Jan 4, 2008

10 Productivity Tips are Better Than 101

There are many popular mega-lists out there nowadays (75 Ways to Boost your Self-Esteem, 101 Ways to Open Firefox, 503 Ways to Make Your List Longer). But often, these lists have too many "filler" items, and many items have such diminutive returns that I'd rather just have a list of their ten best items. So in that vein, here is a list of what I consider my favorite productivity tips – ten in all. Feel free to add your own favorites (and then maybe we can get to 101).

1. Make Lists and Finish Them – Write down goals for the day, the week, and the month -- using a simple Hipster PDA or a giant whiteboard will do. And more importantly, get it done (i.e., be willing to stay up until 2AM to finish that blog post you had on your list).

2. Blackout Your Communication – A common methodology of writers, block off a chunk of hours, lock the door, shut down the email and cell phone, and force yourself to work on your task list. And when you feel like you're getting nothing done, don't give in – force yourself to keep working.

3. Don't Sleep with Unanswered Emails – It's understandable if some emails require a short wait, but for the most part, always try to answer emails the same day. Besides just "getting it done," it builds a healthy rapport with your correspondents.

4. Prioritize Commitments - Decide what's important and what's not. Then decide if low-priorities are killing the high-priorities. If so, drop some of the commitments and don't take on any more.

5. Start Gap Tasking – Unfortunately, life is still full of commutes, long lines, and waiting times. This is a great time to do a bit of reading, phoning, or note-jotting (just beware of becoming the annoying cellphone-talker in the supermarket). Personally, I like having a moleskine and something to read at all times (either a magazine like Inc. or the RSS feeds on my Blackberry).

6. Socialize Positively – There's something about being around positive and motivated people that fires up productivity in oneself. Not only do you get chances to bounce new ideas off others, you will often get encouragement and perhaps a little competitive drive from such interactions.

7. Just Launch It – No project is ever really complete. So instead of playing the perfectionist and continually investing time and effort into dozens of revisions/additions, just launch the project as best you can. Not only will you feel like you've accomplished something (which feeds into a productivity boost), but you'll also quickly know what revisions/additions are the most pertinent.

8. Discipline Your Waste – Most people have some sort of recreational "vice" -- movies, video games, Wikipedia, family (okay, just kidding about that last one). The problem usually isn't the participation in such activities, but the lack of knowing when to stop. Sometimes, it may take the cancellation or the uninstallation of a service to be more productive.

9. Try Acting Like a Business – Both designers and developers alike tend to enjoy relaxed environments that usually include a Wii, casual wear, and maybe an Airzooka. Freelancers can be even more laid back, usually sporting pajamas and living in paper-piled offices. Unfortunately, slackness in your clothing and office space often leads to slackness in your work. Try cleaning the office, increasing the lighting, and wearing semi-casual wear. See if your productivity increases...

10. Show Up – Building anything of value is never easy. Just "showing up" day after day is often the hardest part of any project. Always be the most reliable person you know...

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