What personal productivity / time management / motivational tips & tricks do you use?


What little tips and tricks do you use to try and be as productive as possible each week plus be as motivated as possible? Here are a few I use:

  • I will schedule meetings that normally would be an automatic one hour for just 45 minutes and then stick to that. Rarely do I feel like there's any impact on the outcome because of the shorter time. And if it's really important, we'll extend if necessary. I also frequently schedule 15 minute meetings in place of a half hour. Everyone knows in advance so we don't waste time. We get in the meeting and get rolling.
  • I try to be the one in a meeting who pushes to keep it on track even if someone else is running it. If we're rat holing or just wasting a bunch of time I will speak up.
  • I do a weekly status report. What am I going to accomplish this week, what did I complete last week, what are the key blockers. I'm competitive so I really push hard each week to complete what I said I would get done. And I feel held accountable by it so I want to complete a lot to write up. Plus it helps me to take a few minutes to review what I accomplished the previous week and see if I really did things of value and see where I was wasting time. This can be sent to a boss or if you don't have one, perhaps send it to a friend who's willing to look at it. Or just send it to yourself.
  • A variation of that last one is just to write down what I do each day. A buddy of mine had lost his motivation at his sales job. I suggested he just write down each day what he did and that small little trick really turned it around for him, as crazy as that might sound.
  • I try and do email just every three hours although I'm failing at that so far. It does feel good when I stick to it.
  • www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_88.htm -- An interesting time management evaluation test I found.
  • My "to do" list is organized by Urgent - ASAP - This Week - Next Week - Out. The urgent bucket can't have more than 2 items in it. The ASAP can't have more than 3.
  • I try to focus on one task/project at a time. I think I'm a pretty good multi-tasker but I'm finding more and more it just works better to focus on one thing at a time and get it done.
  • I try to manage interruptions. IM, people popping in my office, etc. I'm never rude but I often ask if it's okay if I reply a little later. I don't say it but it's at a point that works best for me.
  • I try to pick up the phone and actually use it if I've gotten into an email thread or IM thread that seems to be going on and on. Talk directly to get whatever it is figured out and move on.
  • I'm a note taker. I'll think of something, write it on a scrap of paper, get a big pile of scraps of paper then incorporate it into my to do list. The list gets huge. A couple times a week I'll be brutal with my list, thinking about whether it's really important or not, what I can chop, what should be delegated to someone else. Have to be ruthless on this to chop the "nice to do's" from the "have to do's".
  • Certain projects I'll plug into my calendar, especially when I seem to be spinning my wheels. And sometimes I'll ask someone to spend time with me to help me get it done. For example, I've been struggling to re-do a messaging platform right now. It's dragged on and on. So I scheduled a meeting for this Monday afternoon with one other person who would be involved in finalizing this anyway. Since this meeting is happening, I have to get all my preparation done so it will be a productive meeting. And my plan is to complete the task during the meeting so no more wasting time spinning around on it. Monday night this will be done, finally.
  • Just decide. Sometimes I go in and out, around and around about a decision or an edit or finalization of some deliverable. I'm a huge believer in the small details and trying to get things right but at some point I try to have a little flag go off in my brain that says - just make a decision or finalize what I'm doing and move on. The law of diminishing returns is very true.
  • There are times when I am very productive, meaning I'm cranking and cranking things out. That's good but I try and schedule breaks to clear the brain and stay fresh.

What else? I'd love to hear suggestions from others that I might use.


Motivation Productivity

asked Feb 7 '10 at 07:43
4,214 points
  • This is a pretty comprehensive list already. You might want to consider making this community wiki. – Jarie Bolander 6 years ago
  • Not sure what the community wiki is? How do I do that? – Chris 6 years ago
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12 Answers


  1. Work when you're at your best and get some rest.
  2. Eliminate what isn't important. I dare you to do less.
  3. Getting to know people on a personal level isn't a waste of time.
  4. Automate boring and/or repetitive tasks after you fully understand how they are to be executed and make sure those around you do the same.
  5. Learn to type faster unless you don't use a computer.
  6. Hire people who do things better than you do and let them do it.
  7. Have a plan.
  8. Beware of people who cling to tasks. They will not objectively help you identify what is important.
answered Feb 8 '10 at 09:27
Jeff O
6,179 points


Having read this question and its answers and applied all the useful tips, I then think staying off Answers.OnStartups.com for a while would mean me getting a few more things done than normal ;-).

answered Feb 7 '10 at 20:10
Steve Wilkinson
2,734 points
  • Me too. Actually that reminds me that I used this app that tracked all the sites I visited and the software I used during each day. It would tell me how much time on social network sites, for example. And i could designate sites as productive or wasteful. Then gave me a report of productive time each day. Have to try and remember what the name was. i stopped using it because it stopped working and couldn't get it to work again. – Chris 6 years ago
  • Chris, rescuetime.com? – Nathan Kontny 6 years ago
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http://www.brightjourney.com/q/manage-time-startup-grows This similar post got me to look at the book Getting Things Done by David Allen who is on the above podcast. I’ve been using the GTD approach for a little over a month and feel I get more done and am less stressed. The key things I do differently are:

• I started to write EVERYTHING I want or need to do down, like you do.

• Instead of doing them later, if tasks take only a couple of minutes I make it a point to just do them now.

• I schedule what I can on the calendar.

• I created my projects into tasks.

• I file tasks into a file system for the days of the month and months of the year I plan to do them based on my priorities, deadlines and goals for the year. My long endless to do lists would stress me out but now that I have everything filed away with plans to do them on other days I feel it’s taken care of.

• I see if “I” really need to do things, can delegate them or can just delete them. I have also been looking for ways to complete more with less effort.

• Weekly I decide what I will accomplish. Daily I focus on manageable specific tasks I will complete but I also leave room in my day for customer issues I prefer to handle immediately.

• If I finish things faster than planned I review my files for things I can do now.

For motivation I review successes. For large projects that take time to complete, I review why they are of value and how it will help me and others.

answered Feb 7 '10 at 15:38
Starr Ed
948 points
  • A lot of similarities to some of my ideas. And some new suggestions I think I'm going to try. Thanks. – Chris 6 years ago
  • You're welcome. Glad they were of use. Aloha! – Starr Ed 6 years ago
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Some very good items in your list.

I try to break my work down into specific tasks which can be measure-able, then assign a time estimate to those tasks. Like you, I also like to associate a priority level, as well as a difficulty level to the task. I also use a task management/tracking application, Worktime Studio to manage and track my tasks. (It's actually a software app which we wrote).

A big motivator for me is to see that the timer is running on my current task, and to be able to see the progress bar for that task at all times, so I know if I'm on target on my estimate. Of course, many times I'm not, but adjusting the estimate is no problem.

answered Feb 7 '10 at 10:14
216 points
  • That looks like a real interesting application. Bummer, I've got a Mac so looks like I can't try it. – Chris 6 years ago
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This article by Marc Andreessen has helped me out alot. Check it out.

answered Feb 7 '10 at 16:05
Eric Amzalag
818 points
  • Very interesting article. Thanks for the suggestion. – Chris 6 years ago
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I wrote a post last year on work hacks I use to facilitate flow specifically in the context of (lean) startups:

Work Hack 1: Establish uninterruptible time blocks for maker work.

Work Hack 2: Achieve maker goals as early in the day as possible.

Work Hack 3: Schedule manager activities as late in the day as possible.

Work Hack 4: Always be ready for unplanned activities especially customer support.

Work Hack 5: Identify the best days for planned customer development.

Work Hack 6: Take advantage of customer downtime.

Work Hack 7: Balance face time with customers.

Work Hack 8: Avoid overproduction by making customers pull for features.

Work Hack 9: Iterate around only 3-5 actionable metrics.

Work Hack 10: Build software to flow.

You can read the full post here.

answered Feb 10 '10 at 17:19
140 points


I'm have podcasts or audio books constantly playing in my ear, so I have practically no downtime (unless I choose to). I think the learning mode always put me in the mindset to get things going.

answered Feb 9 '10 at 12:21
G Rex
683 points


Don't check email for the first 3 hours of your day. Period. This one thing will make a huge impact. Also, somewhat off topic, I'm interviewing productivity guru David Allen - GTD - Wed. 2/10 for the Startup Success Podcast (http://startuppodcast.wordpress.com/ )

Anyone have any startup-related questions?

answered Feb 7 '10 at 11:07
Bob Walsh
2,620 points
  • Email is my downfall. Your comment is motivating me to try that though. Tomorrow, no check until late morning. Thanks for the suggestion. – Chris 6 years ago
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RescueTime.com -- really interesting product that tracks the websites and applications you use.

answered Feb 15 '10 at 06:25
4,214 points

  1. Create a daily plan. Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.
  2. Peg a time limit to each task. Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.
  3. Use a calendar. Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software. Google Calendar is great – I use it. It’s even better if you can sync it to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are.
  4. Use an organizer. The organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.
  5. Know your deadlines. When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.
  6. Learn to say “No”. Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.
  7. Target to be early. When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time. For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.
  8. Time box your activities. This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Read more about time boxing: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.
  9. Have a clock visibly placed before you. Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.
  10. Set reminders 15 minutes before. Most calendars have a reminder function. If you’ve an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.
  11. Focus. Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.
  12. Block out distractions. What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in? I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting. When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.
  13. Track your time spent. Egg Timer is a simple online countdown timer. You key in the amount of time you want it to track (example: “30 minutes”, “1 hour”) and it’ll count down in the background. When the time is up,the timer will beep. Great way to be aware of your time spent. By the way, have you ever wondered how long it takes you to typing and correspondence, I mean for typing speed! Think about it by reading this article. http://www.ratatype.com/learn/average-typing-speed/
  14. Don’t fuss about unimportant details You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective. Read more: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.
  15. Prioritize. Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest. Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. Read more about 80/20 in #6 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.
  16. Delegate. If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.
  17. Batch similar tasks together. For related work, batch them together. For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups: (1) writing (articles, my upcoming book) (2) coaching (3) workshop development (4) business development (5) administrative. I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.
  18. Eliminate your time wasters. What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often. One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites. While you’ll still check FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.
  19. Cut off when you need to. #1 reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to. Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.
  20. Leave buffer time in-between. Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.
answered Jan 30 '16 at 12:09
John Oldman
1 point


I created a whole site on time management - timemanagement.com The most important strategy I think is to make a list of the top few things in order of priority (less than 8) that you want to do for the day and then work down from that list from the top to the bottom. It's a very simple strategy but works really well if you implement it.

answered Jan 6 '11 at 22:03
151 points


Those are a lot of good tricks, but you need an overall methodology to manage your overall effectiveness.

I use my own blend of ideas, cutely summarized as "Block & Tackle ". The gist is to allocate blocks of time weekly to a finite set of broad categories of work, so that some aspects don't get ignored because the cup runneth over in another, and priority-and-value-delivered queuing your work in each block using Scrum as a "structure" and GTD as a "process".

Then, fold in your tips and tricks, and some of the ones in the replies, as tools that help you achieve those clearly-delineated goals.

answered Jan 7 '11 at 00:57
1,383 points

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