33 Rules to Boost Your Productivity

Written by Steve Pavlina on May 1st, 2007. See the original post here.

Here some are behavioral rules that can help us get things done more efficiently.

Nuke it! The most efficient way to get through a task is to delete it. If it doesn’t need to be done, get it off your to do list.

Daily goals. Without a clear focus, it’s too easy to succumb to distractions. Set targets for each day in advance. Decide what you’ll do; then do it.

Worst first. To defeat procrastination learn to tackle your most unpleasant task first thing in the morning instead of delaying it until later in the day. This small victory will set the tone for a very productive day.

Peak times. Identify your peak cycles of productivity, and schedule your most important tasks for those times. Work on minor tasks during your non-peak times.

No-comm zones. Allocate uninterruptible blocks of time for solo work where you must concentrate. Schedule light, interruptible tasks for your open-comm periods and more challenging projects for your no-comm periods.

Mini-milestones. When you begin a task, identify the target you must reach before you can stop working. For example, when working on a book, you could decide not to get up until you’ve written at least 1000 words. Hit your target no matter what.

Timeboxing. Give yourself a fixed time period, like 30 minutes, to make a dent in a task. Don’t worry about how far you get. Just put in the time. See Timeboxing for more.

Batching. Batch similar tasks like phone calls or errands into a single chunk, and knock them off in a single session.

Early bird. Get up early in the morning, like at 5am, and go straight to work on your most important task. You can often get more done before 8am than most people do in a day.

Cone of silence. Take a laptop with no network or WiFi access, and go to a place where you can work flat out without distractions, such as a library, park, coffee house, or your own backyard. Leave your comm gadgets behind.

Tempo. Deliberately pick up the pace, and try to move a little faster than usual. Speak faster. Walk faster. Type faster. Read faster. Go home sooner.

Relaxify. Reduce stress by cultivating a relaxing, clutter-free workspace. See 10 Ways to Relaxify Your Workspace.

Agendas. Provide clear written agendas to meeting participants in advance. This greatly improves meeting focus and efficiency. You can use it for phone calls too.

Pareto. The Pareto principle is the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of the value of a task comes from 20% of the effort. Focus your energy on that critical 20%, and don’t over engineer the non-critical 80%.

Ready-fire-aim. Bust procrastination by taking action immediately after setting a goal, even if the action isn’t perfectly planned. You can always adjust course along the way.

Minuteman. Once you have the information you need to make a decision, start a timer and give yourself just 60 seconds to make the actual decision. Take a whole minute to vacillate and second-guess yourself all you want, but come out the other end with a clear choice. Once your decision is made, take some kind of action to set it in motion.

Deadline. Set a deadline for task completion, and use it as a focal point to stay on track.

Promise. Tell others of your commitments, since they’ll help hold you accountable.

Punctuality. Whatever it takes, show up on time. Arrive early.

Gap reading. Use reading to fill in those odd periods like waiting for an appointment, standing in line, or while the coffee is brewing. If you’re a male, you can even read an article while shaving (preferably with an electric razor). That’s 365 articles a year.

Resonance. Visualize your goal as already accomplished. Put yourself into a state of actually being there. Make it real in your mind, and you’ll soon see it in your reality.

Glittering prizes. Give yourself frequent rewards for achievement. See a movie, book a professional massage, or spend a day at an amusement park.

Quad 2. Separate the truly important tasks from the merely urgent. Allocate blocks of time to work on the critical Quadrant 2 tasks, those which are important but rarely urgent, such as physical exercise, writing a book, and finding a relationship partner.

Continuum. At the end of your workday, identify the first task you’ll work on the next day, and set out the materials in advance. The next day begin working on that task immediately.

Slice and dice. Break complex projects into smaller, well-defined tasks. Focus on completing just one of those tasks.

Single-handling. Once you begin a task, stick with it until it’s 100% complete. Don’t switch tasks in the middle. When distractions come up, jot them down to be dealt with later.

Randomize. Pick a totally random piece of a larger project, and complete it. Pay one random bill. Make one phone call. Write page 42 of your book.

Insanely bad. Defeat perfectionism by completing your task in an intentionally terrible fashion, knowing you need never share the results with anyone. Write a blog post about the taste of salt, design a hideously dysfunctional web site, or create a business plan that guarantees a first year bankruptcy. With a truly horrendous first draft, there’s nowhere to go but up.

30 days. Identify a new habit you’d like to form, and commit to sticking with it for just 30 days. A temporary commitment is much easier to keep than a permanent one. See 30 Days to Success for details.

Delegate. Convince someone else to do it for you.

Cross-pollination. Sign up for martial arts, start a blog, or join an improv group. You’ll often encounter ideas in one field that can boost your performance in another.

Intuition. Go with your gut instinct. It’s probably right.

Optimization. Identify the processes you use most often, and write them down step-by-step. Refactor them on paper for greater efficiency. Then implement and test your improved processes. Sometimes we just can’t see what’s right in front of us until we examine it under a microscope.

4 Benefits of Martial Arts Training

Martial arts training is great for everyone. Here are a few reasons why:

Stress - With everything that is happening in this country and around the world; the stress level of the average person is dramatically higher than in the past. Unmanaged stress can be extremely detrimental to our health, our relationships and even our job productivity. As you all know, there aren't many things that can reduce stress better than an intense martial arts class. How many of you have come to the dojo stressed from the activities of the day and then left with a completely different mindset? At the end of a good class, remind yourself that the next time you consider skipping class, you should recall how good it feels to train. Always anchor in the good feelings when class is over, because that memory will make it easier for you to stay in the routine.

Obesity - Martial arts is fitness with a purpose. Fitness has three components: strength, flexibility and endurance. Martial arts training demands a balance between the three. Therefore, a person who trains in martial arts will find their weakest areas greatly improved. And, because they develop greater balance of strength, flexibility and endurance, children will be less likely to injure themselves while participating in other athletic activities.

Athletic Enhancement - There is a reason why every professional sports team in every major sport supplements their training with martial arts. Martial arts training offers several advantages. It is amazingly effective at enhancing general coordination because it uses every part of the body in a balanced way. Upper body, lower body, right side, left side, forward movement, lateral movement and rotational movement are all included in martial arts training.

Relationships - With so many screens in front of them at any given time, many modern Americans need more face­to­face social interaction. At the dojo, students find themselves surrounded by positive, high quality, encouraging people (instructors and co­students alike) who help to bring out their best and keep them focused on the prize.

Word of the Week: Small Victories

Lately I have been collecting the small victories - not the big ones.

If you think about it, we always hear about the grand slam home runs and the million lottery winners. But the likelihood of those sensational things happening to ordinary people like you and me is actually pretty small.

What matters more are all the small achievements we can claim every day. If you add them up, you get some remarkable results over time.

For example, if I skip the daily fancy coffee drink from Starbucks, I can save per day...or per month. That's adds up to a whopping per year!

Minor adjustments to our daily habits can offer huge dividends.

Want to drop 10 pounds? Start with losing just one. It's easier to do. And then keep whatever habit you adopted to accomplish that. The other nine will come off. All you need is a little patience.

9 Self Defense Moves Everyone Should Know

  • Awareness - blah, blah, blah. Everyone talks about it. No one does it. How often are your eyes on your smart phone? And not the sidewalk or the people around you? And what does awareness really mean? Well, it means looking over your shoulder, it means peeking around corners, it means using your eyes (in addition to your ears, nose, etc), it means using reflective surfaces like a glass door to see what's happening around you, it means sitting with your back to the wall, it means paying attention. It's more of habit. Exercise: Close your eyes. How many people are in the room? Who is the closest? Where is the 'other' exits (not the main one)? Where are the 'weapons'? More on that later. One more point: Most assaults are from someone we know.
  • Voice - We seldom practice this skill, but it's really worth developing. Learn how to say, "No!" like you mean it. Remember when your parents would tell you to go to bed and you pretended not to hear them? Because you knew nothing would really happen. And then at some point your mom or dad would yell, "GO TO BED!" and you almost peeed your pants. Well, you gotta practice saying no like you mean it. Fill the room with your energy. Turn your body to the side. Make yourself big. Stick your hand in your assailant's face and say, "NOOOOOO!" Exercise: Go around the room. Let each person try. The first one to give the rest of the class goosebumps wins.
  • Eye poke - There's nothing that will drop a 6'5" linebacker quicker than your finger deep in his eye. He will cry like a little baby. You can then run away. I like to tell my students: When you're in a tough situation and you must physically defend yourself, YOU decide who is going to the hospital. You or him. We have this fear of hurting people. Throw that fear out the window. Your life is worth fighting for. Fight dirty. Drive your finger(s) deep into his eye(s). Squish the grape. Then run. Exercise: Get close to your training partner, like you're about to kiss. But instead of puckering, grab the 'bad guys' head and PRETEND to drive your thumbs deep into his eye sockets. Don't do it for real this time. That eyeball is easily damaged. Permanently.
  • Never, ever let the bad guy take you anywhere. He will never take you to a nice place. Always, always fight to escape BEFORE you find yourself in a remote place. The bad guys hate attention. They hate public places. They hate noise. If/when you sense danger, head towards all the other humans. Pull the fire alarm. Lay on the horn. Scream for help. Keep screaming. Exercise: Take a quick look around the room. What could you do to generate a lot of noise? Break the glass window? Pull the fire alarm. Btw, where is that fire alarm?
  • Combat slap - This is a whole body technique and it's actually quite vicious. I wrote a little poem for it: Put you hands in the air like you dont want to fight, turn your body to the side with your (rear) hand out of sight, use your whole body and hit with all your might. (I will send you a video.) Combat slap can be a knock out technique. Easy to learn, easy to do. Exercise: Practice the motion. The power comes from the whole body movement not the arm.
  • Hair pull - To lead a horse, you use a halter. To lead a person, you use their hair (assuming they have some!). Need someone to fall backward, pull hair on back of head and watch him fall backwards. Need someone to turn sideways? Grab hear on side of head and yanks hair towards you. Watch him twist. Need to steady the target so you can do a perfect combat slap? Grab hair and smack away. This technique is so basic, anyone can do it: Open your hand, fingers wide. Scoop a fist full of hair near the scalp. Closer to the scalp, the better. Now, squeeze your fingers together into a fist. Bring all that hair with you in the squeeze (it will lift the skin from the skull). Keep squeezing hard while you do your business. Exercise:
  • Groin - Yes, men have spent all their lives protecting that little area. And for good reason. It hurts when struck! So use it to your advantage. Ever want to see a man drop his hands to his waist? Pretend you're about to strike his crotch with your knee. It's reflexive. He's spent his whole life trying to protect that area. Nothing's going to change now. When you hit the groin or any body part for that matter you MUST go through the target. Don't stop at the surface. So if I want to smash the groin, I will concentrate on going through it. If I want to smash your face, I will concentrate on going through it. It's like swing a baseball bat. Swing through the ball if you want a home run. And we love home runs!
  • Every day weapons - The good news is there are weapons all around you. They may look like pencils, cups of coffee, laptops and even smart phones, but they are weapons and they work really well. If you're attacked, the assailant is most likely larger and stronger than you. The bad guys never pick on the muscle bound tigers. They want easy targets, like 3 legged zebras (Stop looking like an easy target!) So, that means you have to even things up a bit by grabbing the every day weapons around you and using them viciously to your advantage. That cup of hot coffee? Ouch to the face. The laptop? Smack across the face. The smart phone? Throw it at his head.
  • Guns & Knives - If you have one, use it. But if you're on the other end of one, run! Run like you've never run before. Want my wallet? It's yours (toss to the side). Want my car? Take it. (Toss the keys to the side.) The point is: Very few things are worth dying for. The bottom line is: If you fight someone wielding a knife, you will get cut. I don't care how good of a fighter you are. Try to disarm me from my gun? I'm going to pull the trigger. More than once. Now, try to take my wife or my kids? I don't care how many guns you have and how many knives, I will fight to the death for that. But that lesson is entails much more training. For now, let's concentrate on the basics.