Five years ago I was working 12-hour days. I started studying productivity principles because I wanted to get more done in less time (who doesn’t?)
Now I never work more than 6 hours per day and I get so much more done than before! I want to share with you the tips that took me from where I was five years ago to where I am now.
Do ONLY What’s Really Important
Ask yourself, “what is my main goal?” At any given moment there are two or three things that will get you closer to that goal. Those are your priorities. That’s what you should work on. Go through your to-do list and eliminate all those items that aren’t very important. And no, organizing your music library is not important. You can put all the irrelevant items on a separate list; I call this list “Maybe One Day”.
Learn to say no. Most people -myself included- want to please everyone. Don’t do it. Say no more often.
Don’t Do the Urgent Before the Important
Let’s say you’re working on a very important proposal that is due on a week and you need to return a DVD today. Finish the proposal and pay a late fee for the DVD. Remember: do what’s important first.
Avoid Multitasking
Once you’ve figured out what your top priority is, work on it and don’t let anything interrupt you. I let calls go to voice mail, I asked my co-workers not to send me text messages or instant messages and I disabled email notifications. I start doing something and I don’t do anything else until I’m done.
Don’t multi-task; “single-task” instead.
Good Enough Is Good Enough
Most things don’t need to be perfect. If the letter you just printed doesn’t have symmetric margins, don’t print it again. Use the one you have and move on. If your website color isn’t the right one, who cares? Leave it as it is and focus on bringing in more clients. Good enough is good enough. Get things done fast and move on. You can always correct or improve something if necessary.
Break It Down
Almost every time you find yourself in front of a project you don’t know what to do about, it’s because you haven’t broken down the project into smaller pieces. Let’s say you need to find vendors for your new business. That’s overwhelming! Let’s break it down:

  1. Do a Google search for “wholesale chocolate supplier”.
  2. Find 50 companies and gather their email addresses.
  3. Make a list of things I want to ask them.
  4. Write a template email.
  5. Send the email to the 50 companies.

The 5 tasks above are really easy to do. Remember the old saying, “the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”
Process Tasks in Batches
When you group similar tasks together, you save a lot of time. Make all your phone calls at once, process your emails together and run all your errands at once.
Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Benefit
Parkinson’s law says that things take as much time as you have available. If your boss asks you for a report by next Friday, you’ll have it done by then. If he asks you for the same report by tomorrow, you’ll finish it tomorrow. Having limited time to do something is a good thing. It means that we stick to the very crucial and don’t worry about irrelevant details. Give yourself deadlines and meet them. For example, I have a limit of one hour per day answering email. That forces me to answer the very important email and I can use the rest of my day to create value for my clients. If I were to answer every email I get, I’d spend 6-8 hours per day just doing that.
Learn From Your Mistakes
When you find yourself wasting time, stop for a second and think about why you’re doing it and how you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Set Realistic Goals
There’s no bigger morale killer than never achieving your goals. Set realistic goals and celebrate when you finish each day’s to-do lists.
In order to chop down a lot of trees, you need a sharp axe. Spend some time sharpening your axe. Rest every time you need it, re-charge your energy levels and go back to work.
Do It!
When you are blocked and can’t get anything done, just do something. Do a small thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s something important. Just do it. That will get your juices flowing. Don’t worry if you do something wrong; you can always correct it later. The best way to stop procrastinating is to do something.