Finding Time in Unexpected Places: 11 Tips on Productivity

On Sunday, March 9, social media feeds were filled with people who felt like they were robbed an hour of their lives from Daylight Savings Time. Many people complained of loss: "I lost an hour," "The government stole an hour of my life," and so on. While there's nothing that can be done for past time, there are certainly things that we can do create more time: to be more productive.

By being more productive, you can actually gain time that is normally wasted in the day. By finding ways to be more efficient, you'll have more time and energy to do things that you really want to do.

So here are twelve of my personal tips to being productive:

1 Don't Shut Down the Computer at Work: During the week, I don't shut down my computer. Not only is sleep mode more energy efficient, it saves about 5 minutes in the beginning and 5 minutes at the end of the day for booting up and powering down. That's an extra 50 minutes per week.

2. Turn Off Email Notifications on the Phone: I used to get really annoyed with the phone notifications received so I turned them off (I average 700-1200 emails per day). Notifications also would distract me from finishing the task at hand. Now, I block out specific times of the day for correspondence so I can avoid the start-stop process on projects.

3. Automate Processes: If you receive the same questions or requests often, you can pre-write and save responses to use in advance. I use Canned Responses in Gmail for the basic message, then make small edits to personalize the message before sending. Huge time saver.

4. Get News From the Radio, Twitter, and RSS Feeds: I don't bother with newspaper subscriptions anymore. I get all of my news from NPR/BBC radio, news channels on Twitter, and creating filtered feeds on Google News. Scanning headlines on Twitter saves at least an hour per day.

5. Use Cloud Storage: I back everything up on Google Docs, Evernote, and Dropbox. That way, if I need to access a file, I can get it from any device in any place. To save time, I organize everything into folder and subfolders, instead of saving everything to the desktop.

6. Google Calendar: I schedule nearly everything in my Google calendar (synced to my phone), including reminders to work on specific tasks. It's great for appointments: not only does it send a reminder, it will alert you of traffic conditions to the location and tell you when to leave in order to arrive on time. It also serves another function: it allows me to see where I am spending my time so I can find ways to make my routine more efficient.

7. Reduce Meeting Times: I try to condense one-hour meetings to thirty minutes by staying on track and focusing on the objective. If it is a meeting that requires updating, I usually have everyone provide an update via condensed email or shared document instead of doing it in person. That also keeps a record and makes us more accountable. Since I have about 3-5 meetings per day, this actually saves me about 10 hours per week.

8. Combine Tasks: It's the old saying: kill two birds with one stone. Find ways to combine activities, like listening to audio books and podcasts while exercising or driving, using a treadmill desk, or completing other tasks while doing mundane things. For example, many professional singers do vocal warm-ups in the shower.

9. Measure and Reflect: Most businesses rely on analytics and metrics to see if something is working or worth the return on investment. I do the same thing with my time: is how I am spending my time advancing me closer to a personal goal? Which activities get the most results and where can I cut waste?

10. Keep Coffee to a Minimum: Daily doses of coffee make you immune to the boost, so you might as well save it for when it is most needed.

11. Don't Watch TV: The average American watches about 5 hours of TV per day, according to a Nielsen report. Cutting TV would give the average person an extra 35 hours per week. I don't even keep a Netflix subscription.

Everybody has their own habits. These happen to be some of mine - though admittedly, I watch Game of Thrones every summer along with most other people. While we certainly can't all be workaholics or automated creatures, that additional time saved could be used on things other than work: spending time with loved ones, volunteering on the board of a nonprofit, exercising, reading a book, and so on. By managing your time as you would a small business, you can cut the excess and focus on what you really find most rewarding. That sixty minutes lost during Daylight Savings is just a drop in the bucket (plus you'll get it back later anyway).

What're some of your best tips for staying productive?