1. Focus on the top 20% of your tasks
The Pareto Principle or 80/20-rule is a powerful analytical framework for understanding effort vs. results of your activities. The principle says that in any situation, 20 percent of the inputs are responsible for 80 percent of the outcomes. To prioritise your to-do list effectively, focus on the 20% of tasks and projects with the highest impact your top priority goals.
2. Schedule everything in your calendar
Don’t just write down your tasks on your to-do list — put them in your calendar as well. This forces you to actually estimate the time it takes to do certain activities and thus can be a great help for a more realistic and efficient time management. To fully benefit from this technique, make a deal with yourself: what is in your calendar gets done, what’s not in your calendar is not a priority.
3. Do your most important task first thing in the morning
Eat the Frog! Your most important task is often the one that you dread the most and thus end up procrastinating the entire day. But if you want to be really effective, identify your MIT and get it out of the way first thing in the morning before getting carried away by an overflowing inbox, social media or random requests from colleagues stopping by your office.
4. Take care of your body
A tired, pain-ridden and sleep deprived body is a great recipe for killing your productivity as it leads to impaired memory, increased levels of stress hormones and a significant decrease in your mental ability to focus. Thus, if getting stuff done is important to you, prioritise sleep, exercise, proper nutrition and off-time to recharge your batteries.
5. Take care of your mind
Taking care of your mind is as important as taking care of your body, because a calm, focused and inspired mind is the basis for working productively. Calm your monkey mind with meditation, yoga and journaling and get out of your head every week by spending time away from the screen, in nature and with your loved ones.
6. Focus on ONE thing at a time
Multitasking is so 1999! In the constant information overload of the modern world, focus is the new currency and deep work is a skill high in demand. For full focus shut off your notifications, close your browser tabs, close your door and use the Pomodoro Technique (see 6) if you need to.
7. Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is probably the most powerful productivity strategy for fully focusing on ONE thing. It works like this: Split your tasks into chunks of 25min. Thereby, batch similar smaller tasks like email together and divide large projects into smaller tasks. Then, shut off all your distractions and set your timer for 25min. After your Pomodoro, take a 5min break before starting the next sprint. Because of its gamification effect, this technique really works like magic.
8. Batch similar tasks together
Batching means taking a specific time slot to do a “batch” of similar little jobs. This could mean taking an hour after work every Monday to do your personal finance stuff (pay bills online, check credit card statements for weird charges, track your budget, whatever) or replying to all your WhatsApp messages every morning on your way to work. As you can see, the basic idea is to batch similar tasks and errands together and then do them in one go, which allows you to get more done faster. Furthermore, by having dedicated times for these batches every week, you ensure that you are always on top of things.
9. Use the right productivity tools the right way
Any tool is only as powerful as the strategy you apply to use it. To-do lists, project management tools and sophisticated inbox systems can be a huge time waster if you don’t use them properly. Clearly define your needs, carefully select a tool that makes sense for you personally and develop a proper strategy how you will use it.
10. Optimise for your personal peak time
Whether you are an early bird, a night owl or work best after a sweaty workout, optimise your day for your personal peak time to maximise your efficiency. This might include getting up early to finish your most important task before even heading to the office, working out in your afternoon slump, not taking any meetings before 1pm to focus on deep work or going for a run before work.
11. Eliminate time wasters
Documenting how you spend your time for an entire week and tracking your mobile screen time with apps like Pyxsee, QualityTime and AntiSocial can be very helpful in identifying your personal time wasters. Once you know what’s your weak spot (YouTube, Instagram, Whatsapp, etc.), eliminate or minimise these time-wasting activities.
12. Use “lost” time to be productive
Listen to podcasts on your commute. Reply to Whatsapp messages while waiting in line. Read Medium articles while on a plane. Call your doctor for an appointment while waiting for a meeting to start. There is endless examples of how you can use “lost” to get stuff done.
13. Integrate a powerful morning routine
Starting your day with your own morning ritual can significantly increase your focus, clarity, productivity and motivation for the day ahead. To craft your perfect sequence you can use a mix of meditation, workouts, journaling, visualisation exercises, daily planning, nourishment and spending time with loved ones.
14. Optimise the admin part of your life
There is so many annoying, repetitive tasks in life that can easily be optimised to carve out time for the really important things in life. Some personal efficiency hacks include planning and prepping your meals, buying things online, batching errands and outsourcing tasks.