Sunday, March 28, 2010

Expert Advice for Getting Things Done

While I was writing the post "3 steps to get things done" an interesting feed came through on productivity tips to add more time to your work day.  The article was published on the American Express Open Forum and entitled" 80 Ways to Steal Valuable Minutes for Your Work Day."  The author is Glen Stansberry, a web developer, writer and small business owner. He co-founded the popular blog network LifeRemix in 2007 and currently writes at LifeDev on empowering creative people.

Glen asked some of the top small business, productivity bloggers, and consultants to share some of their best tips on how they add more time to their days.  I thought I would share some I found particularly noteworthy.

Liz Strauss, Successful Blog

"Establish an early morning no interruption time. Use the first hour or two of work to work on things that require focus. You'll get more done. Email, phone calls, and interruptions have a way of expanding to fit the time we allow them."

Jonathan Fields,

"Batch & Focus - Multitasking kills time. Again, sounds counter-intuitive. But, every time you switch your attention, there's a cognitive ramp up time. It can range from a few seconds to a few minutes. So, if you constantly cycle between checking email, IM, twitter, texts, voicemail, calendars, blackberries, apps, scores, stock quotes, news, current projects and more, then respond to each, the time you lose to incessant ramp-up becomes substantial. Instead, minimize time lost to nonstop cognitive ramping by batching your time and focusing on individual categories of tasks with intense, yet discrete bursts of attention."  

"Call - We've become so accustomed to doing everything digitally, trading flurries of emails, IMs and texts, we sometimes forget that we can get the same thing done in a fraction of the time with one or two quick phone calls."

Dominic Basulto, Endless Innovation

"Use Evernote as a digital organizer - Finally get rid of all the scraps of paper, sticky notes and newspaper clippings that find their way into your bag, wallet or pocket. Using Evernote, you can snap photos of anything, take voice notes, clip text from the Web and then sort all of this content either online or using a mobile device. All of this multimedia content then has a home within Evernote, where you can easily search for content when you need it."  

Becky McCray, Small Biz Survival

"Use checklists. Make and use checklists of daily tasks. This saves you time in two ways: you will work more efficiently with a checklist in front of you, and you will spend less time trying to remember what still needs to be done. You can read more of my explanation of a social media marketing checklist here."

Rich Brooks, Flyte Blog

"Write up tomorrow's to-do's before I leave the office today. I find that if I have a clean lined paper (physical or digital) of the most important to-dos for the next day, I can hit the ground running when I get into work the next day."

Glen Stansberry, Wise Bread

Develop a routine to your day and stick with it. Routines give us a feeling of control over our day and help put us on "autopilot", keeping us from worrying about the little details of the day.

Start tracking your time with RescueTime. It really is an eye-opening experience. RescueTime will show you exactly where you're spending your time and how much. It shows you trends that you probably hadn't considered, like when you're most likely to visit Facebook. Knowing when you're vulnerable to distractions is incredibly valuable to your productivity.

All these tips may not work for you but I am sure you will find some advice in this article valuable.  Many of the resources from these industry leaders were new to me and you may find their sites helpful like I have. 

If someone was to ask you your secrets to productivity what would your share? Share your thoughts here or on this AME Linkedin Discussion Group.


  1. Super tips! Thanks for aggregating them. I definitely support Jonathan Fields' "batch and focus." Batching helps individuals save time and keep their sanity.

  2. Sometimes lean thinkers are wary of anything with the word "batch." But inventory in small amounts can be a useful way of improving flow. And in this case, the ability to work without task switching is well worth the inventory buildup.

    Thanks for the great post, Tim!

  3. Liz and Mark. I agree that batching is great advice and many may not associate with lean. Lean is about creating flow not single piece flow. While single piece may be a great way to do that it does not match all situations. Especially those constrained like time management. Batching and focus also reduces constant interuptions. Thanks for adding more value to this post with your comments.

  4. Single piece flow is all about low inventory and scrap reduction. If the process mis-fires, only one piece is scrapped. However, batch is also a lean method when the benefit of time gained outweighs the cost of holding inventory and the risk of multiple damaged pieces when the process misfires.

    Now, what I'm trying to figure out is what's the best for me when I twitter, blog, program, consult, telephone... oh, and yes spend time with the family.