When it comes to productivity, we all face the same challenge—there are only 24 hours in a day. Since even the best ideas are worthless until they’re executed, how efficiently you use your time is as important as anything else in business.
I’ve become fascinated by productivity secrets because some people seem to have double the time, and there’s no better way to reach your goals than by finding ways to do more with the precious time you’ve been given.
It feels incredible when you leave the office after an ultra-productive day. It’s a workplace high that’s hard to beat. In my experience you don’t need to work longer or push yourself harder—you just need to work smarter.
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.
— William Penn
I’ve learned to rely on productivity hacks that make me far more efficient. I try to squeeze every drop out of every hour without expending any extra effort.
And my favorite hack also happens to be the easiest one to implement. It’s so easy and useful you can begin using it now.
1. Never touch things twice
That’s it. Never put anything in a holding pattern, because touching things twice is a huge time-waster. Don’t save an email or a phone call to deal with later. As soon as something gets your attention you should act on it, delegate it, or delete it.
2. Eat frogs
To pull this off you’re going to have to eat some frogs. “Eating a frog” refers to doing the least appetising, most dreaded item on your to-do list first.
If you let your frogs sit, you waste your day dreading them. If you eat them right away, then you’re freed up to tackle the stuff that excites and inspires you.
3. Fight the tyranny of the urgent
You’ll also need to master the tyranny of the urgent, which refers to the tendency of little things that have to be done right now to get in the way of what really matters. This creates a huge problem as urgent actions often have little impact.
You’ll need to get good at spotting when putting out fires is getting in the way of your performance, and you’ll need to delete or delegate the things that hinder real forward momentum.
4. Say No
“No” is a powerful word that you’re going to have to wield. Saying “no” to a new commitment honours your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully and efficiently fulfill them.
5. Check e-mail on a schedule
If you aren’t going to touch things twice, you can’t allow e-mail to be a constant interruption. You should check e-mail on a schedule, taking advantage of features that prioritise messages by sender.
Set alerts for your most important vendors and best customers, and save the rest until the scheduled time.
6. Avoid multitasking
To make my system work, you’re also going to have to avoid multitasking. It’s a real productivity killer. It reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time.
When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully. Never touching things twice means only touching one thing at a time.
This article is also available in Chinese.