Blitz: a sudden, energetic, and concerted effort, typically on a specific task.

There’s just not enough time in the day. Sound familiar? We all say it. 24 hours is just not enough time to get everything done. To that I say…poppycock! Balderdash! Now, once you find it in your heart to forgive my language, allow me to explain.

Truth be told, there is more than enough time in our day. You spend roughly 8 hours sleeping…that leaves 16 hours for everything else. Our personal and professional lives have an abundance of time available. The problem is not the quantity, it’s how we use it. We constantly waste time. 

We all have bad habits when it comes to time management and productivity. But the good news? We’re all equally bad at it. Far from making us bad people, it makes us a member of the majority. We’re all in the same leaky and inefficient boat. But because it’s mostly our own frickin’ frackin’ fault (sorry about the language again), we have the power to fix it. There’s no shortage of productivity tips for whether you work at home or in an office. You just need a few ideas to get you started. Productivity is more about minor changes that can be quickly implemented rather than major adjustments that take weeks to adopt (if at all). 

Not convinced? Well then, read on, and be prepared to apologize for ever doubting me. 

Find YOUR Time

Before doing anything else, you need to admit that you have a time management problem (because you probably do). And a simple, but very effective, method to see that is by tracking your time for a few days.

Option A, you could manually track it, writing down everything you do and for how long from the time you get up, to the time you go to sleep. And I do mean everything. Nothing is too insignificant or unimportant. This method is going to collect a lot of data, but obviously requires a certain level of engagement and commitment from you, the trackee. 

An easier method, and one that lends itself well to our digital world and workplace, is using a time tracking app such as RescueTime. This simple application (available for Apple, Windows, and Android) will record the websites you visit, the apps and programs you use, and how much time you spend on each one, whenever you’re logged on to your laptop, computer, or mobile phone. It works quietly in the background compiling a detailed report of how and where you waste time. You’ll gain invaluable perspective on the time vampires (as in time suckers) in your daily routine. You’ll be flabbergasted by the amount of time you throw away when it’s staring you in the face in black and white. Email, social media, and various other frivolous websites and apps can eat hours each week…or day. 

The free version of RescueTime tracks your time, allows you to set goals, and will email you a weekly report. RescueTime Premium (plans start at $6.50/month) does all of that, plus it allows you to track time offline, block distracting websites, receive daily reports and updates, and more.

This is stage one. Use RescueTime. See where you’re wasting time. Set some goals. And remove – or limit – the distractions. Once you know where your time is disappearing, it’s easier to try and save it. Think what you could do with an extra five, or seven, or nine hours each week. 

Play Beat the Clock

Our lives are filled with tiny tasks that require a few minutes of our time. They are quick, relatively unimportant, and easy to complete. But that’s a blessing and a curse. Consequently, we don’t rank them very high. They don’t get prioritized…they get pushed back and postponed. These tiny tasks on the agenda can really add up to a lot of time and effort when left undone.

David Allen first addressed them in his seminal book Getting Things Done. In it, Allen discusses what he calls the 2-minute rule: if you can do something in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Don’t put it off. Don’t ignore it because it’s so simple. Do it because you can. 

These tasks include responding to an email or text, making an appointment or scheduling a meeting, returning a phone call, making a decision regarding some upcoming project, or whatever. They are rarely momentous or important themselves. But they do contribute to some larger goal. They can quickly add up and become monsters when left undone, incomplete, and unattended. Seize the opportunity to get those little things done. Each one scratched off a to-do list will feel like a mini victory…and we need more of those. 

These tasks are little, but they allow you to use the little bits of time available in a more efficient manner. 2 minutes may not seem like much, but it can add up to big, big productivity. 

The Productivity Blitz

Then there are the monster tasks. The jobs and projects that keep you awake at night, staring at the ceiling and sweating the logistics of it all. 

Pretend you have a major project due next week. Something that will take you at least 5-10 hours to complete. If you’re like most people, you put it off until you have a chunk of uninterrupted time available to start and finish it in one sitting. That’s a mistake. That’s not the way life works. 

To begin with, it’s hard to find that many hours of uninterrupted time. And it allows you to procrastinate while not feeling guilty. You can’t start because you don’t have time to finish. Most of us falsely believe we have to complete something at the same time or on the same day that we start it. It’s called the Zeigarnik effect (named after the Russian psychologist that first identified the phenomenon). Resist this urge, and instead use your time – all the time – to get stuff done piece by piece. Whenever you can. Toss the belief that you must start and finish in just one session. 

We have plenty of small pockets of time at our disposal. 30 minutes between meetings on Monday, an hour on Tuesday afternoon, 45 minutes on Wednesday morning, and so on. Not one of them is long enough to start and finish the job, but each one can get us that much closer. This is referred to as a productivity blitzusing all time available to you to attack large tasks and projects whenever you can. Without a conscious effort to use that time productively, we would most likely waste it on Facebook, Twitter, or mindlessly surfing the web (admit it). We look at and consider small chunks of time as dead time, worthless and unimportant. We can throw it away without feeling bad. 

But no. Resist. Use that time. Stuff small chunks of big tasks into those little pockets. Get more done. That’s the very definition of efficiency. And as an added bonus, tackling those major projects over several sessions (rather than one long one) gives you the benefit of seeing it with fresh eyes at the start of each one. You’ll notice weaknesses. You’ll see spelling mistakes. You’ll have more creative and innovative solutions to the stumbling blocks along the way. 

The time is there for the taking. Don’t overthink it. Who has the time to implement big systems and major adjustments to our routine? Little changes can lead to big rewards. You just need to do it. 

What’s your productivity hack or motivational trick to get more done? 

About

Bryan Johnston

Former high school English lit & drama teacher. Current writer, stand-up comedian, & improv performer. A big switch? You betcha.

International expat for 12+ years with stops in Beijing, Dubai, Shanghai, & Guangzhou. Dad to a university sophomore, an eleven-month old charmer, & the two best doggos. Lover of funny things & people. Oh, and craft beer.

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