121 Strategies to Get Work Done Fast, Save Time and Organize your Life
(image credit: Techinfographics)
Correct me if I’m wrong: all of us want to be as productive as possible. We want to get all our work done in minimum possible time and achieve a great work-life balance.
So here’s a list of no-nonsense and highly actionable tricks you may use to stay organized, get work done fast, reduce work pressure and achieve real results.
♛ Know ThySelf
1. Identify Your Peak Time
Every person has their Peak Time — time in a day when brain activity levels are the highest. For instance, I am most productive in a 3-hour window from 4 pm to 7pm, when my brain runs the fastest. What I can achieve in this 3-hour window would not be thinkable even during a 6-hour window at any other time of the day.
So identify your Peak Time and try to match it with your work cycle. How do you know what time is your peak time? A simple hack: Listen to a trance soundtrack you have heard before. If you feel the song is running faster than it should, you need rest. If you feel it’s going slower than it should, your brain activity is very high.
Now once you have identified your peak time, try executing the hardest and most difficult tasks within that and get assured results.
2. Identify and Respect your Body Clock
Apart from your peak time, also find out whether you are an Early Bird or a Night Owl. Purely by individual preference, some people prefer working late at night, while for some early mornings are the best.
These are the times when distractions are minimal. These are the times when you can pump in more energy and concentrate — though not like the Peak levels, but at a moderate level. Once identified — morning or night — devote it to completing the remaining work.
Sleep 8 hours daily. A minimum amount of sleep is necessary for you to function. For most people, this is between 6 to 8 hours. If that does not happen, you may lose track of things and slack off. Less sleep might give you a little more time to execute but your productivity would be way lower than a normal day.
Also, a regular routine should be maintained each day. This is to correct your body clock so that it moves in a rhythm, which lets you create a high-performance day. Upsetting the biological clock is not what I’d do if I were to expect maximum output from myself. Further, people face a lot of problem with falling asleep, waking up at nights, sleeplessness etc. Maintaining a routine also helps kill all these problems.
(image credit: Dreams)
3. Choose a Career of Interest
Choose a field you have a lot of interest in. This solves half of the problems as if you have an interest in the area you are working in, things do sort themselves out. You stop feeling like what you are doing is work, at all. Everything becomes a child’s play.
For doing this, first you have to try several things out. Only then you will be able to zero-in on a few fields close to your heart. I explain this point in more detail as this Quora Answer (must-read, or you might end up like this!).
4. Write your Mission
Think about your Personal Mission Statement. What exactly do you want to achieve in a span of next 1 year and next 5 years.
Now write it down. Stick it in your room where you can see it.
Now whenever in doubt, look at it and ask — it this worth it? You will see your doubts melting away.
5. Identify ‘Big Rocks’ Each Day
Big rocks are the big tasks you have to finish, from Stephen Covey’s philosophy. They are the tasks or projects which will actually let you move forward in terms of your Personal Mission Statement (as defined above).
So Big Rocks are to be identified, planned for each day and executed religiously.
♘ Hack Your Working Style
6. Concentrate at Length
Maintain long stretches of concentration. Focus at least for 90 minutes at length, without distractions.
Following such ‘sessions’ of concentration lets us match with our natural energy cycle, also known as Ultradian Rythm.
(image credits: Boost Digital)
7. Minimize Distractions
It takes an average of 23 minutes to reach the same level of energy, enthusiasm and concentration levels after a distraction — commonly known as ‘Switching Time’. So it’s absolutely necessary to keep disturbances at bay maintain an undisturbed effort at length to be fertile.
Put your chat status as ‘Busy’. In an open office, put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ card outside.
Cellphone — a major source of distractions. If you look at this and calculate, out of all notifications you get on your phone, what percentage of them are worth leaving your current work and checking them out? So switch notifications off, at least from the apps you don’t check out daily.
8. Shorten Idea to Start Time-lag
Minimize the time between you get a new idea and you start executing it. Start working on an idea as soon as it strikes you. The more time lapses before starting execution, more are the chances that the idea would decay down.
Basically when you get an idea, your enthusiasm and morale are very high with respect to that particular idea. If you don’t start then, you might lose that frame of mind which might not come back when you get back to the idea later. So next time you get an idea, start executing it ASAP.
9. Track One Number
Keep a single number in front of you as a target. If you see it daily, it’s bound to improve. Trust me on this. You automatically start working to enhance it.
What do you have to exactly do? Simple, just paste this number in front of your desk — a place where it is easily viewable. Keep updating it daily. This number can be anything — your class rank, your website visits, your sales target, even your weight!
Many people track three numbers or five numbers in this way. But I don’t recommend increasing it beyond 3 as that would distribute your effort and hence, reduce the effect you would have on a single number — basically dilute the reason why we were doing this in the first place.
Another name for this is KPIs or KRAs in organizations. The reason they are set up is just that.
Moreover, you should set up a target of improving this number by x% every week or every month. Here’s how YCombinator does this.
This one is a fool-proof method for being productive, especially for people doing repetitive tasks or for students solving a set of Math problems.
You have to get in a race with hands of clock, which you have to keep right in front of you.
Suppose you have 100 similar tasks at hand and you estimate 5 minutes to be the average completion time per task. So you start working when clock minute hand hits 12. Now as soon as you complete first task, look at the minute hand. It it’s past 1, you should hurry up. If it’s not on 1 yet, you’re fast — congratulate yourself and repeat this after you complete the next task. And the next task.
Observe your productivity just after an hour and you will see it go through the roof, guaranteed!
11. One Night Stand
So you have identified a really Big Rock to move? You also have identified whether you are an Early Bird or a Night Owl? Great.
Now suppose you are a Night Owl. Dedicate one night to that Big Rock. Do that and nothing else in that time.
You will be surprised at your productivity. You might not finish the whole thing in one night, but you should be able to wrap it up by 70–80% and break down all the major parts.
In my post grad, I was able to do a basic valuation of a company in 2 hours, learning the topic of Valuation from scratch!
12. Do One Thing Daily
Identify the single thing that will take you closer to your goal. Now do this thing daily — here daily means each single day. This might be writing or coding or practising some sport. If you do that, you have to do it daily and not miss a single day.
The idea is to show up daily. It doesn’t matter whether you say “I have been working on this from 2 years”. What matters is how persistent you have been. ConvertKit guys go into pretty much depth on this.
13. Delegate and Outsource
Goes without saying, these are some great ways to save your time and focus on more important ones.
Delegate work to your team. Or to other people. If they don’t have a clue, sure they can learn. You just have to guide them which needs a fraction of your time as compared to you doing them yourself. Don’t overdo it, of course!
Hire a maid to cook food for you, if you have a budget. Hire a driver, which would let you work while travel. Order groceries at home — we, in India, use Grofers or BigBasket. Use on-demand services like Urbanclap. For other tasks, use Fiverr or Upwork.
14. Use MindMaps
Make plans using mindmaps. Visual representation of work makes it easier to do and helps in rapid idea generation.
(image credit: GreensideUp)
15. Use Life Buckets
Put tasks in bucket according to sphere of your life they belong to. This can be like personal work or office work or side project or relative’s project etc.
Compartmentalization makes it easy to change your mindset easily. For example, when you are in office, you think about Office work only. If you are working on your side project on weekend, you don’t work on anything else. Idea is to keep the task list related to that sphere open in front of you during the time you want to devote to that sphere.
As evident, this also makes it easy to track the amount of time you are devoting to each sphere.
16. Plan Beforehand
This one is one of the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. Just before leaving work, spend last 5 minutes in planning the next day. Review, prioritize, schedule time and then leave.
Plan for your next week on Sundays. Spend 10 minutes of your time in scheduling big tasks that you would want to complete in the next week.
Similarly, plan for the next month at last day of a month.
17. Learn Fast
Learn anything fast by the 20-hour rule.
Contrary to popular belief, just 20 dedicated hours are necessary to learn a new skill to a level that you can put it to practical use. This is equivalent to a dedicated effort just over a weekend!
18. Force Deadlines
As we all know, Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
Best example of this is again of an examination. Exams serve as a forced deadline so that students commit the knowledge of a particular semester till the exam date. Still, most of the students study just before the exam date and manage to fare well enough.
Second example is that if someone puts a gun to your head and tells you to do something in an hour, would you not be able to do that?
So setting up a forced deadline does help — for things that are important, but not urgent (as urgent ones would anyway have it).
This deadline might be self-induced and artificial too. For example, commit to people / your boss that you’ll get xyz thing done in 2 hours. Then work on it. This works because your default behaviour is to keep your word and maintain your prestige — social pressure. You will work hard to maintain your reputation and get it done within the committed time. Use this technique not just to drive completion but also to drive results. Share your goals on Facebook / Twitter / Emails. This would set up an artificial pressure and drive you towards achievement.
You may go far on this and use a count down timer to finish up each / any task and see yourself become time-conscious over a time. If this works out for you, start timing every task.
19. Induce Gamification
Gamifying your work makes it easy to execute. Here are a few ways to do it:
Betting: Bet with your friends — ‘I can get this done by EoD’ or ‘I’ll achieve xyz by the end of this month’ etc. Use social betting apps.
Playing with Psychology: Some people work with a laptop charger plugged in. This has a psychological effect on them, creating artificial urgency. Some people do the reverse — without a charger plugged-in. Some people set a dollar value for their time — each hour is worth $X, by dividing your monthy salary by the number of working days in a month. This helps to assign a monetary value to wasted time, like so: I just spent $200 worth of time on Facebook (hell yeah!).
Setting Rewards: Achiving X milestone in T time gets you ABC reward. Create a list of rewards for yourself.
Rate: At the end of each day, rate it. A successful day get 5 points (|||||), unsuccessful one get 1 point (|). Record it daily. Tally points for a week. Then rate weeks. You will see a gradual but definite performance improvement.
20. Track Your Speed
You know, students would agree with me that just before the day of exam, their productivity is the highest. In fact, last 5 minutes before entering the examination hall are the most precious ones.
Most of the time, we have no idea what are we capable of achieving. There are no upper limits, talking about a high productivity.
Once the speed of execution is tracked, we can benchmark it with scenario like above — exam hall. Are we working at that speed or are we not. If tracked, we also have a number to look at. Once a number is looked at, it only improves.
21. Postpone Reading Articles
Reading articles online is good. But overdoing it is not.
In fact, there’s a thin line in-between which gets crossed for most people. This is an activity which makes you believe that you are gaining something, which in actuality might be incorrect.
Imagine what would happen if you accomplished your goals / finished a particular project. Do it like a full-fledged dream.
How do you see it? Has your life become better after doing it? A lot better? Or has it completely transformed?
Once you do this, you would feel much more motivated, energized and set to take on the world. That’s just analogous to a blueprint, which is created before an actual building is constructed. You get to see beforehand how the building looks like.
23. Create Shortest Paths
Think about the shortest path, before starting a task. Always. Remember that every problem has multiple solutions, so that you never really run out of options. Now out of those options, which one will involve the least effort (and highest impact, if that could be influenced).
Be lazy,as Bill Gates says:
24. Imagine your Boss
One hell of a hack to get you out of sticky situations.
Imagine your boss (your reporting manager or advisor) to be in your place when you are stuck or can’t see the further steps clearly. Then ask: How had he handled things differently? Whom had he reached out to?
Stuck? Imagine your boss in place of you. How would he handle this?
♚ Handle Work like a Pro
25. Use a Tool
A lot of people use standard notepads to note things down. Many others use Excels or Google Sheets. I recommend using a Task Management tool.
Here are a few merits of using it:
- It keeps you focused as it’s on your phone, which is with you all the time. This might not be the case with a notepad.
- It’s a lot less work to maintain a tool than any hard-copy-based note taking.
- Marking tasks as done gives you a feeling of accomplishment and rejoice. In this way, you are inconspicuously motivated to perform and reduce that stack of rows which tasks represent. [In fact, this is a major hook for all task management apps, the reason of their wide adoption]
Here’s how you do it in Comtify:
[This is just like using an excel sheet — press ‘Enter’ to create more tasks. More on this here]
Now keep the tool open on your mobile / laptop at all times. Also, top part of the list should comprise of the Big Rocks + things that are directly achievable. Note that tasks you can’t see through should not be placed at the top.
Most people treat emails as task-lists and keep their email inbox open. I recommend against it as it becomes counter-productive (why? keep scrolling!).
26. Schedule Likes / Dislikes First
Some people advise doing the tasks you dislike first. This might encourage you if you get them done as the rest of them are the ones you like and the way-forward becomes easy which uplifts your spirits. But if you can’t or you’re stuck, morale takes a beating.
I schedule the tasks which I like first. They get done quickly alongwith a great level of depth which gives me a boost to go on longer and farther.
You can choose any or no approach on this based on your own disposition / experience.
27. Club Similar Tasks
Put tasks into pockets of similarity. Categorize.
For example, the list of things to do when I go to the mall next. Or, the list of things when I meet with my team next.
This kind of pocketization gives you a reason to execute them, keeping your procrastinator-self at bay.
FYI, you can use COMTIFY’s hashtags to sail you through this kind of a categorization.
28. Break and Conquer
Break work in projects. Break projects into tasks. Break tasks into subtasks. Break subtasks into chunks. The idea is to keep breaking it down till it appears directly doable. Then do what is achievable first, or what is most effective first.
Though this sounds obvious, but this should be the default reflex-action. As soon as a task is encountered, mind should work towards breaking it down before attempting any execution.
29. Make Your Lists Actionable
The language of what exactly you note down as task or subtask or chunk matters. So instead of writing “Complete xyz project”, write “a, b, and c pending in this project”.
Make it more and more actionable and accordingly change the language of what you note. This breaks the barrier between you reading the noted item and you actually start executing it.
30. Identify Unimportant Things
Pareto’s rule of 80–20 applies everywhere. Only 20% of the work we do affects real results. So there’s a lot of weeding out one can do on tasks that ultimately aren’t that important.
Identify such task and prepare a not-to-do list. Then consciously try to avoid those tasks.
See which tasks are not be done right now, but after some time. Or if they are dependent on something else to be done first. Set reminders in Slack or Comtify, forget about it and clear from your list.
Identify tasks you are not in a mood to do today or in this week. Again, put them on reminder and forget. Some might call this procrastination but I call this ‘Good’ Procrastination as this actually paves the way for you focusing better on things you can directly achieve.
31. Follow Prioritization Methods
There are many structured and proven ways to prioritize your tasks at hand. Some of which are:
We follow the #LIfelines, #ENhancements and #EXperiments method of prioritization. A handy method to instantly know and sort priorities alongwith keeping your team on the same page.
Stephen Covey’s method of Urgency and importance. It has a well defined matrix on which all your tasks could be mapped and prioritized:
The categorization of tasks under four quadrants is very useful way of prioritization. So if you follow this, you will focus on quadrants QI and QII which add real value to your goals.
You can read about this in detail here.
32. Divide Project Type
Divide projects into planning and execution. It has been seen that planning stage is harder to visualize for most people as compared to execution. Once what and how is frozen for a task (in planning stage), it’s about doing things. So looking from this angle might let you match it with your Peak Time or prioritize by any of the above-mentioned methods.
33. List Out No-dependencies
There are some tasks which are directly executable without any dependency on anyone or anything.
Anticipate and chalk out no-dependency tasks for an upcoming project. Put them in your task list to be done NOW, obviously, sort them with other tasks in priority.
34. Break The Starter Wall
There’s a certain barrier in the minds of most people to start something. Societal pressures, fear of failure, inability to see through things at first and resistance to change are some of the things which build that.
The hardest part of any journey is taking that first step.
So sometimes starting something is, in itself, like getting the task way near to its completion. Also illustrated by Zeigarnik, things once started have a higher probability of seeing completion.
Make a start on things. Barriers will start falling on their own.
This one is for an ever-expanding piece of work or for tasks that keep getting stretched over time or on scope.
For such projects / tasks, define boundaries and push breaks. Split such items into versions and ship the first version as soon as possible / in a set time. If no time is set, give yourself a deadline. Come back to it later by setting up a reminder, and build the second version then.
Break everything in phases. Do 60% in first phase — which is good enough, not the best. Add the next 20% in next phase and the rest in third phase.
If you are a perfectionist, you will find this helpful. It’s very difficult otherwise to leave something which is not perfect, you might know this if you are the one. Versionization gives you a liberty of being imperfect.
36. Divide by Days
One day is like a unit of time. For better compartmentalization of tasks, allocate days to tasks / group of tasks.
For example, you might keep Saturday for car servicing, Sunday for all shopping and house chores, 25th of each month to meet all clients in retail segment etc.
In other sense, this is advantageous as a group of tasks get executed together which might not have been possible other way.
37. Time Boxing
Divide your time in slots. Now do just one thing in one Time Box, without getting distracted.
You can spread such Time Boxes to span across many days — assigning a set timeslot per day to work on a task or project. Focusing entirely on that one thing during that time. Don’t worry about finishing it, just care about giving an undivided attention to the project within that time.
38. Keep the Ball Rolling
Don’t keep the ‘Ball into your Court’. Conversely, you have to keep kicking the ball into others’ court.
So you fundamentally should not keep things pending at your end and kill the dependency ASAP. This is one of the ways of working wherein the only prioritization method you follow is to first tackle the ball in your court and only look at other things once there are zero balls in your court. Get the drift?
39. Focus on the Next Action
Sometimes just focusing on the next action lets you propel through complex projects. One thing leads to another, which leads to the next, ultimately showing you an automatic way-forward each time.
40. Manage Followups
Most people find this one troublesome. People keep getting streaks of thoughts of when to follow-up with whom. Each followup becomes a task. Many-a-times, they simply keep forgetting one of them every now and then.
Here’s a single trick to crack this. Treat all followups as a single task. Make a project in your Task Management tool called ‘Followups’.
Now this Followup task is to be done in a single Time Box. In other words, followups are not to be done throughout the day and only within that particular Time Box.
♔ Get Reminded
41. Use Tools
Use technology to remember things. Get notifications in advance of due dates or set times to get notified.
We use Slack or Comtify to manage reminders. While Slack lets you set reminders from /remind command, Comtify does it for you with #time hashtag:
42. Use Triggers
Create different triggers as means to remember things.
For example, hang keys from your door to remember to not leave it open. Put your medicines on top of your water bottle to not forget taking them. Put your purse in the pocket of the trouser you’re going to wear next, to stop forgetting about carrying it.
43. Use Browser Tabs
Browser tabs come in handy to remember work. The idea is that as you open more tabs, your browser starts consuming more and more of RAM, which makes your laptop sluggish. So your default behaviour is to close the tabs not needed (after looking at them, if they aren’t important) and free up the memory. In the process, when you land on a tab, you realize why you had opened it, which reminds you of a task you were starting on / trying to do.
I open things related to the most urgent tasks into browser tabs — either related URLs or PDFs or even images. Here’s how to open images in Chrome browser in Windows:
This way I am on top of those tasks and get them to completion anyhow, before closing my workday (when I close all tabs). In case you need to work on something the next day, you may put your laptop on hibernation (which preserves all open tabs).
If there are too many tabs you’ve opened this way, you can save them as sessions. Resume this session anytime later and all tabs are preserved for you to work on!
44. Use Location Reminders
Location sensitive reminders are a great way to get reminded on stuff when you..
- .. pass from a particular place,
- Leave a particular place — work, office, home, library etc.
- Arrive at a particular place
Quite useful for many use cases.
[Want this feature in COMTIFY? Ping us at @support from within the app]
45. Remember Addresses
How many times did you forget addresses after noting them down somewhere you don’t remember? How many times do you have to ask people to locate exactly where a particular building is?
Maptags — a smart address platform comes to your rescue. Helps you remember (and share) addresses and locations like a pro! Helpful for meeting a lot of people all the time.
♟ Tame Email
46. Stop Checking Email Ad-hoc
Most people have their email configured on phone. Now this causes havoc as they get notified as soon as a new email arrives. When that happens, they stop doing what they were doing and start checking that email, which might sometimes turn out to be a spam, or oftentimes not that important as compared to the work they were doing.
This is a huge productivity loss as it takes some time to come back into the flow of what you were previously doing. So this is to be avoided at any cost.
Best way is to switch Email notifications off. If at all there is a fear of missing out on urgent emails, use a forwarder so that (only important) emails get forwarded to a different email ID which has notifications switched on. You could put up a sender’s filter or subject filter in all major email apps. This is how you set up a forwarder using Gmail settings:
47. Sort Your Email Inbox
Here’s how I manage my email inbox:
- I Star the email threads I have to think about / work upon / reply / take an action. Threads pending on me.
- I use a label (folder) called Track. This applies to all other important discussions or threads which I have to follow up on after some time.
- Rest of the inbox, all other emails.
Now I set up a Priority Inbox in Gmail and type in the sequence of labels I want to see. This makes my Inbox look like this:
This results in most actionables being in front of my eyes all the time or whenever I open my email. And I never lose track of them.
Many people recommend ‘Inbox Zero’ method which I don’t really like as archiving each email becomes an extra effort.
Others recommend replying on emails as soon as they arrive. I don’t do that too as most emails need some thinking time or research before a reply is made. Making a premature or less-thought-out reply doesn’t make sense.
48. Send Hygienic Emails
Send emails that follow a basic hygiene. Necessary to get things done from others.
Listed here are a few techniques to help you out with this.
49. Send Excellent Emails
There’s something that separates a good email from a great email. As most of your communication at work happens on email, this basically makes or mars your chances to achieve a more-than-average professional success.
Here are a few hacks on writing tactically outstanding emails, you would want to learn by heart.
♗ Cultivate Cool Habits
50. Use Waiting Time
In a day, there might be multiple instances when you encounter time-gaps. When you wait to pick up your child from school. When you wait for an elevator. When you wait in front of parking lot to get your car. When you wait at receptions while doing professional meetings.
All of us have phones so no excuses to waste this time, really. Can be used up to read and write emails, track things, follow-up, read news, read ebooks, move things forward.
51. Use Driving Time
Utilize the time you drive by listening to audio news. This way, you can save the time you’ll spend in reading news elsewhere.
But remember not to go over the board as you know driving in itself is a task and requires an undivided attention.
52. Decide Fast
Make quick decisions. Most of the time, it’s important to take fast decisions rather than perfect decisions (which are never perfect, anyways).
Taking calls on issues is not something to be left pending to keep things rolling forward. Typical points of decision making — whether to do it, what exactly are the steps to achieve, priority of it — better be defined as quickly as possible.
53. Read Fast
Follow speed-reading and scan-reading. Read headers, titles and intros to decide whether something deserves a full read. If yes, apply speed reading tips like pointing at text while reading, looking only at words between lines.
You can also use a lot of apps which help you out with this.
54. Do Things Differently
Nice tip to churn your mind. Do regular and routine things in a different way.
Switch hands once in a while. Brush your teeth with left hand (if you are a rightie), open refrigerator with left hand, wear shoes with left hand etc.
Switch places once in a while. Don’t sit at your regular place, eat in a different bowl.
This has a proven effect in stimulating your mind so that it is used more. The more it is used, the more it is willing to be used.
55. Change Your Workflow Often
Experiment with your workflow. Change it often for the better. Only when you experiment, you will find out what works and what doesn’t.
Think deliberately about making your workflow work. As evident, breaking and rebuilding habits improves your workflow and boosts productivity.
56. Identify What You Do Wrong
Certain things that we do, we have been doing them from years. We did them since we were children and have kept doing them.
Walking in a peculiar style, standing in a particular posture, thinking in a certain predefined manner. All of these are habits, some of which might be counterproductive. Here’s a list of such habits, from horse’s mouth.
An average individual can have multiple of such habits. Only conscious identification can weed out these negative habits. Do lookout if you have one.
57. Speed Up Your Routine Tasks
Do daily chores faster by learning new ways of doing them. Doing laundry (Google out the fastest way), ironing (quickly with Aluminum foil), folding clothes, getting clothes dry, cleaning the house, dressing up, tying laces, charging your phone (via this app) are probably some most common daily tasks you can learn to do very quickly.
58. Try Therapies
Certain therapies like Accupressure, Accupuncture, Yoga, Pranayam help a lot with rejuvenating our mind and body. Practising them regularly keeps our productivity levels high and helps us beat the daily work pressure.
Extensive literature is available about the peculiar powers of each of these (and related) therapies which work wonders.
59. Create Extensive Checklists
Getting into the habit of listing things out all the time helps. Lists bring out clarity as our brain loves to see categorized and ennumerated information and processes it faster.
Then take pleasure in crossing out things as they are done / are redundant — for routine tasks, for the time boxes (time for family etc. ), for tasks in a project, for the list of blogs you have to write, for the people you have to invite to a party, for the things you have to say to a client.
Basically everything under the sun can be turned into a list. Try it out!
60. Say NO Often
Many of us are a victim of this one. We help others, but sometimes a line is crossed when people start taking us for granted.
“Half of the troubles in this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough”
- Josh Billings
Don’t let others dump things on you. Learn to say ‘No’. Respect yourself. Here are a few guilt-free strategies for you to easily accomplish just that.
Reduce the number of ventures you’re involved in. This is another way of saying ‘No’. Obviously, lesser the number of your endeavours, more focused you will be. Even when you possess a lot of knowledge and time, being simultaneously productive on too many fronts might cause all activities to slow down / stop.
61. Celebrate Often
Celebrate the achievements, and the achievements of your team.
Project completions, big tasks getting done, KPI improvements, small instances of happiness. Having a binge party just like that.
This rejuvenates our senses and lets us work faster than usual.
62. Keep Capturing Thoughts
Capture thoughts into your task management tool as soon as they hit you.
Most people live a mediocre life as thoughts flash into their heads and move out without being noted.
No noting down means no further thought and no action. Simple.
Taking regular breaks in a day is needed to calm your nerves, let your muscles stretch and let your eyes relax.
Studies have proved that not taking breaks affects body’s response to food, rise in blood sugar levels, rise in ailments in neck, shoulders, back and levels of alertness.
In another sense, disconnect from work on weekends. Studies have found that when a workweek exceeds 50 hours, productivity sees a sharp decline so that it’s no point in working more than 50–55 hours per week.
64. Maintain a Balance
Demarcate some time for leisure. Allocate some time in each day to your family.
Your family is not just important, but the most crucial thing for you to exist.
“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
- Catherine M. Wallace
Moreover, social support systems serve as rejuvenators as well as motivators in all your endeavours. After all, you would need to go home to someone after all fire-fighting right?
65. Generate Ideas
A technique used by James Altucher — Generate 10 ideas each day. Become an idea machine. You should notice a huge change in your state ten years ahead.
Think about ideas each day. Write them down. Think about them in deep. Evolve them. Here are a few testimonials on this.
In your task management tool, make a project called ‘Ideas’ and keep jotting all ideas down under it [if you use Comtify, you might create a hashtag #ideas]. Now treat #ideas as a respository of ideas. Keep revisiting these ideas and think about them often.
66. Discuss Ideas
The path to self-improvement and continous problem-solving is discussing ideas.
67. Change Workplace
Change the place you work. You must be working at one place day and night every day of your life. Take a break by working in a park. Or near a river. Or maybe from your terrace.
In another sense, how long have you been working in your current organization? Maybe it’s time to change and look out for someone else to work for. Workplace stagnancy is anyways one of the reasons why people switch jobs.
68. Keep Good Company
Do you surround yourself with people who get work done? If not, you’d like to think about it.
This is just like a study-buddy. You solve the problems of each other and generally up each other’s spirits. It’s the same with work. This is a major reason why offices for work exist in first place — for everyone to work together.
Get rid of people who pull you down. Some people are always getting into trouble. Some others are always cursing things. Some others don’t have any energy left whatsoever. Get rid of such guys or follow a minimal interaction policy with them.
69. Think Alternatives
Coming up with exhaustive alternatives is an art in itself. Most people think and give up after coming up with a single alternative.
Don’t just stop thinking once you have one solution. There are numerous solutions to a single problem.
An exercise can be to not stop thinking about any day-to-day problem you encounter, till you have 3 distinct solutions to it. Try it out!
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♜ Kill Time Guzzlers
71. Less Social Media
Save time from social media, of course. A big time sucker, and addictive at the same time. You end up wasting a huge chunk of time if you don’t watch out. Is also a reason of inferiority complex in many.
Some plugins even help you out with this.
72. Less TV
Watching less TV saves a lot of productive time. Here are a few more reasons to do so.
73. Less Gossip and Politics
Involving in mindless gossips? Not good! As I pointed out above, gossip mostly consists of discussing people and events and definitely not ideas.
Minimize Politics, especially at work. It eats up a lot of valuable time for everyone.
74. Less Phone Calls
For many people, phonecalls have become a major time-gobblers.
Switching off phones for certain time-slots helps. Clubbing walking with phonecalls helps — this way, you get to remain healthy and keep the calls short too.
75. Less Worry
Worry not just sucks up time, but also drains out emotional energy. Worrying doesn’t help, especially if there’s no visible solution.
Wash your worries with sleep if there are no options.
76. Deal With Meetings
Meetings are a major time guzzler for many. You can tackle them by:
- Keeping them short and to-the-point. Killing unnecessary discussion by throwing ‘Let’s discuss this one offline’.
- Reducing the need to have meetings via softwares. Meetings are basically needed to get stuck work move / brainstorm / prepare a plan. So if a software lets you achieve just that, meetings won’t be needed right? [Use Comtify, which does just that.]
- Scheduling meetings isn’t easy as yet. Lots of to-and-fro happens over emails while deciding upon meeting time and place. Eliminate all those meeting scheduling nightmares.
- Handling meetings productively. Gone are the days when people used to note down Minutes of Meeting (MoM), circulate them afterwards and start emails on each task. This is how it’s done these days.
- Doing meetings standing-up rather than sitting down. Daily Scrum meetings are called Daily Standups as they are specifically designed to remain short and what better way to achieve that but by not letting people sit!
77. Cut Down on Time Suckers
You can cut down on other habits which suck your time in.
For this, first such habits are to be identified by consciously watching our workflow / habits / routines.
For example, jog everywhere. Quit walking. If you have to walk a lot, this would save you substantial time and maintain your health too.
78. Train People
Train people on their expectations from you, with respect to the level of distraction you can entertain.
Suppose you are getting a phonecall from a relative while you’re working. Will you attend it while hanging up on your important task? If you don’t attend it, would he understand that you are busy? Or would he keep ringing your phone repeatedly?
Let’s say you are getting a Whatsapp message from a friend while you are into an important meeting. Will you reply to it there and then? Or will you send him a templated response? Or will you not open the message fearing that he might know that you’ve read the message and still haven’t replied? Or will you read the message, (doesn’t matter whether he comes to know about that) and reply only after winding up with your meeting?
Depending on what your response is, expectations will be set in other person’s mind for the next time.
Actions of others are only a result of the expectations you set by your actions.
So in the second example, if you reply instantly, the other person would expect your instant reply the next time too. So the plan is to train people on their expectations on your time.
Suppose you become an instant-reply-guy by returning peoples’ calls immediately. Now if you don’t do that as a one-off event, the other person would feel there’s something wrong, right? That’s also true vice-versa. So you have to train others if you intend to manage your time better.
Don’t be overtly responsive. At the same time, don’t be non-responsive either. Maintain a balance. Don’t pick up phones when you are busy. Don’t reply when you are not in a proper frame of mind / are concentrating on work. Your responses will define their further expectations from you and consequently, their future actions. For example, moving forward, they might start thinking before disturbing you. Or they might not mind if you don’t pick up the phone immediately, understanding that you might be busy.
It’s your job to train people on their expectations from your time.
♝ Organize and Optimize Daily Repeatables
79. Manage Your Files
Files are a major component of daily work. So they have to be managed and organized.
Numerous file management services like Dropbox, Gdrive, Resilio are available which come in handy and are available across devices. This is also a huge advantage if you co-work, need real-time editing for multiple people or need circulate files to take feedback from many people.
Another way is to organize files in a physical hard drive.
While managing files, all the fundamentals described above apply — compartmentalization by creating different accounts or by folders, breaking up things to the last level, prioritization according to folder names and many others. Creating more folders and subfolders to categorize is easy e.g., Life Sphere >> Project >> Task / Item >> Sub-item >> so on and so forth.
Next step is to organize files on your devices — laptops, tablets and phone. Ensure that the next time you need to find a file, you get it in max 5 clicks / taps.
80. Clear your Desktop and Home Screen
Reduce the number of items lying on your desktop. Helps create focus and reduces your laptop’s memory burn. Here are a few tips:
- Default download location set in your web browser should be the ‘Downloads’ folder, not Desktop.
- While installing softwares, don’t create a Desktop shortcut if possible. You can use Start Menu to reach them.
In fact, you can use desktop items as a reminder for things to be worked on.
Remove apps from your phone’s home screen and only leave those which you need to check at least once a day.
Here’s how my home screen looks like:
81. Manage Communication Channels
Even when nobody is using SMS, they continue to flood our SMS app. These days, they are mostly used by services to intimate us, or by Spammers to bug us.
I used to keep my SMS app on mute. I did miss out on some of the important messages, though. Then I came across this and achieved Nirvana.
Same was the story with calls too, even after activating DND (we have this, here in India).
Truecaller comes in handy, saves a lot of time by detecting Spam calls as now it also lets you block calls.
That’s a no-brainer. Put useless conversations on Mute.
Spending too long to search for emails? You need to make it fast.
Use Email Filters to clutter-free your Inbox. Regularly mark emails as Spam, sort them out in folders / labels, send them to trash or archive.
82. Manage Your Calendar
Note down things in a paper calendar day by day. Alternatively, Use GCal.
Visually see what is scheduled when. Plan accordingly.
Use a master calendar for your team. Put all commitments of all team members there and encourage them to do the same. Helps a lot to clear time conflicts while scheduling.
83. Use More of Machines
Machines simply save time for us. Some of them automate tasks which have to be done daily — such machines are indispensible.
Washing Machine, Dishwasher, Food Processor, Dryer, mixer all reduce our effort, which can then be focused in something more productive. So use more of them.
Organize items at your work and also at your home. Organize your working table. This has certain positives:
- Emits positive vibes
- Saves energy spent in searching for things
- Less items to see means more focus on the task at hand
Always keep items on their designated place.
Keep things at their place, always. It should be like if something is not there at its place, it means you have lost it — as there can be no other place you would have kept it.
You might want to make a move towards minimalistic living. Look at how the Japanese do it. How cool would it be to live in such a place where nothing could ever get lost?
85. Minimize Number of Decisions
Here’s the reason why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same Outfit every day:
Minimizing the number of decisions to be taken over and over again each day does help.
The lesser the number of decisions to take, less the clutter. Observe what decisions you are taking in a particular day — not just at work, but in your life. Then you can make a not-to-do list of the ones not absolutely necessary.
86. Drop Routine Things
Evaluate your routine and drop things that are not working.
A daily meeting showing no results? A weekly trip driving you insane? Eliminate it or automate it or defer it.
87. Club Routine Items and Defer
There must be some tasks which you do every week. Idea is to postpone such tasks to do them once in a month.
A typical example is going to the supermarket. We used to do that every week till we decided that it could be done once a month. Agreed, we will have to buy a lot more in that single trip but it’s worth the time we would be saving in making multiple trips to the supermarket. Moreover, we now could go to the wholesale hypermart which is much farther from our home but drives the costs down.
Similarly, there must be some tasks which you do daily. Postpone them to be done once a week. This may be a simple task as washing clothes — you must have a lot of clothes in your wardrobe to do this, though. And please don’t follow this for brushing your teeth or you-know-what tasks!
88. Maintain Browser Bookmarks
A very important way to remember URLs and useful information. Tag pages as bookmarks to remember things, information and important pages.
Organize your bookmarks once in a month or two so that they don’t look cluttery. Make folders and subfolders using Browser’s Bookmark Manager.
Sync bookmarks with your Google Account (If you use Chrome) or back them up from time to time.
89. Stop Losing Things
For many people, a lot of time is lost in searching for things. Organize your things properly so that you waste no time in searching for them or in losing your cool when they are lost. You can get some ideas on this here, here and here.
Keep track of things via Sensor Tech. Use it on your phone, important documents, keys etc.
90. Speed Up Your Devices
You might not realize this, but you waste a lot of time daily when:
- Files take time to open
- Apps take their own processing time
- Your phone and laptop boot
Speed it up. Getter better RAM and Processor. Reduce boot time by minimizing the apps that start on boot [use Run >> msconfig >> Startup to toggle this for Windows]. Some other techniques like tweaking your BIOS, upgrading to an SSD are known to speed up app-launch time and boot time.
Shorten the time required to start your session. Use ‘Hibernate’ instead of ‘Shut Down’. Remove password layer on wakeup from Sleep / Hibernate.
91. Get Better Internet
A lot of time is wasted in browsing on a bad internet.
Let’s calculate this. If it takes 20 seconds to open a webpage and you visit (say) 50 pages in a day. That means 17 minutes per day of your time. Even if you don’t add the hit you were taking in terms of your enthusiasm while each page was opening up, or the time you spend in watching videos, this is huge.
Kill this once and for all by getting a high-speed internet.
92. Organize Reusable Things
Need a file repeatedly, keep it on your phone or laptop handy. Need a scissor, keep it in the bag you carry daily.
Create templates for repetitive tasks — blog posts, email replies, acknowledgement text messages.
93. Automate Repetitive Workflows
Identify all pieces of your workflow that can be automated.
- Filling a form everytime you hit a webpage? Use this.
- Copy-pasting screenshots? Use this or this.
- Building GIF files to explain different workflows? Use this.
- Copying the same edit on multiple images? Regularly? Use this.
- Have to open same tabs in browser each time you boot? Use this.
- Have to keep growing your Twitter following shuffling your existing Tweets? Use this.
Listed above are few examples. There are numerous tools available for any and each workflow you might have.
Here are a few killer services which let you automate almost anything:
94. Keep your Details Handy
Keep your life details handy and organized. Passwords, ID card numbers, bank account numbers, Email IDs, birthdays, insurance policy numbers, registration numbers. This is the information you need everyday. This is also precisely the clutter you need to get rid of and automate.
Organize them into the task management tool to free up your mind. If you fear security, use notepad files, master diaries, password managers. You can save passwords in your browser (which offers you to do that) except some sensitive ones like those for bank accounts etc.
These details should be handy enough to be accessible whenever you need them next so that you don’t have to whack your brains on that one.
95. Use Keyboard Shortcuts
A few more are specific to different apps. For example, for a web browser, close tabs by Ctrl+W, Toggle through tabs by Ctrl+Tab, Open a new tab by Ctrl+T, more listed here. For Gmail’s web app, here’s the list. Similarly, every app has them.
Use them to your full advantage. Always keep learning new ones and practise them to commit them to memory. Observe your workflow and consciously try shortening it by using those keys.
96. Organize Hard Copies
Organize papers, documents and hard copies. Here are some cool things which come to your rescue:
Typical multi-pocket folders, extremely useful to organize papers.
For example, you could use one such folder for your work history — docs from each place you have worked fall into one section. Likewise, you can use a second one for your routine items — one section for your car, one section for your IDs, one section for your insurance policies, one as guarantee-warantee card collector (of your household items), one for collecting coupons and gift cards, one for your bills, so on and so forth. Similarly, you can use a third one for managing your medical history — one section for the chunk of papers w.r.t. each time you fall sick.
97. Scan & Preserve
Scan whatever hardcopies you can and discard them. Now organize these soft-copies. This would not only let you deal with clutter, as soft copies are easier to manage, but will also preserve them forever.
Paperless home and office is indeed possible.
98. Stop Desktop Alerts
In Windows, there are certain notifications that popup from right of Taskbar — a huge lot of distraction if you ask me.
These can be turned off (in Windows 10) from this screen which you get by right-clicking on Taskbar:
99. Learn Typing
If you don’t know how to type and have to still look at your keyboard while typing, I advise learning professional typing right now.
This will save you a lot of valuable time in coming years and also rescue you from all the spelling mistakes that you’ll definitely make in all future communications. A lot of tools help you with that and it will take at most a month to grasp it.
Also learn to touch-type fast on your phone. Use both hands. Learning to keyboard-type (above) will sure be of help here as you would remember corresponding key positions on touchpad too.
♖ Get Your Lifestyle Right
Praying keeps your spirits high. You somehow get automatic strength to deal with shitty stuff. It’s like telling someone ‘to watch your back’.
101. Use Caffiene
Drink coffee / tea before starting a stretch of concentration. Seems to help. Also useful when you need to stay awake to work. Some other benefits listed here.
Though excess of everything is bad, use your judgement.
102. Listen to Energizing Music
Listening to music actually works to boost productivity in some people. Most of these people observe a few common things with this phenomenon listed here.
103. Cut the Noise
Noise is seen to reduce productivity, increase distration. Though this is still subjective.
Simple way to cut the noise — wear earplugs. Have some personal space to achieve prolonged concentration.
104. Fix Your Health.
Your health is the most important asset that lets you work. Only a healthy body can be productive.
Go to regular health checkups. Is an ailment bugging you? Fix it asap as it won’t let you concentrate, leave alone let you work.
Get some regular exercise to boost your senses.
Some physical activity each day awakens your body by improving blood circulation and produces GABA — soothing neurotransmitter that reduces stress. You get new ideas while you exercise.
This is soo not-to-be-missed activity to complete your routine.
Take time to read everyday. Gives you a lot of alternatives to problem solving and broadens your outlook to life.
107. Eat Regularly
Get a healthy and regular diet. Have fruits and juices. Drink a lot of water.
Definitely have breakfast — many people skip it. It supplies you much needed energy after a long night. Necessary for your brain to function.
Eat in small chunks throughout the day. Eating a lot at once results in more blood circulation towards stomach and results in drowsyness, often after lunch. Have you observed this?
Develop a habit of meditation. Simply boosts your concentration and focus.
Meditate for some time daily, make a habit out of it. Here is a slideshow taking you into more details:
A few apps help you out with this too!
♞ The Art of Getting it Done
109. Be Polite
Politeness emits positive vibes.
People work more when they are happy. They listen to you and there are lesser conflicts.
110. Create Currency
Again a Stephen Covey’s method to drive results.Create an emotional currency. This is necessary for you to get things done from others.
Keep pumping more value into your emotional bank account with others. The more value you pass on to them, bigger your account grows.
Once you have a lot of currency in your emotional account with someone, you may expect them to return likewise. The other person would be obliged to return value and would be there when you need him.
Objective should be to open as many accounts as possible containing as much value as possible. Over a time, you can reap exponential value from these accounts and your work gets done in seconds.
111. Simplification Before Delegation
Directly delegating tasks doesn’t make the cut. So just go out of the way to simplify that delegated task.
Come up with multiple ways to execute it. You may then leave the choice of path to the executor.
In organizational setting, if you are leading this executor, you create a currency with them this way. The more you make an effort to ease their life, more loyal they would become.
112. Demarcate Responsibilities
Tasks with undefined responsibility take long to get done, if they get done ever. There should be a clear demarcation of what is to be done by whom.
If you are using a tool like Comtify or Asana, you may assign the task to a single executor. If that is done, there are only two options. Either the assignee should do it themselves, or assign the task to someone else.
113. Set Clear Expectations
Set expectations from people from whom you are getting it done.
Clarity in expectations should be defined at a very minor level — more granular you go, the better it is. Here are a few ways to help you with this.
114. Give Out Rewards
Reward people when they get your work done. Treat them out, get them a beer, go out of the way to help them.
They just created a currency with you and deserve to be repaid likewise.
115. Escalate and Spread
There’s a reason why escalation exists as a process in organizations. Execution speeds up as pressure builds up down the chain.
Also, there’s a reason why people post to a brand’s Facebook page or Twitter handle if they are unable to get something done. Especially in case of institutional delays or apathy.
Take time to build your network. Meet more people by going in events. This helps as who knows you might meet someone whom you can turn to advice when you can’t find a way out.
Facebook Events is a great way to find events. Facebook automatically throws events to you once your friends sign up for them. If not, you should go ahead and hit ‘Like’ on Facebook pages of your interest to start getting relavant event updates.
Another way to get event updates is through Meetup. Again, you have to follow the relevant meetup groups to get updates.
117. Build a Community
Have people to reach out to, when you are stuck. These can be your board of advisors or your boss or your colleagues or close friends.
Talking to them time and again goes a long way in removing obstacles from your work.
118. Ask on Websites
Similarly, find out more websites to ask queries in your own niche. Some of these sites require you to have a decent karma / reputation. On some, the more followers you have the better.
119 — Will add as I think of it!
120, 121 — Will add them from ideas you suggest in comments. So do comment if I missed out on something / you feel something is incorrect / you don’t agree with something. Let’s make this a repository of ideas on this particular topic!
Want to get all the above points as a tasklist in Comtify? Message me from within the app at @support.
Originally published at comtify.com.