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10 one-minute time hacks that will make you more productive

10 one-minute time hacks that will make you more productive
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You’re busy, and while reading about powerful time management techniques can be productive, many of the ones out there are simply too complex, complicated or involved to think about.

These 10 time hacks are as simple as they come. Every single thing in this list will take you less than one minute to implement into your life, but the results of each can be incredible. Here are 10 one-minute time hacks that will make you more productive.

Say “no” to three things

Here’s a challenge for you: this week say “no” to three commitments that might zap you of your energy, time, or motivation. One of the easiest ways to get more time, energy, and motivation is to say no to to pointless commitments that weigh you down.

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Turn off all of your email alerts

New email alerts don’t cost you much time, but they cost you a ton of attention. Every time a new alert comes in, you look at it (just in case it happens to be important), and then you have to re-orient yourself to what you were trying to focus on before. In my opinion, they’re worth shutting off completely. Also, they don’t convey nearly enough information about the message you received to be overly useful.

While you’re in there tinkering with your email settings, I think it’s also useful to reduce the frequency of how often your mail client checks for new messages (plus, having your phone check for new email less often will save you battery life).

Start keeping a list of everything you’re waiting on

You likely already have a to-do list because if you didn’t, you would have a thousand commitments bouncing around in your head everyday. But it’s just as mentally taxing to keep track of everything you’re waiting for. When you maintain a list of everything you’re waiting for, you can make sure nothing slips through the cracks, and you can worry a lot less about the things you need to stay on top of.

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Two Minutes

    Live by the two-minute rule

    One of my favorite elements of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology is his two-minute rule. The rule is quite simple: the moment you realize you have to do something (like when you receive an email you have to action), if it will take less than two minutes, do it. If it will take more than two minutes, schedule completing it later.

    In practice the rule works incredibly well, because it takes the thinking out of prioritizing tasks and picking which one to do. It’s very easy to lose a ton of time scheduling tasks, organizing your emails, and so on. When you just do something, you eliminate all of that cruft. As Allen put it in a recent interview with him, “it will take you longer to stack and track [some tasks] and remind yourself than if you finish it the first time it’s in your face”.

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    Make a list of three outcomes you want to get out of today

    Not to-dos; outcomes. The “rule of 3” is one of my favorite productivity rituals, and its power lies in its simplicity. Define three outcomes you want to make happen today. Not things you have to do; actual results you want to get done. Ask yourself, if it’s the end of the day, what three things do you want to have accomplished?

    Start working on pomodoro time

    The Pomodoro Technique is a simple time management technique that breaks your time down into chunks. For 25 minutes you turn off all possible distractions, and then work on only one thing for that time. After your first “pomodoro,” you take a five-minute break, then wash, rinse, and repeat two more times.

    After that, you work for another 25 minutes and take a 15-minute (or longer) break. This technique reduces the ugly, ambiguous tasks on your to-do list down into something you do in a series of easy-to-manage, 25-minute chunks of time.

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    Find one activity that gives you more energy, and schedule doing it

    This one seems almost too obvious to put on the list, but no one takes the time to do it. Are there certain people that provide you a ton of energy and motivation after you talk to them? Schedule a lunch with them. Are there certain things you do that give you a ton of energy, like hitting the gym before work, meditating, or spending time with your kids? Schedule time for that too.

    Take more breaks 

    It might sound counterintuitive, but taking more breaks is one of my favorite ways to become more productive. Breaks prevent you from becoming fatigued and tired, and they help you slow down, step back from your work, reflect, and come up with better ideas. I think even taking a one-minute break can have profound affects on your productivity.

    Download RescueTime to track how you spend time on your computer 

    RescueTime is a free utility (for Mac, PC, or Android) that tracks exactly how you spend time on your computer. You simply sign up for the service, download the app, set it, forget it, and at the end of every week the service will send you an email saying exactly how productive you were. You can then log onto the company’s website to see detailed stats on precisely where your time went, and the service even presents you with a productivity score that shows you how productive you were.

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    Define the very next steps you need to take to do something you’re procrastinating on

    One of the largest reasons people procrastinate with getting things done is that their tasks and to-dos are too ambiguous. Take one thing you’re procrastinating on, and define the very next thing you have to do to get it done. This will make the task less ambiguous, and it will also give you a kick in the butt to get it done.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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