So I’m waiting in line at the NC DMV (actually I was…but now I’m not) to get my drivers license transferred from NY (where I haven’t lived for 2 years) to NC (where I’ve been living for a year). Everyone had told me that the NC DMVs were bad for wait times and they weren’t wrong. Anyhow, this down time is giving me the opportunity to update this blog (sorry it’s been a while). Given the circumstances, I figured it would only be fitting to write about how you can make the most of your each and every one of the 86,400 seconds in your day. Given that I have the tendency to always overload my schedule I’ve become pretty adept at jamming as much as possible in to my day. Here’s some tips that I’ve personally found useful. Note that these aren’t going to work for everyone but if you’re a hard driver like I am then consider giving some of these tips a try.
- Multitask whenever appropriate – While recent research indicates that multitasking may actually hurt productivity I think there’s enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that multitasking is a necessary part of getting things done effectively for many people. The key here is to only multitask when it’s appropriate and with tasks that are compatible for high effectiveness. I’ve found that my ADD brain tends to operate best when there are little ‘distractions’ and if I can make these distractions things I actually need to do then it’s a win-win situation.
- Stay up late and sleep less – Although many people in today’s society get too little sleep, many of the most productive people in history were either insomniacs, night owls or both. I’m a nightowl who can quite easily stay awake until 3 or 4 am and generally do fine with just 5.5 hours a night. If I feel tired I try to listen to my body and take a nap or get to bed early. I can only speak for myself but I find I am actually MOST productive late at night….especially at tasks involving high cognitive effort or attention. While there’s no doubt evidence regarding the pitfalls of insomnia, for many it can lead to getting more done. Read this interesting article on why night owls make more money and are generally smarter.
- Make eating productive – I love to eat and because of my fast metabolism I do it often. While I certainly appreciate sitting down to a leisurely meal with family and friends, a meal can also double up as an opportunity to get things done. That might mean working at your desk while you eat lunch, having a lunch or dinner meeting, or grabbing a snack while you drive somewhere.
- Drink coffee and tea – Not only are coffee and tea great for you due to their antioxidant properties, they can also help increase productivity by increasing alertness, ability to focus, and capacity for higher level cognitive thought processing. Read this blog I wrote about the positive effects of coffee.
- Overload your schedule – I’ve found that if I bite off more than I can chew I often find a way to chew it anyhow. By overloading my schedule I force myself to get things done. I will say that this has backfired on me at times and that trying to do everything is never a good strategy.
- Eliminate wasted time – We’ve all got times in our day when we find ourselves standing around waiting for someone or something. This is inevitable. Instead of just letting this time go to waste use it to knock out small tasks. I’ve found if I can knock out a short call, send an email on my iPhone or jot down notes in my moleskin that I can reduce the number of seemingly small tasks that would otherwise quickly add up over the course of the day.
- Schedule and plan ahead – Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you’ve only got so many hours in your day and you want to make the most of them take the couple minutes it takes to sort out what needs to be done and when it should be done so that you ensure you get everything done and do it in the most effective order.
- Set hard deadlines – Deadlines mean you’re accountable for a task within a given time constraint. When you’re accountable you’re more likely to get things done. When setting deadlines make them realistic but ambitious and don’t get mushy with ‘next month’ deadlines…use hard deadlines with specific dates and times.
- Maintain fitness – Exercise is not only great for your body but it’s great for your mind. Exercise improves our ability to focus and there is some research to indicate that it is linked to increased cognitive abilities. Taking a couple hours a week to do some vigorous exercise will really help you to relieve stress, think more clearly, and get more done.
- Rest hard – This one’s important. If you’re going to red-line the productivity meter on a regular basis you’re going to have to stop for a tune up and refueling every now and then. When you do, do it well. Don’t half ass your R&R or you’ll return to work less productive. Avoid the temptation to ‘do a little’ or ‘get ahead’ by thinking of the time spent relaxing as an investment that will pay big productivity dividends when you resume work.
I know many will flame me for some of these suggestions (especially the first 6) but I have a rationale explanation for all of them and they work well for me. Can you think of any others that I should add to the list?