6 Productivity Shortcuts To Save You Time

Recently, a friend told me she heard a statistic that claimed that the average American living in suburbia can spend up to 3 years of their life waiting at traffic lights. I live in NYC so this time-waster doesn’t apply to me directly, but it really got me thinking about how I might be wasting time even in my very productive life. I’ve written before on the basics – laying out your clothes the night before, having a plan for the morning, etc – but I believe that just like goals are achieved by focusing on the small steps, maximum productivity is achieved through shortcuts.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Using keyboard shortcuts – The tech experts at brainwave.com estimate that you save 2 seconds per minute when you use keyboard shortcuts (vs. reaching for the mouse). If that doesn’t seem like a lot of time – that 2 seconds per minute adds up to 8 workdays per year – that’s an extra vacation!

2. Read inside the lines – Tim Ferris makes the case that you can read up to 50% faster by only focusing on the center of a paragraph and letting your peripheral vision do the rest of the work. Unlike “skimming” where you potentially lose information, this technique allows you to easily and quickly digest memos, emails, and more!

3. Filter out social media – By clicking this link Facebook allows you to limit the number of friends that show up on your newsfeed to only the most popular posts or posts from specific people. This eliminates all of the “What a great day for a run!” and “4th day of my cleanse… whoo hoo!” posts from taking up your attention.

4. Never enter the kitchen empty handed – This hack is stolen from those who work in the restaurant business. The idea is to use your time most efficiently by making every move count. Apply this to your workday with simple tasks such as waiting to rinse your morning coffee mug in the office kitchen until you’re ready to get your lunch.

5. Follow the 2 minute rule – To me, David Allen is considered the father of productivity and he always has amazing tricks to save you time but this one is definitely my favorite. Whenever you’re interrupted with a task, quickly decide if it will take more or less than 2 minutes. If it takes more, write it down on your to-do list for later when you can focus. If it takes less, complete it immediately to avoid overloading yourself later and then get back to what you were doing.

6. Bring a list – Bring a list to meetings to keep everyone focused and maximize time. Bring a list to the grocery store to avoid wasting time (and potentially money) browsing the snack aisle. Keep a packing list so you never forget a thing when traveling. Have a list of all the things you want to discuss on your next phone conversation too. Making a list, though it requires a small investment of your time initially, is still my number one hack to live efficiently and without stress.

2 replies
  1. Kosio Angelov
    Kosio Angelov says:

    Another great article Paula! The Facebook tip (and link) was a great idea.

    I don’t fully agree with David Allen’s famous 2-minute rule. To me this is a recipe for disaster. What if 10 or 20 or 40 things come your way, each one of them takes “only” 2 minutes but all of them combined can take you quite a while. There is no shortage of distractions so this is more applying a patch to the problem and not really curing it.

    I think a better approach is to “schedule your interruptions”. Concentrate on your task, make your space as distractions free as possible and get it done. Only once you are done, take care of all those small 2-minute things, in bulk.

    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Thanks for your comment! I think being realistic about how long things will actually take you is huge as well. Often times people throw out “this will only take 2 minutes” but 10 minutes later you are still working on it.


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