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 14 years ago
  • Not sure what the community wiki is? How do I do that? – Chris 14 years ago

11 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
6,169 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
2,744 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 14 years ago
  • Chris, rescuetime.com? – Nathan Kontny 14 years ago


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 14 years ago
  • You're welcome. Glad they were of use. Aloha! – Starr Ed 14 years ago


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 14 years ago


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 14 years ago


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 14 years ago


RescueTime.com -- really interesting product that tracks the websites and applications you use.

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


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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