We can never have more time, but we can make the most of what we have.
In a 24-hour day, we have to fit in sleep, time with family, work, commuting, and rest time to recover throughout the day. When you look at it from this approach, 24 hours does not seem nearly enough to do everything we want.
I would argue that 24 hours is plenty of time to fit everything in that’s important to your life. The key is not to just be efficient with the time you have, but also being effective to achieve your end goals. In this post, we’ll share these 4 productivity hacks to get more time back into your life.
4 Productivity Hacks to Get 10x More Done
1. Follow the 2-Minute Rule
The 2-minute rule was introduced by David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, who recommends that if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, you should do it immediately.
Allen points out that most of the tasks that we put off are things we can do in two minutes or less. It could be sending a follow-up email to a client, taking out the laundry, washing your dishes immediately after your meal, etc. The best way to follow the 2-minute rule is to start making a list of 2-minute tasks that you can have with you wherever you go. This way, whenever you find yourself with some free time, you can remain productive.
James Clear, a popular habit-building blogger, suggests that you can use the 2-minute rule to build long-lasting habits using the physics of real-life:
As Sir Isaac Newton taught us a long time ago, objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion. This is just as true for humans as it is for falling apples.
What James is referring to is that the hardest part about forming a habit is getting started. Once we start doing something, even for 2-minutes, it’s easier to continue doing it.
Want to be healthier? Just get to the gym, and you’ll find yourself working out for an hour.
Want to learn a language? Find the right teacher or program, and you’ll be motivated to continue learning every week.
Want to read more? Commit to reading just the first few pages of a book, and you’ll often find yourself reading for hours.
2. Schedule Your Day the Night Before
Have you ever found yourself scrambling or unprepared in the morning, and this carried on throughout the entire day? The way we start our day will usually reflect how the rest of the day will go, and it’s important that we focus on action, instead of reaction.
According to the Jack Canfield, best-selling author of Chicken Soup For the Soul, a simple productivity hack is to simply prepare and plan our day’s tasks the night before.
We also have limited amount of willpower.
A large body of research suggests that we have a limited reserve of willpower, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
A popular method used to prove this was to start participants with a Stroop test, like the one pictured below:
Participants were asked to identify the color of the word, not the word itself. After several rounds of experiments, the control group consistently outperformed the participants, leading researchers to believe that willpower is a finite resource.
Another study shows that our brain is most creative within moments of waking up from sleep, because that’s when our prefrontal cortex is most active. This means that we should be doing our most creative tasks, such as strategic planning, writing, brainstorming, etc. in the beginning of the day.
If we’re in reaction mode during the start of our day, then we’re not fully maximizing the most creative time of our day.
3. Focus on the 20%
If you’ve attended our free talk on How to Learn a New Language in 90 Days, then you’ve probably heard us talking about Pareto’s Law.
The Pareto’s Law was first introduced by an Italian economist, named Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto noticed that in the United Kingdom, Italy, and many parts of Europe, 80% of the land was owned by only 20% of the wealthy people.
Later on, Pareto realized that this 80/20 principle applied to almost everything in our lives, whether it’s our level of happiness, the amount of money we make, where we spend our money, etc.
If you do an analysis on your current life, you’ll most likely find that:
- 80% of your happiness comes from only 20% of the people around you (i.e. family, friends, spouse)
- 80% of your expenses are from only 20% of things in your life (i.e. rent, mortgage, transportation, etc.)
- 80% of your businesses’ revenue comes from only 20% of your clients or products
“How does the 80/20 Law help me?”
In short, the Pareto’s Law tells us that very few things will have actual impact in our lives, and that most of the resources, time, and energy we spend (80%) delivers mediocre results (20%).
If we want to increase productivity, then we should be diligently focusing on the 20% of tasks that will deliver 80% of our desired results. This is easier said than done, and it often requires constant re-prioritization of our daily tasks and goals.
Here are some examples of unimportant tasks (80% tasks that deliver 20% of results):
- Answering and checking emails more than 2x a day
- Trying to satisfy low-priced customers that suck up your precious time
- Constantly saying “Yes” to coffee meetings
- Trying to learn everything yourself, instead of hiring a coach, mentor, or teacher who has already achieved what you want
As for identifying your most important tasks (20% of tasks that deliver 80% of results), it will depend on what you want to achieve. Gary Keller, the best-selling author of The ONE Thing, suggests that we should always be identifying the “ONE Thing” that we can complete, that will make everything else easier or unnecessary.
For getting in shape, it could mean focusing on multi-functional exercises, like squats, deadlifts, benchpress, and ignoring everything else.
For growing your business, it could mean focusing on webinars, Facebook ads, blogging, and ignoring everything else.
For learning a language, it could mean focusing on improving your conversation skills with a native speaking professional, and ignoring everything else.
The more focus we have on getting the vital tasks done, the more impactful results we can deliver in less time.
4. Work in 25-Minute Bursts
We shared in #2 that our willpower is a finite resource.
This means that we need to structure our working periods to maximize our focus and willpower. Instead of working for long periods of time on the same tasks, we should break it down into shorter periods of intense focus.
This is when the Pomodoro Technique comes in. It’s a time management philosophy that aims to provide maximum focus and creative freshness, allowing you to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue.
Here’s how this productivity hack works:
- Choose a task to be accomplished.
- Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
- After four Pomodoros, take a longer break (15-30 minutes)
In order for the technique to work properly, it’s important to remain vigilantly focused during your 25-minute period without any distraction. If possible, you should turn off your phone notifications, social media, and anything that can potentially interfere with the task at hand.
You can use the Pomodoro Technique on your phone, desktop, or tablet:
- Marinara Timer (Web)
- Tomighty (Win/Mac/Linux)
- Pomodorable (OS X)
- Simple Pomodoro (Android)
- Focus Timer (iOS)
Embracing the 80/20 principle, we recommend picking one of the productivity hacks that we shared, and take action on the one that you think will have the biggest impact in your life.
With the right productivity hacks, you can find yourself getting more done everyday, while having more time to spend time with your loved ones and having more time for yourself. I hope you’ll soon be able to see time as your friend, instead of a constraint.
Over to you
Which of these productivity hacks will you take action in?
p.s – if you enjoyed this post, you’ll also enjoy reading 4 Powerful Ways to Increase Productivity (Without Caffeine), and How to Find More Time In Your Schedule to Learn Something New.