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My little productivity tricks

Categories: Career Talk


For the last three weeks I have been on an in-between-jobs staycation. (More on this later.) This Monday I start my new gig (more on this later) and I feel a bit like a kid on the first day of school. I’m admittedly a bit nervous (more on this later) and excited. I am thinking about what I am going to wear. I even went to Target and bought some of my favorite notebooks and pens.

And in preparation for a job that promises to be as intense as any I’ve had, I’m also reminding myself about my favorite little tricks that help me stay productive. I thought I’d share them here and ask you guys if you have any to suggest. (Here’s my previous post on how to be more productive at work.)

  • Write down three (and only three) things you NEED to get done that day. It’s hard to pick just three things — most of us have a ton of stuff we have to do. But narrowing it down to three things that are absolutely positively must-accomplish helps me get focused and prioritize. I’ve been doing this for a while and it’s one of my favorite productivity tricks. Do I always get the three things done? No. But I rarely forget something really important, for work or home.
  • Get one thing done from your to-do list BEFORE you check your email in the morning. I loved, loved, loved Britt’s advice on this in her post at the Full Time, All the Time blog and I couldn’t agree more. Email can be a total time suck. It’s almost impossible to check it and not start replying or getting distracted. When I get something done before I open up my email window I guarantee you my entire day is more productive.
  • Take a walk at least few times each day. Once outside, if possible. Some days, I wake up early and take a quick 1/2 hour walk. When I can’t, I try to do this at night, after the kiddo is asleep and my husband is home. Even if you can’t get outside, get up and take a walk around the office at least a few times a day. I’m a huge believer that walking clears out your head (literally) and helps you focus better.

OK, your turn: What are some of your favorite productivity tricks?

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5 comments so far...

  • Love these easy, doable tips. It’s easy to get caught up in complicated strategies and the ones you suggest are small enough that they make action-taking NOT scary. Very important. Thanks so much for sharing.

    One of my favorite productivity tips is to make my “small” list the night before. That way I wake up knowing what my “must dos” are for the day.

    Linda Samuels  |  October 4th, 2010 at 8:50 am

  • Setting a timer. There’s one on my iPhone. Sometimes if I really need to get something done, I set a timer and don’t allow any email, twitter, FB, or other distractions during that time. I often finish the task. Or if not, at least it got started.

    I do the “1 item done before email,” too. That one’s really helpful.

    Good luck at the new gig! Can’t wait to hear more!

    el-e-e  |  October 4th, 2010 at 8:53 am

  • 1) Do something during mini-breaks. If I need a break from checking the links in my Excel workbook, it may be a perfect time to open the mail and file some stuff. No point setting aside a separate time to do stuff that could be done during mini-breaks.

    2) Do something during transitions. If I’m going upstairs or downstairs, what should I carry with me? If I’m waiting for a program to boot, what should I organize? Sometimes I leave a pile of unfolded laundry in the path between my desk and the restroom. (Can you tell I’m a WAHM?) Each time I go past the pile, I fold one item. The folding gets done without having to be a separate task.

    SKL  |  October 5th, 2010 at 8:12 am

  • I love these tips! I find that I am much more productive and prevent total paralysis from overwhelm when I practice the top 3 items method. And I definitely try to get at least one thing done before I open my email.

    I also find that it helps me to touch paper only once. That means, when something lands on my desk or when the mail comes, I deal with it then and there rather than moving it to the “later” pile. The “later” pile just gets bigger and bigger and ends up being a disaster to deal with!

    Julia Sarver  |  October 11th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

  • I practically live in my minivan. Going all the time keeps it less than tidy. I recently decided to keep a cleaning kit in the seat’s back pocket so I can clean while I wait for any amount of time i.e. for the kids to get out of school. It has wipes, plastic grocery bags, and air freshener.
    Your gonna think I’m crazy, but I use a small hand broom and dust pan to sweep out the seats and carpet. It keeps it until the weekend (if I get to vacuum it then).
    I hope this helps make your life less stressful.

    Joan  |  August 27th, 2011 at 5:43 pm