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3 Productivity Hacks

Updated on November 7, 2014

Pulling your hair out because you're out of time?

If you're like me, you have simply run out of productive time in the past on certain days, trying to get everything done. This has left me pulling my hair out, trying to figure out what I could do differently in order to get more done in 24 hours. Since graduating from college 15 years ago, I've refused to compromise on sleep, so that only leaves around 16 waking hours in a typical day. Increasingly lately, I've also refused to compromise on "family time" (my girlfriend and our dogs, or visiting my folks or friends).

Finally, I'm a huge fan of constant improvement and self-education. It's very important for me (as a guy who runs two businesses) to be able to learn new skills all the time, and refine further the skills I already possess in this rapidly changing world. So how can you make a day actually work, and still manage to get a LOT of things done? Here are some tips that may help.

Quick vote - "Git'r'dun"

How many more hours per day do you need to get everything done?

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Creative Commons.
Creative Commons.

Hack #1: stop answering emails first thing

Do you wake up in the morning and go check your phone before you even roll out of bed, looking at Facebook, texts, and your email? Here is what tends to happen with email if you look at it while you're not ready to face your day- first, your email tells you exactly what you're going to be working on, instead of you being the boss of your day. Don't do this- be your own boss, and instead, decide the most important thing you need to get done today (try doing this before you go to bed each night!). Second, it is unlikely that you can take action on that email right away, so what's going to happen is that you're going to stress over how to answer the email and what to do about it, but you won't be able to do anything with it until either you get to your office, or you boot up your computer. Or worse- you answer the email from your bed right then and there!

I may have first heard this simple hack from Tim Ferris of the "Four Hour Work Week", but I've since heard it dozens of times, and if you take the time to just de-sync your email (I use Gmail on my Android, and it's super easy to do), you will thank yourself tomorrow.

4 Hour Work Week- great hacks

Blindfold yourself and sleep like a baby

Hack #2: sleep is sacred

There are two ways to go about your day. One way is as a zombie, as Brad Pitt might say in "Fight Club", "never really asleep, and never really awake." You will easily drudge though the day in half misery, but inspiration- the fire that drives truly productive time- like the writing I'm doing right now- requires energy. The other way is to get plenty of sleep, wake up refreshed and ready to soar over the challenges your day brings you (and, more importantly, the specific challenges you have decided need doing today).

To that end, one thing that has ruined many a morning's sleeping in (when I'm able to sleep past when the sun comes up, which is certainly the majority of days), is when the light of day rudely assaults my eyelids from outside. What I've been able to discover- huge props to my girlfriend here- is that if I simply blindfold myself in the morning, I can keep the light out and sleep very soundly for another few hours, if that time is available to me. You might feel self-conscious at first (I know I did), but if you can learn to laugh at yourself and just say "screw it", you may find that you can get another solid hour or two of sleep. It was dramatic for me.

Creative Commons:  pixabay
Creative Commons: pixabay

Hack #3: "read" 25 books this year in your spare time

Have you ever tried to read a business book or a self-help book? Dry material, isn't it? I could scarcely get through the first ten pages before wanting to call it quits. Well, here's a little secret: try listening to these books.

This doesn't mean you have to abandon paper altogether- I enjoy having a specific type of book to read (usually something I'm really, really excited to learn about, not something I need to learn about for work). The Audible app on my Android works wonders.

Listen when you're in your car, driving to work, instead of listening to music. Save music for when you're at the office, or typing or writing emails (books on tape can be really confusing to process while trying to write). Again, I owe this tip to my girlfriend, whom I've stolen more than a handful of ideas from over the years. This one has been a real game changer for my business and finance life. Imagine how much impact one really good business book could have on your life. Now multiply that by 25 a year (and maybe even more for you).

Got 8 minutes? Watch this.

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    • revolutionbjj profile image

      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      @Heidi Vincent: Thanks! I sure hope they help.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      3 excellent ways to become more productive, goatfury!

    • revolutionbjj profile image

      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      @PAINTDRIPS: Really glad you got something out of the lens, Denise!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      These are really good suggestions, worthy of trying. I read at least 25 books a year but most are little by little and right before bed. The "sleepers" are very helpful to a good night sleep. Thanks for the tips.

    • TerriCarr profile image

      TerriCarr 3 years ago

      I also don't have email on my phone anymore. I don't miss it at all and I feel far less addicted to my phone. Of course, it helps that I only have a dumb phone.

      I still check email and Squidoo stats way too much though. Occasionally I follow the no email until I have written rule. Not consistently though.

    • revolutionbjj profile image

      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      @DANCING COWGIRL: Thanks! I can't take full credit for the idea, but I've enacted it. Boy, what a difference!

    • DANCING COWGIRL profile image

      Dancing Cowgirl Design 3 years ago from Texas

      Great idea about the email.

    • revolutionbjj profile image

      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      @Elsie Hagley: I hope it helps! It was tough for me until I de-synced my phone.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Like these ideas especially No 1, I loose a lot of time doing that.