The single most important tip for greater productivity


Deal with something once. Do it the first time. Get it done and off your plate. And move on.

That’s it! Far easier said that done, of course. Let’s take a couple examples:

You get an email asking for something. An attachment, but you have to find it. Do it right now! Can it really take more than a couple seconds to get it done and move on? Or will that email sit in your inbox for who knows how long? How many times will you reread that email and not take the couple seconds to execute?

Someone wants to schedule a meeting. Well, you say, let’s hook up later to compare calendars. No! Do it right now! Take the 20-30 seconds to look at your calendar right now and pick a day/time. Even if it for some reason doesn’t work later, at least you have something to start from. Done!

You keep the front page of the Wall Street Journal with you all day, maybe because you just want to read the entire “What’s News” section. This will take you all of one minute (or less), but you don’t start (or you start, get a couple lines down, and get distracted). Focus yourself and do it right now! Do it first-thing in the morning. Get it done, decide if you want to read anything else (or not), and move on.

The single-most wasteful thing most of us do (myself still included) is look at something again and again without taking action.

Yes, there are times when you don’t have time. There are action items that do require more time and thought. But that’s not what kills your time. Reading and thinking about those micro action items again and again and again – add that time up and it’s a huge time and productivity killer.

Do it now, deal with it once, and move on with your day.