It’s amazing how sometimes a very simple change of behaviour can have a large overall life-changing effect. The following tips have greatly increased my productivity and have ultimately improved my life.
1. If it can be done in under 2 minutes, do it now
This of course is a GTD tip – when processing tasks, if it’s a quick one, do it straight away rather than leaving it for later. I started applying this to housework as well. If I see something that needs tidied and it can be done quickly I don’t put it off. An example – say I’ve been shopping and I’ve unpacked a load of stuff that needs to go upstairs to the bathroom (toilet rolls, shampoo, etc.). I used to leave a pile at the bottom of the stairs ready to take with me next time I was going up. Now I just do it straight away. What is the point in delaying? It creates clutter and it’s only going to take 30 seconds to put away anyway. And the exercise running up the stairs is good for me!
2. Reduce the frequency of checking your email and RSS feeds
I used to have my email refreshing every 5 minutes. And every time I heard the “purr” and saw the red circle on the Mail icon I just couldn’t resist having a look. It’s incredibly distracting. It now only checks for email every hour and I don’t let myself manually refresh.
Reading my feeds in NetNewsWire was even worse. I had it set to refresh every half hour. This is even more distracting than email because once I started reading I could be there for ages. Now I have it set to refresh every 4 hours and I find I’m looking at feeds about three times a day. Of course, I’m spending the same amount of time reading than I was before. But I’m doing it in chunks rather than let it repeatedly interrupt what I was already doing.
3. Keep your “hotspots” tidy
This one’s from the FlyLady. A hotspot is an area of your house that tends to get cluttered. We all have them – the place you tend to dump your post once you’ve opened it, your desk, the coffee table. Clutter breeds clutter and before you know it there’s a big pile of stuff needing tidied. Twice a day I clear my hotspots. In other words, I don’t let the clutter build up. You wouldn’t believe what a difference this has made to my house. I only have 5 hotspots that I keep an eye on so it really isn’t time consuming to keep them clear. And it’s worn off on the rest of the family – even the children understand where the hotspots are and that they should try to not mess them up.
4. Get up early
I get up at 6.15 on a weekday. This is over an hour earlier than I used to get up. At the weekend I get up at 6.45 – about two hours earlier than previously. So I have gained nine hours every week. I love being up early – the house is quiet (a rare occurrence in our house!) so I’m able to get lots done. I usually read – my RSS feeds and journal articles for work. I also have time to take our dog on a decent walk – good for him and me.
My husband just can’t bring himself to get up as early as me but he is now appearing about a quarter of an hour earlier than he used to. The same with the children. This means our mornings are far less rushed and therefore less stressful.
5. Limit how long you spend on individual tasks
Another FlyLady suggestion. This is particularly useful for the less enjoyable or more tedious tasks you have, for example, ironing. I set the timer on my iPhone and never do more than 15 minutes ironing at a time. Even if there is still some left, when that “Marimba” tune plays, I stop. I am far more likely to do it if I know it isn’t going to be for too long. If I have a big pile of washing in the basket and feel I need to do it all, I just keep putting it off. (And 15 minutes a day tends to be enough to keep on top of the ironing.)
This also applies to things you enjoy doing. Set yourself a time limit so you don’t get carried away and put off the more unpleasant tasks. (I must confess I’m still not too good at this. The computer is still an irresistible distraction and I really need to try harder to limit my time on it.)
These five tips have enabled me to increase my productivity more than any others. This has led me to be more relaxed and happy. And that surely is the point to it all.