11 Expert Tips To Help You Be More Productive In 2014

Who doesn’t want to figure out how to get more done? Or get things done more efficiently? We asked some of the most productive people we know how you can tackle the New Year’s work.

FOCUS ON ONE BIG TASK AT A TIME

“It's all too easy to get distracted by ‘work’ that takes up a lot of time and energy but isn't ultimately changing your trajectory,” says David Rusenko, CEO of Weebly. “We see this all the time--entrepreneurs focus on the minutiae instead of just getting started, and getting something out there.”

ORGANIZE YOUR DAY INTO TIME BLOCKS

Some people are early risers, some are night owls, while others hit their stride mid-day. Ekaterina Walter, CMO at Branderati, and author of Think Like Zuck, advises to figure out when during the day you are most productive then establish blocks of time get more focused work done. “You can even set a recurring email going out to people telling them not to expect an immediate reply to their emails during those times,” she says.

DO THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO DO

“Remember this sentence, tape it to your monitor, tattoo it on your wrist: You don't have to 'feel like' doing something in order to do it,” says Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking.

DON’T GET PARALYZED BY PERFECTION

“A career contribution isn't made in a single ideal moment,” says psychologist and author Art Markman. “It is a collection of good and great moments that add up over time.”

STAY IN THE MOMENT

“If you're talking to your daughter, talk to her; don't think about email. You can't do two things at once--it's physically impossible for your brain to multi-task,” says Douglas Merrill founder of ZestFinance. “Even if you don't lower your workload, doing one thing at a time will help you do better and, equally importantly, feel better.”

PUT YOUR BRAIN ON AUTOPILOT FOR THE SMALL STUFF

Some super productive people don’t waste their time on the small daily decisions that take up much of our brain space. Prerna Gupta, Chief Product Officer of social music app Smule says she’s able to tackle big picture problems by eating the exact same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. She calls it “reducing decision fatigue.”

WRITE AN OLD FASHIONED TO-DO LIST

Sometimes the simplest methods are the best. “Every day, I write down the various tasks I want to accomplish and check them off as I go through them and complete them,” said Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, and author of Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed and How We Can Stick to the Plan.

GET AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER

“The promises we make to ourselves are easy to break,” says Laura Vanderkam, frequent contributor and author What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. “It's much harder to call a friend on Friday and inform her that ‘I failed.’” She set up weekly check-ins and which kept her motivated to complete the first draft of a novel in 2013.

DON’T CHECK FACEBOOK

Drake Baer spent most of 2013 writing about productivity, and when he needed a break he says the thing that kept him going wasn’t checking social media or email. Instead, he says he goes for a walk, gets a snack to stave off hunger, or sneaks into a conference room for a brief bit of meditation.

DEAL WITH IT ONLY ONCE

Leo Widrich Cofounder of social media sharing app Buffer, says Zen Habits’ author Leo Babauta taught him the following productivity tip that has transformed the way he works:

“Deal with something only once. Do it now. Then it’s off your mind, and you can fully focus on the next matter.”

ESCAPE INTO SINGLE-TASKING

Author and entrepreneur Faisal Hoque has mastered the art of doing one thing at a time. In fact he’s so good at “single-tasking,” that he can lose himself mundane task like vacuuming and help ground his focus for his work. “Being in the moment allows us to escape from adversity, conserve our inner energy, and be more consciously productive,” he says.

11 Expert Tips To Help You Be More Productive In 2014

Who doesn’t want to figure out how to get more done? Or get things done more efficiently? We asked some of the most productive people we know how you can tackle the New Year’s work.

Last year I used a kitchen timer to force myself to focus; I blocked the Internet and email so I couldn’t get distracted; I set an auto-response on my email; I wrote a lot of to-do lists. I even started getting up earlier.

As you can see, I’m kind of obsessed with productivity. Which makes this the perfect place to be because our experts and journalists are constantly coming up with new methods to hack the conventional ways of working.

But trying to wade through so much coverage of how to do things more efficiently can get in the way of actually getting things done. So in the interest of saving you time, we’ve asked some of the most super-productive people with whom we work to share how they manage to accomplish so much:

Focus on one big task at a time

“It's all too easy to get distracted by ‘work’ that takes up a lot of time and energy but isn't ultimately changing your trajectory,” says David Rusenko, CEO of Weebly. “We see this all the time--entrepreneurs focus on the minutiae instead of just getting started, and getting something out there.”

Organize Your Day Into Time Blocks

Some people are early risers, some are night owls, while others hit their stride mid-day. Ekaterina Walter, CMO at Branderati, and author of Think Like Zuck, advises to figure out when during the day you are most productive then establish blocks of time get more focused work done. “You can even set a recurring email going out to people telling them not to expect an immediate reply to their emails during those times,” she says.

Do things you don’t want to do

“Remember this sentence, tape it to your monitor, tattoo it on your wrist: You don't have to 'feel like' doing something in order to do it,” says Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking.

“When I manage to remember that, I'm no longer sidetracked by trying to get into the right frame of mind for daunting projects. Don't beat yourself up for procrastinatory feelings. Just feel them, and simultaneously direct your limbs to do the work.”

Don’t Get Paralyzed by Perfection

“A career contribution isn't made in a single ideal moment,” says psychologist and author Art Markman. “It is a collection of good and great moments that add up over time.”

The best project is a completed project he says. “It’s easy to get paralyzed by perfection, but it’s better to get something out the door than to hold onto it for a long time hoping to remove every flaw.”

Stay in the Moment

If you feel overwhelmed (like pretty much everyone), it might not be because you have so much to do, but rather that you are trying to do too much at the same time, says Douglas Merrill founder of ZestFinance (formerly VP of Engineering at Google).

“If you're talking to your daughter, talk to her; don't think about email. You can't do two things at once--it's physically impossible for your brain to multi-task,” he says. “Even if you don't lower your workload, doing one thing at a time will help you do better and, equally importantly, feel better.”

Put Your Brain on Autopilot for the Small Stuff

Some super productive people don’t waste their time on the small daily decisions that take up much of our brain space. Prerna Gupta, chief product officer of social music app Smule says she’s able to tackle big picture problems by eating the exact same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. She calls it “reducing decision fatigue.”

Write an old-fashioned to-do list

Sometimes the simplest methods are the best. “Every day, I write down the various tasks I want to accomplish and check them off as I go through them and complete them,” said Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, and author of Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed and How We Can Stick to the Plan.

“Seeing the progress makes me feel good and, research says, more productive. It also helps me be a bit more realistic in understanding what I can accomplish every day, and which tasks are top priority,” she says.

Get an Accountability Partner

“The promises we make to ourselves are easy to break,” says Laura Vanderkam, frequent contributor and author What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. “It's much harder to call a friend on Friday and inform her that ‘I failed.’” She set up weekly check-ins and which kept her motivated to complete the first draft of a novel in 2013.

Don’t Check Facebook

Drake Baer spent most of 2013 writing about productivity, and when he needed a break he says the thing that kept him going wasn’t checking social media or email. Instead, he says he goes for a walk, gets a snack to stave off hunger, or sneaks into a conference room for a brief bit of meditation.

Deal With It Only Once

Leo Widrich cofounder of social media sharing app Buffer, says Zen Habits’ author Leo Babauta taught him the following productivity tip that has transformed the way he works:

“Deal with something only once. Do it now. Then it’s off your mind, and you can fully focus on the next matter.”

He says the “deal with it only once” policy works for three of the most nagging aspects of everyone’s day: email, meetings, and requests for help. Answer all as soon as they come up and get them out of the way.

Escape Into Single-Tasking

Author and entrepreneur Faisal Hoque has mastered the art of doing one thing at a time. In fact he’s so good at “single-tasking,” that he can lose himself mundane task like vacuuming and help ground his focus for his work. “Being in the moment allows us to escape from adversity, conserve our inner energy, and be more consciously productive,” he says.

[Image: Flickr user Pasukaru76]

Add New Comment

14 Comments

  • Douglas Crew

    Wow, wish I would have found this earlier! Any advice on how to effectively implement checklists into daily life? Just discovered www.simplist.me which seems pretty good, but wonder about others?

  • Kathleen a great list for anyone wanting to be more productive in 2014. I would recommend anyone who wants to get things done, follow Mark Twain’s advice. “'Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” We all have tasks we don’t want to accomplish, getting them out of the way first thing makes the rest of the day seem like a breeze.

  • Patrick Carmitchel

    Dead on! The tracking tip is huge. I decided to start a work journal to track everything I was doing. I wanted to keep it simple and our team already uses http://glip.com to collaborate, so I just made a private team for myself and now I just post whatever I'm working on. No one sees it, but me. This proved some of your other tips, like needing to focus on one thing at a time and scheduling time blocks. I had no idea how much time was being waisted switching gears. Thanks!

  • Great tips! A few of these tips I started following awhile ago and they've made a huge difference in my level of productivity. But, there are a few new tips that I need to work on as well.

  • Dave Duncan

    DWIOO: Deal With It Only Once This is the secret of both closure and accomplishment. If you open an email, deal with it or delete it; but DWIOO.

  • Excellent advice! The overall theme I see here is to be mindful. Live in the moment, have extreme focus, and executive your current task well.. if you feel that tiny impulsive feeling of doubt, uncertainty, fear, discomfort, or resistance, then embrace it and just do it! Just do it!

  • Nice reading this Kathleen! With great success, this last year I've followed nearly all these points... except 'deal with it only once' and the 'Answer all as soon as they come up' comment. Since walking away from this system, and replacing it with a more time-block way of working, I've found my better energy is more focused at the right times to the more important challenges of a day. For me, firefighting everything in real time, ultimately, just wasn't that efficient.

  • I like your point. It seems to me that dealing with emails as they roll in is a bit at odds with time blocking. I find I'm more efficient when I dedicate an amount of time to email or deal with aspects as it relates to a specific project versus responding in a Pavlovian way to every notification of an email. Speaking of which - turn off notifications. I found this to be really helpful in being able to focus.