few keyboard shortcuts. This is one of the hacks that you can do right now and enjoy the instant benefit. I’ve created a keyboard shortcut cheat sheet in Evernote. So, I’m always one click away from accessing it. Click here to get my cheat sheet, which includes 138 essential keyboard shortcuts to quickly boost your productivity (PDF download).
On my weekly review checklist, there’s a new item: “Learn a new shortcut every week.” This is how I’ve recently pushed myself to constantly grow my list.
67. Use a password manager
Generating, memorizing, and organizing my passwords has been a major pain point for me (not to mention security). By having some 30 login credentials (all with super-fancy long-tail passwords), it took me enormous time and effort to handle the situation. For a very long time, however, I’ve rejected the idea of getting a password manager for security reasons. Then I got to the heart of 1Password that changed my way of thinking about passwords.
A password manager generates, organizes, and remembers your passwords. And most importantly, it keeps them safe and encrypts your data. You only have to remember a master password, which will unlock your individual passwords. 1Password goes one step further and provides a secret key, which is another level of security.
You can set up 1Password to remove passwords from your clipboard. That brings us to clipboard history.
68. Get a clipboard manager
Have you ever found yourself in a copy-paste mode? If you can access your clipboard history, you no longer have to copy your content. It’s already there and that’s a huge benefit.
Windows 10 has a native clipboard manager. If you’re using an older version, Ditto is a great open-source tool to quickly access your clipboard history. You can set up a shortcut (I like Ctrl + Shift + D where “D” stands for Ditto) to open the clipboard history, move between clipped items, and hit enter to paste the selected text.
If you’re a Mac user, Alfred (with the Powerpack) and LaunchBar are great solutions.
69. Increase mouse speed
Mouse speed determines how effectively you’re using your computer. That could be the first thing you set up with a new computer. In Windows, you can speed up your mouse under the control panel. Hit mouse settings to adjust mouse speed on a slider. On the Mac, you’ll find the mouse setting under System Preferences. Click on Mouse and you’re ready to go.
It was a long post, so thank you for your attention. I don’t want you to do the thing that most of us would do when finishing with an article: Leaving without taking action.
Pick three items from the list above and think about how you can implement those ideas into your life. Then do something―anything―right now to increase your productivity.
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