How to be productive

How To Be More Productive- 30 Tips

This post first appeared on LinkedIn.

We all want to know how to be more productive. Time keeps ticking away and you feel that there is still an endless list of things that you should have achieved.

The challenge is really about understanding what you are trying to achieve and having a laser focus on those things that will really matter in the longer term.

Tip 1: Figure out what on earth you want to do with your life. Trying to be productive whilst doing something that has little meaning to you is going to feel like swimming up-stream with a large bear attached to your leg (this will obviously result in other problems).

Tip 2: Start holding other people accountable. The biggest productivity killer is because you fail to hold other people accountable for their responsibilities. You get involved and the next thing you know there goes your day. Practice saying….’just do your job’.

Tip 3: Get out of the detail. The detail will kill you productivity wise. I know….the detail is where you show everyone how clever you are and how much knowledge you have. Get over it. Leave it to someone else. I’ve just saved you years of your life. Stay at a high level for everything but the absolute mandatory.

Tip 4: Learn the mastery of delegation. But it’s so hard to ask other people to do things. I feel so bossy! Again, get over it. Delegate and the get the heck out of there. See tip 2 for what to do after you have successfully delegated.

Tip 5: Refuse all meetings but the absolute essential. No you cannot be productive in meetings for the simple reason that people (I include you in this) cannot run meetings productively. Get out of there. It will suck the will to live out of you.

Tip 6: Revert to telephone. If it’s absolutely urgent people will call you. Email is for people who need a consensus on making decisions. Avoid it and wait for the phone to ring.

Tip 7: Avoid large scale social contact at work. Friends are for people who have nothing to be productive about. Leave them for the weekend (minimise them even here) and keep them out of the office.

Tip 8: Embrace agile methods. Put your own spin on new agile and activity based working methods. Your take on these new methods is simple. More conversations (see tip 6). Less documentation (you’re agile – conversations will suffice) and absolutely no clue as to your physical whereabouts (shadow agile – you are a ghost).

Tip 9: Avoid the rounded personality approach to life. Some people would have you list your values down, find out multiple things that are important to you and then work on each in a prioritised fashion. Nothing could be less productive. Think laser focus. Find your one true purpose (thank Napoleon Hill here) and go deep in that area. Deep not broad.

Tip 10: Become a robot. There’s a reason why manufacturing assembly lines look the way they do. It’s productive to be repetitive. Get in the habit of getting in the habit. Notice, many people fall over on this one as they confuse routine with lack of creativity. Your routine can involve creativity – but get in a routine.

Tip 11: Measure everything you do. Productivity implies results or else you are not being productive you are just ‘doing stuff’. Measure it and tweak it. Repeat.

Tip 12: Learn your focus peaks. You will naturally be better at some times during the day and following certain patterns. Find them and use them for your toughest challenges.

Tip 13: Get sugar out of your life. I know. Weird hey. This didn’t just make it on to the wrong list. How do you think Gandhi achieved so much in his life? He cut out everything and anything. I say start with sugar as best you can to stabilise moods. If you want to go further (sex etc.), let me know how you go!

Tip 14: Find a team / squad. Teams are a well known success and productivity ingredient. You can’t be expected to know and do everything. A well rounded team will immediately boost your productivity.

Tip 15: Get out of the past. Unless it’s family album time with grandma, get yourself out of the past. Productivity is a present and future dated concept. You cannot live in the past and be productive.

Tip 16: Minimise exercise. Contrary to popular notions you certainly don’t need to be spending hours at the gym. The reality is you will never look as good as the person that looks better than you so why kill yourself trying. A few brisk, thinking walks, healthy eating (see tip 13) and a bit of weekend exercise and you’ll be fine. Of course if your being productive ‘thing’ is actually about exercise then this doesn’t apply to you.

Tip 17: Learn the art and practice of lateral thinking. Genuises completely skip the logical thinking thing. Takes way too long. Lateral thinking gets you better results, quicker. Edward de Bono is your man here. Look him up. Thank me later.

Tip 18. Stop worrying about people. You will kill productivity worrying about other people, their emotions and what they think about you. Chances are it has very little to do with your productivity. They’ll either get over it or you’ll part ways. The key is to think about the things you are trying to be productive on rather than the other stuff. Think ‘next play’ for all you sports buffs.

Tip 19: Learn the record button on Microsoft Excel. If you’re still playing around with data in spreadsheets then quite frankly i’m surprised you’ve made it this far down the list. Microsoft created macros to automate spreadsheet tasks. They even created a record macro for people who are too stupid to learn how to write them themselves. Press it. Learn it.

Tip 20: Avoid becoming enthusiastic about food. Need I even elaborate on this one. If you’re spending 2 hours in the kitchen then I’m assuming that the ‘thing’ that you are trying to be productive about is cooking? Otherwise what are you doing (of course, if you’re French, please ignore – merci).

Tip 21: Avoid all kinds of dating websites. If you follow the 20 previous steps I promise you will become more attractive. Honestly, dates will happen 😉

Tip 22: Learn what your boss needs and provide it. Your boss is key to you maintaining your job and more importantly your creative licence to pursue your own brand of productivity. Aside from your partner, you should know the most about this person in the whole world.

Tip 23: Do not take up meditation. Of course you are not being productive while you are meditating. Have you lost your freakin mind? I know….health benefits. Focus on productivity first. Once you have achieved your major purpose, feel free to spend the rest of your life trying to become like the Dalai Lama.

Tip 24: Avoid the news. The news is not focussed learning enough for your productivity. Most responses to current events if you are asked can be supplied with either, ‘I know, isn’t it awful’, or ‘unbelievable’. You do not need to actually keep up with the news for these responses. You won’t be challenged. if you are challenged – see tip 7.

Tip 25: Never volunteer. If you are asked then go through the ‘will I lose my job/partner/money/kids’ checklist before answering yes. But never volunteer.

Tip 26: Some apps are actually useful – find them and use them. We’re not talking angry birds here (again, doesn’t apply if your productivity ‘thing’ is angry birds). Find the apps that can make your life easier and use them (counting steps has no productivity benefit whatsoever – please start at tip 1 again until you understand this point).

Tip 27: Learn positive stamina. Productivity means getting things done. The longer you can stay positive and on task the more you will achieve. Learn to talk to yourself in positive ways and encourage yourself to keep going (this post started as 5 top tips!! – talked myself into 30!).

Tip 28: Experiment more. You don’t know what you don’t know. In order to grow you need to learn. Experiential learning is quicker than traditional read a book learning. Get out there. Try stuff and use what works. Experiment – learn – apply – measure. Repeat.

Tip 29: Accept tiredness. If you are in a non life critical job (pilots, please refrain from this tip) then just accept that you will be tired some of the time. Never say you are tired, just accept that each day has a flow to it. You’ll probably find some hours where you used to think you needed sleep. You’ll be fine.

Tip 30: Only ever start again when you find a better purpose. Remember, poor plans are not a reason to start again. Just amend the plans. See tip 28. The only reason you need to start again is if you find a more worthwhile purpose.