Want to Be More Productive? Never Touch Things Twice

In this series, professionals share their secrets to being more productive. Read the posts here, then write your own (use #ProductivityHacks in the body).

When it comes to productivity, we all face the same challenge — there are only 24 hours in a day. Since even the best ideas are worthless until they're executed, how efficiently you use your time is as important as anything else in business.

I've become fascinated by productivity secrets because some people seem to have twice the time, and there's no better way to reach your goals than by finding ways to do more with the precious time you've been given.

It feels incredible when you leave the office after an ultra-productive day. It's a workplace high that's hard to beat. In my experience you don’t need to work longer or push yourself harder — you just need to work smarter.
"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." —William Penn

I've learned to rely on productivity hacks that make me far more efficient. I try to squeeze every drop out of every hour without expending any extra effort.

And my favorite hack also happens to be the easiest one to implement. It's so easy and useful you can begin using it now.

Never touch things twice.

That's it. Never put anything in a holding pattern, because touching things twice is a huge time-waster. Don’t save an email or a phone call to deal with later. As soon as something gets your attention you should act on it, delegate it, or delete it.

To pull this off you're going to have to eat some frogs. “Eating a frog” is doing the least appetizing, most dreaded item on your to-do list. If you let your frogs sit, you waste your day dreading them. If you eat them right away, then you're freed up to tackle the stuff that excites and inspires you.

You'll also need to master the tyranny of the urgent. The tyranny of the urgent refers to the tendency of little things that have to be done right now to get in the way of what really matters. This creates a huge problem as urgent actions often have little impact. The key here is to delete or delegate. Otherwise, you can find yourself going days, or even weeks, without touching the important stuff. You'll need to get good at spotting when putting out fires is getting in the way of your performance, and you'll need to delete or delegate the things that hinder real forward momentum.

No is a powerful word that you're going to have to wield. When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases such as I don’t think I can or I’m not certain. Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully and efficiently fulfill them. Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Learn to use no, and it will lift your mood, as well as your productivity.

If you aren't going to touch things twice, you can't allow e-mail to be a constant interruption. You should check e-mail on a schedule, taking advantage of features that prioritize messages by sender. Set alerts for your most important vendors and best customers, and save the rest until the scheduled time. You could even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when you’ll be checking your e-mail again.

 
To make my system work, you're also going to have to avoid multitasking. It's a real productivity killer. Research conducted at Stanford University confirms that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.

Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully. Never touching things twice means only touching one thing at a time.

Bringing It All Together

We’re all searching for ways to be more efficient and productive. I hope my productivity hack helps you to find that extra edge.

What productivity hacks do you rely on? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, TIME, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.
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