At The Fast Track, we’re all about maximizing productivity. When it comes to getting more done in less time, there are the obvious tips, and the less obvious ones. We hope these creative hacks from 2013 will find a home in your repertoire of New Year’s resolutions!
Pretend Friday doesn’t exist. Start each week thinking you only have Monday-Thursday to get everything done and then act on that. This will improve your productivity throughout the whole week, and then Friday can be catch-up day, a strategic work day, a day to schedule your meetings, or a day to take it easy (without guilt). Along those lines, you can rearrange your week in a way that leaves easy or mindless things to be done on Friday (though easy and mindless differs for everyone, examples might be filing, documenting, planning, or updating).
Scout out a mentor, senior leader, colleague, or other respected professional who lives near you and takes the train to work around the same time. Ask if the person would be amenable to sharing one commute per week talking shop on the train. A new mentor, by the way, will probably be more willing to give you her time if it’s not going to take a chunk out of HER work day.
If you’re sitting at a swim meet waiting for your child’s competition, it’s a good time to read an industry article you’ve wanted to peruse, or even make a quick phone call to schedule a meeting with a mentor. If you write down all the things you can do in five minutes, you can check them and quickly take care of them when you have time.
If you’re like me, your poor password management costs at least an hour a week of searching for, guessing at, and replacing passwords. When you have a password service like LastPass, you only have to remember one master password. By typing in that master password, you are able to log in automatically to any website with saved login credentials. And LastPass syncs passwords in the cloud so all of your devices will display the same information.
At the end of the day, you will be more productive if you take extra time with your projects so that you can avoid costly mistakes. Before sitting down to work, put yourself in a relaxed state. Focus on the process of the work, pretending that you are showing someone else how to do the task. When you catch yourself rushing or moving too quickly, stop. Give your full attention to just one activity and avoid multi-tasking.
Baydin’s E-mail Game provides some entertainment relief for professionals who spend their days slogging through hundreds of never-ending messages. By hooking up your Gmail account to the E-mail Game, you get access to an alternate interface that launches a competition each time you open a new message. For each e-mail message, you have to decide immediately what to do. You can respond right away by replying or forwarding it, you can delete or archive it, you can boomerang it to return at a later time of your choosing, or you can skip it completely. You get the most points for replying to a message within the allotted three minutes.
When conversing with a colleague, set an expectation up front that you have a deadline or meeting or that you only have two minutes to chat. When it’s time, shift your non-verbals first: stand up, look at the clock, or pick up a pile of papers. Use a concluding statement that is either relevant to your conversation or creates a follow-up commitment: “I’ll send you a meeting request.” This keeps the collaboration going or the personal connection alive without the other person feeling like they’ve been cut off. They’ll immediately understand that you are interested in discussing things like this, just not now.
Of course, nothing saves time like getting someone else to take on and/or automate some of your workload. The good news is, that person doesn’t need to work for you full-time or necessarily be a person at all. Try TaskRabbit, a tool that seamlessly locates experts on a plethora of topics and can also provide administrative support in case, for example, you just need someone to answer your phone for a while.
Just 10-20 minutes on the phone will often rule people out immediately; you might quickly discover that their experience in a key area is far less than you thought from their resume, or that their social skills aren’t a fit with the role, or that they can’t start until three months after you need someone. It doesn’t make sense to bring people in to meet in-person – when you’ll generally spend far longer than 20 minutes talking – until you’ve established basic suitability for the role and ruled out obvious deal-breakers.
In the book The 24-Hour Genius: Unlocking Your Brain’s Potential with Strategic All-Nighters, author Eric Epstein suggests that the most important breakthroughs come during a night spent not dreaming, but actively pursuing a goal. You’ll accomplish more by working smarter by means of intense, efficient periods of focused concentration during periods you are not normally active.