Like many of you, I’m somewhat obsessed with productivity hacks — small steps I can take to work smarter, faster, and better. Alas, most hacks (like most houseguests) are appealing only for a few days. But some tricks manage to endure.
Here are 6 that I use all the time.
1. Honor the 2-Minute rule.
This one comes from the great David Allen, whose Getting Things Done methodology I’ve used for 15 years. In short, if you’ve got something to do that takes less than two minutes, do it right now.
2. Don’t waste your most productive hours.
A growing stack of research shows that each day, we reach our peak productivity a few hours after waking. Don’t devote that window of time to checking email or playing around on social media. Use it to do your most important work.
3. When in doubt, resort to the Pomodoro Technique.
I’m never proud when I pull out this trick, but I’m always glad I did. Pomodoro is a method for breaking large tasks into small chunks. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work nonstop without doing anything else. Then take 5 minutes to do whatever you want. Then do another 25-5 cycle. Lather, rinse, repeat.
4. Take a systems approach to email.
We could spend all day answering email — but we shouldn’t. So instead of being drip-tortured by your inbox, find a way to deal with all at once — in large batches during non-productive hours. I also use AwayFind.
5. Mark your progress.
The Heath Brothers taught me this technique. If I’m faced with a decision, and I’m not sure what to do, I ask myself, “What would you tell your best friend to do in this situation?” Usually, the answer is clear.