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Three ways to be more productive

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I generally think of myself as an extremely productive and difficult-to-distract person, but I’ve recently realized that I’m deluding myself. Sure, I get stuff done, but I procrastinate, waste time, and get distracted often. For all the complaining I do about needing more time in a day I should start by creating more time in a day by wasting less of it.

So here are the three specific things I’ve come up with to be more productive this week — I promise to report back next weekend and let you know how I did:

1. De-activate my “new mail” notifier. Checking email is my biggest time-waster at work, by a long shot. I justify it by thinking that since I work in digital media and since most of the people I work with are in different locations, email is essential to my success. All that is true, but it doesn’t mean that I should always keep my email windows open and check new messages as soon as they come in, replying to many that don’t need an ASAP reply. I’ve tried simply limiting the number of times I check email and just closing my email programs, but that didn’t go far enough. So this week I am turning off all of my new email notifications. (Really, I am. Really.)

2. Set defined no-work time zones. One of the biggest downsides of working from a home office is that I can work all the time. So I do. Outside the few hours a day that I spend being a mommy, I am usually attached to my computer, working at all hours of early morning or late night. Some of this is necessary — as a CEO of a young start-up there are just too many things to get done — but some of this is not. Knowing that I have all night to finish my daily work makes me less disciplined during the day. I complain about not having enough time, but I think I might have too much time to work. This week I am setting specific start and end times to my work days, every day. (Yes, my dear husband, this means that I might actually look at you when we talk rather than nod in half-understanding as I type away.)

3. Start the day by getting 3 annoying things from my to-do list done. I think being productive has a lot to do with feeling productive. I know when I get something done that I’m dreading, I feel completely awesome and energized, like when I called our accountant last week to talk about taxes (yes, filing late). So this week I am going to tap into my inner Energizer Bunny every morning and start the day by removing the dreaded, the time-consuming, the this-is-worse-than-the-dentist stuff from my to-do list. You know what a great stress relief it is to write something on your to-do list and cross it off? This is that, but spiked with an energy drink. Or so I think.

What are your best tips for being more productive?

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8 comments so far...

  • I had to do your second tip, too… it really helped a lot to give myself permission to be “off the clock” for a set time each week.

    Sometimes, I play “beat the clock” to be more productive. I write out a list of small, easy-to-do but time-consuming tasks that I’ve been putting, and challenge myself to see how many I can do in an hour of solid work. I was surprised… I usually polish off the whole list before time’s up.

    Lylah  |  August 4th, 2008 at 10:44 am

  • Nataly,

    Great post! As a home business owner, it’s important to set hours. Or like you said, we work all hours because of the flexibility.

    Checking email two times a day is another task I encorporated quickly. I also found it to be a huge distraction as well as a time waster. Yes, it has to checked and answered and is important. But I check it twice a day and that it’s.

    And I carve out one day during the week where I won’t check it until late afternoon or even evening. If I’m writing new webpages or a new Squidoo lens or focusing on new prospects or training, I leave it until later in the day. This has helped my productivity a great deal!

    I can’t wait to hear about your progress.

    BELIEVE Success!


    Lisa Willard  |  August 4th, 2008 at 11:20 am

  • oh you have no idea how much i needed to read this! i too am guilty of ‘wasting’ time because i am dreading things that really only take about 15-30 minutes to do. so silly!

    any advice on how to shorten meetings to give back some ’scheduled’ time? some days i am in one after the other from 8am - 5pm and THEN i get to start actually working. lovely.

    Kate  |  August 4th, 2008 at 11:37 am

  • Learn keyboard shortcuts! Sounds trite, but they can easily shave an hour off your day. Using GMail, I can process any email with less than three keys, so I can zoom through a full inbox quickly. Most other programs have keyboard shortcuts available, too.

    Marina Martin  |  August 4th, 2008 at 1:42 pm

  • Tip #1 is great. I have a big struggle with this too. Sometimes I’ll catch myself just clicking the ’send/receive’ button again and again while I stare blankly at the screen. - Stop your postal junk mail, Protect the environment, Protect your identity.

    Eileen123  |  August 4th, 2008 at 3:08 pm

  • These are good suggestions. I’ll have to try shutting off my “new e-mail” notification.

    I keep myself focused by breaking up the day with a bit of exercise. Either a quick trip to the gym at lunch, a walk around the neighborhood, or even stretching in the office.

    Ellen Hart  |  August 4th, 2008 at 3:24 pm

  • Your list is so realistic and so many of us relate to it. I made a list over the weekend myself, not happy with how much I accomplish during the day.
    I am so happy that you mentioned about the 3 annoying things. I use to do that when I had a job, and it worked, and is funny that now I do not do it for myself.

    Zoica  |  August 4th, 2008 at 10:56 pm

  • Some good suggestions here. But don’t think all procrastination is created equal.

    It can sometimes be good to procrastinate - it can lead to less struggle, delay (counter-intuitive, but true), and more optimal functioning.

    There’s a new book out titled Productive Procrastination, and it describes how to do it, how to tell productive from destructive procrastination, and how to end the destruction kind. It’s available on Learn more about the book at

    Kerul  |  August 6th, 2008 at 11:35 am