We regularly watch research surrounding productivity. We read a great deal of scientific studies and blogs, looking for every edge to get more done in less time. We love being able to share the best tips with friends of CaptureApps, so you can be more productive and less stressed. Here are 28 time saving secrets for busy business people.
1. Do the most important task on your to-do list first.
If you haven’t heard the expression “eat a frog”, learn it… When your brain is in gear and your energy is high, you’ll get more good work done. Do important work at your best. It’s number one on our list of time saving secrets for a reason.
2. Map energy levels to your to-do list.
As a corollary to the idea of eating a frog, pay attention to when you’re tired, and use that time for maintenance tasks. Doing the important work when you’re up and the less important work when you’re down is efficient.
3. Plan for three important tasks per day.
We’ve been foolish in the past, not saying NO and having LONG to-do lists. Plan for 3 important tasks, focus on them, and you’ll get way more accomplished.
4. Work on each task until you complete it.
We love to work on one task until we hit the wall (completed task or barrier that means it’s time to stop). We get more done in less time, and the sense of accomplishment is far greater.
5. Don’t multitask.
We may sound like a broken record on this one… When you shift your attention from one task to another, the first task leaves behind an attention residue that can linger for 10 to 20 minutes, which reduces your brain’s processing power (just like your computer when you’re running multiple processes!).
6. Batch similar tasks and do them all at once.
Perhaps you’ve heard that it’s wise to check email twice a day rather than every time a message comes in? Group tasks, such as filing, responding to messages and catching up on reading so that you’ll be able to map to your energy level and lose less time in task-switching.
7. Keep regular office hours (even if you work from home).
Your body runs on an internal clock. Stick to a schedule – it helps you contain overworking (and upsetting your family!). Learning your body’s rhythm will help you with energy mapping. You also create efficiency when you know you have a finite amount of time. As we say in the software world, if it wasn’t for a deadline, nothing would ever get done.
8. Learn useful keyboard shortcuts.
For repetitive computer tasks, you’ll be faster if you keep your hands on the keyboard. It stops you from reaching for the mouse. Here’s a good list of keyboard shortcuts to learn – tailor the ones you learn to the ones you need. You can even create custom ones in many applications.
9. Provide schedule options on the first message.
It helps minimize the number of back and forth messages required to get something on your calendar. For example, tell your colleague or buddy you have time Tuesday afternoon, or suggest specific times on specific days. If you’re always playing schedule tag, consider a service like calendly.
10. Turn off e-mail notifications.
Email is a habit you must control. Turn off all the notifications and minimize the number of times you’re interrupted by popups and sounds. It’s like task switching in small doses, causing your mind to wander (“I wonder what Sarah wants…”).
If you’re not reading that newsletter every time, just unsubscribe. You lose time every time you scan and skip. Many of the newsletters you read are redundant anyway – pick the best digest in your market or area of interest.
12. Get a password manager.
We love LastPass, which remembers your passwords across many websites. It saves time from fat-fingering passwords and lapsing memory.
13. Use Pocket.
Batch up websites and pages you need to review with a bookmarklet program like Pocket – review links in downtime or during low-energy periods.
14. Save early, save often.
Power outages, computer crashes and other early exits can cost you hours of productivity with your documents.
15. Do meetings right.
We write about ways to squeeze more juice from the meeting lemon regularly. Plan ahead and execute. You’ll save hours.
16. Add meeting overage time.
If your meeting is 30 minutes, allow 45. If it’s an hour, allow 90 minutes. This cushion helps if someone is late or the meeting runs long. The rest of your day will thank you. If the meeting runs on time, you’ll have a few minutes to catch up (or better yet, get ahead) – bonus time!
17. Be punctual.
Whether it’s your meeting or someone else’s, show up on time. When you’re running late all the time, you send a bad message to your colleagues. You may lose out on opportunities or miss something important.
18. Always carry something to do with you when you arrive early or are waiting on someone.
We love to carry books everywhere we go. It’s amazing how much reading you can squeeze into the tiny cracks of time. You can learn something useful, amuse yourself or knock a small task off your to-do list. Plan for it and you’ll be much more productive.
19. Schedule interruptions.
Don’t you love it when you’re on an important project with a big deadline, and the guy down the hall stops in to ask about the basketball game? Neither do we. Use a “Do Not Disturb” policy when you need to get work done. Avoid the trap of interruptions by setting boundaries. Let people know you’re slammed for the morning and you’ll catch up later. They’ll understand and you’ll get more work complete.
20. Set a social media and browsing budget.
Who doesn’t love to look at cool pictures on Instagram or read fascinating blogs all day? You probably know it can be a black hole – what started as an innocent peek becomes an hour. Set limits for yourself, especially at specific times of day. Unless it’s your job, don’t waste your best energy on social media!
21. Use the 2 minute rule.
If you can finish a task you’re looking at in 2 minutes, just do it. The more times you touch the same item on your to-do list, the more time you waste. Touch it once, if possible – Do, Delegate, Delete…
Did we mention delegate? If you can get someone to help on a task, it’s potentially one less thing you have to do. 10 minutes per day is almost an hour saved each week. Delegation is an art – you must have clear instructions, and you must review the result. Otherwise, it can come back to you as a problem. Delegation is one of those time saving secrets that facilitates exponential career growth if you master it.
23. Keep some meal replacements nearby.
We love to keep an energy bar in the backpack or desk drawer. When you are caught in a long meeting or focused on a project, stepping out for lunch is a huge momentum buster. Grab a bite to keep your energy up when you’re in a bind. It’s also an insurance policy if you’re traveling and get stranded.
24. Manage decision fatigue.
Decision making works like a muscle. You get fatigued when you make decisions over and over again. Every decision is like another rep at the gym. Don’t make important decisions late in the day! And don’t schedule meetings with someone else who’s making decisions late in the day. Meeting an investor? See them at 9am, not 4pm!
25. Recap your day before leaving.
Review your daily to-do list at the end of your day. Mark completed tasks and schedule follow-ups while they’re still fresh in your mind. It will help you relax in downtime.
26. Fill up your gas tank on the way home.
This happens too regularly: you have an early meeting across town, you work late preparing for it and you head home dazed. In the morning, you wake up, hop in the car and see the low fuel indicator. Avoid this scenario by fueling up beforehand. On the way home, take the five minutes to get it set. It’s a low-energy task and it’ll save your freak-out in the morning.
27. Plan the night before.
In concert with #3 and #25, plot your three most important tasks for the next day. We love the Productivity Planner, which offers a mind-blowing approach to getting things done.
28. Plan only 75% of your day.
Ah, the best laid plans… Servers go down, clients have problems, colleagues show up unexpectedly – don’t overbook your day. Allow for mishaps and (good) surprises. If the remaining 25% is left over, you’ll get even more done. And yes, some days, you’ll have 75% interruptions…
Time Saving Secrets for Busy Business People
As a CaptureAudio or CaptureNotes users, you’re trying to be more productive and efficient. Hopefully you can steal a few of our 28 time saving secrets for busy business people to squeeze more out of your day. We invite you to share your experiences or additional tips with our community – just post a comment below!