1. Start your day earlier. I talked about that here.

2. Wait to open email. Review for important projects/tasks left over from the previous day instead. Hit email in the afternoon.

3. Take frequent breaks. We can only focus well for 30-45 minutes before our brains stop processing and need a break.

4. Figure out what days/times you are most effective and plan accordingly. Save harder tasks for mornings, if you work best that way.

5. Break large products into smaller steps. Baby step your way through larger projects.

6. Do the hardest/most-dreaded item first. It will energize you to have that off your shoulders.

7. Make sure you need to actually complete everything on your list…and then….

8. Make sure you are delegating enough (is the thing you are doing most efficiently done by you?)

9. Do one thing at a time. Studies show we really aren’t more effective when we multi-task.

10. Start with a clean desk. Which means, straighten your desk before you leave with perhaps a note of your top 3 most important “to do’s” for the next day.

11. “Create windows of non-stimulation” (via Zen Habits). In other words, create small (and sometimes larger) periods of time to just sit and think: no computer, tv, phone, music. Nothing but quiet.

12. Set a timer. I think timers work best for physical projects but they can also help you focus on the immediate task at hand (I have to work on this blog post for the next 30 minutes, I have to file for the next 15 minutes, etc.).

13. Build routines. When we don’t have to think about “what’s next?” but go to it instinctively, our lives become easier and less time is wasted. Particularly helpful are routines built around getting started and routines built around finishing for the day.

14. Remember the 80/20 rule (i.e. 20% of your customers take up 80% of your time, 20% of your employees take up 80% of your time, 20% of your tasks take up 80% of your time). Look at your 20% and ask what can be eliminated or changed.

15. Lighten up. Stop taking it all so seriously. You will not productively fill every minute of every day. We weren’t meant to operate that way. Kick off and go play with your kids (or your dog or a friend). Clear your head. When you head back to work, you’ll feel more focused and be more productive.

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by Steven Schlagel