It's something we're One goal. Find your passion. Work from home. Come in early. Work 4 days. Work 6-hour days. Work 20 hours. MITs. Batch process. Telecommute 1 day a week. Freelance as a 2nd job. Brown bag it. Cycle to work. Take high-profile projects. Automate your business. Bank your raise. Clear your desk. A Granularize. Delegate. Eliminate. Clear distractions. Kill meetings. Email once a day.
all looking for - the perfect solution that will minimize our work life
while still getting the stuff done that we need to get done. Well, that
one solution doesn't exist, but with a combination of strategies, you
can get to where you want to be.
Now, none of these tips will
turn your life around. But they can make a big difference, and when
used together, your work life might just be enjoyable, productive,
low-stress and high fun. And these tips won't work for everyone.
They're not meant to be used as a step-by-step guide. It's a list of
strategies that work -- choose your favorites and give them a try.
Set a single goal that you want to accomplish this year -- I know that
we probably want to do 12 goals, but it's too difficult to maintain
your focus on more than one goal, and it diffuses your energy. Pick one
goal for the next 12 months, and then a single 3-6 month goal that will
lead to your 12-month goal. Then choose something you can accomplish
within the next 1-2 weeks that will lead to the 3-6 month goal. Now
focus on that short-term goal, giving it all your energy, and when it's
achieved, set your next short-term goal until you've accomplished your
All the rest of these tips are just window dressing if you find work
you're passionate about. If you're not in a job you love, start your
quest to find that job now. You don't need to quit your current job
right away, but start doing some research on the web, think about what
you're really interested in, talk to others who are doing what you want
to do. Make this your One Goal for this year, and it could turn out to
be your best year ever.
This is not a miracle solution, but it's something many people would
love to do. And it's completely possible -- more people are doing it
every day. Is it something you want to do? Give it some thought, and
find a solution that works for you. You could telecommute for your
current job -- plan your pitch to your boss today, making sure to focus
on how it will benefit your company. Or you could find another job that
allows you to work from home -- even if the pay is a little less at
first, you will have reduced costs from not having to commute or eat
lunch at work or buy expensive work clothes, and you will also have
If telecommuting isn't your thing, try getting to work 30-60 minutes
before the rest of the crowd. Or even more. This might require you to
learn to wake up early, but the benefits are many: you skip the morning
traffic, you can work without distractions until the rest of your
coworkers come in, you can get a jump start on your day, you can be
ahead of the crowd and get more done. Getting an early start is a great
way to start your work day and to become more productive.
If you can control your work schedule (or can convince your boss to
change it), try working fewer days. Working four days a week not only
gives you an additional day off, but it forces you to be more
productive in the days you do work. Think about it: if you knew that
you had to get your work done by the end of Thursday, you will focus
more on what really needs to get done, and goof off less too. What
would you do less? Email? Read stuff on the Internet? Chat? Play
solitaire? Those unimportant things fade away when your time is limited.
Same concept as above, but reconfigured. Personally, I'd choose the
4-day workweek, but that can't work for everyone. Get in early and
leave even earlier -- imagine the 7 a.m.-1 p.m. work day. With focus,
it can be done.
This might sound impossible. And if you are a full-time employee
somewhere, it might be. But you could either 1) telecommute, and get
your work done in fewer hours; or 2) work for yourself. Now, I'll admit
that these options won't work for everyone, but they can be done. And
I'll also admit that in working for yourself, you tend to work more
hours, not fewer. But if you limit your hours to 20, it will force you
to focus in the same what that working four days a week does. And if
you focus on only those tasks that are truly important (see next item),
you can get a lot done in 20 hours a week.
Each day, make a list with only three items: the three Most Important
Tasks you want to accomplish today. Make at least one of them related
to your One Goal. The others might be something you've been
procrastinating on, or a big project that's due today, or something
similar. Ideally, these MITs are really important tasks -- ones that
will gain you longer-term recognition or income. Now focus on these,
making sure to accomplish them. It's best to do your MITs first thing
in the morning, before you get interrupted by a bunch of other things.
If you do only three things today (you could choose more or less than
three MITs, but I've found that three works for me), make it your MITs.
There are usually a bunch of smaller tasks that we have to do that
aren't that important. Email, paperwork, phone calls, things like that.
Instead of doing those little things throughout the day, giving you
busywork to interrupt and distract you from your important tasks, batch
them together and do them at one set time each day. Write these tasks
down on a small list, and with an hour left in your work day (or
whatever works for you), start processing them as quickly as possible,
ticking them off your list.
If you can't convince your boss to let you work completely from home,
try one day a week. You could start out by calling in sick, but still
getting a lot done from home. Or tell him you want to give it a try,
just for one day this week, because you think it will make you more
This is something I do, and I earn an extra $2,000 a month doing it.
It's extra work, but it helps me to pay the bills (and pay off debt and
save). Eventually, if you get good at the freelancing gig, you could
make it your full-time work. To do this as a second job, set aside some
time each day for freelance work. I've used early mornings (I get up an
hour earlier and do one assignment), my lunch hour, work time (with
permission), or evenings. If you could do 1-2 assignments a day, you
will be making a decent extra income, and starting yourself down the
road to working for yourself.
This isn't life-changing, but I take my lunch to work every day --
leftovers or a sandwich, usually, with snacks such as fruits on the
side. How does this help? Well, it saves me a lot of money (a few
thousand a year) and it allows me to work through lunch, giving me time
for that freelancing gig I talked about above or perhaps allowing you
to leave work early.
Again, not necessarily life-changing, but if you can commute even just
a couple times a week by bike, you will save money on gas, reduce the
stress of rush-hour traffic, and get your daily exercise done at the
same time. A shower at work (or at a nearby gym) helps make this easier.
If you just take the grunt work, your boss might or might not
appreciate it, but it certainly won't make you a star and you won't go
very far. Instead, volunteer for the big projects, the ones that will
make a name for both you and your company. If there aren't any
available, make your own. Be sure you can do them well, but if you do,
these projects will have a huge impact on your life. The tasks on these
projects should be your MITs every day. If you take on high-impact
projects, you can be more productive working a half day than if you
worked 10 hours a day on tasks that won't matter next week.
If you have your own business, or set one up on the side, find ways to
make it automated as much as possible. Everything can be outsourced,
from manufacturing to mailing to advertising to taking orders to
customer support to credit card processing. Put your business front
online, with online ordering, and give your outsourcers the ability to
make decisions (with certain limits, following rules you set) without
your approval, removing yourself from the bottleneck. If it's
completely automated, your business will require minimal work from you
once you've got it set up. Now all you have to do is check now and then
to make sure things are running smoothly, and make sure your money is
being deposited in your bank account. Nice.
If you get a raise (and if you haven't in awhile, you need to make it
happen by taking on high-profile projects and then asking for the
raise), don't increase your spending. Take the raise and put the entire
amount in the bank, making it automatically deducted from your paycheck
or checking account and sent to a high-interest online savings account.
Doesn't increase your productivity, but it can increase your financial
messy desk might be the sign of a creative mind, but in my experience
(I've tried both messy and now clean desks), having a desk that's clean
is much more calming, much more productive, and more organized. Most
importantly, it reduces visual clutter and allows you to focus on the
task at hand, increasing your productivity. Clearing your desk can take
a chunk of time, but it's worth it: take all your papers (everything!)
and put them in your inbox, or in a pile if they don't fit. Now process
through them, one at a time, from top to bottom, filing, acting upon,
delegating, trashing each document or noting tasks on a to-do list for
later (and filing the to-be-acted-upon documents in an action folder).
Remove other knick knacks and put any office supplies or tools in a
drawer (and empty out your drawers while you're at it). From here on
out, everything goes in your inbox, and you process it to empty every
day using the steps outlined here.
If a project or task seems too intimidating, split it into smaller
tasks, and just focus on the first task you need to do. For example,
instead of Research report, just find three sources on the Internet.
You can read each of these sources and take notes after that.
Get out of the habit of thinking you need to do everything yourself.
Relinquish control and learn to trust others. If you don't think a
person can handle a task, take the time to train him to do so. It will
save you tons of time and headaches later. And by delegating, you
empower others while shrinking your to-do list, leaving you to focus on
what's really important.
Your to-do list is a mile long. You'll never be able to do all those
things. Cut it in half by crossing out stuff that doesn't really need
to be done, or delegating others. And from that list, just choose the
three most important things that you need to do today. Get in the habit
of eliminating as many of the tasks and processes you normally do as
possible, and your work life will be greatly simplified.
In addition to clearing your desk, you can allow yourself to focus more
by eliminating all distractions: email or IM alerts, Twitter, other
websites (in fact, turn off the Internet), phones, visual clutter
around you or on your walls. Wear headphones so your coworkers
interrupt you less, or let them know that you're not available right
now. Focus more, and you'll get more done.
One of the biggest time-wasters in our work lives. Most of the time, a
meeting could have been accomplished with an email or a phone call. Beg
out of meetings (or if you're the boss, eliminate them) by claiming you
have a project due that you need to work on. Then be very productive
during the time you would be at the meeting, and show your boss how
much you got done.
Don't do email throughout the day. Set one time during the day to
process email, then crank through it, getting your inbox to empty (use
the same steps in clear your desk above). If you check email
throughout the day, you are allowing yourself to be distracted and at
the mercy of anyone who sends you a request. And by sending out emails
all day, you are generating even more responses in return, compounding
the problem. Batch process, and you will get a lot more done. Same
applies to reading your RSS feeds and checking your blog stats and
reading your forums.
Find your passion.
Work from home.
Come in early.
Work 4 days.
Work 6-hour days.
Work 20 hours.
Telecommute 1 day a week.
Freelance as a 2nd job.
Brown bag it.
Cycle to work.
Take high-profile projects.
Automate your business.
Bank your raise.
Clear your desk. A
Email once a day.