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Fundamental Theory of Productivity: Less is More

Fundamental Theory of Productivity: Less is More

The art and science of productivity improves your results and your life. One of the basic theories of productivity can be summed up as “less is more.” Let’s explore the various ways you can grow your productivity through less. After all, we cannot increase the hours in the day but we can increase our focus and our creativity.

1. When you write down fewer priorities, you’ll achieve more

One of my favorite insights from Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Workweek is about the impact of setting fewer priorities. As Ferriss writes:

“Don’t ever arrive at the office or in front of your computer without a clear list of priorities… I don’t recommend using Outlook or computerized to-do lists, because it is possible to add an infinite number of items… There should never be more than two mission-critical items to complete each day. Never.”

I have found this recommendation valuable and absolutely worth implementing. Besides, writing a to-do list with one hundred items due on a single day will simply discourage you.

2. When you limit yourself to 7-10 annual goals, you will be more likely to achieve your goals

Entrepreneur and author Micheal Hyatt advocates setting approximately seven to ten annual goals that cover your entire life (career, health, intellectual, financial and so forth). Setting challenging goals is a vital to living a life you are proud of, rather than simply checking off tasks. In my experience, 7-10 goals is the “Goldilocks zone” for major annual goals.

3. When you avoid work emails at home, you will be happier and more productive

A study published in the Academy of Management Journal found that professionals often become angry when they receive emails and text messages from their company after usual working hours. When you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. After all, there is often little you can do to solve a work problem in the evening when you are away from your files and ability to seek input from others. If you keep answering work email and obsessing over problems, you will find it more difficult to relax and rest.

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4. When you insist on meetings with written agendas, you will waste less time.

Following a written agenda is a key habit for effective meetings. Even better, insisting that all meetings have agendas will reduce the number of meetings you attend. You may face a difficult adjustment at first. You will gain back hours of productive time each month. If you receive resistance to a written agenda, simply tell the person “Before attending meetings, I always seek to prepare so that I can make the most of the time.”

5. When you avoid email and social media first thing in the morning, you will be more productive

As Henry Ward Beecher said, “The first hour is the rudder of the day.” It matters how you start the day. Many successful people follow a defined morning routine and take the time to exercise or read a book. Starting the day with email puts you into a reactive frame of mind. That approach means you are neglecting your goals and priorities.

6. When you limit work hours, your focus will improve

In the public accounting industry, there is a “busy season” at the start of the year as thousands of professionals work on audits. The deadline pressure of the season means a great deal of stress. Unfortunately, some people in the sector become neglect the rest of their lives. Even worse, when you assume you will be in the office for twelve hours, you think nothing of wasting an hour or two in the morning.

7. When you take naps, you will manage your stress levels

Carving out twenty to thirty minutes during a busy work day is one way to improve your productivity. Vincent Walsh, professor of human brain research at University College London, commented that naps improve creativity. Simply continuing to grind away on a tough work problem is not always the right strategy. Of course, not every company has an enlightened policy on afternoon naps so use your judgement.

8. When you take all of your vacation days, you will be happier and more productive.

Did you know that New Zealand law requires staff have 30 vacation days per year? That high commitment to vacation is doing nothing to hurt New Zealand’s economy according to a recent OECD findings reported in USA Today. Taking time away from the office allows you to expand your interests, build new experiences and get much needed rest.

Stuck for ideas for how to use your vacation? Get some new ideas from the following resources

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35 Most Exotic Destinations For Your Next Vacation

8 Reasons Why Taking A Vacation Makes You Better At Work

9. When you reduce email notifications, you will focus more

Notifications – beeps, buzzing devices and sounds – were once a fun idea. However, the time has come to reduce notifications to improve your productivity. If your work or focus is broken to check email every few minutes, it will take you time to refocus on your work. That’s why you should take the time to disable notifications (e.g. disable email notifications on the iPhone and Android phones) or reduce the frequency (e.g. check email every hour instead of every 5 minutes).

10. When you block your calendar, you will receive fewer distractions

In many large organizations, it is a common practice to have a shared calendar. This type of system makes it easy to schedule meetings because the meeting organizer can find a time when everyone needed for the meeting is free. Unfortunately, some people start to view their daily office calendar in a reactive way: a place to store meeting requests. Instead, make sure you block (i.e. schedule “a meeting with yourself”) at least 2 hours per day to permit you to focus on your high priority activities.

For example, the Manager Tools podcast recommends avoiding meetings on Monday mornings.

11. When you reduce television consumption, you have more time to apply yourself to satisfying activities.

According to research firm Nielsen, the average American watches over 3 hours of television per day.  What if you reduced your intake by one hour? That would give you time to apply yourself to other activities. For example, you could finally start learning how to code, attend a night class one day a week or simply get to bed earlier. This idea is especially valuable if you tend to watch television (or video) for hours on end, regardless of the program.

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12. When you cut back on watching the news, you will be happier and less anxious.

Psychology Today magazine recently reported that viewing TV news and current affairs programs can make people more anxious. Over the past 20 years, there has been an increase in sensational negative news coverage. According to the research: “Not only are negatively balanced news broadcasts likely to make you sadder and more anxious, they are also likely to exacerbate your own personal worries and anxieties.”

13. When you avoid making major decisions when tired, you will make fewer mistakes.

Your energy level impacts your ability to make good decisions. For example, it is often difficult to keep your temper under control after a stressful day at the office. In fact, economists have reported that you are more likely to make impulse purchases (e.g. junk food) when you are tired.

Armed with this information, you can decide to “sleep on it” whenever you are prompted to make a significant decision late in the day.

14. When you go to bed earlier, you will be better rested and effective

If you are used to going through your days feeling tired and worn out, simply going to bed an hour earlier will improve your productivity. Getting more rest will improve your ability to stay focused and help you make better decisions, including on the road. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that over 200,000 American car crashes are caused by sleepy drivers.

15. When you eliminate clutter in your workspace, you will waste less time

Clutter is a common problem for many of us. When your workspace is filled with clutter – old magazines, receipts for expense claims, piles of old Post-It notes – your productivity suffers. Specifically, you will spend time multiple times per day looking for important materials. According to the Daily Mail, searching for lost items takes up at least 10 minutes per day (that’s equivalent to spending over $1100 per year looking for items if your annual salary is $70,000).

16. When you reduce unproductive commuting time, you can achieve more

Commuting to and from the office takes up a great deal of time that could be put to productive use. The average American spends 50 minutes per day commuting, an activity that many consider tiresome or frustrating. Fortunately, you can transform commuting time into education time! If you drive a car to work, listen to podcasts or buy a subscription to Audible (a service that has 100,000 audio books). In addition, you can also look into commuting by train or subway, you can read, study or even get a head start on your work.

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17. When you streamline your morning routine, you will become a morning master

Your approach to your morning makes a significant impact on your productivity. If you are disorganized and sleep in, a mad scramble to make out the door in time will be your daily reality. Instead, you can follow the morning ritual of successful people who get up early so they can read, exercise and take care of other important activities.

To streamline your morning, look for recurring tasks that you can optimize. For example, consider placing your keys and cell phone in the exact same place each night so you can easily locate them as you depart. During the winter, place all your cold weather clothes (hat, gloves, boots etc) so you they can dry out and be ready for another day.

18. When you set a timer on your work, your foucs will improve

In most professional work environments, individuals have a high degree of autonomy in how they organize their days. Generally, this freedom is a blessing. It is also easy to fall into bad habits – reading articles on the Web, watching silly videos or simply day dreaming. Instead, set a timer for 25 minutes to improve productivity. Once you master the routine of working according to a schedule, you can gradually increase the duration of your focus periods.

19. When you reduce the icons on your computer desktop, you will be more productive

Your computer desktop is not an effective filing system. For the best results, I recommend a maximum of one column of icons for your most frequently used applications. I suggest including your main productivity applications (e.g. Microsoft Word and Excel) and web browsers (e.g. Firefox and Chrome). The rest of your desktop will then be free and clear.

Once you have your computer desktop tidy, look for an inspiring wallpaper image that will put you in a good mood. Explore these seven websites for wallpaper images to get your imagination started.

20. When you moderate your alcohol consumption, your health will improve

On cruise ships and other vacation destinations, complimentary beer, wine and other drinks are served to guests. While enjoyable, downing too much alcohol hurts your productivity. Heavy drinking causes health problems which takes time away from other pursuits. Not sure if your drinking habits are excessive? Make an appointment with your doctor to ask his or her advice.

Featured photo credit: Pocket Watch Classic/Tentes via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

Imagine if you could use 5 simple shortcuts while working in Excel, and increase your productivity without wasting time for searching information in huge tables, writing long formulas, and sorting the data.

Or even better:

What if you would get 25 useful shortcuts… and each of them could simplify your work, so you could do much more every day?

You’d definitely feel excited to read about them.

Today is your lucky day because we are going to share with you in this article 25 great Excel shortcuts you can use in your work every day! This is your lucky chance, so go ahead and become a real professional in Excel without wasting your time.

How important are Excel shortcuts for you?

The most effective thing to check out if people really need something is to release a survey and look at the results. So, according to the anonymous survey, 99% of people said Excel shortcuts are critical or important for them.

In general, there are more than 200 shortcuts in Excel. But when we have analyzed the data about how many shortcuts people know, we got the next results:

  • 26% of people know 10 or fewer shortcuts;
  • 61% of people know 10-50 shortcuts;
  • 10% of people know 50-100 shortcuts.

As you can see, not so many people know a lot of shortcuts. Probably, some of them never think about increasing their productivity in such a simple way.

Of course, it depends on how deep you use Excel. Some people use this powerful application just for making simple tables or graphs, others use it for everyday work to count something.

Most of the accountants and businessmen use much more Excel functions for more complex tasks such as creating VBA macros, managing PivotTables, recalculating huge workbooks, outlining data, etc.

But even those people who work with Excel every day very close may know a few shortcuts. Needless to say, they can do their job without shortcuts, but it usually takes for them much more time. T

his sounds not funny, especially if you must finish a huge amount of work urgently. There is a great opportunity for you to increase your productivity in Excel and do your job faster with our useful shortcuts.

5 Main reasons to learn excel shortcuts

Many people don’t understand why they should use shortcuts if they can work without them. Of course, if you use Excel twice per year to make a simple table or a graph, it is probably not so important for you to know many shortcuts.

But if you work in Excel every day, sorting huge tables and managing with tons of data, then shortcuts will help you to reach the next five goals:

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  1. Work efficiently and faster in Excel
  2. Manage big amounts of data easily and fast
  3. Stay calm and concentrated even while doing a tedious job
  4. Make your work accurately and properly without errors
  5. Get a better understanding of Microsoft Excel

Who can use Excel shortcuts?

There are a lot of people who can simplify their life with Excel shortcuts, and here are the groups that will definitely love using them:

  • People who work in banks, finance organizations, etc.
  • Businessmen who make tons of various reports and presentations in Excel for meetings and briefings.
  • Students who usually are lazy and impatient to make their homework because they don’t want to waste a lot of time working in Excel.
  • Private entrepreneurs who keep various data in Excel tables.

Whether you are a student who hates Excel because it seems a time-wasting and boring application, or you are an accountant who must recalculate huge worksheets every day without making errors, we recommend reading and learning these Excel shortcuts to make your work simpler and save some time.

With these simple but useful tricks, it is so easy to finish your job and get more time for yourself.

25 Excel shortcuts to increase your productivity

Here are 25 great Excel shortcuts you should learn and use for work or studying to make your job faster and simpler. Try to use them all and you will realize you were totally blind before while working in Excel:

1. Format whatever object fast with Ctrl+1

If you select any object in Excel – a cell, a chart, a chart axis, a drawing object – then press Ctrl+1, and you will get the Properties dialog for the certain object. This shortcut offers a very quick and easy way to format whatever object you’re working with.

2. Use range names with Ctrol+G or F5 key

If you use range names (which we strongly recommend to do) and you want to choose the range with a specific name references, press either Ctrl+G or the F5 key, which launches the GoTo dialog.

If the name is simple, you can click on it in a list in that dialog. But if it’s at all unusual, Excel won’t list it; so you will need to type in the name. Then press OK.

3. Use a range name in a formula with =sum( and F3

Suppose you want to use a range name in a formula. For example, you want to sum the Sales range. Enter…

=sum(

…and then press F3.

When you do so, Excel launches the Paste Name dialog. Just choose “Sales” from the list, press the OK button in the dialog, then enter the SUM function’s closing “)” to complete the formula.

4. Launch Function Arguments dialog easily with Ctrl+A

Suppose you want to check the help topic for a worksheet function. For example, you want to read about the MATCH function. In a cell, type…

=match(

…and then press Ctrl+A, or click the Insert Function (“fx“) button to the left of the formula bar.

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When you do so, Excel displays the Function Arguments dialog, which might offer all the help you need.

But if you still want to see the complete help topic, click the blue “Help on this function” hyperlink in the lower-left corner of the dialog. This technique works with all documented Excel functions.

5. Copy stuff down the column without scrolling with Ctrl+D

If you added a formula in a new column on the right of a huge dataset, and you want to copy that formula down without scrolling, do these steps:

  • go to the right to the column that has data (the column to the left of the new column with the formula);
  • press Ctrl+Down – to get to bottom;
  • move one cell to the right (with arrow key naturally);
  • press Ctrl+Shift+Up to select the new column, at the top of which is the formula you just created;
  • press Ctrl+D to fill down the formula.

6. Quick access to any function with Alt+

By customizing the quick access toolbar, you can create simple shortcuts to commands that you would otherwise have to find in the Ribbon tabs, or macros you have created yourself.

The keyboard shortcut is simply selecting Alt+ (the number of the command you wish to select).

For example, if you have customized your quick access toolbar to have Calc Sheet, Save, Open. To calculate sheet you would hit Alt+1, for save Alt+2, and for open Alt+3.

A lot of people are unaware of this useful function, and it’s a great time saver.

7. Format cells with Ctrl+1

When you need to format cells, use Ctrl+1. Most people know this as the shortcut for the Format Cells dialog, but you can also use it to format almost anything in Excel, without a care about the state of the ribbon. Try this amazing and simple shortcut!

8. Choose visible cells with Alt+

When you need to choose visible cells only – use Alt+. This is the trick to copy only what you see. It is a priceless shortcut when you’re manually hiding rows and columns in the table.

9. Use filtering

Filtering – it is a powerful way to slice, dice, and sort through a huge table of information.

It’s amazingly effective when you’re participating in a meeting to discuss something like a sales forecast, and everyone is looking in real-time at your spreadsheet projected on a screen (or on their monitors).

To some people, you will be seen as the God of Spreadsheets, and this is not a joke!

10. Insert or delete column/row easily with the Ctrl key

Some people waste a lot of time even for simple operations, for example, when they need to insert/delete columns and rows in Excel.

Use this shortcut to insert: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl+Shift ++.

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To delete: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl + –.

11. See formula results with F9

If you want to check formula results within multiple formulas, highlight the formula and select F9 to see formula result.

Don’t forget to undo before exiting the formula.

12. Use ALT+Enter for more text within a cell

If you want to add a second line of text within a cell, use ALT+Enter.

13. Use EDATE to move a date on by a full calendar month:

Here’s how to use EDATE:

=EDATE(15/01/16,+1) = 15/02/2016 (15th Feb 2016)

=EDATE (15/01/2016,-2) = 15/11/2015 (15th Nov 2016)

14. Use EOMONTH to move a date onto the end of the month:

Here’s how to use EMONTH:

=EOMONTH(15/01/2016,0) = 31/01/2016 (31st Jan 2106)

=EOMONTH (15/01/2016,-2) = 30/11/2015 (30th Nov 2015)

15. Remove spaces with TRIM

TRIM is a useful function known by few people. It removes any spaces at the beginning of a value. This is useful if you are pulling in values from somewhere else.

16. Repeat commands with F4 or Ctrl+Y

In many cases, you may need to repeat your last action. Use F4 or Ctrl+Y; you can repeat many commands like applying the same borders, format, or insert a worksheet again.

17. Quick access to cells with the Ctrl key and Shift key

When you need to go to the first or last cell of a worksheet, no matter where you are, use Ctrl+Home, Ctrl+End combinations.

And here is a pleasant bonus for you: add the Shift key to select everything on the way!

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18. Use Ctrl+ to create a timestamp

If you need a date stamp and/or a timestamp in your document, there is no need to type a date and time! Use shortcuts Ctrl+ ; (date) Ctrl+Shift+ : (time). It works like a magic and helps to save your time and nerves.

19. Use autosum shortcut for sum function anywhere

Autosum shortcut – use Alt =. It is a “magic” shortcut of Excel to automatically insert a sum function.

You can use this shortcut to sum rows, columns, or even an entire table in one step without wasting your time.

20. Use data validation

This is an amazing but underutilized tool in Excel, which can be used for a variety of things:

  • Create dependent drop-down lists;
  • Create drop-down lists;
  • Protect/restrict data input of specific cells (without the need for VBA macros).

21. Use conditional formatting

It can be used for various purposes such as color format or cell format of cells, rows or columns based on dependent cell values or formats.

22. Use formula auditing

This is a great tool to analyze and trace precedent or dependent cells, check errors and evaluate formulas.

The “Watch Window” is a feature to keep a snapshot of an area of the spreadsheet, and then move to another area of the workbook – particularly valuable if you’re managing large spreadsheets or don’t have a second screen.

23. Use Scenario Manager to generate summary outputs of a spreadsheet

Scenario Manager (under “What-if Analysis”) enables users to generate high-level, summary outputs of a spreadsheet – without the need to replicate the entire workbook.

It will present multiple scenarios of a spreadsheet in a succinct, high-level summary worksheet.

24. Use INDIRECT to set up large tables

INDIRECT makes it easy to set up tables which reference larger tables without a lot of referencing work or cutting and pasting; especially for dynamic spreadsheets.

25. Use OFFSET for complicated calculations or formulas

OFFSET can be useful for things like calculating YTD numbers or creating formulas that take data in rows and using in columns.

The bottom line

As you can see, when you have a boring or tedious job to do, the best way to do it fast is not looking for a way how to avoid it, but searching for the shortest variant to do it!

That is why we suggest keeping in mind these Excel shortcuts that will help you to save a lot of time and nerves.

If it seems hard for you to remember all them, you can print out the list of shortcuts and keep it on your worktable. Use it to search for some help when you need it, and over time, you’ll remember all shortcuts easily.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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