My 7 Most Obvious Productivity Tips

Austin L. Church
December 31, 2016
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As I was working on my last post about Neil Patel’s content marketing strategy, I realized that I need to mix shorter, punchier posts in with my longer thought leadership articles. (Harder than you might think for a guy with chronic logorrhea.) So in an attempt to learn from the inimitable Neil Patel, I’ll keep this one short.

7 Obvious Productivity Tips

These tips are easy to forget and just as easy to implement again:

1. Screen every phone call from a number you don’t recognize (and most you do).

If the call is important, the caller will leave a message.

You can avoid time-sucking conversations, telemarketers, Dun & Bradstreet, GoDaddy, and every other cold-call hustler trying to make a buck (which I respect in a morbid, please-take-me-off-your-list kind of way).

2. Turn off notifications on your phone.

With all of those text messages, Instagram likes, and tweet replies blowing up your well-loved device, you’re like that dog in the movie Up.

Digg stops mid-conversation to exclaim, “Squirrel!”

No wonder you never see the end of your to-do list. Turn down the noise to amp up your focus.

3. Filter email newsletters.

I don’t know about you, but email is the single most voracious devourer of my time. You can claw back a ton of productivity by putting email in its proper place next to the dental floss. It’s a tool, not a shrine. (Reference “12 Email Productivity Tips.”)

Are you feeling lucky? Good. Set up a catch-all filter for email newsletters and declutter your inbox in one fell swoop.

productivity tips
  1. In Gmail, click on the Settings icon > Filters and Blocked Addresses > and Create a new filter (you may have to scroll down the page).
  2. In the “Has the words” field, type the words “unsubscribe” and “opt out.”
  3. Click “Create filter with this search.”
  4. Tick the box for either “Skip the inbox (Archive it)” or “Delete it.”
  5. Tick the box for “Also apply filter to… .”
  6. Click the blue “Create filter” button to save the filter.

4. Master the two-sentence reply.

You can answer 90% of your emails in two sentences or less. Try it.

5. Don’t bother with “Thanks.”

You ask someone to do something. Someone does something. Someone emails you to confirm that he has, in fact, done the something. You reply, “Thanks,” to acknowledge that someone has done something.

Don’t bother. Someone’s feelings won’t be hurt if you don’t bother to send a pointless email for the sake of propriety.

6. Don’t open email yet.

Almost every workday brings with it the one thing that I must accomplish. Sometimes the one thing is finishing a client’s writing project before a deadline; or typing up a Roadmapping report for a consulting client; or turning a quote for a new client around in less than 24 hours.

Email is Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with a thousand distractions. Email can wait. If a client, friend, or a family member really has a mission-critical situation, then he or she will text or call. Reacting to emails won’t get me where I want to go. Tackling my top priority first thing will.

You can always process emails later.

7. Write tasks down.

Before you say, “Duh,” and write me off as a total nincompoop, finish reading this section.

Inevitably, right when I settle into the single most important task of my day, other small niggling tasks come to mind. I’ve always thought of them as free radicals ricocheting around my brain.

Rather than mode shift to the new task, which is always less important than what I was working on, I pause long enough to write it down on a 3x5 notecard. As soon as I capture it, it stops creating interference in my mind.

I can better focus on one thing, and later, I can either add the free radical tasks to my personal Trello board or delegate them to my assistant.

There you have it, folks. Seven bonafide productivity tips.

And I didn’t even tell you to start using Slack.

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