In the hectic space of the modern world, sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in a day. 24 hours is not much time to accomplish all our goals for the day — and it’s an inflexible number. That’s why sometimes it’s useful to know little tricks like these, to increase productivity in the time you do have.
1. Put your dead time to use
Everyone who has to commute to work in the morning has “dead time” in their day that they could be using productively. I like to use my morning drive — and my evening drive — to think of conversations I need to have with clients. The commute is a great time to have long-form, unstructured conversations over the phone. As long as you don’t have to reference a screen, you can get valuable business achieved in otherwise unused time.
2. Free up your creative mind
We’ve all heard of “shower thoughts” — brilliant ideas that for some reason only come to you in the shower. While your body is occupied by menial tasks — like showering, or eating — the creative area of your brain is free to flourish. Don’t discount the ideas that come to you at strange moments — allow your creative mind to work while your hands do something else.
3. Create a landing space for your spark ideas
When your brain does supply you with brilliant ideas — it is important to write them down. I like to keep two notebooks with me in meetings. One notebook is to record information from the meeting, and the client. The other one is to quickly jot down ideas that I have that may be unrelated — before I can forget them. By doing this, I can go back to them later, even expand on them. Don’t let your spark ideas slip away because you aren’t ready to remember them.
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4. Make your time finite
Timing the tasks you do throughout the day can make you accomplish them faster. I keep a Cube timer on my desk. If I know that I only have so much time — say, 15 minutes before a client calls — I can turn the timer on for 15 minutes. This allows me to set a goal, and set the finite amount of time that I want to accomplish it in. When the end of the task is in sight, you will work faster.
5. Bump dreaded tasks to the top of your to-do list
As business writer Brian Tracy says, “Eat that frog.” In other words — if there is something that you hate doing, that you know you have to do — do it first. “Your ‘frog’ is your biggest, most important task, the one you are more likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.” Get that task done first thing — early in the morning, or right when you get to work. That way, you don’t spend your day dreading it — it’s already done.
6. Use the “two minute rule”
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says that if you have a task that can be done in two minutes, you should do it right away. Planning and organizing to do it later will take more time than actually doing it. If you need to open your mail, don’t put it on your to-do list — just open the mail. Getting two minute tasks done right when you realize you must do them means that you are not thinking about them, and you do not need to waste time on them later.
7. Only have one priority at a time
Co-founder of Convene, Ryan Simonetti, told Entrepreneur that, “Simplifying many priorities to one priority gives you a deeper understanding of what’s really important, and increases the odds of completing that one thing.” If you narrow your focus to one goal, you will not be distracted by every little thing that comes up. You will only see the endgame of what you’re trying to accomplish. You will have clarity.
8. Start your day the night before
Business sources like Fast Company advocate the importance of starting your day the night before. Before you go to bed, think of what you want to accomplish tomorrow. That way, when you wake up in the morning, there is no period of “what should I do now.” You can get right down to business, working towards your goals in a premeditated way. Also, take time to reflect on what you accomplished throughout the day — and how you can improve tomorrow.
9. Learn to say “no”
Saying “yes” to everything can seem appealing — because it brings you a lot of possibilities. But what it also brings you is a full calendar, and an overload of opportunity. Saying “no” to things that you don’t need keeps your workload manageable. Take a step back, and really look at what opportunities are going to help your business in the long term.
These are just my favorite 9 of many ways to improve productivity. I have no doubt that there are many more tricks out there to make your daily 24 hours seem longer than they are. Tweet to @jpalomino with the hashtag #lifehack or comment below to suggest your own.