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7 Ways to Leverage Your Time to Increase Your Productivity

7 Ways to Leverage Your Time to Increase Your Productivity

    We’re all busy people. Some people, though, are busier than we’d ever imagine, yet are somehow are able to stay on top of things so well they seem to go about their life in a lackadaisical manner, while we struggle to produce good work and maintain a household.

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    What’s their secret? Why do they seem to have everything figured out; always unstressed and ready to go?

    Leverage.

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    Sure, tactics like maintaining “to-do” lists (or “done” lists), setting goals, and decreasing the amount and time of meetings can all help. But really, these are all tactics that fall into a strategical category of leveraging our time.

    Leverage is an awesome force–it allows us to multiply our abilities by applying a little pressure to something.

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    In life, we can leverage our time, and here are seven ways to do just that:

    1. Get it out of your head. If it’s in your head, chances are it’s taking up valuable storage space that you can be using to get things done. Every time you think of a task, to-do item, or idea, write it down. Getting it out of your head not only lets you focus energy elsewhere, rather than trying to remember things, it also helps you clear your mind so you’ll be more effective when you do try to tackle that massive list of chores.
    2. Organize your day. Do you go to work and just “jump in” to all the work that’s in front of you? Try this instead: organize your day into chunks of time–10-15 minutes for emails, an hour for that large project due at the end of the month, etc. Focus on knocking out the most important things on the list, earlier in the day to increase your productivity. As your day draws to a close, the easier or shorter items on the list will require less effort, allowing you to de-stress at the same time.
    3. Use other people’s time. One of my favorite entrepreneurial tactics is leveraging other people. This doesn’t mean using other people–no one likes that. Leveraging other people means empowering and allowing coworkers and employees, or even outsourced help, to help you with some of your routine tasks throughout the day. If you run a website, consider hiring someone to maintain the server, site, comments, and emails.
    4. Focus on the prize, but work in “chunks.” Don’t let the looming pressures of finishing that massive report get you down. Focus on how awesome it will be, but actively seek to “chunk” it into manageable parts that you can work on steadily. Give yourself a small reward every time you finish a chunk, and yes–give yourself a large reward when you finish the final project!
    5. Allow time for yourself. One of the most overlooked aspects of the American working life, leading to stressful people who are spread too thin, is giving time to yourself. Plan and write down a segment of each day that you can take 10-15 minutes (at least) to just unwind and do nothing. Don’t think, don’t check email, don’t call your friend. Just sit, relax, and let your mind recharge. You’ll come back refreshed and more able to leverage the time you have. In addition, take a breather for one day a week or every other week if possible to increase your productivity. Do some easier tasks or the “fun” parts of your work, but don’t let yourself get carried away turning Sunday afternoon into another workday.
    6. Use technology. Technology is an evil temptress for productivity–it can suck us in with promises of simple task management, planning, and keeping us in the loop. But we can easily get caught in the vortex of more, more, more tech. Use a simple task manager if it suits your work style, but give yourself limits on social networking sites, checking email, and even text messaging (if that’s your thing). Ironically, there are really cool apps and software packages that help increase your productivity, so be careful and mindful of how you’re leveraging their help.
    7. Keep learning. The day you stop learning is the day you stop producing good stuff. Keep reading, trying new things, and implementing them. To leverage your ability to read, start listening to audiobooks in the car to and from work, and during workouts. Don’t let your RSS feed reader bog you down during the day, but make sure you keep tabs on your favorite blogs and news sites a few times a week, if for no other reason than inspiration.

    Leverage is only useful to us if we’re using it in the right direction: if we let the pressures of our lives get to us so much that we feel like we’re drowning, leverage is to blame. But it’s leverage in the wrong direction.

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    Use leverage the right way and you can free yourself from the mundane things that you never want to do, allowing yourself the ability to create the things that motivate you, inspire you, and keep you pushing toward the weekend.

    Or a better tomorrow!

    What about you? What are some other ways you’ve been able to leverage your time at work, at home, or elsewhere in your life to give you more “you” time?

    (Photo credit: Close Up of Newton’s Cradle via Shutterstock)

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    How to Fight Information Overload

    How to Fight Information Overload

    Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

    This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

    As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

    What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

    1. Set your goals.
    2. Decide whether you really need the information.
    3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
    4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

    But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

    The Nature of the Problem

    The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

    When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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    No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

    That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

    Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

    Why information overload is bad

    It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

    Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

    The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

    You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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    So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

    1. Set your goals

    If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

    Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

    Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

    Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

    2. What to do when facing new information

    Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

    First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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    If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

    And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

    You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

    3. Minimal Effective Dose

    There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

    Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

    4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

    Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

    This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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    Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

    In Closing

    As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

    Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

    (Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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