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10 Productivity Tips are Better Than 101
By Samuel Ryan     Freelance Lessons     Comments

Mega-lists are pretty popular on the internet (75 Ways to Boost your Self-Esteem, 101 Ways to Open Firefox, 500 Ways to Make Your List Longer). These lists often have "filler" items, and many items have such diminuitive returns that I'd rather just have a list of their ten best items. So with that in mind, here is a list of what I consider my favorite productivity tips – ten in all. Please add your own favorites in the comments and maybe we can get to 101.



1. Make Lists and Finish Them – Write down goals for the day, the week, and the month -- using a simple Hipster PDA or a giant whiteboard will do. And more importantly, get it done (i.e., be willing to stay up until 2AM to finish that task you had on your list).

2. Blackout Your Communication – A common methodology of writers, try blocking off a chunk of hours, locking the door, shutting down the email and cell phone, and forcing yourself to work on your task lists. And when you feel like you're getting nothing done, don't give in – force yourself to keep working.

3. Don't Sleep with Unanswered Emails – It's understandable if some emails require a short wait, but for the most part, always try to answer emails the same day. Besides just "getting it done," it builds a healthy rapport with your correspondents.

4. Prioritize Commitments - Decide what's important and what's not. Then decide if low-priorities are killing the high-priorities. If so, drop some of the commitments and don't take on any more.

5. Start Gap Tasking – Unfortunately, life is still full of commutes, long lines, and waiting times. This is a great time to do a bit of reading, phoning, or note-jotting. 

6. Socialize Positively – There's something about being around positive and motivated people that fires up productivity in oneself. Not only do you get chances to bounce new ideas off others, you will often get encouragement and perhaps a little competitive drive from such interactions.

7. Just Launch It – No project is ever really complete. So instead of playing the perfectionist and continually investing time and effort into dozens of revisions/additions, just launch the project as best you can. Not only will you feel like you've accomplished something (which feeds into a productivity boost), but you'll also quickly know what revisions/additions are the most pertinent.

8. Discipline Your Recreation – Most people have some sort of recreational time -- movies, video games, music, and so forth. The problem usually isn't the participation in such activities, but the lack of knowing when to stop. Sometimes, it may take the cancellation or the uninstallation of a service to be more productive.

9. Act Like a Business – Both designers and developers alike enjoy relaxed environments that include casual wear, socialization, and perhaps a few office toys. Freelancers can be even more laid back, usually sporting pajamas and enjoying frequent breaks. Unfortunately, slackness in your clothing and schedule often leads to slackness in your work. Try cleaning the office, increasing the lighting, and wearing semi-casual wear. See if your productivity increases...

10. Show Up – Building anything of value is never easy. Just "showing up" day after day is often the hardest part of any project. Always be the most reliable person you know...

Community Comments
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Another great post! Your blog is getting more and more indispenseble.

And you are right about the mega-lists, they are nice, but I could actually read through this one word for word.

Every one of these tips are great!

Sean Hodge
I want to second the tip of "Just Launch It". Its also important to plan your projects with the idea of phasic launches. 37 Signals has some good philosphy about this.

Bijan Berahimi
Great list,
and moleskins seem really cool.

I've been looking for a good pocket notebook.


Brad Pyne
You forgot #11, caffeine.

Jay Kerr
I find that blocking out communication -- putting my phone on DND (Do Not Disturb) and quitting my email program for an hour allows helps with my productivity.

There is nothing like a whiteboard beside your desk to help you see the big picture of tasks at hand -- so much easier and faster than any of the To Do list managers out there that suck up so much valuable time.

I love the motivation! I think the most difficult for me is #2 - Blackout Communication. I often find it hard to shut the doors and get quality alone time. It seems that whenever I do this, my wife needs to talk to me or I insist on checking my e-mail every 5 minutes. I think that if I would get in the habit of checking my e-mail 2 or 3 times a day, I would be 10x more productive. After I do that, I can start working on point #9 - putting some clothes on.

Rodrigo Mejia
I recently discovered this website and it has been a great discover for me because it's both very entertaining and useful.
I try to do Blackout thing on Saturdays. It's not only for productivity but also is very enjoyable for me to be able to focuse in one thing... but very hard to get the time.

Freelance Cancer
#2, mmm...
Ignoring phone calls and knockings on my door is the esaiest thing. My problem is my messenger - I always forget to turn it off and then messages from friends come out...

Man-o-man do I look forward to your blog-emails! You always give me some really good things to think about. I'm not a freelancer (yet) but I can even apply these things to my slave-labor 9-2-5 job! Thanks!

very interesting post for my job and my life. Grazie

Email disturbance: A simple idea: set your email to poll for new mail once an hour,(or more) instead of the default (every 15 seconds or so):

This gives you a longer un-interrupted span of concentration.

I'd just like to chip in with my own take on numbered lists. Click on my name to read my blog: 4 reasons I hate numbered lists!

You know how you tell yourself you are studying because you have your certification books opened in front of you? But you are really clicking on Stumble Upon to find interesting posts to read?

Yeah well, I came across yours and had to write to tell you I enjoyed it very much. I gave it the thumbs up, so more people can come across it and enjoy it also.

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What is all this?
My name is Samuel Ryan and I make websites. Sometimes, I write about it. I disappeared from this blog for a couple years, but I'm jumping back in now -- even began using my twitter account. If you care to know more, go here.