Five Time-savers


Logging into and navigating voice mail. Of course, you have to check your voice mail; but there are some things you can do to keep it from interrupting your day. Personally, I find that navigating voicemail menus is a huge waste of time. I have set my voice mail system to send me an email with the message attached as a .wav file whenever someone leaves me a message. This centralizes all my messages to the same place (my email box) and doesn't require that I navigate using the phone keypad. Reading emails. Here are several tips for streamlining your email reading: Make all your emails come to one place. If you have to log into several different accounts to read email you … [Read more...]

How to keep from Wasting Time on the Web


I saw this quote on a mailing list: For personal reasons, I do not browse the web from my computer. (I also have not net connection much of the time.) To look at page I send mail to a demon which runs wget and mails the page back to me. It is very efficient use of my time, but it is slow in real time. -- Richard Stallman Basically, if he wants a page, he sends an email to a special address asking for it and the page is emailed back to him. That is definitely one way to keep from wasting time on the internet. A lot of times the internet doesn't help productivity because it wastes just as much time as it saves. Here are some tips for keeping focused. Block Ads - Ads are there to … [Read more...]

Stop Squandering Time At Home


Most of us put a good deal of time into running our households. There are always floors to vacuum, bathrooms to clean, and garbage to take out. Other than hiring a maid, there is no way to do away with all these activities. However, a little planning ahead can drastically reduce how much time you spend on some of these activities. This is a list of simple time- and work-saving ideas for your home. Minimize soap scum It seems that soap gets everything clean except shower walls. In your bathroom, soap becomes the dirt you are trying to remove. However, some soaps stick more than others. I recently tried an experiment with different types of soap and noticed a very big difference in the … [Read more...]

How to do a Time Audit


There is often a great discrepancy between the way you spend your time and the way you think you spend your time. A time audit helps you look at exactly how your time is being used so you can better understand where your time is going. One form of a time audit is to simply keep a log of your time. This works to a certain extent, but it tends to better show how you want to spend your time instead of how your time is actually spent. For a time audit to be effective, it needs to reflect your actual work history. Here is a simple method for doing a time audit that will help show how your time is actually spent. Get some type of timer that can be set for a specific interval of time. You … [Read more...]

The Power of Knowing


A lot of time-management techniques suggest creating some sort of prioritized to-do list. Why? What is so special about having a pre-determined order assigned to the things you need to do? Obviously, picking your kids up from school is a bigger priority than washing your car, but for the things that are nearly equal, what does it matter? It turns out that there is a very good reason that so many people recommend this. Good time management has an arch enemy. It isn't interruptions or even procrastination. The big foe to good time management is indecision. Knowing exactly what you need to do next wards off indecision. Even if the order is somewhat arbitrary, there is value in having … [Read more...]

Parking Strategies


I'm amazed at how much time people are willing to spend driving around a parking lot looking for a space to park. I'm not talking about places where it is snowing and there are only limited slots in covered parking. I'm talking about the people who will drive around the lot for 15 minutes trying to avoid a 2 minute walk from the empty spaces just beyond the spots everyone is fighting for. In this post, I want to talk about optimal parking strategies, because people seem to waste so much time on the activity. But first a story: I knew someone who would occasionally go to the mall around Christmas. He would walk toward a car in the prime parking spot and invariably be followed by a … [Read more...]

10 Timesavers for Office Workers


If you work in a traditional office, you need specific strategies to help you make the most of your time.  This post looks at a number of simple things you can do to save time at work. Most people can easily free up another 15 minutes per day, simply by following a few of these strategies. In the ideal world, your boss would let you cut out early with those 15 minutes you saved, but unfortunately, our society seems to be more focused on how much time you put in rather than value. Even if it doesn't translate into more time away from work, these tips can help you use your time more effectively so you can get more done and out-perform your peers as you advance your career. If you … [Read more...]

The Most for Your Minute


(In this series of posts, we are examining ways to better manage our time.) The Order of Tasks There is a survival simulation where you are trapped in a cave.  There is a single ladder going to the surface that can only hold one person at a time.  There are two other individuals with you.  One is younger than you and can climb faster.  The other is older than you and can climb slower.  Your job is to  decide the order that people should leave the cave--oh I forgot to mention there is water rising and if you don't do it in the correct order, someone will drown. The trick is to send the older person last because they can  still be on the ladder climbing as the water covers the area … [Read more...]

The Most for Your Minute


I still believe that the most productive people are the ones who only do a few things, but do those things very, very well.  However, that isn't a luxury most of us have--especially early on in our careers.  In this series of posts, we are going to look at ways to better manage our time and get the best return on investment. Time is an Investment Speaking of your return on investment--just thinking of time as an investment can help you become more productive. Changing your mindset about time and seeing it as a currency that you can spend as you choose helps put you in a frame of reference to value time appropriately. When you spend your time, you can spend it in areas where there is a … [Read more...]

5 Things That Save Me Time


Amazon Prime We live in rural Fort Scott, Kansas and while I like to try to shop local, there is a lot of stuff we need that simply isn't available nearby.  Amazon Prime gives me free two day shipping on most of their items.  This means I can place an order on Monday afternoon and have it Wednesday.  For an extra $3.99 per item I can get it the next day.  I've used this to buy everything from books to fruit juicers to network cables. Working from Home Working from home means I don't have to waste any time getting in a car and going somewhere every day.  My office is down the hall and down the stairs.  Its not that uncommon to find people who are putting 6 hours (or more) into just sitting … [Read more...]

The Productive Scholar


When most people think of going to college, they imagine a huge time drain and hours of studying. While the hours of studying is certainly a truth that can't be avoided, there are some major benefits to attending college as far as learning to manage time wisely. In my classes this past semester, I encountered many non-traditional students with families, second jobs, their own businesses and many, many other pursuits. Each of these students also had a full class load. Though the norm for traditional students entering college is to be able to slack off a bit, being able to watch the older students (and some younger ones) juggle a schedule I didn't think possible was a real learning … [Read more...]

Important Tasks


Have you ever started a day with some great ideas of everything you want to accomplish, but suddenly it is 6pm and you have nothing to show for your day?  While it is probably impossible to keep this from ever happening, we can minimize it by doing something very simple: Do something important first. That isn't really an amazing idea, but it is very very powerful.  If you can, early in the day, do one or two things that have lasting value, you'll be taking steps in the right direction--even if the entire rest of the day is shot. The goal of this approach is to make sure you aren't sitting still.  You want to make sure you are moving forward, and the best way to do that is to make some … [Read more...]

Messing with Other People’s Time Management


I write a lot about how to be more productive, but what if that really isn't your thing? What if you don't like productivity? What if your goal in life is to ruin productivity for other people? In an effort to expand our readership to people striving for unproductivity, here are six things you can do to guarantee that your co-workers get as little done as possible. Productivity501 takes no responsibility for the results of actually implementing any of these ideas. Randomly put entries on their calendar like: "1:30 meeting with John White Important!" or "Call Sally 535-321-1242". Place them far enough in the future that they won't suspect you did it. Write in fake delegated … [Read more...]

Doing Less


A lot of what people write about being productive is centered around doing more.  GTD is based on trying to make sure you are able to do more.  Most planning systems are based on trying to do more.  While I can see the need for this, it is sometimes important to step back and think about what you are really accomplishing. Doing more is only valuable if you are doing things that really need to be done.  A system that just enables you to always be busy isn't really valuable.  Obviously there is some value in not letting anything "slip through the cracks" if you are talking about things like getting your wife a birthday present or going to your son's soccer game, but letting some things … [Read more...]

Optimal Sleep


Sleeping is something we don't usually think much about, but if you could do something to convert just 90 minutes of each day from sleep time into productive time, that would give you an extra 10 hours each week. Steve Pavlina discovered that he could reduce the amount of sleep he required by an average of 90 minutes each day by getting up at 5 am 7 days per week. He only goes to bed when he is tired enough that he will immediately fall asleep. You can find more about his experience here and here. Polyphasic sleep is a drastic method of changing your sleeping schedule. Basically, you try to train your body to enter deep sleep immediately by taking a 20 to 30 minute nap every 4 hours. … [Read more...]

Top 5 Time Wasters


Here is my top 5 list of items that can waste my time without achieving anything of real value.  These aren't necessarily bad things, they are just areas where it is easy to lose precious time without realizing it.  Everyone has their own top 5 list of time wasters.  If you would like to share yours, please do so in the comments below. Television - It is very easy to lose a few hours mindlessly flipping through channels on the remote. For many people, a subscription in something like NetFlicks will provide a ready source of entertainment without dealing with commercials.  Also, with watching a specific movie, you have a definite end point, unlike channel surfing that can go on for … [Read more...]

Interview Productive Work Zone


What is your most valuable tip for getting into your productive zone for working? (190) Definitely keep a clean desk and inbox. Before I leave work for the evening, I clean off my desk. When I get to work every morning, I always have a clean desk. The only stuff that can be found on my desk are projects that require action that day. The same can be said for my inbox. Every evening I clean it out. The next morning only contains emails that I'll read/work on that day. Michael Morton from Marketing Monster (rss) Pavlovian conditioning. Here's where procrastination can really hurt you in the beginning. If you go into your home office (or cubicle or whatever) and do nothing, that's … [Read more...]

Prepare for the Worst to Save Time


It isn't uncommon for small crises to turn into a huge time drain if you haven't planned ahead. I'm not saying that you should spend an inordinate amount of time trying to plan for every possible emergency, but there are some very basic level precautions that are worth the small amount of effort they require. Here are a couple crises to consider: Your wallet gets stolen while you are traveling to another city. Your car gets a flat tire. Your cellphone gets its memory erased. These are all fairly minor issues if you are prepared. They can become catastrophic issues if you are not prepared.  For example, if your cellphone memory gets erased, as long as you have a backup of … [Read more...]

Office Timesavers


There are a lot of little things you can do to save yourself time in your office.  Each of these ideas can make a modest improvement in the amount of time you save. If you do several of them together, it can start to add up to a serious amount of time savings by streamlining your work. 1. Keep cleaning supplies within easy reach It is a simple thing, but having some Windex and paper towels nearby to wipe down your desk can save you time and help keep your workplace more organized and tidy. 2. Remove your guest chair People are less likely to stay for a long time chatting if there isn't a place to sit.  You can keep a fold out chair nearby or borrow a chair from the conference room … [Read more...]

Productive Finances Checklist


Here is a checklist for your financial productivity. Most of these things seem minor, but taken together, they really add up and can make a big difference in how efficiently you are using your time and money. Are you using direct deposit for your paychecks? -- If you are still manually carrying a check to the bank or putting it in the mail, stop! Direct deposit will get your money to the bank faster so you start earning interest as soon as possible. Even if it only saves you 5 minutes every two weeks, that is an extra 2 hours each year you can spend on something more important. Is your money in the bank earning at least 4% interest? -- If not, look for a different account. There … [Read more...]

It Isn’t How Much You Do


It is very easy to confuse motion with accomplishment, but simply being busy doesn't do anything toward reaching our goals.  Being busy can be addictive.  Look around and you will hear a lot of people complaining about how busy they are, but when you look deeper, it is clear that they like being busy. I'm not sure why this is.  I think being busy makes us feel important. It is possible that we feel important because we assume that important people are busy or that people who accomplish a lot are busy.  While neither of these things is necessarily true, there is something about being busy that people like. The people who are really productive are usually the the least busy. In fact, … [Read more...]

Interview: Technology Investments


We interviewed a number of bloggers and asked: How do you decide if a new technology is worth investing in or whether it is a waste of time? (692) Here are their answers.  I was impressed with how many people have a framework or set of questions they use to decide if something is really valuable to them or not. If I'm not sure, I wait.  I'm not an early adopter and I'm pretty frugal with my money, too.  A product has to prove itself before I'll buy it. Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar (rss) If a product doesn't have a collection of Amazon reviews, I figure it is probably too soon to know how well it works. I like to evaluate technology before I invest in it. For example, if … [Read more...]

Take the Time to Play


I have a theory.  Since I will probably never have the resources to try to prove it, the next best thing is to share it with readers and see what type of feedback I get.  My theory is this:  There is a direct relationship between your maximum creative output and the amount and quality of time you spend doing non-work activities. The idea is that you will never reach your full potential for efficiency and productivity without significant investments in non-work, fun activities.  If all your time is spent working,  you will accomplish less than if you leave some time to relax and pursue recreational activities. I think this only holds true for creative-type work.  If you are simply … [Read more...]

The Habit of Lateness


When I was in college, my roommate had a very difficult time getting up in the morning, so he was often running late.  To help himself get to class on time, he set his clock ahead about 5 minutes.  This worked well for about a week. It took about 7 days for him to get used to the idea that the clock was set ahead, and the method started losing its effectiveness.  No big deal.  He just bumped it another two minutes forward and he started being on time again...for about a week. I was sitting at my desk reviewing some notes for my next class at 1:50.  I stood up to grab a book off the book shelf and something just didn't seem right.  It took me a minute to realize that I had seen a … [Read more...]

Effective Web Browsing


Most people have a collection of sites that they like to check every few days.  Unfortunately, checking a few sites can turn into several hours of pointless surfing without any real benefit.  Here are some strategies that will let you maximize your productivity while using the web to stay up to date. Set aside time to visit your favorite sites.  If you don't create space for it, you'll end up opening your browser everytime you are faced with a task that you want to procrastinate on.  Avoid this by setting up a specific time.  This can be in the morning before going to work, at lunch time, in the evening.  It doesn't matter when it is, but set up a time and get into a schedule. Set a … [Read more...]

Don’t Repeat Yourself


In software engineering there is a principle known as DRY -- Don't Repeat Yourself.  The idea is this: If you are going to solve a problem, do it only once.  Don't solve the same problem again and again in different parts of your code.  In software, this means that you take your solutions to these common problems and code them in a way so they can be used from wherever necessary. The DRY principle can also apply to your personal work habits as well.  Over the course of a week, a good portion of our time can be taken up by unnecessary tasks or overly complicated processes.  Proactively looking for areas where we are "repeating" ourselves can unearth these areas where we can … [Read more...]

Collegiate Time Management


College is one of the most exciting and activity-filled times of a person's life. Making new friends, developing new skills, and shouldering many more responsibilities take up a lot of time, let alone the ever-present studying that needs to be done. Time management is so important for students that many Freshman Experience classes focus on the subject. Here are a few tips to help busy students make good use of their time. 1. Plan ahead Studying in college requires more preparation than one might think. With all of the other distractions that are available, it is important to plan out a study schedule and really stick with it. That way, you will already have your studying done when your … [Read more...]

Internet–Friend or Foe for Productivity?


The internet is a valuable tool that can let us do things faster than anything we imagined 20 years ago.  But at the same time it can be a very big time waster.  The internet is kind of like a dictionary with beautiful illustrated pictures.  It is wonderful to look at, but it can take 10 times longer to actually do anything up because of all the amazing (and distracting) pictures: Lets see how do you spell "artichoke"....neat here is a nice little drawing of an airplane...wait what was I...oh yeah "artichoke" ok that will be a little further...what is that a picture of?....oh an anteater.  I didn't realize their noses were so long. Ok now focus...."artichoke". Hm.  How do they know what … [Read more...]

5 Exercise Tips for Busy People


A normal day for most busy people consists of a constant string of tasks: go to work, get the kids ready for school, unload the dishwasher, mow the lawn, etc. The problem is, there isn't any room in the day for exercise! At least, it seems so. Students in college, professors, businessmen and women, and others from all fields of work often confront this same dilemma. There are many pressures on how we spend our bit of free time. However, the quality of the exercise done often trumps the quantity of it. Here are some ways to get the most out of your few minutes of exercise time. 1. Take a walk If you have few options, taking a 10-15 minute walk over your lunch break is a nice way to … [Read more...]

Redeeming Your Time


Whether you run a home business or simply want to be more productive with your time each day, time tracking tools are a technological aid that can diagnose tasks that are efficient and those that are not worth the time invested in them. The time tracking tools that are available today are customized to suite different needs and preferences and help make productivity an achievable goal. We thought that our readers would find a list of time tracking tools useful, as well as a bit of information about each one. Rescue Time This tool offers time tracking service in a neatly organized package that is easy to install and operate. Rescue Time works by tracking which applications the user … [Read more...]

Top 5 Time Savers


Yesterday we looked at my list of top 5 time wasters, so today it seemed appropriate to look at the top 5 time savers.  It is hard to measure the value of something that saves you time, so these may seem fairly random.  Your suggestions for top time savers are welcomed in the comment section below. Podcasts in the Car - I have a system that allows me to subscribe to podcasts, transfer them to an iPod that hooks directly to my car stereo (when I turn off the car the iPod is paused until I start it back up again), and delete podcasts once I've listened to them. This allows me to keep informed on many topics with very little effort on my part and very little wasted time.  I generally go … [Read more...]

Little by Little


Often one of the biggest road blocks to our personal growth is that we feel we can't take on a new project until we have vast amounts of free time. The reality is that we will probably never have a couple hours of free time each day. However, if we can set aside just 15 minutes each day to dedicate to doing something we've been putting off for a better period of our life, these small investments will add up and go a long ways toward achieving our goals. For example if you want to learn a foreign language, practice a neglected musical instrument, read through the works of Shakespeare, or any number of enriching activities you probably don't feel you have enough time to start.  Most … [Read more...]

Make Decisions in Advance


A good portion of our time goes into make decisions.  Sometimes these decisions are big, important things, but often they are mundane simple things.  Most decisions require some type of investment in time.  Let's look at an example: If I'm in a video store trying to pick out a movie to watch that evening, there is a certain amount of time that will go into evaluating the options and selecting a video.  From personal experience, this process can take 10 to 20 minutes, easily. For most people, this 10 to 20 minutes is completely wasted time because at some point in the last 6 months they have already made a decision about a movie they would like to see, but they just don't remember.  … [Read more...]

Keep People from wasting your time


I'm sure everyone has been in situations where a coworker is wasting your time, but there doesn't seem to be a polite way out of it.  Here are several simple strategies for keeping your distractions to a minimum without appearing impolite or rude. Stand - By standing when someone walks into your office, you will usually prevent them from taking a seat.  This can help keep them focused on the purpose of their visit and getting back to work (where they can sit again). Meet them at the door - If you see someone about to come into your office, meeting them at the door puts you physically between them and your area.  You are being polite because you've walked toward them to meet them, but … [Read more...]

Reader Question: Why isn’t my assistant saving me time?


I just got a personal assistant, but they aren't saving me any time. What am I doing wrong? Several people have asked me about this. There are many different issues that could be involved, but I see a lot of people who hire an assistant and then can't think of what they wanted them to do. Either that, or it turns out their original ideas are all things that really can't be handed off to someone else. Here are some of the things I have had assistants do for me. Some of these tasks can be done virtually, but many of them require physical presence. I'm leaving out most of the things my assistant helps me do for clients and trying to primarily give you some ideas of how your assistant … [Read more...]

Doing Less


Time management usually concentrates on doing more with your time. At least once in awhile, we should concentrate on doing less.  Over time we tend to acquire a bunch of baggage of things we feel we need to do.  By eliminating some of our current activities, we can increase the amount of time we have available to concentrate on the things that are really important to us. The approach of the new year gives us all a great opportunity to prune activities from our schedule.  By taking a few moments to re-evaluate the ways we currently spend our time, it is likely that we can identify at least a few items that don't really need to be maintained. Here are some questions that you should … [Read more...]

Work vs. Time


A great deal of productivity is lost because people focus on time instead of work. It isn't the amount of time spent on a task that matters--it is the amount of work that is accomplished. Unfortunately, time is often the easiest thing to measure. Because it is easy to measure, most people are paid for their time instead of what they actually accomplish. Of course, in some rough way, time does translate into work. You can usually get more done in 2 hours than you can in 1, but the time element isn't where the focus should be. It is easy to spend 2 hours without really accomplishing anything significant. When we are focused on time instead of work, we tend to do the tasks that … [Read more...]