Do you find yourself continually up against the clock with a to-do list that seems to go on and on?
If this sounds like you, you’re certainly not alone. Most of us are always looking to get more done, in less time.
There are seemingly new articles coming out every week about how the top minds in the world (Bill Gates and Elon Musk come to mind) get up at 5 am and seem to accomplish more in a single day than a lot of us do in a week.
In fact, it has been said that Elon Musk plans his day in 7-minute increments. How much more productive can you get?
Nevertheless, getting more done in less time is relevant to all of us. The following list of productive hacks are tricks or shortcuts that can help us to accomplish more in less time.
1. Give Yourself Less Time To Accomplish Tasks
Before we can even talk about the giving yourself less time to accomplish tasks, we need to first discuss the importance of time-blocking – a technique that some of the most productive people out there use to get stuff done.
As you may have guessed from the title, time-blocking is about scheduling your day in blocks of time. That means that if you have three things you want to accomplish that day, you assign those three tasks a specific time to accomplish them in.
The problem with the classic to-do list approach is that a lot of people end up creating an unreasonable list of things to accomplish that day without actually thinking about how long those individual tasks take.
At the end of the day, they find that they may have only accomplished one or two things and are left feeling stressed out.
Indeed, there has actually been a lot written about why to-do lists aren’t the most effective way to accomplish things. With time-blocking, however, your to-do list serves as starting point for you to then organize the rest of your day in a much more realistic way.
The other benefit of time blocking is that it focuses your energy. For that hour or two (or however long you’ve given yourself to accomplish a task), your attention is spent on accomplishing that one single task instead of trying to work away at a series of tasks throughout the day.
So, now that that’s out of the way, that brings us to giving yourself less time to accomplish tasks once those blocks of time are assigned.
If you are like anyone else out there, you know that when you are under a time-crunch, you manage to accomplish a lot more than you would if you didn’t have that fire underneath you. Many people actually thrive under these conditions.
The point in all of this is that recreating those conditions with a timer can focus your energy so that you accomplish tasks faster.
Instead of accomplishing a task in an hour, try setting the timer for 30 minutes instead.That means when it comes to getting more done in less time, a timer is definitely an essential tool.
This brings us to the famous Pomodoro technique, a classic productivity technique that people use to accomplish more.
It’s been around since the 90s, but if you’re not familiar with this technique, it is about breaking down tasks down into 25-minute increments – these are called “pomodoros”) and then taking a 5-minute break after you’ve worked for 25 minutes.
The Pomodoro technique can give you the necessary fire to accomplish more. The Pomodoro technique is also useful for at least getting started with your to-do list. As they say, getting started is often the hardest part of all.
The benefit of 25 minutes is that it is not a daunting period of time, so if you are struggling with starting your to-do list, you may want to keep the Pomodoro technique (and a timer) in your back pocket.
Batching is another popular productivity hack that, while it has been around for quite awhile, deserves attention for those who may not have heard of it.
In short, batching is all about scheduling your day in a way where you accomplish similar tasks at once. It effectively streamlines your tasks so that you decrease fatigue and, in turn, get more accomplished.
Let’s give you an example of how batching works in the context of running a business. Perhaps you get to the office, you spend two hours answering emails. The next couple of hours before lunch you attend to the front-lines of your business.
In the afternoons, you could spend on meetings and attending to administrative tasks. You get the idea. Every day certainly doesn’t need to look the same, but this approach does create a streamlined workflow so that you can get more done.
It’s exactly why people like Mark Zuckerberg wear the same shirt every day: so that they reduce the amount of decisions they have to make and therefore accomplishing more by conserving their brain power.
Nevertheless, this is another great productivity hack that can help you get more done in less time.
3. Make Email and Meetings More Efficient
A common productivity tip that you hear is to identify the time-wasters in your day and to avoid them. By avoiding sites like Facebook and other notable “time wasters,” you give yourself more time to spend elsewhere.
In the context of running a business, two of the biggest time wasters may not seem like time-wasters at all. In fact, most would argue that they are essential to conducting to business: email and meetings.
The problem with both is that they are, by and large, surprisingly ineffective. By learning how to handle emails and meetings in the right way, you can accomplish a lot more in a lot less time.
Here are a couple of stats that prove how just ineffective they are. As far as email goes, research coming out of Carleton University has shown that people spend ⅓ of their time at the office on email alone. That adds up to 11.5 hours a week.
Here’s the real kicker, though: 30% of those emails weren’t even urgent in the first place.
As we’ve said, you can’t get away with not answering your emails. But you can learn to master your inbox in a way that helps you accomplish more in less time. Here are some tips:
- Answer Emails Within Specified Hours. Don’t make the mistake of answering emails as they come in – if you can help it. Remember – it takes a whopping 23 minutes to get back into a task. Answer emails within specified hours instead – in other words, time block – and set out to answer as many emails as possible during that time period.
- Use Email Templates. If you spend a lot of time on email, you know better than anyone that you can get a lot of the same questions over and over again. You may have to send out other similar emails. Nevertheless, having a set of email templates for commonly asked questions or for emails that follow a similar formula prevent you from wasting your brain’s resources while also saving you a lot of time.
So, how about meetings? How unproductive are they? As it turns out, pretty unproductive. The average person wastes 31 hours in unproductive meetings every single month. This same study found that nearly half of employees think meetings are a waste of time.
Nobody likes sitting through a meeting that seems to go on forever while accomplishing absolutely nothing.
If you can master meetings, you can get back over 7 hours a week. Think about everything you could accomplish – that’s almost a full working day.
So, here are some tips to make your meetings much more productive:
- Use a Timer. Setting a timer will prevent you from going off-course or engaging in unnecessary tangents that don’t add to the meeting. They provide a structure for you to accomplish the necessities within a specific timeframe.
- Have a Facilitator. A facilitator is a great asset to any meeting; the designated individual summarizes key points along the way (ensuring everyone is on the same page) and can prevent meetings from going in unnecessary directions. In short, facilitators add necessary clarity (preventing additional meetings) and keep meetings on track.
4. Take Control of Your Time
Did you know that the average person looks at their phone 80 times in a given day (that’s about every 10 minutes). 1 in 10 people even check their phone as much as every 4 minutes.
Nevertheless, allowing these distractions into your workflow can drastically decrease your productivity. As you saw above, it takes almost 30 minutes for you to refocus on your work once you have been interrupted.
Every 5 or 10 minutes spent checking social media can add up. While taking breaks are important to overall productivity, it’s also important to ensure to have a grasp on the time wasters in your day.
Of course, it’s also important to consider that there are some time-wasters out there that may not even be your fault. People at work, for instance, can be a constant source of interruption. That’s why you may want to consider telling people you’re unavailable during certain points of the day.
In short, if you want to get more done in less time, it’s important to take a front seat when it comes to managing your time.
5. Get Software To Accomplish More Things For You
A final way to get more done in less time is to use technology – think software.
From a business perspective, this will look different depending upon the nature of your business, but software can take tasks off of your to-do list and, in many cases, actually run aspects of your business so that you don’t have to.
That brings us to scheduling software.
If you are an appointment-based business, like a medical spa, a hair salon, a dog groomer or any type of business that takes appointments, scheduling software effectively puts your business on autopilot so that you can manage and tend to other, more important, aspects of your business.
In the case of appointment-based businesses, scheduling software will take appointment bookings for you, therefore allowing your receptionists to spend less time on the phone (while also keeping your business open 24/7).
It will also automate many aspects of the appointment process, like reminders of upcoming appointments and other such client notifications. It will also automate things like recurring appointments so that you can focus on other areas of your business.
Lastly, some of the best scheduling software on the market also offers things like no-gap scheduling, which schedules your time with clients in the most effective way possible. Simply put, no-gap scheduling ensures that your schedule is free of blocks of time that end up being wasted.
In turn, you get more done in less time.
Wrapping It Up
Productive hacks are shortcuts that allow you to accomplish more in less time.
There are a lot of hacks out there, but some of the best are giving yourself less time to accomplish tasks, batching, learning how to make email and meetings more efficient, taking control of your time and making use of technology.
Everybody loves a good productive hack. What are your favorites? We would love to hear about them below.
We blog about productivity and time management on the blog a lot. In fact, you might be interested in this blog post: Time Management Tips You Can’t Live Without.
Yocale is home to the best scheduling software available on the market. With our beautiful and easy-to-use calendar, we give you the extra hand you need to run and grow your business at the same time. Click here to sign up or learn more.
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