Triple Your Productivity

Triple Your Productivity Tomorrow

Is work slowly suffocating you? To-do lists, projects and random chores all piling up until they surround you? When this happens, your best strategy is to get ahead. Get on top of all your work and go beyond completing today’s tasks, complete more than you need to so you can have room to breathe.

How do you do this? When I face this problem, my answer is to take on what I like to call a Project-Kill Day. This is a day where I am at my most productive state. I set aside large amounts of time to kill off the projects on my to-do list and get ahead. I’ve found, if you plan it properly, you can make tomorrow up to 3 times as productive as ordinary days.

How to Set Up Your Own Project-Kill Day

I’ve done hundreds of these Project-Kill days, so if you’re looking to start your own here’s how:

Wake Up Early – If you aren’t normally an early riser, set your alarm clock early. Getting up at 5:00-6:00 does two things. First, it gives you quiet hours before you need to go to classes, job or your family wakes up. Second, it builds a feeling of accomplishment that can motivate you forward throughout the day.

Morning Exercise – This isn’t strictly necessary, but I find starting my early day with a run or even some push-ups in my room is another great way to build momentum. Exercising for twenty or thirty minutes knocks the half-asleep feeling out of your body and gives you an early sense of accomplishment.

Create a Fixed To-Do List – Before you start the day, write down all the things you need to accomplish. Once you complete that list, you’re finished the day and can do whatever you want. Having a fixed goal for work can focus your energies better than the “work all day” approach, which leads to procrastination.

Isolate Yourself – Most of my work is solitary. This means that when I have a Project-Kill day, I have almost zero social contact. It’s fine to become a hermit for one day if it means you can focus without distractions. Lock the door to your room or office and work until your list is finished.

Cut the Cables – Television, web, Facebook, phones and instant messengers all go offline during your day. If you need the internet at all (answering e-mails as part of your list) stay tightly focused on your tasks, but go no further. If you’re addicted to clicking the Stumble button, unplug the internet if you have to.

Big Rocks First – Leo of ZenHabits has an excellent strategy for organizing your work. Put the big rocks in first. That means take the most important tasks you need to accomplish and put them at the start of your day, not the end. This way the majority of your focus gets aimed at the most important tasks. There are exceptions to this organization strategy, but as a general guideline it is good to follow.

No Mid-Task Breaks – Breaks of any kind should be minimized during your day. But especially mid-task breaks. The only valid time to get up and take a breather should be if you’ve just taken down a chunk of your list. If you’re halfway through an essay, finish it before you decide to eat lunch.

Break Minimally – Not having long coffee breaks for one day won’t kill you. My guideline is that 5 minute breaks are okay between big tasks. Taking short 20-30 minute lunch, breakfast and possibly dinner breaks are also okay. The idea is that until your list is finished, sitting around for an hour defeats the purpose of your Project-Kill Day.

Batch Small Tasks Together – Group up all of your small tasks (taking out the garbage, fixing a door hinge, organizing binders, etc.) and do them all at once. This can help speed things along since there will be fewer interruptions in your regular workflow.

Walk Quickly – There needs to be a sense of focus and urgency in everything you do during your day. Walking at a brisk pace reminds me that if I need to get things between tasks, that I still have a vital mission to complete: destroying my to-do list. If you need to commute or drive, put in audio tapes to infuse your passive time with the concept that you leave no time wasted.

Build Up Speed
- Take on tasks all at once and build up speed to them. I’ve written thirty page e-books in one sitting and often write a few thousand words in a row. It can be difficult to avoid the temptation to take occasional breaks, but once you get into a flow, do anything to preserve it.

Do Something Important, Not Just Urgent - It’s been said before but it needs to be said again. A Project-Kill Day is precisely the time you need to work on important, long-term tasks. That means investing time beyond just solving current problems. I recommend taking on one long-term project that might not have an immediate deadline to move forward in during your day.

Take the Following Day Off
- After a successful day of killing your to-do list, take the next day off. This helps you recover your energies after a tiring day of work. Even if you do absolutely nothing the next day, the previous days work usually compensates. Spend some time with your family, read a book or just sleep in until noon. After a day of tripled productivity, you’ve earned it!

  • http://www.iwillchangeyourlife.com Peter

    Good advice Scott. I’m due for one of these “Project-Kill” days very soon.

  • http://www.onemillionandbeyond.com Matt

    Great list – I think the most important part of your list is the final one. A super productive ‘project-kill’ day is great but if you follow it up with a second day like it you’re likely to burn yourself out.

    I think Saturday will be a project kill day for me.

  • http://www.etavitom.com etavitom

    Wow. Thanks for the phenomenal post! I appreciate the wisdom and insight…. Best, Brad

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  • http://www.consumer2creator.com Soni

    I definitely think “Cut the Cables” is the most important point because its so easy to answer one IM or Facebook note then end up losing track of hours of productivity.

  • http://www.MemberSpeed.com/blog/ Jay, writer MemberSpeed.com

    I also agree that putting the big rocks in first is the best way to go about a day such as this. If one decides to take care of the little and easy things first, chances are, he or she would be too tired to take care of the matters that need most energy and attention.

  • http://blog.gettingrichthecertainway.net/2007/11/the-motivaider.html MotivAider

    I find your idea of creating a fixed to do list intriguing. I think it could work. It make you want to finish the tasks, so you can procrastinate with a tranquil mind :-)

    I’m not sure though that taking the next day off is such a good idea. It would shorten my work week by a few days I fear :-)

    But overall, I think that if I sticked to your list, I’d do a lot more in one week. I’ll try to stick to it, or at least to the major points.

    Olivier.

  • Fazed Reality

    This would work perfectly – if I were working from home. :) But I don’t and tomorrow I plan on doing just what you suggest. Only… there’ll be a meeting right in my office-space first thing in the morning and it’ll take at least two crushing, boring, most unproductive hours to complete. And I can’t do anything about it nor can I escape it however much I’d want to. Such a nice way to begin a day, isn’t it? Is there any help for us poor souls, who are captives of our working place with no hope to escape and constant interruptions?

    I’ll use “Do Something Important, Not Just Urgent” mostly, I should have this one tattooed to my left hand or something :D

  • http://www.howtowakeupearly.com Sleeping Dude

    Good thing to remember is to keep your todo list short. Most people don’t have the will to follow their todo list once they get over 1 page in size…

  • goodenergy

    Excellent tips, especially about cutting off social contact for the day and starting early.

    I have to disagree with taking the next day off. If I am so behind that I need a Project Kill Day, then taking the next day off would completely defeat the purpose and put me behind again. To drive myself like that, and then find myself 2 days later overwhelmed… yikes. How about just a normal work day to follow.

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  • Jorge Diaz Tambley

    I set a day off as a reward, and I see myself working harder and faster the previous day.

    Great tips, thank you very much

  • http://www.eatyourelephant.com Derek

    This sounds like sheer misery. Hundreds of these and you still have a soul? How about decide what is really important, focus on that and outsource or delegate everything else?

  • http://practicethis.com/ alik

    I’ve found that result or outcome orientation is much more productive. It helps prioritize your big rocks and focus on what’s really important. For me outcomes/results/deliverables come first in the list of productivity tips.

  • Panos

    Hello from Greece,

    best list i ever seen. I follow it almost everyday for years now when it’s time to be productive….but stress kills you. What about it?….yes yes lets be productive…..but for how long this can be done?

    We all know that we can’t manage our day off so simple and especially when projects and deadlines follows..

    Thank you

    Panos

  • monoself

    Personally I never follow my plan, partly because it’s often dull and stupid and unrealistic
    I always wanna create a world in one day!!

    Yeah next time I’ll try a short to-do list, thx for the tips:-)

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  • http://www.e-motivate.com Tom Haynes

    Great list!

    I think that walking like you have some place to go is so underrated. When I first entered sales, that was one of the first bits of advice I got. Whenever you are in the office, always walk like you have someplace to go. It creates a sense of urgency not just in you…but in the people around you. It also keeps people from stealing your time with trivial stuff.

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  • http://www.varsityblah.com/about Eugene (Editor, Varsity Blah)

    I think the most important thing is to first figure out what matters and what does not. There’s no point in getting a million things done if they aren’t really necessary. I wrote about it recently:

    “Like I said in Work in Progress, it’s about taking care of the big things so the little ones take care of themselves and the really little ones don’t bother me at all. To do that, I ask three questions to decide whether or not to do anything. Firstly: Does it have to be done at all? If it’s not really important, I don’t do it! Secondly: Does it have to be done by me? If someone else can do it instead, I let them! Thirdly: Does it have to be done today? If I can put it off until later, I do. (Of course this assumes it won’t be put off forever!) Ultimately, it’s about working on what matters, focusing on one thing at a time, and always remembering that life is not meant to be taken too seriously.”

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  • http://www.thetechbrief.com Emad Ibrahim

    Excellent idea. I am going to try it and report back… But I can already tell, it will work well for me. it would be nice if i can make every day a kill day.

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  • lief

    haha just what the world needs, more hectic pace, trying to get as much done as possible as quickly as possible. you’re not american by any chance? why do people feel it is so necessary to rate their accomplishments by their productivity? i believe that 99% of your completed tasks will have absolutely no bearing on the world at all, let alone the fact they will be forgotten in 5-10 years.
    work to live, not live to work.
    sad.

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  • http://www.bubbleplanner.com Paper Planner

    These are great suggestions. I would say the main tip for me is to set boundaries. Take control of your schedule or someone else will. Consciously decide what you will and won’t allow to be your responsibility.

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  • http://www.goal-setting-resources.com harry

    You may want to check out http://www.GoalsOnTrack.com, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

  • http://www.startspeedreading.com Kristjan-Olari Leping

    Walking quickly for saving time is an interesting tip. We really do not pay attention how much time do we spend on it. But actually it can be quite time consuming even if you walk inside large buildings. Futhermore, fast pace walking gives you an upbeat mode, which will help you to work fast.

  • http://www.free-speed-reading.com/ Bob

    I think my number one tip for to-do lists would be to keep breaking things down step by step. I find that for me, it’s easy to do all of the many things on my list that take less than 10 minutes, but projects that take an hour or more rarely get done. If you break the hour-long projects into 10-minute steps, I find that it isn’t so bad after all. In addition, my work is always rather thought-through, and I never have to backtrack since I’m so well organized from the start.

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  • allem

    Nice article, I must agree that good organization is the best time saver. According that statement I like to add …

    http://blogtraffic4u.blogspot.com/2010/12/how-to-keep-your-energy-level-up.html

  • Patrick E.

    I love project kill days. It feels great to get all of that work off of your shoulders. I normally wake up around 7 am (I don;t have work until 10) drink a big cup of coffee and lock myself in my room for 2 hours of non stop work. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done if you just FOCUS and don’t let anything distract you. This video gave me a bunch of help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClQ_ZJP7mHk. Definitely check it out. Also, another good tip if you are having trouble concentrating is to take a 10 minute break, do whatever you want, then spend an hour only working before you next 10 minute break. It gives your mind something to look forward too.

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