The most productive people are masters of efficiency — scheduling on purpose, focusing on high-value work, and making the most of every minute.
Efficient work begins with separating your important work from urgent tasks and knowing everything else that’s a distraction.
Resist the tyranny of the urgent. Urgency wrecks productivity. Your ability to distinguish urgent and important tasks has a lot to do with your efficiency.
Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately. Important tasks are things that contribute to your long-term mission, values, and goals.
Your ability to distinguish urgent and important tasks has a lot to do with your success. Peter Drucker once said, “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”
Here is a summary of actionable works habits you can adopt today to improve how you work. Consider these efficiency hacks a reminder.
1. Without a clear focus, it’s too easy to succumb to distractions. Set targets for each day in advance. Decide what you’ll do tomorrow today.
2. Time management starts right from the minute you wake up from bed. You are most active and productive in the morning, hence the need to do everything in your power to make the first few hours count.
3. Learn to tackle your most unpleasant task first thing in the morning instead of delaying it until later in the day. This small victory will set the tone for a very productive day.
4. Always identify the target you must reach before you can stop working. For example, when working on a book, you could decide not to get up until you’ve written at least 1000 words.
5. Give yourself a fixed time period, like 30 minutes, to make a dent in a task. Don’t worry about how far you get. Just put in the time.
6. Go straight to work on your most important task in the first half of the day. You can often get more done before midday than most people do the whole day.
7. Stop saying yes to sh*t you hate (and limit your frogs). Life’s too short to say yes to things, activities, events, and tasks you hate. Saying YES is driving many people insane. Stop telling yourself you can’t help it. Yes, you can.
8. Your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. Committing to a short gym routine and improve over time. Try workout apps if you can’t travel to a gym every morning at the moment.
9. Break complex projects into smaller, well-defined tasks. Focus on completing just one of those tasks.
10. Once you begin a task, stick with it until it’s 100% complete. Don’t switch tasks in the middle. Deal with notifications and emails later.
11. Your phone distracts you way more than you realize, and it’s hurting your productivity. Notifications prompt task-irrelevant thoughts and can disrupt attention performance even if you don’t interact with the device.
12. Check emails at specific times. The average person checks email 77 times a day, sends and receives more than 122 email messages a day, and spends 28 percent or more of their workweek managing a constant influx of email. Read Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done.
13. Stop feeding your distractions. Interruptions like notifications, loud noises, social media, someone knocking on your door, and switching to check emails every now and then, break your flow.
14. Identify the processes you use most often, and write them down step-by-step. Refactor them on paper for greater efficiency. Then implement and test your improved processes.
15. Remove all distractions, on your desk and on your computer. If you’ve got a clean, simplified workspace, you can better focus on the tasks.
16. You’re only productive if you are doing work that moves you towards a goal. Eliminate non-essential tasks from your to-do lists, and start to say no to new requests that are non-essential.
17. Your daily tasks should contribute to a meaningful and greater goal. If you can’t find a reason why your work matters, the probability of leaving tasks undone until next week will be very high. Read Smarter Faster Better.
18. Identify your peak cycles of productivity, and schedule your most important tasks for those times. Work on minor tasks during your non-peak times.
19. If you want to get one thing done at work today, get it on paper. Better still, write it on a sticky note and place it where you can see it, to remind you of the task. David Allen recommends doing what he calls a “core dump”. This involves writing down every task, activity, and project you need to address. Read Getting Things Done.
20. Give purpose to your day by determining the three “Most Important Things” (MIT) you can do with your day, and making those a priority. Your MIT is the task you most want or need to get done today.
21. Setting goals is important, but the key to making them a reality is actually reviewing them (at least monthly, but weekly is better) and taking action steps to make them come true.
22. Give purpose to your day by determining the three most important things you can do with your day, and making those a priority.
23. One important key to achieving your goals is to maintain focus on them. To do this, again, it’s important that you select one goal at a time. This will prevent your focus from spreading too thin.
24. These are two great ways to add structure to your day, make sure you review your goals and log your progress, and get your day off to a great start.
25. Once you’ve simplified your life, the way to keep it simple is by creating systems for everything you do regularly.
26. Stop multi-tasking, at least not on a day-to-day basis. Instead, focus on one task at a time. This leads to greater productivity and less stress.
27. Make faster decisions. You need to intelligently consider your decisions, but you can’t dwell on them or you’ll waste time. Come to final decisions faster, and you’ll be able to move forward faster.
28. Stop at a great point. Take it from Ernest Hemingway: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck.”
29. Prune your to-do list. A to-do list with 20 or 30 items is not only daunting, it’s also depressing. Why start when there’s no way you can finish?
30. Get creative on your breaks. Exercise your creative muscles when you’re on breaks by doodling, singing or writing. Creative exercises relieve stress and can encourage you to come up with more creative solutions. Read Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.
31. Cross it off your list. Seeing progress can make you more productive.
32. Set hard limits. Deadlines and time frames establish parameters. We instinctively adjust our effort so our activities take whatever time we let them take.
33. Set yourself up for success in the morning when you are most energetic.
34. Take at least one day a month to think only about your long-term goal and how you can achieve it.
35. Turn yesterday’s emails into today’s to-do list.
36. Track your time. Once you start tracking your time, you’ll be amazed by how much time you spend doing stuff that isn’t productive.
37. Set a time for each of your tasks and work to keep the schedule.
38. Effort is often wasted when people don’t have a clear path to success.
39. Embrace small chunks of time. Work in small blocks.
40. Switching gears can slow you down. Focus on one item at a time. Stop multitasking.
41. Explore only the most productive apps.
42. Just Say no. You simply can’t take on another assignment no matter how small.
43. Fight the impulse to immediately react when you hear the pinging sound of an incoming email.
45. There’s a time to work hard, and there should be a time to shut down. What time will you shut down today?
46. How long does it really take you to clean your inbox in the morning. Track how much time you spend on each and every task.
47. Don’t let the need for perfection get in the way of getting it done.
48. Keep three and only three lists: a To-do List, a Watch List, and a Later List.
49. Only agree to new commitments when both your head and your heart say yes.
50. Don’t force yourself to prioritize, instead, do the most appealing task first.
51. Don’t schedule that 4 p.m meeting. Most employees mentally check out after 4 p.m!
52. Tuesdays consistently takes top honors for the most productive day of the week.
53. Start a meeting-free day ans stick to it. Make time to actually work!
54. Give in to the urge of not doing that task, instead, do some of those easier tasks on your list.
55. The mental trick is to regard other tasks as more important in order to make the Very Important Task an easier choice.
56. Beware of attention leaks. Your ability to focus is severely limited but sustaining attention on a task is crucial for the achievement your goals. Read Focus: The Hidden Power of Excellence.
57. By overwhelming your brain with impossible tasks, similar to a muscle, it expands and gets activated.
58. Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.-Peter Drucker
59. Make a start on your work, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Start and keep starting.
60. There is no way you’ll complete all of your items. Don’t micro-managing, just delegate if you can!
61. Focus on the outcomes, not the inputs.
62. Love what you do. Productivity is easy when your heart is in it.
63. Avoid interruptions by scheduling blocks of time where you turn off notifications.
64. Build a support network of people to help you get through problems when you get stuck.
65. Visualize success. Write the task in the past tense to describe what you’ll have accomplished.
66. You will get distracted. Gently remind yourself that you’re trying to concentrate and it will be easier to return your focus to your work.
67. You should have only one capture tool for your to-do items. Eliminate the random sticky notes.
68. Take a step back. Back away from the browser and the phone, and give yourself a moment’s space to think.
69. Adopt someone else’s habit. Successful people are often successful because of the habits they create and maintain. Read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
70. Schedule blank space for intentional thinking to replenish your store of attention. Protect your time and manage your time like an investment portfolio.
71. Work in sprints. Challenge yourself to work at stretch on only ONE thing. 60 to 90 minutes of focused work without interruption works well for me every morning. I take 15 minutes break between sprints to restore energy.
72. Do it now! (That should be your mantra). Yes, seriously! Recite this phrase over and over until you’re so sick of it that you cave in and get to work.
73. Schedule the heck out of your days. Schedule everything in advance. Make a plan and know what’s going on each day. This helps you figure out how you’re spending your time.
74. Notice where time leaks, then declutter your routine.
75. Stop doing low-value work. Low-value work is necessary but not important. Responding to notifications won’t contribute to your goal of the day. Put down your phone and kill those notifications. Your phone distracts you way more than you realize, and it’s hurting your productivity.
76. Start automating…fast. Low-value tasks are easy to automate. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again every day, find a way to automate it and use the free time for something else.
77. Beware of “time bullies”. When you are on the clock or supposed to be working, your time is for your work. Protect it. Say no more often. Don’t get suckered into tasks you don’t have time for.
78. Take a break for greater concentration. All the little tasks and decisions you have to make every day as you work gradually deplete your psychological resources. Taking a break (even for 15 to 20 minutes) is a proven way to sustain concentration and energy levels throughout the day.
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Originally published at medium.com