14 Tips to Get More Done in Less Time
Productivity, efficiency and effectiveness are the buzzwords fueling the information age. Entire industries have been created around our obsession with efficiency and productiveness. We have more and more time for leisure activities but we use less and less of it for “leisure”; there are too many “work-like” things to do — maintaining social internet accounts, leveling up in online video games, sorting photos and mp3s…
We forget that time is the only true luxury in life. Being more productive doesn’t make you a better person, the essence of being productive is to put your attention where you get the biggest returns and get more done with less investment of your time. Use that extra time to get more enjoyment out of your life.
(photo by the unique)
1. Find Your Focus with Less Distractions
Do one thing and get it finished. Putting up barriers between yourself and distractions is one of the simplest habits for getting more done. With multitasking we feel so busy that we fool ourselves into thinking we’re getting more done, but so much time is lost switching between activities.
Minimize interruptions as much as possible. Turn off all email notification (only check for email when you’re taking a break). Forward your phone to voice mail while working. Block your “time wasting” websites when you’re trying to get something done. Disable instant messaging applications.
Prioritize and remove sources of information with little value. Unsubscribe from RSS feeds and email newsletters that give no bang for their buck, and set up quick email filters to delete or de-prioritize the junk that isn’t easy to unsubscribe from. Avoid information overload.
Curb useless information addiction. Most news has no long term value. Mainstream media is bad for focusing on what’s popular versus what is useful, but niche media like blogs are just as bad for focusing on “what’s hot now” instead of “what’s useful tomorrow”.
Take breaks from being “always on”. No internet, no TV, no cellphone, no video games. It does wonders for helping you reconnect with your life.
(photo by fofurasfelinas)
2. Be More Effective By Doing Less
Don’t confuse being busy with being effective. Stop and ask yourself if what you are working on is worth the effort. Is it even bringing you in the same direction as your goals?
Write down ideas and get back to them later. Amazing ideas aren’t always so amazing after a night’s sleep. If you act on every new idea without finishing the one you’re working on then you’ll never complete anything. Same holds true for programming. Get it working, then refactor.
Know the opportunity cost of your actions and how long something will really take to do. All things being equal, the best solution is the one that takes the least amount of total time (including maintenance time for fixing and support). What might have been a great idea at two hours of work could be a horrible idea if it took two weeks.
Just say no and be willing to do the bare minimum. Accept imperfections with things that aren’t important — don’t ignore the forest for the sake of one tree. Focus on the important and not the urgent. Feed opportunities and starve problems.
(photo by sage)
3. Use Technology Efficiently
Learn how to search instead of spending time organizing. Gmail’s biggest advance was searching email instead of spending time organizing it into folders. Knowing the ins and outs of how to search for what you want can free up a time spent organizing and categorizing.
Write first and format later. Formatting is a very important component of presenting information, but it should be done after you have finished writing as part of the editing process. Getting the information out of your head and on to the page is the most important step.
Learn keyboard shortcuts. Your mouse is slowing you down. Learning one keyboard shortcut a week will let you do more and remove the lost time in moving your hand from the keyboard to your mouse.
Set up multiple Firefox profiles, one for work and one for fun. Your work profile will be barebones with Google Search and your Intranet / work bookmarks while your fun profile will have stuff like StumbleUpon, Gmail notifier, Google Reader, etc.
Technology is your enemy, not your friend. The biggest sink in productivity comes from the technological devices of the last century. Compare the effort between traveling with a book versus trying to travel and read online blogs with a laptop, or using an electronic PDA versus carrying a Hipster PDA. Technology often creates new problems while solving old. Sometimes the new problems are worse.
There is a big difference between walking the walk and talking the talk. It’s easy to read tips and tricks for being more productive in your life (lifehacks), but it is much harder to make them habits and part of who you are. But changing your habits so that you have more time to enjoy the other aspects of your life is well worth the effort.
I’m writing this as part of Instigatorblog’s “The Ultimate Guide to Productivity” group writing project. This isn’t my first take on productivity tips, around a year ago I wrote a damned good list of tips for programmers and engineers. The tips I’m listing here are much more general and are useful to anyone who has a job with an Internet connection.
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