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Best practices for productivity/time management?

X

I'm always looking for ways to be more productive/save time. I saw there were a few discussions about specific types of productivity hacks (email, physical products, etc.), but nothing in terms of overall productivity improvements for daily time management. What have you all learned about being more productive on a daily basis? What tools (apps, software, processes, etc.) have helped you the most? Might be helpful to hear about certain processes you go through, as well.


14 Replies

Ryan Conway
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Ryan Conway Entrepreneur
Digital Strategist
Hi Natalie, while I can't comment on specific apps or software, although I'd love to hear about what people are using, I have recently starting practicing the art of time-blocking.

Every night before I go to bed I schedule out my day. Hour by hour and try to stick to it. I haven't gotten it to work 100% the way I'd like yet, but I have noticed that I have been getting more done than I have before.

Peter Voogd, Jay Papasan, Cal Newport and many others swear by it.

John Seiffer
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John Seiffer Advisor
Business Advisor to growing companies
The best I know of is the Parteo principle - also called the 80/20 rule. It's the idea that you get 80% of your results from 20% of your activities. The actual numbers, of course are wrong, but you get the idea. So stop doing everything but those activities that are most productive, profitable or fun.
Rahul D'Silva
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Rahul D'Silva Advisor
Writer • Consultant • Advisor • Fulbright Fellow, Ireland • TCD + Swarthmore alum
I find it helps to make a list of things to prioritize for each day (top 3-4 areas) which can be done by yourself or brainstorming with friend/mentor. Then break down by time, and actually create a schedule in the calendar. It's not always easy to stick to it while in the office or meetings changing schedule, etc. But the more you can do it, the more you are forced to focus on the important things and leave the other things (checking out a new app, reading articles, clearing inbox) to later in the day. In my case, I start my mornings at 6:30am with 1hr meditation/yoga/exercise, breakfast, 2 hrs of writing, and 2 hrs of work on
Matthew Mellor
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Matthew Mellor Advisor
CEO of Strenuus
My key is eliminating distractions. I refer to it as 'intentional ignorance'--tuning out those things that MIGHT impact your business so you can focus on those things are WILL impact your business. Being able to focus on one task at a time is a lost art--and increasingly difficult. Block off your calendar for work time. Shut off all alerts on your phone except for incoming calls. Politely explain that you are no longer going to participate in any form of instant messaging. Part of reigning in your productivity is to eliminate opportunities for other people to dictate your priorities. When you get an instant message, it might as well be prefaced with "I have no idea what you're working on right now, but my needs are more important than yours."
Mike Muhney
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Mike Muhney Advisor
CEO & Co-Founder VIPorbit Software & Vipor (also Co-Founder & Co-Inventor of ACT!)
Hi Natalie. There are two parts of what you'll need. One is pretty easy, the other the more crucial. The easy part is selecting an app that enables you to manage all of your relationships in both your business and personal lives (people can be and often are in both practically speaking) that also acts as your activity manager overall in one solution. The harder part is whatever you do decide the more crucial part is your attitude and commitment towards establishing new habits and methods to optimally use the app tool itself. Disclosure - my career has been spent developing these types of tools, first with ACT! and now with Vipor for the iPhone, iPad and Mac.
Rosalind Nelson
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Rosalind Nelson Entrepreneur
Maui BnB I Founding Broker real estate malibu PARTNERS 35 yrs I Hospitality I Bed & Breakfast I 18,600+ connections
Distractions are the worst waste of time - ignore them, stay focussed and you will complete your tasks much faster. Ever question why an attorney will charge you 20 minutes when you call to make an appointment? It's because you have distracted him/her from their thought process.
The 80/20 rule is a definitive, proven, concept. Therefore, when faced with 500 or a 1,000 emails daily - scan through them quickly to see what is going to produce money RIGHT NOW - respond to these and leave the rest until you have time to wend your way through.
Linda Marshall-Smith
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Linda Marshall-Smith Entrepreneur
Marketing Consultant, Ambassador, Silicon Beach at CoFoundersLab
There is also the Pomodoro method. You set a timer to 25 minute slots. And you assign tasks to those time periods. When the timer goes off, you take break, like maybe 5 minutes. Get up. Stretch your legs. Make a cup of coffee or tea, etc. After you've completed four pomotoros, you get a 15 to 20 minute break. You return to the task with a fresh perspective that enables you to get tasks completed more efficiently. I know many top level entrepreneurs in the Silicon Beach area who swear by Pomodoro. Here's what Wikipedia says about this time management method: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique The official website: pomodorotechnique.com
Patty DeDominic
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Patty DeDominic Advisor
Chief Catalyst, Managing Partner at DeDominic & Associates (Also Chief Catalyst for Maui Mastermind and Exec Coach)
Somehow it became popular to become "BUSY-Slammed", overbooked. This is not sustainable and makes for a rotten family life. You can learn to get more done, doing fewer, better things. Maui Mastermind community for business owners has a special course on Time Mastery. You can get tools to help you and if you private message me I can sent you a time value matrix. Use Big Rocks and Covey 7 Habits to help you. Focus and leveraging your genius zones is a key to getting the most important but not everything done. 50% of your results will come from less than 5% of your actions. so using time mastery techniques also outlines in the book SCALE you can cut out 70% of your activities. Tim Ferris sounded crazy when he introduced the 4 hour work week..... but the reality is that you probably do accomplish more from your golden 8 hours each week than your 50 hour work weeks. I wrote a blog post at www.mauimastermind.com on Time Mastery

Rich Goidel
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Rich Goidel Entrepreneur
Business strategist, group facilitator, agile practitioner and corporate muse
You might have a go at David Allen's GTD system ("Getting Things Done"). This is a serious practice that you can apply to your entire life. It's not software, but has been embodied by a few different apps (OmniFocus being the biggest).

Read the book first, then figure out how you might apply it with tech.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000WH7PKY
Dan Purdy, MBA
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Dan Purdy, MBA Entrepreneur
Founder, Real Symple Solutions, Marketing Lecturer & University Relations Director at Western Washington University
I've been working quite a bit on this Natalie because it is a huge problem. Our lack of productivity leads to tremendous physical and emotional consequences that we euphemistically call "stress". What I've learned over the past five years of trying to hack knowledge work and teach those hacks to others could fill a book... Wait, it actually has :) I've got a draft I can share with you if your interested.

The key to becoming more productive is to lower the cognitive overhead you are dealing with so you can FOCUS on what is important in your work. I've developed a system called Real Symple that is based in part on the work of BJ Fogg at Stanford in the area of persuasive technology. The model is as follows:
- Motivation: Do you want to?
- Ability: Are you able to?
- Trigger: Can you remember to?

So, the key is to develop mechanisms that encourage behavior to help you Get Things Done. A mechanism has four elements:
1. It should be Real: Visual + Physical
2. It should be Systematic: So you can scale it and make it routine
3. It should be Fast: So you can work quickly and learn more
4. It should be Simple: Anything too complicated will become Shelf Art

Here are a few hacks for you to investigate:
- Personal Kanban: Check out Jim Bensons book and website of the same name
- Instead of making To-Do lists, create a project list using sticky notes so you can use to rearrange the hierarchy of the list on a moments notice.

- Empty your bag and head of ALL items every day. Sort through all the stuff in your bag and organize. Write all the deliverables and tasks down on sticky notes so you can see them. Organize them according to priority. Do them ONE at a time.

- Plan your week Sunday night and block out every hour of the day for specific deliverables you have to complete. Leave NO time unscheduled. You can always choose to bump something if another item comes up that is more important. The key is to choose the work you do rather than simply doing the work that "comes next" or chooses you because of its newness, urgency, etc.

- Use Lean Meetings for problem solving and ideation meetings (I can send you info on how to do one)

- Make all meetings WORKING Meetings. Updates are fine if they lead to work but otherwise do we really need to have a meeting to just do updates?

- Make default meeting length 45 minutes and have everyone stand.

- The last step of every meeting is to assign Action Items to each person in the meeting.

- Checklists: Google Atul Gwande's Checklist Manifesto article and begin using checklists to scale best practices.

- Templatize every process you can rather than reinventing the wheel each time. Your quality and speed will improve dramatically

Those are a few, there are many more but I don't have to rewrite the book here and you don't have time to read it now :) I hope this helps get you started. Just remember that behavior is the key to results. Behavior can be stimulated with the right mechanisms that motivate us, simplify the process, and trigger us to remember to do it.

Good luck,

Dan

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