1. Plan your day in advance.
This was a life-changer for me. It was a hard habit to develop, but once I was able to consistently plan my days in advance, my productivity skyrocketed. Make it a habit for you to never go to sleep unless you have the next day completely planned out. There should be no white space in your calendar.
Brian Tracy (one of my all-time favorite authors, check out his work here) says that every minute you spend in planning saves you ten minutes in execution, giving you a 1,000% return on your energy. Take ten minutes each night to plan your day in advance and you'll get a few extra hours of productivity.
2. Start with the most difficult thing first.
Speaking of Brian Tracy, he had a popular book called, "Eat That Frog," which is about the idea that you should begin your day with the most difficult task. I've found that the tasks we put off are usually the ones that will make the biggest difference in our lives. It could be the writing you need to do, the report you need to send, the phone call you need to make, or the confrontation you need to have.
"Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." - Mark Twain
Once you start "eating the frog", you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that the rest of your day will be easy, comparatively speaking.
3. Give up TV.
This is like blasphemy to the American middle class. Heaven forbid we give up our six daily hours of TV. But think of it, the average American spends about six hours every single day watching TV. Six hours! Do you know how much you could get done in six hours? This is so mind blowing to me; I honestly don't know why people spend so much time watching television, and if you know, please enlighten me. I couldn't stand spending 37.5% of my entire waking life in front of a box.
If you can't bear the thought of giving up your precious television, try this: plan out your viewing times in advance. Rarely do we ever intentionally watch TV. We sit down, relax and "channel surf", looking for something to catch our interest. Be intentional with your TV consumption. Figure out the shows you want to watch, schedule a time to watch them, and be done.
4. Check your email in the afternoon.
A lot of productivity gurus will tell you never to check your email in the morning, and I agree with them. However, you should glance at your email in the morning. You have every right to know what you'll be dealing with that day. However, don't respond to ANY in the morning. Save the deep checking for the afternoon. Until then, pretend your email doesn't even exist.
If you want to be a real email ninja, keep all of your emails five sentences or less. To keep yourself from seeming cold/distant/weird, have an explanation in your email signature. Here, copy and paste this one:
I am committed to giving each of my emails adequate attention. I am also committed to productivity. Therefore, I must keep my email short – five or fewer sentences is my goal. Thank you for understanding.
I do this for some of my personal email accounts, and the results have been incredible. I'm hitting inbox zero almost every single day.
5. Always cook more than one meal at a time.
There's a tremendous amount of inefficiency involved in cooking. Food is fuel, and should be viewed as such. Stop wasting time thinking about what you're going to cook, foraging for ingredients, and cooking extra meals. Pick your favorite fuels and prepare them in advance. For me, this is chicken breast and rice, cooked in bulk, spread over a bed of spinach.
You’ll spend less time shopping when you purchase in bulk, and you’ll only have to do a major cleanup one time. Plan your menus in advance so there’s no guesswork when it’s time to get cooking.
6. Drink more water (and drink it as soon as you wake up).
If you implement just one tip from this post, please let it be this one. Every night, you go approximately eight hours without any liquids. When you sleep, you become dehydrated, and you need fluid to operate. Drinking water first thing in the morning fires up your metabolism and flushes out toxins. Plus, whenever you’re dehydrated, your brain operates on less fuel, which makes you feel drained and fatigued. Make this part of your morning routine. Speaking of morning routines…
7. Create a morning routine.
Warren Buffett says, "Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken." Make sure that you're developing great habits by starting with a solid morning routine. The whole idea behind a morning routine is to create a short ritual (about twenty or thirty minutes) where you complete several small habits that can have a significant effect on your life.
Some the things you can do include: review your goals, meditate for a few minutes, stretch, read something motivational/related to your field, or small exercises. Everyone has a different morning routine, so find yours. For some people, exercising means twenty jumping jacks, while for others it's twenty minutes on the treadmill. For some, meditation is an extra ten minutes in bed reflecting on the day, and for others, it's intense yoga in front of the sunrise. If you can be productive as soon as you wake up, it will set a positive tone for the rest of your day.
I recommend The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
8. Write out everything.
You might have practiced “brain dumps” in high school or college. That’s when you sit down and write down all your accessible knowledge about a particular subject. Start doing something similar with your to-do list. Take some time to write out EVERYTHING, both short and long-term.
I use my phone and a legal pad. Whenever I’m out and think of something I need/want to do, I put it in my note-taking app. Also, every day I do a “brain dump” onto a legal pad. You should see my list – it’s got hundreds of things I want to do, from next week to twenty years from now. Having this list is important because it ensures that you’ll never have any white space on your calendar. As you plan your day in advance, you should have a list of 100+ items to choose from.
9. Use time blocks.
Time blocks are your schedule’s secret weapon. Everyone has the same amount of time, but what makes the difference is how you use yours. Block out activities in advance, and it doesn’t have to be limited to business and career activities. Block out time for the gym and spending time with your family too. Your time blocks should represent your time priorities and thus be non-negotiable. They will be completely “blocked” on your calendar, keeping you from the dreaded “I don’t have time” excuse.