There’s only so many hours in the day and there’s always a huge amount of things to be done. Market research, customer care, blogging, social media, the list goes on and on. Even if you’re typing on two keyboards at once with a phone balanced on your shoulder, you might still find yourself with things to do when 5:00pm rolls round.
Since we also run CoVault work spaces full of immensely talented business, we thought we’d tap them for some productivity tips. So, last week we went around everyone we knew, asking for their top tips, tricks and hacks for getting the most work done in the least amount of time.
This is what they told us.
Merlin Mann’s recommendation
Being productive doesn’t mean working flat out for hours on end, only stopping when the job is done. (Well, it can but it certainly doesn’t have to.)
Instead, why not try Merlin Mann’s highly segmented methodology called (10+2)*5?
Although it looks super complicated, I promise that it’s not. So, sit back down and let me explain. Mann’s working methodology goes like this:
10: Work for ten minutes with single-minded focus on moving toward completion on a single task. Ten minutes, and that’s all you’re allowed to do is work, work, work. No cheating, because (DING!) you actually get a break when you’re done.
2: After ten minutes of sweaty, dedicated work you get a 2-minute break to do whatever you want—drink coffee, read 5ives, call your bookie, whatever. When the two minutes are up, it’s back to work on the next task on your list. This is important.
5: You’re going to iterate this four more times for a total of one hour’s working/breaking.
While it won’t work for everyone, the (10+2)*5 structure can help keep you blinkered and motivated, allowing you to plough through job after job after job.
Plan and Schedule
As the old saying goes, if you fail to prepare then prepare to fail. For chronic procrastinators, it’s essential you replace your bad habits with good ones.
Between nine and ten you’re doing this. Between ten and eleven you’re doing that. No more super vague day-long tasks that carry on week after week.
While you could rely on willpower alone, it’s much easier to ring-fence your time for specific jobs. When your whole day is broken down into job-specific time slots, it’s much harder to waste 10 minutes browsing Facebook or mindlessly browsing through emails.
Separate Your Spaces
People who take their smartphones to bed often find it more difficult to drift off to sleep. That’s because they confuse the relationship between the space and the function. Is it for sleep or is it for working? The same principle applies to people who take their work home with them.
Setting up a home office in your living room blurs the purpose of your home. Is is for relaxing or is it for concentrating? Ultimately, it makes it harder to relax when you’re home as normal and harder to work when you bring projects home. It’s a lose-lose.
Instead, if you simply must take work home, make yourself get out and set up shop somewhere else. Work in a coffee shop or a library or a CoVault space.
Cut Pop-up Notifications
Push and pop-up notifications are essential for two professions. One, on-call heart surgeons. Two, Wall Street stock traders. Most of us don’t fall into either of these categories.
For the vast majority of us, push and pop-up notifications are a massive distraction. You’ll be mid-way through a piece of work and PING up pops a notification.
Who is it? What do they want? Is this urgent? Oh, that reminds me I had to email them back.
In less than one second your thought process has been derailed and your work mojo is gone. It’s unbelievably disruptive.
To avoid this, I recommend you ring fence dedicated time for email at the start, middle and end of the day. A half-hour slot is more than enough and lets you fire through all the mail that’s come in, address what needs addressed and archive the rest.
Workout for Happy Hormones
Physical exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which boost your mood and set you up for the day.
Thankfully, you don’t have to undertake a full Rocky-style montage to get the benefits. A simple 10-minute run will get those hormones flowing and put you in the right frame of mind to get things done.
Break Big Jobs Down into Mini Tasks
Big projects are soul-sapping. You can work on something for days, weeks or months and see next to no overall improvement. It’s draining. It’s like your efforts just aren’t achieving anything.
When you slip into that mindset, it’s inevitable that your work will take a hit.
The simplest way to fix this productivity drain is to change the way you think about larger tasks.
Stop thinking about a large project as one gargantuan task and instead as a collection of little ones.
Before you jump into a project, take some time to segment it into its component parts. For example, if you’re renovating part of your office, you might segment it into planning, design, procurement and construction.
Ticking off each stage as you complete it is a huge motivation boost and keeps it feeling like you’re actually getting somewhere.