Getting work done is difficult. I am a geek with computer skills, and I am no exception: I am lazy as f*.
If you want to be a good programmer, you need to think lazy: what is the best way to create the maximum value with minimum effort?
And this is where my productivity journey started. Everyday I wake up with this question in my mind: how do I make best usage of this beautiful day?
Now, I am giving you my three simplest tips to get you started on this amazing journey. Three tips that you can try starting TODAY.
As a disclaimer, those tips work for me. Adapt them so they suit you.
1. If it takes less than 2 minutes, just do it now
I owe this trick to David Allen’s book Getting Things Done.
During your usual day, you will get tons of inputs: emails, text messages, Facebook messages, phone calls, a talk in the corridor or just random thoughts.
Obviously, you should collect all this data into one place. But when this input requires a task and that task can be done in less than 2 minutes, then just do it now!
Let me emphasize: if it can be done in less than 2 minutes, do it now.
When it takes more time and energy to store it than to get it done, only a fool would not do it!
(But it comes to productivity, we are all fools, that’s true…)
2. Plan it before you start it
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. – Abrahm Lincoln
In the same manner as preparation is the key to success, planning is the key to getting things done.
To all the people who do not plan their day, please try this: Plan you day!
To all the people who plan their day in the morning, please try this: Plan you day just the day before, plan you week just before it starts.
In the evening, just before you go to sleep, your mind is not ready to do anything but can be in anticipation of what comes next. In the morning, you should not lose time deciding what to do: you should take the first item of your to-do list and just do it.
3. Make regular breaks
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. – Parkinson
When you have work to do, split it in smaller tasks as much as possible. Then timebox yourself on each of these tasks. Start a timer and get to work. And the end of the timebox, switch to another task.
Humans tend to easily lose focus. I personally know that if a task takes me more than 40 minutes, I won’t be 100% concentrated.
Try this: give yourself 40 minutes for a task and try to be as focused as possible. Mute any devices that might disturb you. At the end, take a break and relax. Give a quick look to emails and messages for any urgent stuff. Then repeat.
You should also allocate a 40-minutes slot for email-handling.
This tip also applies in a more macro scale: everyday, after lunch, I go for a 20-minutes power-nap. This breaks my day in half and allows me to feel far more relaxed and focused in the afternoon.
Those are just three productivity habits that you can apply right now to start getting things done. You should apply them everyday during one month to build them into habits. Good luck for your productivity journey!