Ask yourself one question: If you could only work for an hour today, what would you do?
I live a highly nomadic lifestyle. I spend over a hundred days a year traveling for work and am rarely in one city more than three days in a row. While forming The Influencers, I had to learn how to be incredibly productive–or my business would fall apart.
Everybody always talks about productivity hacks and tricks–which apps and systems they should use, such as Inbox Zero and the Pomodoro Technique. However, there are three hacks that are even more important–and few people ever talk about them.
Here three productivity tips nobody talks about, even though they should:
1. Don’t do work that is unnecessary, even if you’re good at it
There is an old saying: “If it isn’t necessary to do, it is necessary not to do.” It doesn’t drive your productivity forward and it just wastes time.
The fastest way to get something off your to-do list is to realize that you don’t have to do it in the first place. I don’t mean that it’s something you should delegate. I mean that it absolutely should not be done.
For example, you don’t need to organize your emails into specialized folders. It takes you longer to locate a conversation that way than by running a search. You also don’t need to respond to most of the messages in your inbox. When someone emails, “Thank you,” you don’t need to respond, “You’re welcome.”
A lot of the work you’re doing right now is unnecessary. It’s tiring you, taking up mental space, and complicating your life. Before jumping into a task, ask yourself why you are doing it in the first place. You may find that it isn’t worth your time.
2. Stop accepting projects or offering your services because you’re nice
There are some people that seem to always go out of their way to help someone else. Generosity is one of the common traits found in successful people–but be careful.
Renowned Wharton professor and author Adam Grant studied how a person’s level of generosity impacts their success. He examined three categories of people:
- Givers: Those that are disproportionately generous to others.
- Takers: Those that take as much as they can from others while giving little to nothing in return.
- Matchers: Those that reciprocate the same level of generosity that they receive.
The research suggested that givers are both the least and most successful group. Successful people know how to be generous while promoting their own interests. Know your own limits, because if you don’t, you will give so much to others that you may never accomplish anything for yourself.
It’s hard to be productive when you’re always doing someone else’s work for them.
3. Become masterful at being unavailable and saying no
Many people feel the need to say yes to everything. I’m also a strong believer in saying yes in life.
There’s a difference between saying yes to exciting opportunities that give you the chance to grow and explore (I wrote about this in my book, The 2 AM Principle) and saying yes out of obligation or politeness. The latter will usually take up your time, productivity and attention, and give you little in return.
Don’t get stuck in traps. Learn how to say no.
For those that have a tough time saying no, here is your way out: Be unavailable.
Since I travel so much, I sometimes let people think I’m in a different city than I am. I do this so that I can have a few days to adjust and actually get work done before I start socializing again.
Tell them you’re working on a big project. No one will expect you to say yes if you’re working on an important project that requires your attention.
Know when to be generous and what tasks deserve your attention. It’s important to be able to turn down an offer with grace. Train yourself to say no to requests that you don’t really want to do, and you’ll have more time to focus on projects that you should be doing.