Productivity is one of those subjects everyone has an opinion about. Their own set of tools that they use. The productivity tips that they swear by. Still, everyone aims for the same goal: to get more done with less.
When we decided to look into tips for being productive, the old saying soon surfaced: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” And that’s precisely what we did.
For this blog post, we searched and analyzed 30 productivity tips that startups and investors had shared on Twitter. We distilled these insights down to 10 simple lessons on how to be more productive that you can use to get ahead. Hope you like them!
1. Get your priorities in order
Often the most significant issue getting away of anyone being productive is that they are trying to achieve too many things in a given time period.
Striving to tackle ten important things in one day demotivates you even before starting, and even if you complete half of them (which is an outstanding achievement, by the way), you still feel like you were slacking.
That’s why prioritization often means shortening your to-do list significantly. Even if it would feel that you are achieving less, it will make you feel more accomplished and guides your focus on what truly matters.
One popular concept is the “Most Important Tasks” of the day or MITs. You take, for example, three important tasks per day and only set out to complete those tasks. Suppose you can do more, great. But if you finish your day doing only those 3, you’ve still achieved your goals. And it’s not such a bad idea to sometimes end the day bit earlier to prioritize life outside of work.
Ignore the hustle talk saying not to watch Netflix or anything. Make sure you give your mind time to rest and be creative, it’s ok to watch tv, read, listen to a podcast, play guitar etc…
But when you are heads down working, ruthlessly prioritize efficiency.
— domm (@domm) July 13, 2020
Multitasking is a biological impossibility. Every one of us has a limited amount of cognitive bandwidth. Our ability to get anything done depends on the amount of deep focus we can dedicate to a task, whether for five minutes or an hour.
Setting up for success requires some changes and removing distractions. Some common productivity tips for single-tasking include:
- Resist the urge to check unrelated sites or notifications, or install anti-distraction – there’s plenty of productivity tools to help with it
- Work on one screen at a time and use fullscreen
- Take brief walks when needed
- Work in intervals, for example, 20 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break
Sounds easy? Trust us; it can be more difficult than it sounds.
Single tasking – the biggest productivity hack that everyone has forgotten about
— Bhavin Turakhia (@bhavintu) November 18, 2020
3. Embrace your natural rhythm
Are you always trying to cross off the most important item from your to-do list first, no matter what? Well, Alex Lieberman of Morning Brew has a contrary yet super simple tip that might change your mind.
We are all different, so it can simply be that you don’t do your best work in the mornings. If that’s you, pick smaller and less important tasks first to get the ball rolling. If you’re naturally more productive during the afternoon – or a night owl – this can help you build momentum towards your ideal time for deep work.
No matter your usual schedule, we all have the days when it feels almost daunting to dive headfirst to the most critical tasks of the day. If you take a stab at it, you get nowhere. Next time it happens, remember this tip instead of falling into the trap of procrastination.
Productivity fallacy #1
List all tasks you need to get done, order those tasks by priority, and then do the highest priority tasks first.
Why is it a fallacy?
This age-old tip fails to acknowledge two things:
1) When you do your best work
2) The importance of momentum
— Alex Lieberman ☕️ (@businessbarista) May 12, 2020
4. Learn to say no
Time is the most valuable asset you have, and you should guard it carefully since many people are interested in getting a slice of it.
You should constantly evaluate whether it’s worth your time to attend the next meeting, conference, party, presentation, or speaking opportunity, and remember that each ‘yes’ means saying ‘no’ to something else.
You should say ‘yes’ only when it takes you closer to achieving your goals. Even then, you should consider whether the opportunity at hand is the right one – declining good opportunities gives you more time to focus on great ones.
If you find it difficult to decline at times, we’ve published a guide on how to say ‘no’ politely in any situation.
Saying yes to everything is the opposite of focus. You have to be disciplined and learn to say no to meetings, events, etc. that aren’t likely to be productive. Don’t succumb to FOMO and say yes to every opportunity that crosses your path.
— Pete Flint (@peteflint) November 2, 2020
5. Have fewer meetings
Meetings are a prime example of busy work: making everyone look like they’re doing a lot when in reality, too often, some participants are just wasting their time.
Fewer meetings usually mean more deep work and focus.
Ask these questions when considering whether to host a meeting:
- If the meeting didn’t take place, what would be the consequences? Would anyone care?
- Can you describe the purpose of the meeting in one sentence?
- Do you have time to prepare for it?
For more tips regarding meetings, check out what Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList, has to say on the topic below.
– No meetings before 11am.
– No meetings when emails or calls will do.
– Don’t schedule calls, text coordinate them on the fly when possible.
– Cram all meetings into two days a week.
– 1-on-1s are usually 30-minute walking meetings.
(Meetings are the death of productivity)
— Naval (@naval) August 14, 2018
6. Use time blocking
Getting to a state of deep focus when working on a task can take up to 25 minutes. That’s why you should minimize time spent to readjust between tasks.
Time blocking is a method that does just that. You allocate predetermined portions of time to specific tasks ahead of doing them. The main idea is to batch similar tasks together. For example, you could batch replying to emails to just one session a day. Consider the time and effort saved if you “tune in” to emails only once a day vs. checking them constantly.
You can extend this same philosophy to practically anything from coding and meetings to cooking and cleaning.
Another goal of time blocking is trying to keep the time spent on a task to a minimum. As many of us know from experience, work expands to fill the time we assign it. So allocating less time to a task will actually force us to be more productive.
Time blocking is extremely useful. I homeschool my kids every morning and have to get all my work done in the early mornings/afternoons/late nights, and let me tell you – it’s a lifesaver.
— Minal Hasan (@minal_hasan) January 10, 2021
7. Make better use of fewer tools
Don’t get us wrong; we love productivity tools. But enough is enough – using too many tools can simply be inefficient.
The importance of having the right tool for the job is inherent, but you likely need fewer different tools than you think. Instead, you should find the ones that work for you and genuinely invest in making the most out of them. As Austen Hoffmann of SafeGraph pointed out with Zapier, the more you use a tool, the more you will get out of it.
However, if your productivity stack is still missing key pieces, we listed the most promising new ones to try in 2021.
8. Check your diet
Continuing in the same vein as the previous point, Lisa Wehden from Bloomberg Beta has a tip for you: you should make sure your nutrition is on point before trying to fix the afternoon slump with technology.
Instead of introducing you to the latest trendy diet or benefits of fasting here, we recognize that it’s best to leave advice on a healthy, balanced diet for the professionals in the field.
But what if there would be an app for that? Well, there is. Combining wearable sensors and mobile application, Veri reveals the foods that help you feel and perform at your best. You can use it to find just the right fuel to fill up with.
Ok I love productivity tools but if you’re seriously feeling sluggish in the afternoon you probably need to check your diet vs installing new software
— Lisa Wehden (@LisaWehden) May 6, 2021
9. Work async
Asynchronous work (or async work) can be defined as work that does not happen simultaneously for everyone, and it enables you to work without having to wait for someone else to answer.
Because there are very few interruptions, async work lets you focus entirely on the task at hand. Can you even imagine how great would a day without a single distracting Slack notification calling for your attention feel? Some other benefits of the approach include more mindful conversations, no fear of missing out, and independence from timezones. It can also help with sleep, which our next productivity tip is about.
If you want to learn more about async work, Pieter Levels, founder of Nomad List and Remote OK, covers its benefits extensively. We’ve also featured some tools enabling asynchronous work here.
🗣understand async working
Asynchronous work is the super power of remote work. It empowers everyone to do deep focussed work without distractions
This allows you to maximize the benefits of remote, have more control over living, and do the best work you have ever produced
— Chris Herd (@chris_herd) May 8, 2021
10. Sleep more
Work performance and sleep are inherently linked together. For U.S. companies alone, fatigue at work costs around $136 billion per year.
Most adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but around a third of Americans sleep less than 6 hours per night. Are you one of them? There’s a paradox here that one needs to remember: by sleeping more, you get more done, not less.
Some tips to enhance the quality and quantity of sleep at night:
- No naps in the afternoon – and don’t nap for more than 20 minutes
- No coffee or caffeinated drinks in the evening
- Exercise, but not 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Ensure that your bedroom windows can be dimmed
- Make sure the room temperature of your bedroom is approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius)
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine
When talking about sleeping more, we can’t ignore the countless recommendations of sleep fitness solutions like Oura and Eight Sleep we have encountered. This tech not only helps you to sleep more but also better. Have you already tried them?
Sleep is always my top priority, and will continue to be in 2021. It is foundational to all health.
I’ve compiled a list of my top 8 sleep hacks that I use everyday to improve my sleep. If you are trying to improve your sleep in 2021, this thread is for you. 👇
— Matteo Franceschetti (@m_franceschetti) January 4, 2021 Hope this blog offered some new point of views for being productive. If you want to dive deeper into the productivity tips we uncovered, you can check out the complete list of tweets here.