12 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Get More Done

by David Ning · 18 comments

There are a ton of things going on with my business, and people are often surprised to find that I’m still doing practically everything by myself. A question I often get asked is “How do you do it all?”

The Secret is Written on the Wall

There is no secret. I get more done because I work longer hours than most of you. Everyone sees me out and about during the week and people are always jealous, but they never realize the time I put in every single night when they are watching TV, and all the hours I put in during every single weekend when everyone else is doing anything but work.

Productivity is Still Important

Having said that, there are a few little things I learned along the way that makes me more efficient. After all, when I get more done with less time, I can choose to a) relax more or b) make more money by taking on more. Let me share them with you today.

  1. Stop Believing the Damn Lie that Multitasking is Good – No one can possibly multi-task. We can handle multiple tasks and prioritize, but no one can ever do two things at once. Stop distracting yourself with multiple projects and get one thing done, then move on to the next.
  2. Stop Checking Your Email/Twitter/Facebook Account Constantly – I love technology, but all these alerts and Blackberrys only slow down the time it takes to finish whatever you are doing. Turn them off.
  3. And When You Read Them, Respond Right Away – We all do this. Whenever we read an email, many of us never respond right away. Then, we spend more time looking at the subject title again and again, and when we do respond, we have to re-read the email again. How efficient is that? Read it, respond, or send it to the trash can.
  4. Be Ready Early – Prepare for your calls and meetings a day early, and then set your meeting reminders to 5 minutes before the actual event. There’s no need for a 15 minute warning just so you can click on snooze many more times than once.
  5. Write Down What You Will Do Next – If you have blank out every once in a while, just write down what you are doing on a piece of paper so you can remind yourself when you stare at the screen and forget. This happens to people often when they are trying to multitask. Stop.
  6. Wear a Headphone – If you are in a noisy environment, or have a gossipy neighbor, you may want to check with your boss to see if you can wear a headphone. Office rumors are interesting, but they won’t be your coworkers anymore if you cannot get your work done and get fired./li>
  7. Learn to Say No – Tell them you are busy. It’s okay. Everyone needs to learn to respect your time.
  8. Sit Away from Hot Spots – Or at least move your monitor so you don’t see Joe and Jessica every time they walk by to the coffee area.
  9. Software Could Help – I use a software that turns the whole screen black when I write call Writeroom. It’s for Mac but they also have a Windows equivalent called Darkroom. At the very least, turn off all programs that sends out alerts when you are working.
  10. Turn Off the Freaking Phone – If you hear this message, it means that unlike you, I’m actually working. You can leave a message if you’d like but wouldn’t it have been easier for the both of us if you sent me an email instead?
  11. Set a Schedule – You can’t possibly work 24/7, so block out a time where you can be interrupted by doing tasks that don’t need much concentration.
  12. Clean Up Your Desk – Everyone who can’t keep their desks clean always say that they know exactly where everything is. Sure, but they also spend countless minutes looking over them every time they need to find anything. A clean desk offers less distractions, guaranteed.

There are a ton more ideas obviously. How do you stay focus and get more done?

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Financial Samurai November 6, 2009 at 5:16 am

Learning to say “No” is probably the most powerful thing for successful people to follow.

I donno David, I think you got it pretty good as a full time blogger. :) It’s the ones who have to blog and work another job that really has it rough.

Your grass is very green, and I’m sure many would like to cross the road and sit on it.

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MoneyNing November 6, 2009 at 10:44 am

I like what I do so I’m fortunate in that regard, but I would encourage you to try it before you determine whether it’s a good situation or not :)

Those people who blog and have a full time job choose to continue doing both. In some way, I think you will agree that they have more choices than I do, as it’s not like I can just choose to have a job and get one right away.

The grass is very green only when you study how to take care of it and do all the necessary maintenance. Weather and location helps, but things don’t just happen.

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Financial Samurai November 6, 2009 at 11:50 am

David,

I truly do believe I would enjoy making $100k+/yr and writing full time. Especially if it was on a cruise ship seeing the world. This, I promise you.

FS

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MoneyNing November 6, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Who said I was making $100k a year? I could be making $50k, or I could be making $500k. :)

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Financial Samurai November 6, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Well that’s why I say $100K+.

But, if you do make closer to $500,000, please in some way let folks who wish to blog for a living now whether this is feasible. It’s important to understand the upside.

Cheers, FS

MoneyNing November 7, 2009 at 1:54 pm

If you want to know the potential, then the real answer is that there isn’t a limit. You can think of bloggers as a mini celebrity. You can ask how much a famous person can make, then a few people would say top movie stars make X usually, singers make Y. But then you have someone like Oprah who built a business behind her brand, and it changes the ball game and income potential.

Don’t limit yourself.

Thicken My Wallet November 6, 2009 at 7:21 am

I do the power list thing. I only put that 3 things I absolutely have to have done in the week. Everything else is not a priority. I cannot exceed 3.

I would partially disagree with you about #3. Email is a terrible way to negotiate or discuss many matters. Respond to the trivial but think about the serious emails more in-depth and actually call or meet to discuss. So many things get accomplished in a face to face meeting over emailing back and forth.

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MoneyNing November 6, 2009 at 10:45 am

I totally agree with what you said about email and the fact that face to face is still the best way to do business. However, I should point out that even if you need to carefully think about what to write, you shouldn’t take 3 or 4 cracks at doing something that can be done once.

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CD Rates Blog November 6, 2009 at 7:45 am

Not commenting everytime David makes a post. :O)

BTW, A pop-up from your site came up. I can’t stand pop-ups. Even worse, I had to use the CTRL-Mouse Wheel to shrink the window enough to close it. I have a relatively new monitor. I had already hidden my other toolbars so my browser wasn’t taking up a lot of extra space. Maybe the pop-up should at least have a scroll bar.

I do tend to get distracted easily. So focus is difficult. My wife said that they did a study on messy people’s brains and that part of their brain lights up the same as someone who is hyperactive. Hmm.

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MoneyNing November 6, 2009 at 12:03 pm

I will look into the pop up. Thanks for notifying me.

You should comment every time though, because doing so means that you fully understood what I’m trying to say and usually, understanding makes you better.

Sometimes, you need to invest a little to get that big gain.

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CD Rates Blog November 6, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Believe me, I’ve invested a lot in the give back routine. Will always do so because that is my nature. I do believe in the big picture regardless of whether I see a gain. :O)

So I guess I can expect you to visit us soon? :O)

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MoneyNing November 6, 2009 at 1:56 pm

I always appreciated your support, so keep them coming.

Before I can visit you, I need to know where you live right? :)

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Craig November 6, 2009 at 9:24 am

Multi tasking is great when done in moderation. You can’t do too many things at once you will cut your productivity on each item. Although social networking can be productive with networking and marketing when you overdo it for fun personal use you take away from your work.

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Jane Vedell November 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Good tips.

Though the clean desk: I like to be able to see stuff. By having everything in sight triggers my brain and I can find things in seconds. Once a boss had me put everything away. It took me much longer to find stuff, but she felt good about herself. As long as things are out in an organized manner (to the person doing the work) and it works for that person – what’s the problem? Given that customers/clients/vendors don’t see it.

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Megan September 22, 2011 at 9:49 am

I had a boss who got nervous when I had too much stuff on my desk, worried that I was going to mis-file something or get stuff mixed up. I never did this, b/c my piles were meticulously organized, but apparently his employees had in the past and it made him (understandably) paranoid.

When I put everything away, I lacked the visual reminders I needed to deal with x, y, or z thing. Occasionally I would miss a deadline or forget to do something, which also made my boss upset.

Eventually we came to a compromise. I was allowed to put multi-colored sticky notes on my desk as placeholders for the files and things that he didn’t want laying around. I stopped missing deadlines, and he didn’t have panic attacks when he saw the state of my desk. It worked out well. :)

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LeanLifeCoach November 6, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Another biggie… Delegate.

If you work with others, they will have skills you don’t and vise versa. Leverage the talents available to the benefit of all.

At home, isn’t this why we have kids? :-) I’m getting much more done now that my son is mowing the lawn.

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Matthew November 8, 2009 at 2:03 pm

I must admit that this article has all my weaknesses when it comes to getting work done. I always make it though though by getting a little extra help here or burning the candle at both ends. Thanks for all the tips, definitely checking out “Darkroom”..

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Nora May 2, 2011 at 7:22 am

The problem I have with this article is that it assumes that working non-stop is somehow a good idea. It is not. The idea of frugal living, for me, is to spend less on what is not important (including less time in pursuit of money) in order to spend more on what is important – actually having a life. If you believe that at the moment of death you will wish you had spent more time at the office, then heed her advice; if you believe that you will wish you had spent more time doing things that you love, be efficient but keep it in perspective. Our jobs are very rarely our lives; and if they are, they had better be something you would do even if no one paid you a penny to do it.

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