I frequently get asked by followers, clients and friends how I get so much done. Growing up in the shadow of my 6’8″ grandfather got me started on the right path.
My Pop as I fondly referred to him, was the superintendent for PDM (Pittsburg DesMoines Steel). He fabricated and manufactured big @$$ tanks for refineries all across the US.
The primary way they expedited work was through the use of jigs, or templates. If someones efforts were going to be repeated more than say, 10 times, then they invested time up front to create a jig to make doing that work easily repeatable.
Some of the hacks my Pop created 60 years ago are so practical that they are still in place today. Now that’s what I call a timeless hack.
Anyway, since I was a small child I’ve loved the idea of accelerating production. And I’ve been gathering productivity jigs (hacks) ever since.
One of the most common requests I get from my clients is the request to help them with their output. So here are 14 of my favorite hacks.
Clear the clutter
Use the right music to optimize your focus.
Get the best tools you can currently afford.
Learn how to say, “NO”.
Make a plan and work your plan.
Lean on your strengths
Do the hardest stuff first
Chunk your tasks
Delete, automate, delegate
Only touch stuff once
I’ll break each of these down for you just a little, but if you want more in depth insight and practical steps then I suggest clicking through to the various links I’ve included.
Alright let me break each of these down for you just a little.
1. Clear the Clutter. When I refer to clearing the clutter people always assume I’m talking about cleaning their office and although that can be helpful, what I’m actually referring to are the distractions that stop us throughout the day. Things like the phone, email, social media, colleagues, etc.
I suggest 3 things to help you take back control. Do each of these things for 4 or 5, 90 minutes chunks of productive time and your productivity will soar.
1. Put a do not disturb sign on your door
2. Install GetColdTurkey or Freedom and install it on your PC or Mac and then set it up to block you from social media, email and other applications you can’t seem to avoid.
3. Turn off your phone.
2. Use music effectively. I built several playlists on Spotify to pare with the activity of the moment until I discovered focus@will. Focus@will is a new neuroscience based music service that helps you focus, reduce distractions and retain information when working, studying, writing and reading. The technology is based on hard science and proven to be extremely effective at extending your attention span.
3. Get the Best Tools. Nothing is worse than trying to do a job without the right tool. There is a tool for every job and every job deserves the best tools. Buy what you can currently afford and then upgrade to an even better tool as soon as you are able.
A few of my favorites include:
Evernote is my virtual brain. I curate everything to evernote. Quotes, thoughts, ideas, resources, etc. You name it and it goes into evernote.
Typinator which is a simple text expander. I use it for email responses, to lay out the format for a new article, to insert html code and more.
Pathfinder helps me find what I need when I need it. It’s a very robust computer search engine with to many great features to mention.
Expensify helps me enter my expenses on the spot. I snap a quick copy of the expense, upload to expensify, assign to the right chart of accounts and then toss the receipt. Done. Forever.
3. Learn how to say, “NO”. No is not a dirty word. In fact, “No” is one of my favorite words. I’ve gotten so good at saying “no” that friends, family and clients have begun to appreciate it and are learning how to say it themselves. Truth is there are way more things I should not be doing than things I should be doing. I pay attention and honor this wisdom as much as possible.
4. Make a plan and work your plan. Making a plan and following a plan is the most difficult tips for me to follow. I almost always make a plan, but following it is something I’m not very good at. But I am determined to master making plans so that following them becomes effortless.
5. Lean on your strengths. You will always be most productive leaning on your strengths, that is why they are called strengths. I recommend learning everything you can about how to leverage your strengths and avoid your weaknesses. Here is a great resource to get you started. Strengths Finder. If you want additional help, this is something I specialize in.
6. Do the hardest stuff first. Mark Twain said, “eat a frog first thing in the morning and every will improve from there. I have found great satisfaction from learning to tackle the most difficult of tasks first so that I have less anxiety and stress to handle the other less challenging tasks the remainder of the day.
7. Create templates. Building templates takes time, but as a professional, many of the activities you engage in day in and day out are repeatable. I highly recommend templating as many of these tasks as possible. The time invested now will save you countless hours downstream.
8. Chunk your tasks. No one can go all out all the time. Besides, sitting stationery for long periods of time isn’t good for you. Chunking your work into 90 minute chunks is a great way to manage your time. I use the timer that comes with focus@will to stand the music which is my cue to get up, stretch, go to the bathroom, drink water, etc.
9. Delete, automate and delegate. Getting good at deleting things from my task list has helped me stay focused on the most important things I have to do. Automating as many of the remaining processes with technology and delegating to other people also frees up plenty of time for me to remain focused on what I’m great at.
10. Get Coached. Nothing has helped accelerate my output more than getting coached. I’ve been fortunate to have gotten help from some of the highest producing folks on this planet.
11. Outsource. If it can or should be outsourced then I am constantly looking to hand it off to someone else to handle. This keeps me actively engaged in doing the things I enjoy and get energized from doing. I like working with the incredible people at eaHelp.
12. Utilize technology. Man there is so much great technology available to get things done in todays world that it blows my mind. I am constantly on the look out for significant upgrades and new emerging technology to help me find another edge that will make me more efficient and, even more importantly, more effective.
13. Only touch stuff once. I utilize a stream lined version of David Allens methodology called “Getting Things Done. The workflow associated with that methodology forces you to touch things the fewest time possible. I love it and I teach it to my clients.
Here is a handy flowchart of the workflow. When you see how simple it is you’ll wish you could recapture all those wasted efforts from years gone.
img credit: Michael Hyatt
Well that’s my list. I hope you found something useful.
I love this quote from Bruce Lee, “It’s not the daily increase, but daily decrease, hack away at the unessential.”
Question: What is your best productivity jig or hack? Hit reply and tell me about it. I read every reply and will respond.