9 Tips to Help You Get More Done

The following 9 tips will enable you to become more productive in your work day:

1. One Touch Email

The Problem: When checking email, we often read a bunch of messages and reply to them later. The problem is we’re reading (and thinking about) those messages twice.

The Trick:
You should only “touch” an email once. Open it, read it and then act on it. That might mean replying, forwarding, delegating, or putting it into a folder.

How it works: Ever notice the little “oooh!” feeling when new messages show up in your inbox? Our brains release a little of the neurotransmitter Dopamine (associated with the pleasure/reward systems) based on novelty. That’s why we find ourselves checking email all day long,(or visiting the same sites over and over again.)

We’re hoping to find something new.

Similarly, because replying isn’t as much fun as reading new emails we often push it off. When we finally get around to replying, we have to read them again, which wastes time.

Stop doing that! ;)


2. The Dash

The Problem: Procrastination. (Yes, we all do it.).

The Secret: Doing the project isn’t the real challenge, it’s getting started in the first place.

The Trick: A “dash” is a quick burst of effort on whatever you’re
avoiding. The idea is to start small enough that you’ll actually
do it. It’s ok if the amount of effort feels “ridiculously small”,
especially if you’re really stuck.

Example: “I’m going to clean this room for one minute” or “I’m
going to open the project and write one sentence.”

How it works: The longer you avoid doing something the bigger it
gets inside your mind. ANY progress that gets you started wipes
away that feeling and gives you a fresh start. From there it’s
easier to keep moving.

I hope this is helpful. If you have feedback you can reach me by
replying to this email.


3. When you just can’t start that big project

The Problem: Large projects can be difficult to start.

The Trick: Instead of trying to start the project, list the steps
you would do to complete it.

The Secret: We don’t resist planning nearly as much as doing.

How it works:
Creating a list of small specific steps makes it’s
easier for your brain to say “oh, I can do that!” For example,
it’s easier to get started with “Find accountant’s phone number”
than with “Handle taxes”.

Your goal isn’t to make a short list, it’s to leave nothing out.
Many small items on a list gives you a feeling of progress as you
check things off. It’s more fun too.

Have a great weekend.


4. The Checklist

The Problem: When you’re finally getting things done, the last thing you need is to be interrupted.

The Trick: Create a list of the ways you typically get interrupted. Examples might be a phone ringing or someone sending you an instant message. When you’re trying to focus, go through the list turning off anything that could distract you.

The Secret: Avoiding distractions is easier than ignoring them when they happen.

How it works:
When the phone rings it’s hard not to look at who’s calling. That often changes your focus to who’s calling, why they might be calling and whether or not you should answer the phone.

If the phone can’t ring, it can’t distract you. Later when you’re finished working, turn on the ringer and check for messages.


5. The Butterfly Pad

The problem: “Butterflies” are distracting thoughts that pop into our heads while we are working. If we pay attention to them, it’s easy to spend the day “chasing butterflies”, switching constantly from one thing to another.

The trick: Keep a pad of paper and a pen handy. When a butterfly
pops up write it down quickly and keep working.

The secret: When doing creative work, changing focus costs time because when you come back to a project you have to remember where you were, what you were thinking about and what you were about to do.

Why it works: We’re not very good at holding thoughts in our heads
while we do other things, so we interrupt ourselves to do something
right away so we won’t forget it. Writing it down means it’s out
of your head, but not lost. It’s “safe”, and you can stay focused
on what you were working on.

PS: Even small butterflies (“Oh, this will just take two minutes”)
are dangerous when your goal is to stay focused.

That’s it. Have a great day.


6. The 3-Minute Plan

The Problem: We often jump straight into work, and spend the day reacting to what other people want and neglecting our priorities. At the end of the day we think, “Argh! I never worked on _______!”

The Trick:
Before you start work, take three minutes and decide your top priorities for the day. You’re never going to get everything done – what is MOST important for today? Write them down and put them somewhere you’ll see them all day.

The Secret: You’ll find that simply having priorities will give you a sense of empowerment and control over your work, even if there are days when you can’t stick to them.

Why this works: When you first start working, your mind is fresh. It’s a GREAT time to write, plan or do creative work. With your priorities in place it’s easier to choose what to work on first and avoid “stumbling into your day”.


7. Time Boxing

The Problem: Projects expand to fill the time available; the more
time you have the longer the project will take.

The Trick: Give yourself a short time limit to complete the project. For example, “I’m going to finish this in one hour.”

How It Works: We don’t like to work on this that will take “as
long as they take.” When you add a time limit you can see the
finish line, and it’s easier to get started.

PS: This tip was written in 30 minutes. Usually I spend an hour!


8. Worry Folder

I ran across this next idea a few years ago. It’s made a big
difference for me so I wanted to share it with you.

The Problem: You’re worrying about so many things, it’s hard to work or sleep.

The Tip: Write the word ‘WORRIES’ on a folder in big bold letters.
Using index cards or paper, write down anything that’s bothering you and put it in the folder. When you can’t think of anything else, take a big deep breath and see how you feel.

The Secret: Your conscious mind knows there’s no point in worrying about things you can’t control. Your subconscious mind doesn’t work that way, and it’s trying to help you remember everything when it keeps you up at night yelling, “Hey! Why aren’t you working on all these really important things right now?”

How It Works: Writing things down lets your subconscious mind relax because your worries aren’t only in your head, they’re also ‘safely’ in that folder there.

It sounds a little strange.. but it works!


9. Don’t let the internet KILL…your productivity

The Problem: Getting sidetracked by checking email or your favorite websites.

The Solution: When it’s time to get some serious work done, take some deep breaths, give yourself a big hug and…disconnect from the internet. If possible, unplug your router or your ethernet cord and put them in another room so you have to stand up and do something physically to get back online.

How it works: You’re putting an obstacle between yourself and distraction. When distractions can’t “sneak up on you” you feel more in control of your work. Later, when you do waste a little time online, you’ll actually enjoy it MORE because it was a choice.

Unplug and be free!

How to break out of a “procrastination loop”

The Problem: You’re procrastinating, and even though you want to be working you just can’t seem to break out of it.

The Solution:

1. Stand up and step away from your desk. It sounds like a small step, but this is the most important part of this idea. Just remember, “Feeling Stuck –> Stand Up!”

While you are standing, shut off whatever was distracting you. Do not sit down.

2. Change your environment by taking a short walk, and once you’re moving start picking up the pace until it feels like you’re hurrying. Try to feel like you’re building up momentum. When you get back you’re not going to “settle into work,” you’re going to hit it like a train!

3. Hit it like a train.

The Secret: It’s easy to think that your body simply follows instructions from your brain, but each is affected by the other. Here we’re getting our mind back on track by cranking up our body.

Want a quick example of using your body to affect your brain and your mood?

1) Notice how you feel right now.
2) Stand up and shake it out.
3) Stand up straight and confidently, and hold your head up high.
4) Look around to see if anyone is looking.
5) Smile ridiculously BIG!

How do you feel? Any different than you felt 30 seconds ago?