Being more productive can save you time and money. Yet it is something that which many people do not give enough attention.
In this article, I give you over 100 ways of using procrastination to your advantage, to be productive, and to get work done without it causing stress or pain. A more playful version of work, if you will.
The tips are organized across 10 categories, some designed to be used for fun, others meant entirely for work. If used correctly, these tips will help you dramatically increase your productivity, without you even noticing it.
What Is Productivity?
Everyone has their own subjective version of this concept. For some, it’s a state of getting things done. For others, it’s more of a state where they feel they can do anything. In my line of work (marketing+writing), it’s all about maximizing output in the limited time frame I have available. Writing 1,000 words an hour is a good measure of productivity. Getting 2-3 tasks in a day is also productive if they are important.
What Is Procrastination?
Procrastination takes many shapes. Sometimes it’s just delaying that urgent task just a little bit. Other times it’s avoiding writing that book for over an year. Just as productivity is a personal state, so is procrastination. It’s avoidance, it’s delay, it’s finding more pleasurable things to do instead of the actual work you know you should be doing.
What Is Work?
The third element has the most serious and grave connotations of them all: work. It usually happens at a job, as a result of productivity, while getting rid of procrastination. The 3 fit together and this was the common understood idea.
A. Meetings / Planning Activities
1. Stand up in Meetings
Studies have shown that stand up meetings are shorter by up to 34% and provide the same decision quality as sit downs. When someone requests you be in a meeting, insist on standing up and getting to the point quicker. You’ll free up your time for more productive tasks ahead.
2. Ask Direct Questions like: “What Do We Want to Achieve?”
Force people to get to the point and show them you mean business. And that you have better things to do than sit (or stand) around in meetings. People might not always get to the point, but you’ll train your brain to only hear actionable things and block out fluff.
3. Fire off Some Personal Emails, While Others Are Talking
There are meetings where you should be paying attention and meetings where you’re just required to be there. Within those latter meetings, try to squeeze in some short personal emails, just to put your mind at ease (your parents, your girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.).
4. Brush up on Your Comic Book Drawings
You might not be the next Stan Lee or Frank Miller, but it doesn’t hurt to do a bit of doodling while others are presenting their grandiose plans. A few comic book panels per meeting and your first comic could be done by the end of the year!
5. Start a Blog, Writing about Your Meetings
Maybe drawing isn’t your thing, so start writing and blogging. Start a blog dedicated to meetings: what happens during meetings, what should happen, how you can improve. And what the worst meetings looked like, for you.
6. Test Different Audio Recording Apps on Your Phone
What better time to test out some recording apps than within meetings? People are talking, there are different tones and different distances between speakers. Fire up a few apps, one by one, and test the results at home – maybe even publish your results on your meetings blog.
7. Learn to Create a Presentation Using the Meeting Outline
Most meetings are required to have a basic outline, for everyone involved to come prepared. Use that basic outline, in combination with PowerPoint, Prezi or Haiku Deck from SlideShare, to create a more engaging outline. If it works out, show it to your colleagues, see what they think of your little design exercise.
8. Learn a New Language, a Few Words at a Time
This is one of my favorite quick tips: try to translate a few words from the meeting into a different language. One you’d preferably like to learn. Then every time someone in the meetings says those words, force your brain do translate them, so you’ll hear them in the new language. By the end of each meeting, you’ll be just a bit more knowledgeable.
9. Make Drawings of Your Colleagues as Superheroes
Start small and make it fun. You never know where talent might pop up. Mention their strengths and weaknesses, present your work and try to learn more about your colleagues. Make your superhero drawings a platform to get to know them better and form a bond.
10. Put a New Planner App to the Test
Are you still using using GCal or iCal to organize meetings? Try your hand at something else, see how you can be in charge of organizing meetings using your shiny new app, proving there might be more useful and productive alternatives out there.
B. Lists / Bullet Points
1. Make a List of Your Weekly Groceries Needs
I wasn’t really organized until I moved into an apartment with my girlfriend. We realized just buying groceries at random was costing us an arm an a leg. Now we plan our needs for the week or month and usually just get that.
It’s cheaper and we tend to have enough of what we need. Creating the list is fun as it energizes me for the meals we’ll prepare together – it’s now less of a chore and more of an adventure.
2. Write Bullet Points about Your Time-leeching Activities
For me, this was mostly Facebook and email. So I cut out my Newsfeed and merged all my email accounts into one. I also recommend checking either at specific times and really sticking to them. Otherwise, you’ll be constantly bombarded by notifications. The distractions will never let you get proper work done. Write the list – enforce it – get productive.
3. Come up with a List of Your Most Productive Times
If there are only a few items on this long list I’d recommend remembering, this is definitely one of them. Make a list of when work happens for you – for some people it’s early in the morning or late at night. For you it could be both, but you have to know for sure. Once you know – use those times to your advantage and try to avoid doing important work at other times. You’ll either fail or do work that isn’t very good.
4. List out All Your Negative Friends
There are energy vampires all around us and whether you believe it or not, you can feel the moment you’re surrounded by negativity. Put their names on a list, along with the reasons why you think you’d be better off without them. Then confront them in a respectful manner and see how your energy level will change afterwards.
5. Make a List of Popular Vacation Spots
It’s easier when you list out spots you’ve already been, but feel free to let your imagination run wild: Where would you like to go? Where have you heard your friends have been and loved? A simple 5-minute playful exercise can turn into your vacation planning for the next few years – without you ever knowing it.
6. Write a List about People Who Inspire You
Start small, with people around you. Go higher than that – if the president is inspiring to you, write his or her name there. This is put your mind at ease and will help you focus on great people who’ve worked hard to be where they are. Hopefully, you’ll be in a good state to become more productive thinking of them.
7. Come up with a List of Names for Your Company
Don’t make this an ego-thing. Maybe you already have a name for your business, start-up or company. Put your thinking cap on and make it a fun exercise listing as many interesting names as you can. You’ll be surprised at how many you can write in a short amount of time. And you might end up with a few good ones, while learning more about what makes your company unique and valuable.
8. Write down What Resources You Have Access To
This can be a list of simple things like money or assets (cars, apartments, etc.), but it would help a lot if you could go deeper than that: do you have access to designers? Marketers? Developers? Think in terms of renewable resources and elements that can help you achieve your goals.
9. Make a List about Your Future Projects
Try as hard as you can to make them SMART projects (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timed). Don’t go overboard on the planning just yet. A simple list will suffice, but put things on it you’d love doing, things you’re excited about starting. Keep the list at hand when you’re thinking about things to work on.
10. List out All the Things You’re Good At
Get the ball rolling with something easy. Once you have your initial list of 3-5 items, try to go farther than that: What are you sort of good at? Also: What would you like to be good at? These are the first steps to getting a bit better at a lot more things – you first need to write things down.
C. Sites / Research
1. Watch Buzzfeed – Learn about Making Lists
If there is a master entity in charge of great lists, it’s BuzzFeed. Topical, funny, weird – they are simply the best. Spend a few minutes each day and try to see how they come up with their lists – make a list of your own with topics, numbers, frequency and their results. Apply the same thinking in your own articles.
2. Read Book Reviews – Observe the Text Formatting
Try this as an exercise: next time your read a book review, forget about the words or the meaning. Look only at paragraphs and text arrangement. Does anything jump out at you? Do you notice the way text is formatted so that it flows and it’s easier to scan? Apply the same techniques next time you’re thinking about writing something.
3. Scroll Through Product Hunt – Get New Disruptive Ideas
The reddit of 2015, Product Hunt is a great place to find those ideas that just might become billion-dollar businesses. It’s always smart to keep and eye out for what’s possible and what’s coming out. Even better – use Product Hunt to learn that you don’t actually have to have a product to launch. You just need the right strategy in place.
4. Stop over at Inbound.Org – Check out the Latest AMA
With a focus primarily on content and content marketing, Inbound.org is a great community and the people forming it are the stuff of legends. That’s why monitoring the latest Ask Me Anything will provide a tremendous insight into how people think in terms of social, marketing and launching. Lots of behind the scenes information you won’t want to miss.
5. Read the Titles on GrowthHackers.Com – Try to Identify a Pattern
Similar to Inbound.org in terms of great community, GrowthHackers.com differs with a focus on growing your business or startup faster than the usual expected ways. Not all submitted articles do end up on the front page, so use your reading time to identifying patterns within titles – do they have questions? Are they very specific? Do they speak to you on a personal level?
6. Browse Smashing Magazine – Learn about the Latest Design Trends
Smashing Magazine has endured during the years, as a design magazine, at the forefront of design techniques and trends. Simply scrolling through the latest articles will give you a better sense of what’s going on on the design world and what might be coming up next, that you should be aware of.
7. Add Favorite Bloggers to a List – Reach out to Them Afterwards
Talking to people is intimidating at first. So you want to take it one tiny step at a time. First just think about your favorite bloggers – national and international – and put them on a list. When you’re done with that, contact them just to congratulate them on their latest blog post. Talk to them about how much their writing means to you. You’ll be surprised how many replies you’ll get and you’ll start to forge new relationships.
8. Visit The Verge – Let Yourself Be Inspired for Your next Forward-thinking Project
The Verge is great. It mixes current news with long, detailed pieces about the future of technology and the way we interact with it. It’s among my daily visited websites. No matter what article it is, I always get a feeling that we’re living in the future and I owe it to myself to be bolder in my approach and think of bigger and better plans.
9. Buffer Content You Love – Monitor Reactions
I’m almost a Buffer maniac – connecting multiple networks, reading all their blogs in the morning and using their product on a daily basis. Even if you don’t have a huge social-media following, it doesn’t hurt to buffer content you enjoy, to monitor reactions from people. You might get an idea for a product or just understand the way people consume media.
10. Ask for Tshirts from Companies You Love – Make a First Point of Contact
So far I’ve gotten tshirt from Insightly, Buffer and Wistia. Oh, and a groovy monkey hat from MailChimp. Some were part of social engineering on my behalf (looking through sitemaps or actually asking for a tshirt), while others were given to me for small services I provided for those companies. What they all had in common was that I made sure they remembered my name and I established myself as a helpful entity, one they can count on in the future.
D. Bathroom / Toilet
1. Read a Book in the Bath
What are relaxing times for if not for doing great work? Everyone seems to be doing more these days and can’t seem to find time to read. But there’s plenty of time available – choose to take a bath instead of a shower a few times a week. Use a basic plastic or metal holder for your book or ebook reader and suddenly you’ve found 15-30 minutes of double-productive time.
2. Learn a New Language on the Toilet
The plan works like this: either bring your smartphone with you or use a small whiteboard stuck to the wall. If you’ve got 2-3 minutes on the toilet, that’s more than enough time to get a few new words or sentences down. If you do decide to use a whiteboard, use a magnetic marker or use a string attached to it. Just repeating or reading words will not be enough to learn new things – you’ll have to actually write them down and engage your muscles.
3. Browse To Dos on the Toilet
Take a few minutes to revisit the To Dos you’ve created during the week. Add items, cross them off the list or simply think about what you’ve achieved or what you should be planning. The context should make it easier for you to detach yourself from the tasks on the list and actually look at them in a different light.
4. Send Short Emails on the Toilet
Get into the habit of sending short emails while you’re on the toilet. You’ll be so wired to think about the act and the environment, that you won’t give much thought to the actual email. Which is perfect, if it’s something you’ve been putting off for a while. You’re going to be sitting there, so why not make the most of it?
5. Listen to a Podcast/Audiobook While You Shave
This is simply a no-brainer: you’re engaged in an activity that keeps you there for 5-15 minutes, so why waste it? Add an audio element to it in the form of a podcast or an audiobook and you’re already gaining time and knowledge and you didn’t even feel it.
6. Read a Book Synopsis, While You’re on the Toilet
Sometime there isn’t enough time to read a whole book or you’re not patient enough to give up bath time for book reading. The compromise is to start even smaller than a few pages – read the synopsis or the book review. If you feel it’s for you, you can move forward with the actual book. If it doesn’t sound like something you’d enjoy, feel free to skip it. But at least you’ve read something that day.
7. Gather Your Thoughts in the Bath – Allow Yourself to Come up with Ideas
If reading a book in the bath isn’t your thing, at least give yourself some time to think about new ideas. They don’t have to be grandiose plans to save the world, just little things that might make your life easier or more interesting. And if those changes can also affect the people around you for the better, than that bath wasn’t just for relaxation, was it?
8. Wireframe Your Dream App
This can be done either using a whiteboard or pen on paper – I’d avoid bringing expensive smartphones or tablets in the bath or near water in general. Start with simple screens – welcome, intro to the app, main functionality etc. Then revisit your plans each time you’re in the bathroom and once you feel you’re close to having a finished wireframe, transfer all the plans to your computer. The rest is up to you.
9. Mindmap Your Masterplan
Mindmaps are fun because you get to draw and they tend to increase in complexity the more you work on them. Use either a whiteboard or a pen and paper to work out your masterplan: for your job, your life or just your next day. A mindmap is different than a bulleted list, because the elements tend to work together. It helps you see the relationship between your actions.
10. Record an Audiobook in the Bath – You’re More Relaxed
You can setup a mic to be near your mouth so you wouldn’t get such a big echo from the room. The situation is perfect to be introspective and think about your life and your achievements. Let your mind wander and your mouth talk – don’t think in terms of sections or chapters just yet. Just get it down in audio form for now.
E. Television / DVR
1. Estimate the Minutes until the Commercial Break
I’ve done this successfully on multiple occasions. Without looking at the clock, your watch or your smartphone, try to think about how many minutes have passed since the beginning of the show. And then how many more there are until the commercial break. Getting this right will help you do more math calculations in your head. It will make waiting at the post office less annoying, as you’ll know approximately how fast you’ll get to the front of the line.
2. Try to Guess the Ending of a Show
Intuition will go a long way. Or gut – listen to your gut. If you feel something will happen, commit to it. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong. You’re better off believing in something with all your heart, than changing your thoughts just to guess the ending of a show. Have strong convictions and people will notice.
3. Mute the Sound and Guess What People Are Talking about
Try to get into people’s heads and use your intuition to guess people’s talking points based on their gestures. This will prepare you for noticing people in real life and getting to know them before they even open their mouth.
4. Watch the Last 10 Minutes of a Documentary
This is a small productive hack you can use: usually documentaries do a recap at the end of the show – …and this is how Hitler lost the war. Check the time a documentary is supposed to be on and only watch the last 10 minutes. You’ll be surprised at how much information you can get out of just these few minutes. And then you’ve just saved yourself 30-40 minutes of your time.
5. Re-imagine the TV Watching Experience
With all the technology available today, do we really have to sit on the couch and watch a screen flickering at us? With Apple Watch, Xbox Kinect, projectors and smartphones with infrared transmitters, what can your brain think of the TV watching experience of the future?
6. Write down the Type of Camera Shots Used
Quentin Tarantino is famous for his ”trunk shot” – a scene where the camera is below the actors and they seem to be really tall. Write down the type of camera shots are used. This works based when you’re watching movies, as TV shows tend to have only a few angles. This exercise will get you thinking about the connection between composure, situation, lighting and scene. You can use this in your articles, stories or podcasts as ways of setting the mood.Remember
7. Remember Actors’ Names and Google Them Later
This one’s more of a memory exercise than anything else: look at actors’ names and try to remember them. The trick is you’re not allowed to Google them that day. Wait a day or two and only use your memory to remember their name.
8. Take Notes on Words You Haven’t Heard Before
Perhaps it’s something a character said. A technical term you’ve never used. Or a metaphor that you didn’t know existed. Search for these hidden gems and improve your vocabulary. Don’t forget to search for the words and learn their meaning.
9. Watch Shows You Wouldn’t Normally Watch
This tactic is all about leaving your comfort zone. Sure, E! News might not be for you. Bad Girls Club might not be something you would watch again. But give it a try and try to understand its appeal and the demographic.
10. Compress a Show into Only 10 Camera Photos
Think about it: you want to tell your friends all about this new show you’ve started watching. But actually explaining concepts and plotlines is difficult. Eliminate that issue by taking pictures of the screen at key moments. This exercise will help you compress stories and articles to their most basic elements.
F. Whiteboard / Blackboard
1. Write down Your Yearly Plans – Then Break Them down into Smaller Chunks
Right there at the top write down a big goal, like “Create your own business”. Then further down break it into smaller chunks – legal, naming, financing, objectives and so on. Focus on only a few areas and you should be fine. Make your early plan so small and actionable that you won’t be able to ignore it and you’ll have the courage to at least try something.
2. Draw a Short and Cute Mindmap of Your Objectives – Them Create Actions and Follow Through
What I mean by short and cute is don’t focus too much on real specific objectives, like wife and house by the time you’re 30. Think smaller and in different directions, like: own a t-shirt printing business by 25. Make 365 extra dollars in a year. A mindmap is great way to connect actions that you think will help you get you to your objective. If you make it fun, the actions won’t seem so scary and you might even follow through and make it happen!
3. Put down Your Daily Expenses – Then Optimize Them
I wish I had done this earlier because it turned out to be such a smart move. Simply write down what your expenses that day are. At the end of the month you add them up and try to optimize them. 50 hamburgers in a month? How about trying to get them down to 30? Or 25 even? Optimizing your expenses comes later, but writing them down daily should be an activity you do while you wait for the computer to boot up or just after you’ve come home.
4. Write One Inspiring Quote Every Day – Then Write a Book Compilation
The great thing about this is that you don’t even have to actively do research. Just write things you hear, see or things you think of. Just write one each day and by the end of one year, you’ll already have 365 quotes. Accompany each with a picture and there you go. You’ve got more than 700 pages of quotes and pictures, so your book just became a compilation.
5. Draw Something Every Day
I was only jealous of one person in grade school – one colleague who had drawing as a passion. I was sure he would go on to be an animator or architect. Alas, he stuck to video editing and movie production. But he inspired me to believe in myself and just keep trying. So I started drawing each day, just simple little doodles at first, then moved on to more complicated pieces. You do get better with time – one trick is to make it fun for yourself, draw things that you like and also make it part of a challenge somehow.
6. Sketch a Game Level
If you’re into complex games like MMOs or strategy titles, this probably won’t apply to you. But Worms or Metroid? You’re in luck. Mobile games lover? Perfect – just start sketching boxes, obstacles, enemies race tracks. Soon enough you’ll have something you can be proud of and you can turn it into a playable mockup. Start with the level and work your way up to bigger components, like story, game mechanics and platforms.
7. Create a Children’s Book Cover
Think back to your childhood covers: colorful, engaging, with a focus on a few characters. And most of all: fun. You couldn’t wait to open the book and read a few pages (or have some read to you, while you looked at the pretty illustrations). Give your book a catchy title and start from there, trying to illustrate that with a few basic drawings. Once you’re happy, recreate it in your favorite graphics editing software or find someone on Fiverr who’s a pro at this. You can then write the actual book or offer your book cover design services as a paid product.
8. Write Down All Your Sources of Income
This truly made a difference in my life and I didn’t have to think about it. I started writing down my (few) sources of income, just to get a more general feeling about my finances. Once I saw how I was limiting myself and what the opportunities, I started writing down things I could do or wanted to do, that would help me financially. One thing led to another and things were starting to come true, all because I just jokingly wrote down more potential income sources.
9. Draw a Logo Each Weekend
The key with this little exercise is to not force it. It’s important to do it on a regular basis, but don’t force yourself if you’re sick or really don’t feel like it. It should be something that you do for fun, before heading out for lunch or gearing up for a nice nap. The sort of thing you do before you do something you feel strongly about. By the end of the year, you should have 52 logos, ready to be moved into the computer for reshaping and recoloring – your designing career just got a boost!
10. Create a Rhyme-a-day
I enjoyed rhymes a s kid and was always fascinated by songs, lyrics and poetry. Take it slow – just 2-4 lyrics each day. They don’t have to sound good or form a song, just a few sentences that rhyme. As weeks go by, you’ll have more and more rhymes, you’ll start to see patterns and actually improve your skills and knowledge. You’ll start researching words on your own and the process will seem natural and fun. You’ll increase your vocabulary and start seeing things that fit together.
G. Smartphone / Tablet
1. Start Taking a Picture a Day
On your way to work, while you’re on a break, waiting for your flight – take out your smartphone and take a good picture. Repeat the process until you have at least 30 pictures which you can transform into a collage or a scrap book. Show it to people and allow yourself to see some meaning in the process. Continue if it’s fun for you – you can also do this with Instagram while gaining followers at the same time.
2. Create To Do Lists
Since the smartphone is more of a portable games machine which happens to have a phone, nowadays, you should treat it like it. Find a small app with colorful to do lists and just start adding things: money you’ve spent, people you’ve talked to, fun things in your day. The purpose of this tactic is to get you into the habit of documenting your life, while not really thinking about the process. At the end of each week, feel free to keep or delete the daily to do lists.
3. Use Umano Instead of Reading an Article
Umano is a great app as it puts popular articles at your audio disposal. It’s the “Listen later” equivalent of “Read later” services. You can create playlists, subscribe to certain channels or become an article narrator yourself. I feel like a superhero when I’m working on a project and listening to Umano at the same time, essentially doubling my productivity. Don’t worry – even if you don’t think about the actual audio, your brain receives it and you are able to retain information in this way, if you decide it’s the right way for you.
4. Start a Basic Podcast
Most people I know get caught up in the details: where do I store my files? What mic should I be using? How do I create a logo? Don’t think about those. Just start something something using your smartphone – record your thoughts, do a book review, comment on the latest fashion trend. Keep it private or make it public – it’s your choice.
5. Write Short Notes, to Transform into an Article or Book
Use a simple note-taking app to write short lists or article titles. After you’ve practiced for a few weeks, you’re ready to gather them up and see if there’s a pattern. Look at their potential of working together as articles, blog posts, stories or chapters in your book.
6. Call Your Friends for Advice
I know it’s scary, but you’ll shoot 2 birds with one stone with this tactic: you’ll get over your fear of calling people in the middle of day and you’ll make them happy for allowing them to help you. If they do decide to help, you’ll have even more to be thrilled about – you just got out of your rut. You can use their advice and really make a positive change in your life.
7. Create Flash Cards of Your Plans
If you’re anything like me, you get scared of big plans. Plans where you have to work a minimum of 10.000 hours before you actually get good. So ignore that. Instead, just create little flashcards (Google Keep is a good tool) of what you plan on doing for the next 3-6 months. Creating them is enough to get the ball rolling and get you thinking in the right direction. Remember to keep everything small.
8. Schedule Coffee Meetings
To me, the smartphone just doesn’t feel like a phone anymore. If it doesn’t have a rotary dial on it and doesn’t stand in the hallway of my house, it’s not a real phone. This type of thinking helps you send quick text messages to people, as you should feel it’s all a game. Whether they say yes or no, it’s part of a game. And if they do say says – congratulations. You’ve got a coffee meeting with something you’ve been planning on seeing for a while. Don’t think, just do.
9. Watch Minute Physics on YouTube
Dedicate a few minutes a day to the Minute Physics channel on YouTube. Even if you don’t yet understand everything, give it a few weeks. You’ll be surprised at how many new things you’ve learned along the way and how fun learning can be. Surprise your friend and drop in random physics quotes in day to day conversations.
10. Use a Dedicated App to Scroll Through Product Hunt
Ignore the official/unofficial element to it. Just choose something that works for you on your device. The power of 3rd party apps makes it possible to select times in the past – this gets you access to trends that have happened and that you can learn from. Just don’t get caught in the “everything’s been invented” idea.
H. Driving / Commuting
1. Listen to Your To Dos
There are numerous apps that handle audio recording and even transform your written notes into audio files. The simplest way is to just place your To Dos in Google Translate and hit the volume icon. As soon as you’ve figured out one To Do, you can delete it from your audio list and move on to the next one.
2. Catch up on Your Audiobooks
Long drives can get boring. If you’re stuck in traffic or just commuting for long periods of time, an audiobook can become your best friend. And your seemingly wasted time becomes time you wish you had more of, so you could finish your audiobooks.
3. Record a Video Podcast
This one’s a bit dangerous, so I do advise caution when attempting to record a video podcast. The safety trick you have to remember is that you don’t have to face the camera. You can do that in the beginning of the video, but people will only want to see you and hear what important things you have to say.
4. Record a Song
It won’t be easy, but you can do it. The lyrics are the easiest to put down on paper or audio record. Start simple with a song about driving, waiting, traffic and being stuck in a car in freezing or hot weather. Incorporate honks, people’s voices and sounds from the interior of your car. Get all these elements prepared and assemble them on your home computer.
5. Plan Your Day
The easiest way that I know to get rid of the worries of the day is to plan your day. Start with simple things, like what you would like to have for dinner after work. Then move on to more complicated things, like how to get all your work done in time, how to better organize your tasks and how you’ll feel happy at the end of the day. The scenario you’re looking for is one where this whole process brings you joy and makes you calm and relaxed. Once your resolve your unknown fears, you’re free to go about your day, with a plan for success in your mind.
6. Sketch Your Fellow Commuters
This works best when you’re commuting and you’re sitting down. Try to capture the scene – don’t focus on details at first. Think about the weather, the mood. Look at faces, gestures. Draw for fun, don’t rely too much on tablets or phones. You might end up spending more time choosing that perfect brush than actually drawing something.
7. Listen to Podcasts
If you’ve got around 48 work weeks (excluding vacations and sick time) and you commute or drive to work, it’s a shame to waste that time. Figure out your drive time and choose podcasts that sync up with that duration, so you’ll always hear the end of the podcast before you get to work.
8. Catch a Ride with a Friend
A good way to transform lost time into a valuable resource is to share it with someone. Plan projects, get and share feedback or just connect with a colleague you don’t get a chance to talk to.
9. Build up Your Courage and Ask for That Raise
Commuting helps, but you can do this while driving as well. Think of actions, rebuttals and persuasive tactics. Think numbers – low and high. In the end, the thrill of asking is what you’re after. Not knowing whether you’ll get your raise or not will get your blood pumping and you’ll be excited about the day ahead.
10. Recap Last Night’s Episode of Your Favorite TV Show
There are three benefits to this tactic: you get to clear your head, get to work or your destination in good mood and you instantly have something to talk about. All because you managed to remember details about your favorite TV show.
1. Send Very Short Emails to Your Favorite Bloggers, Congratulating Them on Their Recent Article
Creating connections online doesn’t always work the same way. With some people, there’s the need for an introduction. With others, it’s enough to butter them up, tell them you enjoy their work. Bloggers seem to react best to this. As most of them are busy, don’t overdo it. Just send them a simple email saying how cool you found their recent article. You can even ask them a question, to push the conversation further. From there on, you’ve just started making a connection.
2. Apply to Jobs – Not to Get Them, but to Connect with People
This was a tricky one for me to understand at first. Getting a job is not just about your skills. It’s also about teamwork, how well you’ll fit it, the company’s needs, what you would want as pay, your attitude and so much more. You basically want to have every advantage available.
I started emailing people about jobs, letting them know about my experience. I was surprised to see people were kind enough to reject me, but also curious to talk to me about other opportunities. Apply to companies you’d love to work for or where you know you’d be able to provide immense value.
3. Have Loads of Drafts Ready, but Make Them Fun
I’ve written more “I quit” draft emails than I care to remember. Then something happened: I started writing fun emails to people. Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen, my colleagues at work. Since I knew I was never going to publish or send those, there wasn’t any pressure to do better, to spellcheck or count my words. I wrote things that I found fun. Start doing that today and start enjoying your Drafts folder. After that, yes, you have my permission to publish them on a blog or in a book.
4. Reply to Emails Right Away
In terms of productivity and Getting Things Done, there are a few rules that I follow. One of those is replying to emails right away. If it’s something I only need to confirm or deny, it won’t take me more than a minute. If there’s anything that I need to check on my calendar or to do list, I quickly jump into those and reply with my answer.
If I know that people are counting on me for an answer – any answer – I just tell them I’ve read the email and I’ll come back once I have a proper response. That way, the sender won’t be in the limbo of thinking: “Did he get the mail? Did he read it? Is he acting on it?”
5. Always Look for the “Open Door” in Newsletters
A trick I’ve recently discovered and one I explain in detail is The Open Door method. Whenever you read a newsletter find the line that says something like: “Feel free to reply if you have any questions” or “Anything on your mind? I’d love to get to know your problems”. That’s your open door, your permission to interact with a possible influencer. I’ve used it for quotes for articles, interviews for podcasts and even job offers.
6. Respond with Bulleted To Do Lists
Another major win for me and the receiver of emails are bulleted lists. That way, they’ll immediately know what needs to be done. If you’re handling bigger projects or communicating with virtual assistants, having numbered or bulleted lists is a huge time-saver. People will be able to scan the email, get initial information and then go in depth and see all the information. Organization is key.
7. Gather Your Bookmarks and Articles into a Newsletter
Sending a short newsletter doesn’t require more than an email account. If you really want to use WordPress, there are always plugins for newsletters. If you’re already gathering articles, bookmarking posts anyway, why not share them with the world? Start with a few of your friends, then see how you can increase your list size and watch your open rates go up!
8. Send Detailed Questions to the Support of Apps and Services You Use
If you’re a startup or an app developer, one thing you’re craving (besides fame and money) is feedback. Getting to know your users, your customers, your audience. While you’re on the other side – the actual person using the app or the service – do the developers a favor and send them questions. Ask how they got started, what their plans for the future are and what their greatest accomplishment is. You’ll not only start creating a connection, but you’ll make someone’s day with questions that actually challenge them and makes them remember why they became developers in the first place (creating cool stuff for users).
9. Schedule Fun Reminders/Mementos to Your Future Self
You can set reminders for the near future, but you can also do that for way ahead in time. Using something like Bananatag, Sidekick or Boomerang you can schedule when to send an email. Address it to yourself make it at least 1 year in the future. Remind yourself of objectives, plans or birthdays: “You’re turning 30 in 5 months, remember that plan we had?” or “Hey, guess who? We’re not rich yet, what happened?”
10. Write a to Do and Convert It to a Trello Card Automatically
There are loads of ways of doing this, the official supported way is a simple start. You want your whole productive process to be as agile and lean as possible. There’s no reason why you should create the same content in 2 different places if you can find a way to automate it. Once you send someone an important email you want to have as a task as well, use this method and you can continue tracking progress in Trello. Simple, easy, without thinking too hard about it.
J. Restaurants / Pubs
1. Think of New Names for the Restaurant
If you’re a copywriter, you’ve done this more than once. If you’re with your partner, this will not only get the conversation going, but also shorten the time you have to wait for your meal to arrive. Keep your brain working, even when you’re in an intimate and fun setting. You’ll start thinking of categories, movies, locations and you’ll create connections with things that you didn’t think actually fit together.
2. Ask about the Restaurant’s History
This is one of those moments when you really have to want to do this. Otherwise, you will just seem like a nosy reporter. Sometimes you’ll find information in the menu or on the walls of the restaurant. Other times, you’ll just have to ask about the owner or find the restaurant’s facebook page. This whole exercise is to make you connect in different instances and get more involved in your community.
3. Learn to Sketch on Napkins
Napkins are a great medium because they only offer so much space. And if you’re not using the right pen, you’ll definitely rip through them. This tactic will put you in a mindset of sketching. Not drawing, but sketching. Using your skills to illustrate a goal or a situation in the most basic of details.
4. Make up a New Game
The trick here is not to think about the food theme – although you are free to do just that. The settings is perfect for relaxation so your brain should think fun thoughts. What is something you’d love to play? How would your ideal game look like? It could be in the form of something digital, a tabletop game or just something you play with your friends at parties, like charades. Bounce ideas off of your partner and see what you can come up with, before the end of the meal.
5. Create Your Own Version of the Menu
You don’t have to be a chef to have an opinion, right? So start thinking about the location, the people and your personal preference. Rearrange dishes, create new ones, eliminate whole categories (I mean soup is just a way to get to your main course, right?). Think about theme restaurants, your favorite dish in the world and things that you’ve never tried.
6. Bring a Notepad and Casually Ask for Feedback
No matter where I go, I have a small notepad and pen with me. Write things during the week, like jokes, thoughts and ideas. Ask for feedback in that new settings, away from the stress of home or work. See what your partner or friend says and actually write things down. Make it fun for you as well, by giving stars or grades to each idea.
7. Organize Business Meetings in Your Favorite Restaurant
“Business” is such a broad term. No need to think about Mad Men-style persuasive tactics. Think more in terms of doing something to advance your career or goals. This could be meeting with a potential client, asking for feedback on your work or calling a friend to partner up on the next big thing.
8. Prioritize Your To Dos
If you’re used your smartphone or notepad to write your to dos, a restaurant is a great place to organize them. Have a drink, order a light meal and scroll through your to dos. Ask yourself how you could do a better job, which ones are really important and which you should attack next. Eating will relax you and get you in the right mindset to be worry-free.
9. Use Your Phone to Research Ingredients
I had no idea what “cilantro” was, so I was scared of asking or ordering a dish that contained it. Now I’m always pulling my smartphone out to understand what I’m actually eating – how many calories, what ingredients these are and where they come from. Then I take all that fun research and I try to apply it in my kitchen – creating new dishes, using new ingredients and generally experimenting and having fun cooking.
10. Start Your Weekly Grocery List
If there’s one thing I wish could be more fun was creating the weekly grocery list. It gets tedious the more I think about it – what do we have in the pantry and the fridge, what do we need, what do we want to cook this week…it never ends. Taking those same questions in a restaurant setting? So much more fun. And with the added element of getting your list done before drinks arrive and we’ve got our fun grocery list in a matter of minutes!
One last tip is one that covers all the bases and situations: squeeze some work in any time you have a few free moments – waiting at a post office, stuck in traffic, on a break from work, right before bed, just after you wake up, etc. Just a few minutes a day will make the difference in the long run.
I’m really looking forward to hearing what sort of productivity rituals you have and how they came about. Don’t be shy – share them with the rest of the community in the comment section below!