I’m a huge fan of anything that can make me more productive, so I’m always looking for ways to accomplish more while not killing myself doing it. It’s easier to excel if you can do more than your peers while still having time to relax and recharge.
Here are my tips for getting more done in less time:
- Stay focused on the important work. Keep your eye on the work that will have the biggest impact, and make sure you finish the most important work first. Don’t get caught up in tasks, even those that seem urgent, if they aren’t really important.
- Learn keyboard shortcuts. The more you can do without taking your fingers off of the keyboard, the faster you’ll finish your work, so take the time to learn available keyboard shortcuts for commonly-used tasks. Email, RSS readers, browsers and any other frequently-used apps are good places to start. Keyboard shortcuts aren’t only available in desktop apps; many web apps, such as Google Reader (s goog) and Gmail, also have keyboard shortcuts.
- Know whom to ask for help. If you can spend less time trying to figure things out for yourself, you can get more done. Make connections with people in your company and your industry you can ask for help. However, you’ll need to be prepared to help others, too.
- Filter anything you can. If you get really good at automatically filtering out the noise, you can focus only on what you really need to see. Set up filters wherever possible: in your email, RSS reader and more.
- Learn to skim. If you get good at skimming over content without reading every word, you can quickly determine which items require your attention and which ones can be ignored. This works for reading social network posts, news and email.
- Touch once. This one is hard for me to stick with, but when I do it, it really makes a difference. For email or other communications, look over it and decide what to do with it right away: archive, respond, create a task item, flag for followup, etc. Regardless of how you process communications, just make sure you deal with them once rather than looking at them multiple times.
- Take control of your calendar. I’m really proactive about my calendar, and I only attend meetings where there is some benefit from my attendance. If you want to have time to get any real work done, you’ll probably need to occasionally decline meetings.
- Become the master of your email. Don’t let email control you. Finding ways to reduce email overload and proactively deal with email will allow you to spend less time on email and more time on actual work.
- Work in chunks and focus. Despite what some might think, humans are not great at multitasking. We work better when we focus on one thing at a time. I do this by breaking my work up into logical chunks where I can focus on specific tasks.
- Get really good at using search engines. Learn little tricks for your favorite search engine. For example, with Google, you could search for “productivity site:gigaom.com/collaboration” to find all of the productivity tips posted on this blog. Spending less time looking for information means that you can get more done.
- Automate routine tasks. For any mundane tasks that you perform manually over and over, you should find a way to automate them if at all possible. I write scripts, automatically process email with rules and filter RSS feeds to automate tasks and spend less time on things I can have the computer do for me.
- Prune. Have less data to process. Dump those irrelevant newsletter subscriptions, drop the social network contacts who don’t have anything interesting to say and prune feeds out of your RSS reader. Focus on the important information and get rid of the rest.
- Keep it simple. When faced with any task, look for ways to keep things simple and avoid spending time on complexity that doesn’t add much value. Simple document formatting is a good example. Focus on the content that matters without getting too caught up in having elaborate formatting that could create more maintenance problems later.
- Get news from podcasts. I pick and choose the news sources important to me with a combination of mainstream news and news on niche technology topics, and I listen to that news when I’m doing household chores, driving, grocery shopping, working out and more. I get only the news I want, and I listen to it at times I wouldn’t otherwise be productive, which allows me to keep up with industry news while spending little time on it.
- Take time to recharge. If you work constantly, you’ll look like you are busy, but you’ll burn yourself out. If you really want to be productive, you need to take time to workout, do something fun, take a vacation, read or do something else relaxing. You’ll find that you come back to work with new ideas and focused energy to make a real impact.
Share your productivity tips below.