10 Productivity Tips That Will Save You Time This Week and in the Future
More than tools, or tips, or tricks, productivity is a discipline. A discipline of establishing a trusted system for getting things done and actually using it.
And like any discipline, you need constant reinforcement. You need to remind yourself of the key elements that make it work as well as exposure to new ideas that might help your productivity continue to move forward.
Here are ten productivity tips that you should review and add to regularly. Pull this list out monthly and review it. You need to remind yourself of the first three items so you don’t develop bad habits. And the remaining seven are never one-and-done, but rather items that grow, change, and build over time.
1. Schedule one hour on Monday morning to strategize your week.
The point of this isn’t that it happens on Monday, but rather that it happens. Schedule a “strategy” session weekly in your calendar and stick to it! First thing Monday morning is a good time, but Friday afternoon, before the weekend, is even better as it will allow your mind to rest better knowing what the next week will look like. I know many who prefer to do this on Sunday evening, but for me productivity means getting things done so you don’t have to use weekends for work.
2. Schedule time to check your email and only check it then.
Don’t let your email dictate your day. If you don’t already, schedule one or two 30 minutes time slots each day to check and process your email. Depending on your job, you may need more time, but always strive to keep your time in email at a minimum as it becomes a huge distraction to getting things done.
3. Attack the most difficult or stressful tasks first.
Productivity increases when you can relieve your mind of the many things you have to do in order to focus on what you need to do next. Having a trusted system for organizing your tasks is a huge step towards freeing your mind. But when you let the most difficult or stressful things that you need to do linger on your list, your mind becomes distracted and unfocused. By attacking the most difficult or stressful tasks first, your mind can be relieved and focus fully on whatever comes next. If we don’t tackle the stressful things first, that stress finds its way into every other task we need to accomplish.
4. Memorize a new keyboard shortcut for a task you do a lot.
A mouse is a wonderful tool, but using keyboard shortcuts for common tasks saves you time in the long run. As you go through the day, notice THE tasks for which you still rely on your mouse. Chances are there is a keyboard shortcut you could use instead. Many people know how to switch between open windows, cut, copy, paste, open the print dialogue, use tab and shift-tab to move between form elements, etc., but there are many more default shortcuts built into the software you use everyday. Usually these are displayed right in the menu system (see example below). In addition, you can often create your own custom shortcuts.
For me, knowing the shortcuts for copying a screenshot of a portion of my screen to the clipboard, closing/opening a browser tab or window, closing an application, and switching between mail and calendar in Outlook save me time on a daily basis.
Stop using your mouse for everything and learn a new keyboard shortcut or two. Just Google “keyboard shortcut for…..” and chances are you’ll find what you need.
5. Create a text snippet for phrases you type a lot.
Whether it’s a common response to a an email or typing your full email address, chances are you could save yourself some time by creating a text snippet. Apple computers and devices have a feature built in that allows you to create shortcuts that expand automatically as you type whether you are on your computer, tablet, or phone. However, there are add-on applications for both Mac and Windows that take this functionality even further.
The way it works is that you select a shortcut of 2 or more characters to represent a longer word or phrase. For example, I have a three character shortcut for my full email address. This comes in handy while logging into services that use your email address as your username. I use “lyt” to trigger “Love you too!” when texting with my wife.
Are there phrases you use often in communication? Create a text snippet for them and save yourself some time. Just remember, the snippets need to be a unique combination of characters that aren’t often found next to each other within other words.
6. Cancel an unnecessary meeting.
If you are like me you probably have a few recurring meetings on a regular basis that sometimes don’t need to be held. Maybe there haven’t been many working days between meetings due to a holiday, or maybe you just need brief updates from your staff that could be handled through email instead. Or maybe it’s a meeting you scheduled weeks or even months ago that now simply seems unnecessary.
Then cancel the meeting! Believe me, no one will be mad.
7. Type a response to a question you answer a lot and save it as a template.
Chances are there are common questions that you respond to on a regular basis. Maybe not daily, but often enough that it is worth writing out a standard response that you can copy and paste when needed. For me, there are services our team no longer offers that I often get asked about. Having a prepared response that I can simply copy and paste saves the effort of typing up a unique response to each inquiry. I keep my template responses saved in Evernote, but you could keep them just about anywhere you can store text. Some even save them as email signatures so they can be easily added to an email response.
If you do this, you may want to take a few extra seconds to personalize the message in some way so it doesn’t come across as an impersonal, stock response. Michael Hyatt has a few recommendations for using templates as well.
8. Automate a common task you perform.
Saving one or more steps on common workflows is worth it! Is there a task you perform regularly that requires multiple steps to complete? Or is there an otherwise simple task that you need to batch? Chances are you may be able to automate the process.
I often need to combine separate PDF documents into one. On a Mac, which I use, you can do this using Preview. However, I found that the workflow took many steps and I didn’t use it often enough to remember the steps. This caused me to often miss a step and have to start over. Frustrated by this I did some research and found an Automater workflow that would do the work for me.
I also use automated processes to save a document as a PDF to Evernote from the print dialogue and to resize one or more images at a time. Each of these saves me multiple steps in the process. I am not going to discuss all the options here. The point is to identify your pain points and research a simpler process. Chances are someone out there has already solved the problem and tells you how to do it.
9. Delegate an item on your list.
I know. Not everyone has an administrative assistant or employees. But if you do, don’t be afraid to give them tasks to complete. The tendency of many people is to hesitate when it comes to delegation. So chances are there is something on your list that someone on your team can easily accomplish. Review your tasks regularly for items you can delegate. Quite frankly, the more substantial and challenging the task, the more many people dig into it and surprise you with their results.
10. Say “no” to a new request.
Do you want to save some time this week? Then simply say “no” to that new request that comes up. Productivity isn’t just about getting more things done, it’s also about being selective and doing the things that will make the biggest difference in the long run. Chances are you have said “yes” to too many things that aren’t really priorities. If a new request is outside of the most important things you should be doing, then don’t do it. I know. Easier said than done. And not everyone can say no.
…extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
~ Gary Keller & Jay Papasan in The ONE Thing
Develop a habit.
You may have a few of these items down pat. But my guess is that you are already thinking of specific examples in your daily activities where applying one of these tips could make a real difference.
Don’t wait. Do something. Pick one and make it happen. Then file this list and set a reminder using your trusted system to pull this back out in one month. Celebrate your progress and tackle another item.
– What other productivity tips do you remind yourself of often? What saved you time this week?