Who needs more time in the day? Are you raising your hand and nodding feverishly? Here are 55 tips to help you reclaim your day and make the most of the time you have.
Despite all the technical advances we’ve had over the past century, no one has found a way to increase the amount of hours in a day past 24, nor have they figured out how to freeze time when you’re on a quickly approaching deadline. Because of this, we need articles about time-saving hacks. While I can’t promise you more hours in the day, it just may feel that way with these ideas.
While most of us do our best to leave a clear separation between our personal and professional lives, sometimes things we do before work are just as important in our quest to work smarter, than things we do during. That’s why this list of productivity hacks is divided into pre-work and at work.
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Productivity Hacks for Before You Get to Work
The foundation of your day likely starts at home (or in a hotel room). How you begin your day often affects your ability to get more done later on. Here are 24 productivity hacks to help you make the most of your pre-work time and make home life a little easier.
- Automate and delegate. There are no Martha Stewart awards for event planners with the cleanest house. Automate and delegate things you don’t have time for or things that can be done more effectively by others. These may include using grocery delivery services, food prep services, errand runners, and auto bill pays.
- Lay out what you need the night before. End the early morning rushing around by taking 5 minutes the night before to lay out what you need.
- Sleep 7-8 hours every night. It’s an impossible dream (pun intended) but one that will make you sharper and more able to handle difficult decisions with alacrity. Getting only a few hours of sleep is stealing from tomorrow’s productivity.
- Drink a glass of water when you first wake up. After sleeping, most of us are already dehydrated. Then we add coffee to the mix. Instead, drink a glass of water or warm lemon water when you first wake up. It contributes to important hydration and jump starts your metabolism. Remember dehydration also causes fatigue so being hydrated will help you feel more energetic.
- Use a morning playlist. Not only will your favorite tunes get you moving, you can choreograph your activities to them so you stay on schedule. For instance, when the third song comes on you need to be in the shower. At the end of the fourth song, you better be out, etc.
- Take one minute to plan how you will start your day and what must get done today. You can use your commute or even time on the elevator to prioritize in your mind how you will begin your day. Without this pre-planning, you’re likely to start in reactive mode dealing with the squeakiest wheel.
- Wear a “uniform.” Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs were well-known for their minimalist approach to their wardrobes. By choosing to wear the same type of clothing each day, you’re saving time and decision-making time. Why waste your decision-making on a shirt?
- Create habits and a schedule. Use Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity chain idea to keep at it. Habits are something we do without thinking so creating habits for desired actions will help you perform them easily.
- Know where your time goes. Are you standing in line every morning to buy a coffee or breakfast sandwich? A coffee maker with a timer and a microwave can give you 15-30 extra minutes a day.
- Always carry a notebook or app that captures ideas and to-do items. Review these at the end of each day and place them where you need them. Also, use a calendar app to ensure your task list and appointments are with you at all times. Set reminders as alarms or text messages.
- Focus on your breath. Focus on your breath for ten minutes a day or shorter spans throughout the day. Focussing on something as simple as our breath can help us become more in tune with what our body is feeling. This practice not only calms but makes us aware of stress and bodily reactions to it before they become larger problems.
- Get organized. Searching for things never made anyone more productive. You don’t need a traditional filing system but you need to know where everything is. Whatever works for you.
- Use public transportation and ride shares. This may be difficult for an event planner outside of a large metro area, but whenever possible leave the driving to someone else. It allows you to regain valuable work time. When you’re doing the driving, you’re not using your time wisely. Unless you’re doing #20 in the next section.
- Consolidate errands. Just as chunking like activities at the office can make you faster, consolidating errands so that you run them back to back at stores and businesses nearby will save you time from running 1-2 each day.
- Start doing business with businesses that are close by. Yes, loyalty is nice but when it comes to efficient practices using nearby businesses and services for errands and purchases will save you time.
- Give up TV. Most of us zone out in front of the TV and lose hours at a time without realizing it. Regain your nights by giving up television. It may also improve your sleep.
- Place things where you need them. Organize your home and office to place things where they are most often used.
- Have goods you need on a regular basis shipped automatically. Are there items you buy consistently? Instead of running out to buy coffee in bulk for the office, have it shipped on a scheduled basis. It will save purchasing time and will be one less thing to worry about.
- Use a crockpot. Use a crockpot and dinner will be ready when you get home.
- Don’t wash your hair every day. Unless you need to, not washing your hair every day can save you 30 minutes with the washing and drying on days when you skip it. That adds up. Or try dry shampoo to save on the drying and styling.
- Differentiate your keys. Color-coding keys with different key designs, nail polish, or markers can save the time of fumbling around trying to figure out which key is which.
- Carry a laptop backpack. It might not be the most stylish accessory, but it will help you carry all the things you need without sacrificing your back.
- Use transit or traffic apps. Knowing where the delays are before you’re stuck in them will save a lot of time and headache.
- Say no. Often.
Keeping the Productivity Groove Going at Work
Now that your personal life is streamlined, how can you get more done at work? Here are a few ideas:
- If something takes two minutes or less, just do it at that moment. Pushing it to the side because you don’t want to derail your productivity will be an issue later on when you have to deal with it and take another five minutes to remember how you were going to handle it.
- Make your major decisions early in the day. Our ability to do so is limited.
- Kill the busy work. Will what you’re doing at this moment effect your event planning business or career a year from now? If not, don’t give it priority over things that will.
- Give yourself a time to leave the office. If you know you must leave by 6, you will be more productive because you’ll realize you can’t just stay to get it done. Drive productivity with a looming deadline.
- Always have something on hand to do. Never go to a meeting without something to do. This allows you to maximize the effectiveness of those 2-3 minute slots waiting.
- Delegate everything except what you’re best at. You have an hourly rate. If your rate is higher than someone who could handle something for you and the activity isn’t bringing in direct revenue, it makes sense to assign it elsewhere so you can concentrate on what requires your attention.
- Done is better than perfect (in most cases). Leave perfection to bridge builders. Generally, the “ideal” is a pipedream that is too expensive to afford.
- Schedule it all. If you assign a task to an open-ended block of time, it will take longer to do. Instead, estimate how long it will take and track your time against that estimate. This gives you a sense of urgency.
- Text instead of calling when there’s little explanation or back and forth required.
- Kill temptations. You know what they are. We each have our own. Maybe it’s email. Maybe Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram. Maybe it’s checking your phone for all of it. Whatever your temptation and productivity time suck, make it more difficult to do. Close the tabs. Place your phone out of reach. Make it more difficult to succumb to your top distraction during critical activities. Then reward yourself with 2-3 minutes of that activity after you finish.
- Return calls in batches. Keep your phone on silent to avoid interruptions and schedule time to return calls. Text answers whenever possible to cut down on the moments spent waiting for people to answer.
- Check personal email 1-2 times a day. If it’s not critical to your job, schedule 1-2 breaks to do it.
- Check your website viewing history. Use an app to block sites you spend too much time on that don’t contribute to your job.
- Don’t attend or call meetings that could be done in an email or a wiki-doc. Status updates should never be a reason for a meeting unless a critical discussion is needed. Status updates on projects are easily accomplished electronically.
- Hold meetings standing up. They’re less likely to last a long time.
- Calculate the cost of business meetings by estimating what each attendee’s hourly rate is. Then ask yourself if what’s being discussed is worth the downtime in productivity.
- Archive or delete old emails at the beginning of each month. You know you’re not getting to them.
- Keep an ongoing to-do list of things to do when you have a few stolen moments. These things should not be timely but are good space fillers such as write a review for a venue or straighten your desk.
- Sprint. The Pomodoro Technique supports using sprints to accomplish what’s on your to-do list. Dedicate 30-minute time slots to only that activity. Nothing else. Then follow it with a 3-5 minute break. Then on to the next sprint.
- Get professional development in through podcasts and audiobooks. Multitask your professional development through these auditory learning options when you’re doing something that doesn’t require immense concentration like cleaning the house, working out, or cooking.
- Practice billing. Chances are if you bill hourly you are used to accounting for your time but if not, pretend you are billing every minute of your day. Write it all down. Where does the time go? Where can you be more efficient? This technique also may keep you from mindlessly exploring Facebook because you know you’ll have to account for it.
- Wear headphones. When you absolutely can’t be disturbed, wear headphones. This will stop people from approaching much more effectively than an office door. Doors just cause them to linger and press their faces against the glass. With headphones, you can (pretend to) be in your own world.
- Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list. If you use your email inbox as a to-do list, when things get pushed down in the screen or accidentally deleted by an overly exuberant click or fat finger syndrome, that item will be off your list forever. Instead, give every email that comes in a home. Answer it, assign it, delete it, or file it. For emails that contain to-do’s, give them a due date and transfer them to your electronic to-do list. Then add the email to its proper folder.
- Organize your to-do list into must, should, or could. “Must” must be done today. “Should” can be done if there’s time and “could” is a designation for lowest priority items.
- Discover your power. Ask yourself what’s the most powerful thing you can do today to transform your business or that of your client’s. Then go do it.
- Learn how to type. You can do so much better than 35 words per minute.
- Use email templates. Are there email responses you send frequently? Create shells for these types of things and then add a few personal lines. Why reinvent the greetings and main pieces over and over?
- Don’t prioritize boring. Organization is important but it doesn’t mean organizational activities must take precedence over other things. For instance, you don’t need to file every time you have a document. Instead, place your papers into a to-be-filed folder and do the actual filing once a month or so. If you need something before that, you know where the document is. Better yet, go paperless at your office.
- Keep one day a week clear on your schedule. Fires pop up. Opportunities present themselves. Keep some time clear on your schedule every week. If you can spare a day, great. If not, at least set aside a few hours.
- Keep a list of numbers. Keep a list of all your member numbers for loyalty programs on your phone for easy access.
- Allow for quiet. Set aside a few moments for quiet every day. You can achieve this by walking to an appointment or parking further away from the door. Then use this time to listen. It’s amazing the problems you’re brain can solve when you’re in listening mode.
Taking control of your day starts before you’re even on the clock. With these productivity tips, you’ll feel like you have more control of your day and can work smarter. What’s your favorite trick? Share it with this amazing community of eventprofs in the comments below so we all can benefit.
Additional Resources on Productivity
This Simple Trick Can Boost Your Productivity
Productivity Mantras Event Planners Live By
Try This Productivity Craze to Improve Your Event
20 Productivity Tools to Supercharge Your Event Prof Week
Unlock 25 Productivity Secrets from Tools Event Profs Use Every Day
15 Bad Habits that Kill Productivity
15 Productivity Boosting Email Hacks