A collection of 101 specific productivity tips you can apply in the new year in order to get more done and make 2015 the most successful year you’ve ever had.
When I graduated college in 2001, I was the only person among those I knew who wasn’t looking for a job. I was entrepreneurial in college, but once I was out of school… it was official.
And I have never worked for anybody else since then.
After 13 years of being “solo”, I’ve learned a thing or two about productivity. See, while working for yourself is a kind of freedom, it can also be a curse if you don’t have some skills of self-management. Working for “the man”, there is a certain comfort in the fact that you don’t have all the decisions on you, and that to a point, the paycheck is kind of guaranteed.
When you’re on your own, you have to learn to hack your productivity. After all, it all rides on you. There’s nobody there to set you right… except, perhaps, the size of your bank account.
As we’re heading into a new year – my 14th year since I decided to stay on the road less traveled – I (like many of you) want my 2015 to be very productive. In fact, I want 2015 to blow away the last few years on all fronts. On top of that…
Well, maybe its just me, but the years just seem to be FLYING by! Its freakin’ NUTS. So, one thing that is very clear is that… time waits for nobody. It won’t be long until we’re sitting here welcoming 2016 in. And, the amount of time between now and then isn’t very much.
I want to make the most of it. You?
So, I sat down and listed out a whopper list of 101 productivity hacks. Many of them I do personally. Some of them are, quite frankly, reminders to myself. 🙂
I hope you find some of them valuable. If you do, perhaps give it a share out there on Facebook or Twitter?
Here we go…
- Separate planning from execution. Sit down and plan and make all of your decisions in advance, then switch hats to your “worker” hat, and just start executing.
- Along that line, spend as much time planning 2015 as you can – in advance. This is why I’ve spent the time to plan out my content calendar and marketing calendar in advance.
- Always be clear on the outcome you’re shooting for – with specifics. If you don’t know the EXACT outcome you want, you’ll never know when you’ve arrived.
- Measure as much as you can, since you can’t improve what you don’t measure.
- At the end of each week, do a weekly review. I keep mine in Evernote. Answer the questions (a) What went right?, and (b) What went wrong, and (c) For those things that went wrong, what policy needs to be implemented to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
- All the tactics in the world mean nothing if not guided by a strategy. Reread #1 above as to why that is.
- Know WHY you’re doing what you do. It makes the WHAT’s a lot clearer, and the HOW’s just a matter of mechanics. (Watch Simon Sinek’s video about starting with why)
- Your life is a set of systems. When you’re not getting what you want, sit back and re-think the design of the system you’re using.
- Write out your systems. The more you can boil your main activities into a checklist, the better.
- In order to have what you want, you have to do certain things. But, to do those things, you have to BE a certain kind of person. Decide to embody that identity.
- Schedule tasks on your calendar like appointments.
- Spend the first 15 or so minutes in the morning scheduling out your day, per #11.
- As you go through the day, adjust those appointments to the times it actually took to do that task (if different).
- During each of those scheduled blocks, utilize a desktop timer application in order to keep you on target. I use Timer Utility on the Mac.
- During your weekly reviews, screenshot your calendar and drop it into the note. You’ll then have a running record of exactly what you did that week, along with your review of how it all turned out. See #5 again.
- Time is your most precious asset. And rather than just hearing that quote again and thinking how cute it is, apply tips 11-15 religiously and really become presently AWARE of your time ticking by during the day. You’ll really be motivated to make the most of it.
- Schedule downtime. It is important, too.
- Work hard. Play harder.
- When in downtime mode, don’t spend it buried on your mobile device. It is important to really disconnect sometimes.
- Know what your goal is. Most people don’t operate with a goal in mind, and end up just being a feather in the wind of life as a result.
- Write out a set of personal policies that need to be kept in place for things to go smoothly. They’ll be borne out of experience. You can modify them as needed (see #5 again). Keep them in a place where they’re always front and center.
- If you think productivity tips don’t apply to you because you have a regular job, think again.
- Don’t live inside your email inbox. Decide right now… who’s the boss? You? Or it?
- Zero out your inbox at the end of each day.
- … but not until the end of the day. Don’t spend your valuable top-production time (usually mornings) on email.
- Unsubscribe from email lists which don’t give you any value at all.e
- Subscribe your Evernote email address to an email list to file those emails away for later reading in Evernote and not clutter your inbox.
- …. or add Evernote as an email contact for easy filing in your “Read Later” notebook.
- Use filters in your email to move those emails which you want to keep getting, but don’t require you to actually do anything.
- Happen to see a post on Facebook that looks good but now isn’t the time to get into it? Use the new “Save” functionality. Access it later on your Saved list on Facebook.
- … or use the Evernote Web Clipper to file the whole article into your “Read Later” notebook in Evernote.
- Don’t go on Facebook during those scheduled task appointments (see #11).
- Find your time is getting sunk into debating on social media? Do yourself a favor and hide those posts. Nobody ever wins a debate on social media anyway.
- Silence your phone’s ringer.
- You should NOT allow others to control you via phone ringers, on THEIR schedule. Your time is more valuable than that.
- Same goes for emails. If you’re being notified of all incoming emails, knock it off.
- If you think you can’t turn off the phones or emails for certain timeframes because of your job or you think you’ll lose business… then question your systems. Because what kind of operation are you creating there where you have to sit there on call like that?
- Email bogging down your team? Try Slack. Its awesome.
- Wasting time finding appointment times that work for everybody, across timezones? Use ScheduleOnce. Its awesome, too.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. If the result of that is you feeling less, then you’re actually HARMING your ability to be even what you could be. That’s a net loss of capability for you.
- Disconnect from cynicism. There ain’t no time for that.
- Cynicism and antagonism from friends and family is their attempt to bring you down. Learn to confront it. See it for what it is. Either handle it or remove it from your life.
- Don’t watch the news. They have one goal: To disturb you. In order to sell you shit.
- Consider ditching your cable TV. We did. We still watch TV, but it is far more purposeful. No more casual channel surfing time wasting.
- Keep your space clean. Clean environment makes for a happy mind. Actually, usually the messiness of your environment is a direct reflection of what’s going on in your head. And strangely enough, if you clean the environment, often the head will clear up, too.
- Make it a part of your weekly routine to clean your office, your house – everything.
- Don’t leave incomplete tasks laying around. Every single one of them is a little piece of mental energy held in limbo until you finish it.
- Make a list of every incomplete task you have. One huge list. Get it ALL out of your head.
- … go through that list and find every one that could be done in, say, 15 minutes or less. Then, dedicate a day and just knock ’em all off.
- … for the rest of them, schedule the task. See #11 again.
- Repeat #48 on a weekly basis.
- Drink bulletproof coffee in the morning.
- Eat well. Like, seriously, you have no idea how this will help your productivity. I’m no dietician, but I recommend you check out the Bulletproof diet and/or the “Slow Carb” diet.
- Exercise. If nothing else, just the 7-minute workout once daily. (looks at self in the mirror 😉 )
- Take an hour or two and reorganize your work computer for ease of workflow. File folders easily accessible? Files organized? Frequently used programs shortcut on desktop or dock?
- Use two screens on your computer. Major productivity boost, and you’ll never want to go back to a single screen ever again. Ever.
- Drink water.
- Take vitamins. Vitamin C (ascorbate) and D among the most important.
- In between task appointments, get up and walk around. Look around. Get the blood moving.
- Every now and then, change your work environment. Head to Starbucks or something. Often you’ll find you get more done just because you’re in a different place, strangely enough.
- Goals with no action plan for it mean nothing.
- And plan must be broken down into a series of specific actions.
- Each action should be broken down until each one is something which is specific enough to be done in one sitting.
- Make each action measurable, with a very clear delineation between “done” and “not done”. None of this fuzzy perfectionist shit.
- Consider an accountability partner or group. We have the VIP community for that, for instance.
- Surround yourself with same-minded people. Not necessarily people who think exactly like you (that’d be boring), but people who are equally driven. The energy is contagious.
- Hire a mentor.
- You can’t eat and talk at the same time. In the same vein, you cannot consume information while you produce. Those are two different “modes” and you should do them at separate times.
- Look for any opportunity to leverage your free time to get something done. You can leverage technology to do it.
- For instance, recording audio blog posts while you drive. Pay a person on Fiverr to transcribe it. Boom!.. you just “wrote” a blog post on the road.
- Hire a virtual assistant.
- You can “automate” things via a VA, too. It doesn’t have to be software automation in order to count.
- Do what you’re good at. Allow other people the room to do what they’re good at.
- Realize no “productivity system” being peddled is going to be a magic bullet. Because it isn’t the “system” which makes it work. Its you. It has to fit… you.
- If you open an email, deal with it. If you don’t want to deal with it, don’t open it right now.
- Procrastination a least doubles your workload.
- Use a tool like Workflowy.com to keep tasks and projects out of your head.
- Don’t allow broken items to sit around unrepaired. Like incomplete tasks, they sit around and occupy mental energy. Plus, the situation with them usually gets worse.
- Use a task list. Every day. But, not just a list of things you hope to get done. Your daily task list should be based on the grand plan. Re-read items 61-64.
- Multi-tasking is actually a bad idea and it doesn’t make you more productive. Focus on one thing at a time, and give it your all… until it is done.
- Learn to say no.
- In between those scheduled task blocks, give yourself a 5-10 minute break in between. Do whatever the hell you want, but then during your next scheduled task block, it is nothing but focus.
- If you have to take a meeting, set a strict time limit. Tell them up front that you have a certain block of time, then you’ve gotta go.
- In your outgoing voicemail, instruct them to leave a message with the exact reason why they’re calling. This helps alleviate those “Hey, its me. Call me” messages.
- For longer emails, record an audio of you speaking out the reply and send it as an attachment.
- Consider getting up earlier.
- Don’t get stuck in planning mode. You know when you’re using it as a crux to avoid the work.
- Do your most difficult task first thing. Get it out of the way.
- Don’t use social media as an excuse for being productive. Always attend to promotional tasks which contribute to the bottom line before wasting time on the auxiliary stuff.
- Learn how to delegate.
- If you are trying to grow your team and you’re the bottleneck, then ruthlessly refuse to do tasks you shouldn’t be doing. Instead, take the time to get somebody else doing it.
- If you can’t stop yourself from being distracted while you should be working on something – by notifications from various sites – then disable your wifi.
- Set one day every week or two where it is a “catch up” day to attend to all those backlogged trivial tasks that have been stacking up.
- Learn how to speed read. You can consume more information, much faster.
- Keep your emails short. If necessary, have something in your email signature which explains why the email is so short.
- Set time deadlines. A task will always expand to fill the time allotted for it.
- Make changes in your habits one at a time. Don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to tackle every bad habit at the same time.
- Realize that a lot of those little fears – the fears of what will happen when you say no, the fears of what will happen when you take control – are all inside your own head.
- When something is being put off alot, or it is bothering you for some reason… stop and confront it head on. The mere act of confronting a problem directly usually makes it vanish.
- Every single day, list out your primary goals. Not your tasks… your grander goals. Name them. Make them numeric. Example: “100 New Email Signups Per Week”. Then, when you set your tasks for the day, ask yourself, “Is this task aimed directly at my goal”? If not, drop it, delay it, or delegate.
- Don’t react to 2015. Don’t “go with the flow”. OWN IT. To have the life you want, you have to actively CREATE IT.
Now, I have a question for YOU.
I’d like you to go down to the comments, and answer me this…
What one productivity hack have you found worked for YOU this last year?