How To Drastically Increase Your Efficiency & Effectiveness In Life
To avoid sounding like a hypocrite that writes about productivity, I decided to implement same principles mentioned, below, in writing this article.
Usually, it takes me 4–30 hours to finish an article (which I usually would rationalise it to myself that it’s great, having in mind that I have 2500+ words in most articles)
Today was different.
My goal was to finish an article in less than two hours, without sacrificing the quality.
From thinking of an idea, all the way to publishing it here (in over 2700 words), it took me 1 hour and 43 minutes.
If I managed to retain the quality of the article, you will be the judge, just tell me in the comments.
Now, let me show you how to execute things efficiently and effectively.
If you take a look at the searches on Google, you get this:
- How to be more productive: 44,300,000 searches
- How to be more efficient : 148,000,000 searches
- How to be more effective: 240,000,000 searches
It seems that a lot of people, to be exact 432,300,000 of them, want to learn how to be better at executing their activities.
The reason for this is, even with all the technology we have, we’ve never been busier.
If you are already productive, that means that you finish more things than an average person.
By doing this, you open your schedule, and usually you reinvest extra time in other goals you want to achieve, which also means that you will have more tasks on your plate. And the more tasks you have, the more you will want to be productive.
It’s a vicious circle.
Unless you decide to approach this as a challenge, and knowing that only thing that matters is progress. Becoming more, and giving more.
First thing is differentiating being efficient vs. being effective.
If you were to remember one idea from this article, let it be this:
“Efficiency is doing things right; Effectiveness is doing theright things.” — Peter Drucker
That doesn’t mean that you need to stop reading the article, just the fact that you got one great idea from the start can tell you that what I am writing is quite promising.
Before we go directly to execution, these are the things you should do:
- Declutter your environment
- Organise your computer, phone, applications & browser
How To Declutter Your Environment
I’ve always disagreed with this quote, it always seemed as an excuse to leave things messy.
“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” ― Albert Einstein
Do you want to know the answer to this question?
An organised mind.
You need to approach organising your environment as you would approach organising your mind.
People usually assume that this is a battle between Analytical vs. Creative part of your mind, which is not true.
The idea is to have your information organised in your mind. That you can find any memory, idea, fact, story or anything else, on command.
It’s the same thing for your environment.
This way you will save an incredible amount of time when trying to find an object, or think of a story to tell in a conversation, or a fact that can help you pitch your idea in the meeting.
There is nothing worse than having to stumble through your belongings because you don’t know where you placed a certain item.
Here’s how you can do it.
You will need primary work area and the secondary work area.
The primary work area is your desk, and on it, you need to include only the things that you are using on a daily basis. Everything that’s used once a week, or that doesn’t have a practical use, move to the secondary work area.Including photos, candles, staplers and other things.
The secondary work area is usually a shelf. Here you place everything you use on a weekly or monthly basis, like books, reports, cables, printer, photos and everything else.
The Rule To Follow:
If you take an item, once you finish using it, return it to its original place and position.
How To Organise Your Computer, Phone, Applications & Browser
Organising Your Computer & Phone
After you finish decluttering, next step is to organise your computer.
The first step, delete everything that you do not need — files, apps, and old movies that you watched two months ago.
The second step, what remains, place in folders, that are specifically created based on your priorities.
Do the same for your phone.
On the main screen, keep only applications that you need to use on a daily basis, and in the order of frequency (I know some people that sort apps according to colour — one screen all blue ones, one screen all green ones and so on)
Place everything that’s used on a weekly basis on the secondary screen.
Get used it it, and that’s it.
Using Applications & Browser Efficiently
When working, don’t open ten applications, open only the ones you need for the task at hand.
Once you finish, close off every app which isn’t necessary for the next task.
Same thing applies for open tabs in the browser, just imagine how much time you lose while trying to find the tab you need when 25 tabs are open.
These things add up a minute at a time.
There is a variety of apps for productivity, focus, and habits. But, my suggestion is to keep it simple.
I use Evernote (not an affiliate) because it has an option to access it offline. Here I have a list of high leverage activities in a sequence.
When I wake up, I already know what’s the next one, and I start doing it. Once done, check it and go to the next one.
Next, to Evernote, I use Pomodoro App called Focus Keeper (Basic version is also free) when I have smaller activities in a day. This challenges me to execute faster.
Whenever you have a free hour, and you feel like doing it, just start with the first one on the list.
Know one thing, using these apps regularly is also a habit you need to establish.
That is why it’s good to choose the main one, and learn how to use it as a supplement.
Here you will learn how to choose the right activities to focus on, and then how to execute them.
The Rule To Follow: Time-Blocking (aka scheduling a meeting with yourself)
Use this rule, whenever you want to focus on the activities that will help you achieve your goals.
Define Activities You Need To Execute To Achieve Your Goals
No matter what your goal might be, there will always be over 30 different things you can do to accomplish this it.
But, not all activities will give you equally big results, in the least amount of time.
For blogging, you can do hundreds of different things to have more readers and subscribers.
But, in the end, only these things matter the most, and that is to have your platform where people can sign up and read, to create content and to distribute content.
Here’s how you do it:
- First, list down your three most important goals.
- Then list down for each one of them at least 10 activities you can do to achieve that goal.
- Then list down every activity that you are currently doing at work (or home)
Then, merge #2 and #3.
Next step will be to see which activities on that list can be removed from your plate.
Eliminate, Delegate & Automate
“Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone else’s time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash. How’s that for incentive to be effective and efficient?”— Timothy Ferriss
It doesn’t matter if you have 20 or 100 in total, the first step is to get rid of anything unnecessary.
Many tasks you currently undertake can be eliminated or delegated to someone. And some of them can be automated so that you can focus on other things.
It’s a common misconception that working more gets you more results; the reality is that you need to work on the right (high leverage) activities, and execute them efficiently (in the right way).
Once you have the list, the next step is to ask yourself following questions:
Eliminate: Does this task need to be done? Does it help me get to where I want to go?
If yes, go to Delegate. If no — don’t do it!
Delegate: Can this task be delegated?
If yes, delegate. If no, see if you can automate it, then delegate it.
Automate: Can this task be automated?
If yes, automate. If no, execution time.
Everything that’s left is for you to either intentionally procrastinate, or execute.
You will know the difference when you list down all of these activities in a sequence according to priorities.
Ask yourself following question:
What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
Ask yourself this question, until you have them in the sequence of priorities.
This is your High Leverage Activity List (or as I call it — THE SEQUENCE)
These activities should eventually become your habits. Together with the skills you need to acquire to achieve your goals.
Now, pick the first one on the top, and let’s see what you need to focus on to execute it efficiently.
Implement The 80/20
Now that you have your high leverage activities/skills revisited, and you’ve eliminated, automated and delegated everything else.
We will see how you need to approach each activity/skill, and what to focus on to execute it as efficiently as possible.
This might be the make it or break it step. Trying to execute an entire activity a whole skill is possible but extremely overwhelming.
Because of that, you need to break it down into smaller pieces. Every activity consists of a particular number of components.
Here’s my example:
High leverage activity: Writing an article
Now, writing is too generic, let’s break it down it down in smaller activities:
- Coming up with a topic for the article
- Research (keywords, facts, quotes, stories)
- Writing headline
- Doing a brain dump of the topic
- Organise it in sections
- Rewrite each one from the beginning
- Cut out everything that’s unnecessary
- Finish writing the article
- Edit it
- Add SEO Keywords
- Find a cover
- Format the article on Medium
- Write an email for the email list
- Format the email in MailChimp
- Correct the email
- Hit Send
You also need to pay attention to the sequence of the tasks you just defined, just like I did.
Once you list down smaller tasks, then you need to see which one brings the biggest ROI (return on investment). And start there.
The idea is to apply 80/20 Rule (or Pareto Principle):
The Rule states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
But what does this mean for you?
It means that you should focus on specific 20% of the smaller tasks you’ve gathered, and you will get roughly 80% results.
For instance, if I have 10 hours to finish everything, and I know that majority of my readers come from Medium, LinkedIn, CNBC and my private email list. I skip publishing it on Zero To Skill because it takes me an hour to format, add SEO and optimise for mobile use.
So I just focus on the previously mentioned.
Now it’s your turn.
How To Trigger The State Of Flow
“The happiest people spend much time in a state of flow — the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Treat this activity as if you are implementing a habit, where consistency will always beat quantity.
Whenever you block time, even for 30 or 60 minutes, work in short bursts.
25 minutes, 5 minutes take a break, walk, stretch and so on.
Before learning how to trigger flow, let me tell you why multitasking is bad.
First of, having several projects on-going is not multitasking.
Secondly, multitasking by definition is dealing with more than one task at the same time.
The reason why I am not supporting this is that every time you need to sit down and focus on a task, it’s a long procedure, and once it happens you go with the flow.
Switching from a flow to any other activity breaks the flow, and then you need to repeat the process, switch focus to the new business and then develop a flow.
The more often you switch, the higher the cost of transfer between activities.
Just think about your situation, how long does it take, you to regain your flow, when you break it?
For me, it used to take more than 5 minutes to go back to writing where I left off. With practice, I’ve learned not only to trigger flow on command but to train myself (like a dolphin) to focus on only one thing.
The Rule To Follow:
If you start something, work until it’s finished. If the task is too big, work on it until you’ve finished one critical section. Don’t break the flow.
I differentiate two different kinds of flow you can trigger. Here’s how I do each one of them.
1. Execution Flow
Once everything is decluttered, optimised and you know exactly what you need to execute, you need to learn how to develop a focus on command, or how to trigger deep FLOW.
For me music works, while some people prefer binaural beats. You can find free applications to test this out.
Slow, instrumental or classical music works when I need design, write or create something. The reason is, so the lyrics don’t disrupt me.
When I have a lot of tasks to execute, that usually don’t require my authenticity, but rather my efficiency, I play something with a fast beat, usually rock, rap or something similar.
Tip: find comfortable headphones (surprisingly, for me Apple earbuds work perfectly)
2. Creative (or Reflective) Flow
In my case, ideas are developed in two ways.
By assimilating immense amount of information, and then synthesizing it myself. Until the point I realize something, and further, develop into an idea (usually by listening instrumental music, ideally piano or acoustic guitar.)
The second part is interaction with intelligent people (specifically with people that process information fast). Where each one of you, can introduce ideas that they have formed themselves, and then when you verbalize them and discuss, you have incredibly a lot of AHA moments, and then the internalization happens.
That’s why it’s good to have two-three people you can easily bounce off ideas, and not only that they can offer a different perspective, but just the verbalisation of the notion, and the attempt to explain it to someone else other than you, can lead to internalisation.
Develop a habit to evaluate you high leverage activity list (the sequence), at least once a week. Ideally, you would want to do it at the end of every day.
Briefly, run through your list, and cross off what you did. This will give you a sense of accomplishment.
Then just pick the activities that will become your priority for tomorrow, and start executing again.
Rinse and repeat.
By doing this, I usually execute 8 hours of work, in less than 2 hours.
Because there are no distractions, you are focusing on the activities that will give you highest leverage, and you are fully in your flow.
It will amaze you how fast your goals will start lining up like this.
Remember, Fortune Favour The Bold Or Productive (the verdict is still out).