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Top 10 Productivity Hacks - Overview


We all need a productivity boost now and then — sometimes throughout the day. We each want to be productive for very personal reasons — to accomplish more, to make more money, to get done earlier to make more time for our personal lives, to accomplish our goals. But whatever the reason, these Productivity Hacks will do the trick.

Here they are, in reverse order (click on links for more on each):

#10: Take care of your Most Important Things first. Your Most Important Things for the day — the things you most need to accomplish that day — should take priority over everything else. However, we all know that fires come up throughout the day, interruptions through phone calls and email and people dropping by, new demands that will push the best-laid plans aside. If you put off your MITs until later in the day, you will end up not doing them much of the time.

Try to get all three of your MITs done before moving on to anything else. If you can do that, the rest of the day is gravy!

# 9: Wake up early. Decide what you’d like to accomplish each morning, and build your morning routine around that. Like to exercise? Put that in there. Healthy breakfast? Go for it. Check email? Fine. The mornings are a fresh start, peaceful and free of ringing phones and constant email notifications. If you get your Most Important Things done in the morning, the rest of the day is just gravy. (see How I Became an Early Riser.)

# 8: Simplify information streams, crank through blogs & email. Think about all the information you receive (email, blogs, newsletters, mailing lists, magazines, newspapers and more) and edit brutally. You will drastically reduce the time you spend reading. For everything else that begins to come in after your editing process, ask yourself if you really need to be getting that information regularly. Most of the time the answer is no. Now, after this process, you should be left with less to read. Here’s the next step: crank through it all, really only reading the really interesting ones.

Editing and cranking through the information you receive can free up a lot of time for more important things — like achieving your goals.

# 7: Declutter your workspace; work on one thing at a time. The decluttering your work space part of it is simply to remove all extra distractions, on your desk and on your computer. If you’ve got a clean, simplified workspace, you can better focus on the task at hand. (See more on how to do this.)

Now, with distractions minimized, focus on the task at hand. Don’t check email, don’t work on five projects at once, don’t check the stats on your blog, don’t go to your feed reader. Work on that one task, and work on it with concentrated focus until you are done. (See How NOT to Multi-task.) Then celebrate your achievement!

# 6: Get to work early; work fewer hours. My best days come when I get into work early, and begin my work day in the quiet morning hours, before the phones start ringing and the din of the office begins it crescendo to chaos. It is so peaceful, and I can work without interruption or losing focus. I often find that I get my MITs done before anyone comes in, and then the rest of the day is dealing with whatever comes up (or even better: getting ahead for the next day).

Added bonus: you skip rush-hour traffic.

But just as productive is the second part of the tip: leave early and work fewer hours. It’s paradoxical, but if you work fewer hours, and know that your time is limited, you will be more focused. Then you have more hours to yourself! Everyone wins.

# 5: Avoid meetings; when you must meet, make it effective. I find it best to say no to meetings up front. I just say, “Sorry, I can’t make it. I’m tied up with a project right now.” And that’s always true. I’ve always got projects I’m working on that are more important than a meeting.

Now, you probably won’t be able to get out of most meetings, so here are some tips for making meetings more effective.

# 4: Avoid unnecessary work. If we just do any work that comes our way, we can be cranking out the tasks, but not be productive at all. You’re only productive if you are doing work that moves you towards a goal. Eliminate non-essential tasks from your to-do lists, and start to say no to new requests that are non-essential.

If you do not take these steps and speak up, and say no, then you will be overloaded with work that you simply do not need to do. Cut out the non-essential tasks, and focus on those that really matter.

# 3: Do the tough tasks first. You know what those tasks are. What have you been putting off that you know you need to do? Sometimes when you put things off, they end up being things you don’t really need to do. But sometimes they are things you just gotta do. Those are your tough tasks.

Do them first thing in the day.

# 2: Work off-line as much as possible. To increase your productivity, disconnect your Internet connection. Have scheduled times when you’re going to check your email, and only let yourself check your blogs or surf the web when you’ve gotten a certain amount done. When you do go online, do it on a timer. When the timer goes off, unplug again until the next scheduled time.

You’ll be amazed at how much work you’ll get done.

# 1: Do something you’re passionate about. This might not seem like the normal productivity tip, but give it a thought: if you really want to do something, you’ll work like hell to get it done. You’ll work extra hard, you’ll put in even more hours, and you’re less likely to procrastinate. It’s for work that you don’t really care about that you procrastinate. Read the full post for tips on how to find your dream job and do work you truly care about.

22 Responses to “Top 10 Productivity Hacks - Overview”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    The sad part is that if you come to work early and work fewer hours, most bosses will fire you, no matter how productive you are. Going to work is often more about group psychology and the pecking order than the ostensible job ever is.

  2. Leo Says:

    Thanks for the comment. That is sad. I have tried to avoid jobs where that kind of thing is the priority … my bosses so far have appreciated my talents and understand that being productive is more important than hours put in or the pecking order. But not everyone is that lucky, I guess.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    To increase your productivity, disconnect your Internet connection.

    TRUE!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    http://www.plushmonkey.com/pm2/node/13
    This is for you.

  5. Leo Says:

    Re: the Plushmonkey list (which I’ve seen before) … yes, I’m guilty of this. :) But I can’t help it. I’m a list maker, and always have been. I’d like to share some things I’ve learned with others, and I’ll probably always do it through lists or bullet points. Maybe I should start a new organization: listmakers anonymous.

  6. zen habits » Blog Archive » Discipline is an illusion; Motivate yourself instead Says:

    […] 12. Top 10 Productivity Hacks […]

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  8. Kevin Says:

    I’ve heard #3 (do tough things first) referred to as, “If you have to eat two frogs, you would be smart to eat the biggest one first.”

  9. Kevin Says:

    As a corrolary to doing tough things, the other phrase I’ve heard is, “If you have to eat a frog, don’t look at it too long.”

  10. Leo Says:

    Yeah. Or avoid eating frogs! :)

  11. Kim Roach Says:

    Great tips Leo! I especially like number. I think loving what you do is the ultimate productivity booster.

  12. Leo Says:

    Thanks, Kim! I can’t reply to every comment on this site, but I’ve been noticing your positive comments lately and I really appreciate them. And you’re right — loving what you do will do wonders for your productivity!

  13. links for 2007-05-02 | Funny Stuff is all around Says:

    […] Top 10 Productivity Hacks - Overview | zen habits (tags: life lifehacks productivity gtd motivation zenhabits todo) […]

  14. Toinen Betatesti » Blog Archive » links for 2007-05-04 Says:

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    […] Here they are, in reverse order: […]

  16. alex t Says:

    i agree with you that you should be passionate about your job.
    i am a computer programmer and i like my job.
    so this is a big plus since i find it interesting and i am doing it for fun.
    this is why everyone should select his profession with care.

  17. Another Says:

    Very True @ Anonymous.
    I am a software engineer but my boss (she) gets very unhappy and cuts my bonus if she sees me work smarter rather than harder

    February 28th, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    The sad part is that if you come to work early and work fewer hours, most bosses will fire you, no matter how productive you are. Going to work is often more about group psychology and the pecking order than the ostensible job ever is.u

  18. MDJENKO Says:

    After reading Covey’s seven habits a couple of years ago I found I had load of plans but struggled keeping on tops of all the tasks. Reading “getting things done” really helped with the actions and task but can lead to “inbox anxiety” - I seemed to be spending more time processing than doing, constantly fiddling with “the system” and finding that I really wanted a combination of the 2. Can’t believe it has taken me so long to find ZTD - a much more pragmatic approach for me.

  19. syahid ali Says:

    agreed at #9. early bird gets the worm.

  20. Assets World » Productivity tips Says:

    […] yourself. Maybe that’s why the best reader for this column is your philosopher self. • Do something you’re passionate about If you schedule something important for certain days or certain times each day, you’ll get […]

  21. Enlaces para leer y ver 38 « el50 Says:

    […] El top 10 de hacks de productividad / zenhabits. “Primero ocúpate de las cosas de más importancia”, “trabaja solo una cosa a la vez”, “haz algo sobre lo que estés apasionado”, consejos muy recurrentes y muchas veces obvios, pero que siempre olvido. […]

  22. Robert Says:

    # 3: Do the tough tasks first. You know what those tasks are. What have you been putting off that you know you need to do? Sometimes when you put things off, they end up being things you don’t really need to do. But sometimes they are things you just gotta do. Those are your tough tasks.

    Do them first thing in the day.

    This is the best advice but often the hardest to follow. I have found though if I spend just 15-30 minutes each day covering the most difficult - or time consuming - tasks (especially online) that by the end of the week I’ve done a ton of stuff.

    Great advice - all of it!

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