5 Unconventional Ways to Become More Productive

If you’re anything like me, you probably wish you had an extra hour or two on most days. I know I would not complain with a bucketful of extra time each week. There is always a lot to be done and, despite my best efforts, I find that 24 hours is not always enough.

Of course, time is time, and it cannot be changed. We will never get more than the allotted 24 hours in a day. But while we can’t add an hour at whim, we can change the way we use the time we have.

Here are a few non-traditional ways to change things up and use the time you have to be more productive.

Say No to Email

Many of us have agreed that email can be one of the biggest time killers in the history of the world. So, it makes sense that limiting your use or changing how you use email to prevent email overload can be an effective way to use your time more productively.

Get Up in the Wee Hours

I’m pretty sure this tactic will be met by its fair share of criticism, but it’s my favorite productivity technique. I have been known to go to bed early and wake up pre-dawn to get some focused, uninterrupted work time in.
I will admit, this is dangerous if you don’t set limits on the frequency because it can quickly lead to burnout. But for me, sometimes this is the only way to get the time I need. Plus, nailing your biggest priorities before the rest of your world wakes up makes the day a breeze.

Give Up on Goals

I’m not sure this one would ever be realistic for a Type-A personality like me, but according to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, the best goal is no goal. The idea is that by simply doing, you’re only focusing on what you’re passionate about and giving those actions your full attention. If it works for you, this could be the ultimate, unconventional solution to targeted productivity.

Ditch Your Schedule

I have recommended using a schedule to plan time for your most important priorities in order to boost productivity. But what if you did the opposite? You may be able to get more done by removing time constraints and learning how to go with the flow.

Just Stop Doing

Most of us keep taking on more and more, so it quickly follows that we need more time to get it all done. Yet, we will never be able to create more time. So we’re constantly looking for ways to use time differently so we can accommodate more. It’s a vicious cycle. It makes sense that to become more productive, we should start cutting back, saying no, and delegating whenever possible.

Your Turn

I’ve already admitted to becoming nocturnal in order to improve my productivity. Your turn to share your secrets. What unconventional techniques have you used to become more productive?

Image credit: dinny

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  • BobbyAdamson

    I think the “get up early” mentality is valid, but I think the point is really to try to find some time when you won’t be interrupted. Getting up super early works for some, but staying up super late works for others. When others are asleep or occupied is the best time, no matter what precise time that is. People always say ‘get up really early’ like they’re a more responsible or disciplined person because they can get up at 5am, but that’s not the point of the tactic. Everything else is spot on though! I really like the idea of giving up on goals. I’ve never really attacked too many set “goals” but I just do things I want to do and it’s taken me pretty far, as well. Not having goals is not the same as understanding what you want, though. Don’t take a crap job because “you don’t have goals” if you’re capable of and want to wait for something more suited to your real desires.

  • Blue.

    Advice about getting early is terrible if you ask me.
    Go to bed when you feel like, get up after you got enough sleep.
    If you need to work – turn off your IMs, telephones, mail clients and focus on the task, divide it to small bits and do them 1 by 1 systematically.
    It’s not nuclear physics – in order to perform good, you need to feel good.
    Sleeping patterns vary from person to person, my philosophy is that you should never force or your employees to work when tired.

  • JR

    I can see how several of these ideas would make you more productive, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily a positive change.

    Giving up on goals would certainly make you “more productive”, because there would no longer be anything to be productive about. You don’t have to worry about getting things done if you don’t care whether anything ever gets done in the first place.

    The same is true of stopping-doing. If you stop doing anything, you’ll immediately be infinitely productive – at doing nothing. Indeed, you won’t even have to go to the bank, because people get paid to do, and you don’t do doing.

    Getting up early I can get behind, though I prefer to stay up late. Those hours between midnight and five or six in the morning are a perfect time to get things done.

  • mcksmith

    I only have two goals: Be happy, and try to avoid making others unhappy.
    I have no idea where I’ll be in five years – all I know is where ever I am, is where I’ll want to be. It doesn’t mean that I’m not doing anything productive. I take post-secondary classes (both IT and business related) – I just don’t know if I’ll be the IT manager, or a BlackBerry App developer, or still a web developer, or maybe a free lancer. I’m more focused on enjoying the journey than be worried about getting to the destination.
    Same with stop doing. I have a TODO list a mile long, which I pretty much ignore. The critical things get done – it’s just that there’s a lot of things that could be done that I never get to, and nobody’s yelling at me or mad at me because they aren’t done, and my life goes on. It just leaves more time to do the things that are important to me.
    There are some things that I’m perfectly capable of doing myself, but I pay someone else to do them for me. Laziness? No. If time is money (I think time is worth more than money), then I’ll gladly pay someone to do a task I don’t want to do so that I can use that time to something I really want to do.
    When it comes to productivity, sometimes less is more.

    • Ivo

      This is the comment of the day! :-)

  • joellark

    Work smarter, not harder.

    I’m a workaholic. I’ve always been in the habit, also, of taking on any reasonable request others make of me. I then get to work without thinking of the most efficient way to get it all done. I just crank. A few tips:

    1. Say “no.” Accept the hate. Saying yes to people has led to very large amounts of work for me, often for very little gain. Worse, others around me get lazy, and just jump at my heels whenever they need something. I’m now in the habit of saying no.

    2. Most of the time, do nothing. Think 80% of the time, do 20%. This flies in the face of “just do it” or “go” philosophies, but spending the time to plan how I’m going to handle a task has netted me enormous amounts of time, and has done well to ease stress.

    3. Automate yourself out of a job. DRY. It means, don’t repeat yourself. If you do something once, then spend a portion of the 80% time to figure out how to automate it. I’m a programmer, so this is a bit habitual, but I can’t tell you how many little mental, physical, or scripted routines I have to save me time each day. For example, what if you automated your sex li— haha, just kidding.

    4. Ask for more work. Does this sound like a contradiction of point 1? Its not. One way to avoid being given work is to pro-actively ask for work from those that like to burden you. What does this gift you? You are now actively in charge of what you will propose you’ll do for them. Blend in their needs with your day-to-day. When you volunteer to do work for others, and the net result is a win-win, you have a friend for life. This will also catch most off guard, and eventually they’ll be trained on the types of favors to ask of you. See point #3. Give yourself chores that you’ve already automated away ;).

    5. Let others do the work. As part of your 80% time, think of who could be doing what you are doing. Is it a junior person that could use some mentoring in exchange for a bit more work? Could you barter some of your tasks for others more in-line with that you are already spending your time on?

    Be creative.

  • NaufalR

    I usually set a one or 2 days to meet all my clients. So I have the rest of the week to do what i need to get done. I take a short nap in the evenings and start working again late at night, mainly because my productive time is about 2am in the morning, mostly because its quiet and i absorb more information in the wee hours of the morning better compared to daytime.

    I do find it weird that you said “NO” to goal setting as most people would say set a goal so you know where you are headed. But I would semi-agree with you on this one. I’d say you still need to set some sort of goal so that you know when you’ve accomplished something it gives you a sense of achievement. :D

  • http://www.yacare.fr McBenny

    I totally agree on the early hours of work !
    .
    I’m a freelancer, have multiple clients, multiple projects… but I also work for One of my clients in his office, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, more than 1hour of train from my home. I needed time to work my other clients :
    - buy a motorcycle to go to the office in half an hour.
    - 3 days a week, I wake up at 4 AM, thus I can work about 2,5 hours in total calm in my home.
    I prefer to do this on the morning because I’m not tired (I just woke up ;-). When I work the same two hours in the evening, coming back from the office of my main client, I’m tired, night is coming down, eyelids too.
    When I can do 100 in the evening, I can do about 150 in the morning.
    .
    I tried to do this every day of the week but i burned out at the end of the second week.