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How I Get Things Done with Only Half of the Time Others Need

How I Get Things Done with Only Half of the Time Others Need

Professionals and entrepreneurs today lead extremely busy lives. Despite the abundance of gadgets, tools, and other technology that can improve productivity, people today are working longer hours[1] than ever – resulting to excessive stress and reduced performance over time.

Whether you’re doing work for a client or pursuing your own projects, you need to be smarter with how you handle tasks to thrive in this competitive world. For this, you need to adopt strategies that can help you stay productive[2] and be efficient with your available resources. Most importantly, always remember that your mind is your greatest weapon – so keep it collected, focused, and organized.

What Is Critical Path Analysis and How It Can Keep You Sharp And Focused

Simply put, Critical Path Analysis (CPA) is a technique that can help you ensure the timely accomplishment of important tasks. In this process, a big goal is broken down into a set of smaller objectives. Afterwards, you must determine the time it takes to accomplish each task and the relationship between them.

In the much simpler method of using a network diagram, you specifically need the earliest start time, latest finish time, and the appropriate sequence in which the tasks must be done.

By gathering these pieces of information, CPA allows you to calculate the maximum amount of time it takes to complete the entire project. This, along with all the tasks required to accomplish the overall goal, constitute what’s known as the critical path. In case a shorter plan is available, it will also enable you to identify tasks that can be delayed or “slacked” on while still staying on schedule.

How You Can Benefit from Using CPA to Tackle Your Daily Complex Tasks

Project managers use CPA all the time when managing and tracking complex tasks, but it can also be applied by everyone in almost any field. All you need to do is to understand its model, know how it works, and learn how to map your CPA diagram. In doing so, you can take advantage of the following benefits:

• As a product manager or a leader, utilizing CPA allows you to stay focused over the course of a project. It helps you stay aware of exactly what everyone needs to do to stay on the right track.

• With the right approach, CPA is an effective risk and cost management[3] tool.

• The timeline determined through CPA can be the basis of future decision-making.

• CPA helps you spot opportunities to make tasks shorter while still accomplishing the same end results. Adjustments can be made by pumping more budget, building a bigger team, or implementing automation[4] and other time-saving strategies.

• Identifying work that can be done simultaneously to eliminate delays in the critical path.

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• A fully-plotted CPA diagram will give you a complete bird’s eye view of a sophisticated project.

Even Though CPA Is a Powerful Tool, You Should Be Aware of These

While CPA can be highly beneficial to any endeavor, it isn’t without a few flaws:

• Plotting projects without sufficient data will force you to depend on assumptions.

• Large-scale projects require you to examine many dependencies, paths, and tasks – making CPA a time-consuming process.

• Even with CPA, you need to be flexible and develop contingency plans.

The Step-by-Step Instruction to Apply the Critical Path Analysis

Below are the important steps for leveraging CPA in your next big project:

1. Enumerating Critical Tasks

Before everything else, you need to identify all the things you need to do to accomplish your goal. For example, if you plan to start a new online store, below are some of the objectives you may need to hit:

A. Pick and research a niche – 1 day

B. Do keyword research – 2 days

C. Conduct surveys for product research – 10 days

D. Conduct online product research – 3 days

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E. Build the site (install WordPress, set up web security, etc.) – 4 days

F. Create content – 10 days

G. Develop and optimize product pages – 20 days

2. Determining Dependencies

Next, you need to map out the sequence of all activities by determining their dependencies. Start with the tasks that must be done first before all the other tasks that lead to the finish line.

For example, you need to do A (pick a niche) first before you do B, C, or D. You must also do E (build the site) first before you begin task F and G. For now, enumerate the dependencies required for each task as they are needed for the next step.

3. Creating a CPA Diagram

The conventions in creating a CPA diagram requires three components – a node, activities, and durations.

A node is usually represented by a circle. It includes the earliest start time (EST), latest finish time (LFT), and an activity number:

    In a CPA network, tasks are indicated by arrows, which connect nodes to determine dependency. Take note that the arrows—not the nodes—represent the tasks you’ve identified earlier. Don’t confuse the activity number with the specific task.

    Here is an illustration to help you understand this:

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      Looking at the example above, task A (pick a niche) is in-between nodes 1 and 2, while task B is in-between nodes 2 and 3. To make sense of the sequence, indicate the task description below the arrow.

      Finally, the duration can be included on the opposite side of the task description. The positions of the description and duration can be interchanged freely.

      4. Calculating the EST

      To determine the EST, you must first lay out the activities from start to finish:

        Remember that the EST denotes the earliest start time for the next task. To calculate this, you must add the total duration of all the previous tasks.

        For example, since task A (pick a niche) has no activity before it, the first node’s EST equals 0. Succeeding task B (do keyword research) will have to wait for task A’s maximum duration. Thus, the next EST equals 1.

        Since task B has a maximum duration of 2 days, then the third EST equals 3 – which is the total duration of tasks A and B (1 day + 2 days). This is because tasks C or D will have to wait for both of A and B’s durations.

          Filling in the EST for the rest of the tasks should look like:

            Take note that, in case there are two preceding tasks in an activity, the one with the longer duration will be used in the critical path. For example, since task C (conduct surveys) has a longer duration than task D (conduct online product research), its duration of 10 days will be used for calculating the next EST. In other words, it will be added to the total duration pool along with the next task’s duration – 3 days + 10 days + 4 days = 17 days.

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            After this, you should be able to plot the critical path, which should have the longest possible duration:

              5. Calculating the LFT

              Once you have identified the EST for all nodes, you can proceed to calculate the LFT. This time, you need to start from the left and subtract the previous task’s duration from the total.

              Always remember that the last node should always have an LFT that equals the total duration of the project, while the first node should always have an LFT of zero. To calculate the next LFT, simply subtract the duration of the previous task from the right node’s EST. Since task G (develop product pages) have a duration of 20 days, and the EST of the last node is 47, then the LFT of the next node to the left will be 20 (47 days – 20 days). If you continue doing this along all paths, you’ll notice that the EST and LFT will be different in points where two or more possible tasks are introduced:

                Remember that when calculating the next LFT, the smallest possible difference will always be used. In the diagram above, the difference between two tasks are 3 (13 EST – 10 days) and 5 (8 EST – 3 days). Since 3 < 5, then the value of the next LFT would be 3.

                In short, it means you need to use the values from the critical path, which will enable the first node to have an LFT of zero.

                6. Calculating the Float

                The float denotes the amount of time a task can be delayed without affecting the timeframe of the entire project. This can be calculated with the simple formula: LFT – duration of previous task – EST of previous node.

                In the example above, the LFT of task D (conduct product research) is 13, its duration is 3 days, and the previous node has an EST of 3. Applying the formula would yield:

                13 (LFT) – 3 days (Duration) – 3 (EST) = 7 days.

                This means you or your team can delay task D for up to a week without affecting the overall duration of the project. Take note that if you apply the same formula to a task within the critical path, you will always get zero because those tasks cannot be delayed.

                Spend A Little Time In Advance, Save Much More In The End

                Ready to take control of your goals? Creating a CPA diagram can be tiresome, but once you have a full view of your project’s timeline, you will feel a wave of motivation and enthusiasm. For your next step, try to use CPA diagram tools like Lucidchart[5] or learn more project management tactics from this post[6] . If the lessons above helped you gain some results, feel free to share your experience in the comments!

                Reference

                More by this author

                Vikas Agrawal

                Vikas is the co-founder of Infobrandz, an Infographic design agency that offers creative visual content solutions to medium to large companies.

                What Are Analytical Skills (And How to Strengthen Them For Success) How to Create an Infographic Resume That Will Impress Your Future Employer How I Get Things Done with Only Half of the Time Others Need Writing a Great Value Statement Can Bring In Tons of Money for Your Business All-Natural Tips for Fighting Insomnia and Sleeping Better

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                Last Updated on February 17, 2021

                50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

                50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

                If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

                No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

                Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

                1. Set a Timer

                Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

                In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

                2. Eliminate All Distractions

                Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. This free guide End Distractions And Find Your Focus is a good tool to help you. With this guide, you’ll learn how to get rid of distractions and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

                You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

                3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

                Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

                Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

                Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

                4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

                Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

                If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

                5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

                By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

                Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

                6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

                Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

                7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

                Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

                Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

                Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

                8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

                To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

                Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

                Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

                9. Don’t Multitask

                Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

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                For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

                10. Step Away from the Computer

                The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

                I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

                11. Use Focus Tools

                Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

                Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

                Also, join the free Fast-Track Class – Overcoming Distraction, and you’ll learn the one simple method to work even when you’re surrounded by distractions. Join the free session now!

                12. Just Start

                Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

                Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

                13. Find out Your Productive Hours

                Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

                Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

                14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

                This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

                15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

                The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

                When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

                And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

                16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

                I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up. The Full Life Planner is a nice tool to help you organize your days and get things that matter done. Check out the planner here and start to plan your day ahead easily!

                Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

                17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

                The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

                Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

                18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

                As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

                “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

                This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

                19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

                I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

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                Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

                20. Get Plenty of Sleep

                When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

                Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

                21. Exercise

                Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

                Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

                Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

                22. Outsource as Much as Possible

                If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

                Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

                23. Set Some Exciting Goals

                Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

                Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well. For example, The Dreamers’ Guide To Reaching Your Goal is a great guide to help you set and reach goals effectively. Grab your free guide and learn how to make your goals happen this year!

                24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

                When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

                25. Listen to Podcasts

                Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

                Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

                Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

                26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

                This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

                Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

                27. Learn to Speed Read

                When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

                You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

                28. Learn to Skip When You Read

                When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

                Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

                29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

                Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

                We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

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                30. Take a Break

                You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

                31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

                What is polyphasic sleep?

                Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

                While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

                32. Learn to Say “No”.

                We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

                Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

                33. Go on an Information Diet

                Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

                Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

                The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

                34. Organize Your Office

                The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

                Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done and 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

                35. Find a Mentor

                By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

                A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

                36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

                With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

                When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

                Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

                Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

                37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

                Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

                You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

                38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

                If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

                Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

                How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

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                39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

                Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

                Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

                40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

                Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

                Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

                41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

                When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

                Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

                42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

                The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

                Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

                43. Take Shorter Showers

                This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

                44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

                Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

                45. Auto Pay Your Bills

                How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

                Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

                46. Shop Online

                Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

                47. Speed up your Internet With a Broadband Connection

                Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

                If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

                48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

                If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

                Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

                49. Turn off the TV

                The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

                For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

                Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

                50. Use a Tivo or DVR

                This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

                So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

                More Time Management Tips

                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                Reference

                [1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

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