18 Jul 2017

The Most Useful Productivity Insights I've Come Across

A curated list of the best productive tips I've gotten.

This guide is part of the 5-Part Productivity Guide.

Check out all 5 parts in The Only Productivity Guide You’ll Ever Need.

The Productivity Guide:

This is a page of curated productivity tips I’ve found to stand out amongst the rest. If you have one to add, post in the comments below. These tips are directly quoted, with a link to the original source below the tip. See which resonate with you.

Prepare your tasks.

I spent time every week figuring out what I needed to accomplish and breaking that work into smaller, bite sized chunks. I had tiny projects that could be completed in a free 15 minutes, larger projects that would require a few hours, and all kinds of stuff in between. This was all waiting for me in priority order.

This way, if I had a few minutes to kill while my husband was waiting for an appointment or a couple hours while my daughter was napping, I didn’t need to waste any of that precious time figuring out what to work on. I got right to work on one of the tasks I had already prepared. This requires upfront planning but doesn’t take very long and it means you only do the planning work once and you have tasks for the whole week. Use Asana or Google Doc for this!” Source

Ask for actionable help.

People are really bad at being helpful. Even when people ask to help you, they usually don’t follow through with it or do it in a way that is actually helpful. A lot of people would ask me how they could help me with Winnie and I’d say things like “I’d love your feedback on the app!” and I’d hear back… nothing.

It turns out “give me feedback” isn’t actionable enough for most people. Now when someone asks me how they can help I will give them something very specific to do: “Download Winnie at winnie.com/ios and write a review of your favorite playground”.

When someone completes this task then they naturally also have feedback for me on what worked well or what could be better about the product. Source

Force yourself to do things imperfectly.

To give a very practical example, I have given myself an hour to write this post before I’m on childcare duty. I can publish the post after that hour or I can spend more time later polishing it and making it perfect. I’m forcing myself to publish the piece before the hour is up even though it probably has some typos and maybe could be written more concisely.

The extra couple hours I could spend polishing it won’t make a massive difference in the number of people who read and benefit from this post. Perfectionism is a tough habit to break so you have to set time limits and force yourself to just put things out there even if they aren’t 100% perfect.” Source

Develop Processes.

Commit to a process, not a goal.

Choosing a goal puts a huge burden on your shoulders. Can you imagine if I had made it my goal to write two books this year? Just writing that sentence stresses me out.

Process vs. System Based

In a situation like the one above, a goal-based mentality will tell you to finish the workout and reach your goal. After all, if you set a goal and you don’t reach it, then you feel like a failure.

But with a systems-based mentality, I had no trouble moving on. Systems-based thinking is never about hitting a particular number, it’s about sticking to the process and not missing workouts.

Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process. In the end, process always wins.

Goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress.


Focus on eating the frog.

20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results, 20 percent of your customers will account for 80 percent of your sales, 20 percent of your products or services will account for 80 percent of your profits, and so on.

Each of the ten tasks may take the same amount of time to accomplish.

But one or two of those tasks will contribute five or ten times the value of any of the others. Often, one item on a list of ten tasks that you have to do can be worth more than all the other nine items put together. This task is invariably the frog that you should eat first. The most valuable tasks you can do each day are often the hardest and most complex. But the payoff and rewards for completing these tasks efficiently can be tremendous.

For this reason, you must adamantly refuse to work on tasks in the bottom 80 percent while you still have tasks in the top 20 percent left to be done. Resist the temptation to clear up small things first. Source

Clarify things you have to do.

Don’t just write down “Plan vacation,” break it down into actionable steps so there’s no barrier to just doing the task. Here’s a helpful video where David Allen explains how to clarify your to-dos so they don’t require more time to figure out what you meant than it takes to actually do the thing you wanted to do.


Commit to SMART goals.

Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Timely

Read more here.

Do a Brain Dump.

Take a couple of blank pieces of paper and write down every task you have to do in every arena of your life. Use this trigger list to make sure you’ve gotten everything down. Then sort by project, priority, and time required.

Read more on my Goal Organization Guide

Clarify things you have to do.

If it takes less than 2 minutes to do, just do it.

It’s simply easier and less work to just get it done rather than carrying around the mental effort of remembering to do the 2 minute task throughout the day.

This guide is part of the 5-Part Productivity Guide.

Check out all parts together in the Productivity Guide, or see the individual pages below: