Five top tips for increasing your productivity

The Ultimate Guide to Productivity

Ben Yoskovitz of the Instigator Blog recently started the ultimate guide to productivity meme, and lucky me, I’ve been tagged by StevieB of Lost in Cyberspace to share my productivity tips.

At this moment in time, outside of my already busy full-time job, I also have two college projects and an interactive CV that needs to be completed for my end of year exhibition in June. On top of this I need to produce lots of supporting materials for the exhibition including banners, business cards, a printed portfolio, freebies etc.

That’s not all! In addition I also have a bit of work to do for a client of mine, plus an all-consuming blog to keep on top of (there’s something terribly ironic about writing this article given my current workload), not to mention keeping my house spic and span, and spending some quality time with my girlfriend and other friends.

So I have a thing or two to say on the matter of productivity.

  • Read David Allen’s Getting Things Done – A bit of a cop-out this one, as it is not a productivity tip in itself, but I honestly don’t think I could get by without this book – it’s my bible! David preaches an entire productivity system whereby every ‘open loop’ in your life is recorded in a trusted system, allowing your brain to organise itself and achieve a truly focused and relaxed state of mind. I don’t think I’m quite at this yen-like state yet, but this book has really helped me and is the source for most of my tips below.
  • The two minute rule – How often do you come across a task and say to yourself, “that won’t take long, I’ll do that later,” and put that task to one side? Eventually you have a pile of these deferred activities. But rather than just doing these tasks when you could have, you’ve now created a much larger job of sifting through them all when you get a moment. Until they are cleared they will occupy and bog down your mind. The simple rule is, if it takes less that two minutes, just do it, there and then.
  • Live by the list – Most people participating in this meme will probably have mentioned lists. They are vital for recording all of those ‘to-dos’ in your trusted system, and not have them clogging up your mind. For many people a daily to-do list will suffice. Not for me – I need a ‘next actions list’ and a separate ‘projects list’ to refer to when reviewing my next actions. At work, I also have a ‘delegated list’ for keeping track of delegated tasks and a ‘waiting for list’ to record items where I’m waiting for someone else to do something before it becomes an action for me.
  • A tidy desk is a happy desk – This applies to both your physical workspace and your computer desktop. People tend to leave piles of paper on their desk or icons or their desktop to serve as a reminder. This is not a trusted reminder so your mind can not fully let go and relax. Record your reminders in your lists and work with a clean, clutter-free and happy workspace.
  • Enjoy a good cup of tea – I’m not great in the mornings. In fact when I get to work it can take me a good 30 minutes to truly get out of that “I want to go back to bed” mood. So first thing I do before I even switch my computer on is make a cup of tea. Without the ritual drinking of the tea, it takes me twice as long to engage my brain in my work. I love tea more than any other drink in the whole world. I really do!

A nice refreshing cup of tea

If my five tips are not enough to cure your insatiable appetite for productivity tips, why not check out these other posts:

Many thanks to StevieB for tagging me on this one. To keep the meme rolling I would like to tag the following people (no worries if you chose not to follow it):

Many thanks for the recent comments: Randa, Jez, Tara, StevieB, Scot and webee.

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27 fantastic comments

Thanks for the mention! The two minute rule tip is a great one.

Thanks for mentioning me too. I need to follow your tidy desk tip, mine is terrible, but when I tidy it I can’t seem to find anything.

I am glad to see you got this post up in a timely fashion, shows you live what you preach. ;-)
Some nice tips there, now I will have to try and implement some of them myself!

I can only continue where my pre-commenters left off: the two-minute rule is a great idea.

I automatically keep my desk clean as it is only little by size. I also differentiate between my PC desk and my “paperwork” desk for university work.

Changing the place/location when having a creativity blockade does also help increase productivity (in case you are in need of a creative solution).

Woohoo! I got my first tagging! :)

I was actually thinking about writing a post, saying that nobody had tagged me – so I’ll have to think about something else to write about on Friday now… ;)

Nice post, Aaron.

I agree. You can’t beat a good cup of tea! Unless of course it’s winding down with a White Russian. Mmmmmm.

[...] on said system. I was going to wait until I felt like it was in a more presentable form, but Aaron just tagged me post my five top tips for increasing your productivity. So, here are my [...]

[...] Five top tips for increasing your productivity by Aaron Russell [...]

I think my greatest tip to morning productivity is to skip my blog reading until I get home from work. If I don’t I usually get caught up in doing something that takes entirely too long and my day starts out later than it should, haha.

– Scot

Aaron, don’t apologize at all. My dry wit obviously didn’t translate very well. Great post and thank you for including me. ;)


Thanks for tagging me! I will tackle this one as soon as I have a free moment away from trying to be productive, haha ;)

Randa – No problem. The two minute rule is a new one for me, but a real time saver. I used to live by the “huge pile of stupid two minute tasks” rule, which didn’t get me very far.

Tara – Again, no problem. I hate an untidy workspace, but it’s important to be able to find your stuff. My sixth top tip would probably be a good filing system.

StevieB – Thanks, although I dont always practice what I preach. I’m a sucker for procrastination and sometimes I waste time and I’m not even sure what I’ve wated it on. I’m getting better though.

Jez – Good tip about changing desks. Unfotunately I only have one proper computer desk in my home and thats too small for paper work. Quite often I find myself working at the kitchen table, which isn’t ideal.

Paul – Ha ha, a pleasure to have ‘broken you in’ on the tagging front… How does it feel?

David – Yep, can’t beat tea. Only downside is its lack of alchohol content.

Scot – Blog reading and writing is taking up an increasingly huge amount of my time. I reserve it for after work only, but some evenings once I start I’ll be a good few hours on the computer. I need to work out how to read at twice the speed.

Marc – Fear not, the sarcasm-radar is in good order. ;) Nice post!

Sera – No problem. Look forward to reading your ideas.

Yeah – that was a fun piece to write actually. At first, I thought about making it serious – then I decided that I wouldn’t be productive at all if it wasn’t for humour, so that’s where it ended up!

Thanks again for the tag! :)

[...] but i hope it’s usefull and new. if you need more information on this, try to read: – aaron’s 5 tips – chris’s flow state – tara’s productivity [...]

[...] writing project on the topic. To participate in this project, I was tagged by Aaron Russell from who was first tagged by Stevie B. from Lost in Cyberspace to share my tips for productivity, so .. [...]

Great article! Especially the 2 minute one. I make an effort to not let the 2 minute issues pile up, but they sure do seem to do just that sometimes.

[...] invited by Paul Enderson. Who was invited by Instigator Blog. Other excellent posts in this meme areAaron’s 5 tips Chris’s flow state Tara’s productivity [...]

[...] miLienzo: read GTD, 2-minute rule, live by the list, tidy desk, good cuppa. [...]

[...] but i hope it’s usefull and new. if you need more information on this, try to read: – aaron’s 5 tips – chris’s flow state – tara’s productivity [...]

[...] Five top tips for increasing your productivity by Aaron Russell [...]

[...] miLienzo: read GTD, 2-minute rule, live by the list, tidy desk, good cuppa. [...]

[...] Five top tips for increasing your productivity by Aaron Russell [...]

Blogs seriously take up more time than they really ought to, in my opinion. Well, I mean we all enjoy it and I do to – I love having a blog… in fact, I love having multiple blogs that focus on specific things. But to keep them up to date is a serious time consuming process, and it’s a little hard to justify when I don’t make money from it. Even if I get a great response, visitors etc. it still becomes a little hard to justify unless I make some sort of money or something down the line. Great pointers here!

In times of deadlines and days when lots of projects are given to you with little time to finish each of them, how do you think should this be handled effectively? Is there any book that you can recommend which is a good stress reliever or a very relaxing thing to read?

great tips. thanxs

[...] by Paul Enderson. Who was invited by Instigator Blog. Other excellent posts in this meme are Aaron’s 5 tips, Chris’s flow state and Tara’s productivity [...]

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