5 Tricks for Getting More Done in Less Time and #1 is Really the Only One You Need

If I’ve read 1 post on efficiency and productivity I’ve read 100. And here’s the problem. I know I’m not terribly more productive after having done all that reading. Does this make me a bad person? Possibly. But more likely the case is as simple as either not acting on the information or not consuming the right information to begin with.

So allow me to present to you a few tricks that I’ve been using recently that have actually worked for me.

How do I know they work? Well for one, this 1500+ word blog post didn’t write itself.

So without further ado…the best one is up first:

1. Use the 5-second rule

The other day I discovered Mel Robbins and her 5-second rule. In this short time it has already begun to radically change some things in my life, including my productivity.

The 5-second rule, in it’s simplest form, is a trick you play on your brain to stop the “autopilot” in your head from making the same anti-productivity choices over and over again. This rule allows you to engage your active / thinking brain, thus making a better decision than you would have had you allowed the “autopilot” part of your brain to make those same decisions for you.

The trick goes like this: When you feel yourself slipping into your normal habit or “autopilot” of checking Facebook, or eating because you are bored, or going on your favorite website to read an article…stop, and immediately begin to countdown from five.

Literally, go 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

It sounds crazy until you try it.

By counting down in your mind, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…you stop the habit or “autopilot” from taking over and you activate the prefrontal cortex part of your brain. When that happens you enable yourself to make an intentional, and hopefully helpful, decision instead of letting your “autopilot” decisions run your life.

You know who can explain this better than me? Mel Robbins.

Watch this video because it just might change your life:

2. Put your phone away

You want to know where your time goes?

It disappears in 5-10 minute increments of phone use.

You check Instagram real quick. (someone might have posted an amazing picture!!)

You make sure Facebook is still running smoothly. (!!??!???)

You see if anyone has emailed you. (it feels good to get an exciting email)

You play a few minutes of your favorite game. (habit…)

I bet this one tip alone would change your life if you implemented it properly.

Here’s what I want you to do.

When you sit down at your desk to work put your phone AWAY. Not face up between you and the keyboard; not off to the side of your desk; and not juuuusssst out of reach.

Put. It. Away.

Like put it away. In a drawer, in a bag, in your purse. (And make sure the ringer is off).

Then proceed to work. When you are waiting on a program to load, or something to print, instead of reaching for your phone you’ll stay focused on the task at hand. Instead of having the temptation of looking at your phone during every spare moment, you will be in the moment and FAR more engaged in what you actually need to get done. You won’t be as easily distracted by the flashing “new message” light or the buzz of someone emailing you. Instead you’ll be incredibly focused as you work.

I promise you will feel like you have a new lease on life if you do this.

I know what you are thinking…

“But what if someone needs to reach me!!??? What if it is important??!!!!”

There are landlines and desk phones for these types of situations. Let your spouse or babysitter know that, in an emergency, they should call your main work phone number instead of your cell. Pretend you are living in 1980. People had emergencies back then and they didn’t have cell phones. They survived and so will you.

This might sound ridiculously simple to you, and that’s because it is. But if you try it, it will rock your world and probably change your life.

Scratch that, it WILL change your life.

In fact, you’ll probably come back here in a few months and write me a really emotional letter about how much this one post has meant to your productivity and how instrumental it was in so much of your recent success. I won’t be surprised but I will be delighted for you.

3. Download Self-Control for Mac/PC

Unless you are superhuman you struggle with self control. I mean, as I type this right now, I am literally eating pretzels and drinking a Dr. Pepper. (and it’s 6am)  Probably not the two best choices I’ve ever made in my life.

But you can make having self-control easier…at least while you are on your computer.

It is so easy to sit down and start working on your computer only to find yourself 20 minutes later on Facebook or Reddit looking at random crap you really don’t care all that much about.

But it’s hard not to visit those sites. I mean…am I the only one?!??

Enter the Self Control app. It’s actually made for Mac, but there is also a Chrome browser extension (super easy to install) that will safeguard you from getting distracted by your favorite sites.

The app works very simply. Once it’s running (which is a one-click operation) and you open a new browser window to type in Reddit.com guess what is going to happen.


It looks like the site isn’t working, but what is actually happening is that the Self Control app is saving you from yourself.

For whatever time you allot and for whatever sites you want to include on your blacklist the app will not allow you to go there.

And..the best part. It’s nearly impossible to turn off. So right now I have the Self Control app set for an hour. Unless I’m willing to literally wipe my computer’s hard drive and start from scratch there is no way to stop the app from blocking the sites I’ve selected for the next hour.

I love this app for that reason. If I can muster up the courage to open the app and push the button to start the timer…I can relax. No more self-control needed. I can’t visit my favorite sites anyway right now, so I might as well be productive!

In summary…download the FREE app. Add your favorite sites to the blacklist and reign in your browsing habits for the time limit of your choice.

Talk about getting more done. You’ll soar with efficiency like never before!

Download the app:

Self Control for Mac

Self Control for Windows (via Google Chrome store)


4. Move to a different physical space

I work in an office building with many rooms. Several of which are conference rooms that are not always occupied.

This is a brilliant opportunity for increased productivity and an easy chance to almost entirely eliminate distractions.

What I do is simple. I reserve a conference room ahead of time as if I was having a meeting at that time. Then, when the time arrives I simply take my computer (or whatever I need to work) to the assigned conference room, close the door and begin working virually distraction free.

No phone.

No office chatter.

No emails.

Just me…and my work.

And let me tell you, when you have the time and space to make work happen…work happens my friends. I get into such a flow sometimes that these conference room work sessions can feel like the shortest hours of my day.

Obviously we all can’t run and hide in a conference room for 8 hours a day. But disappearing for an hour or two at a time on occasion has never been a problem for me.


5. Decide before you start

In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes people make while at work is that they work on what is in front of them or what has recently come up.

An example:

Someone is composing an important business letter and they get an email with a few questions about a current project. They stop their letter writing, respond to the email, and then look through their inbox to find another 2 or 3 emails that can be handled as well.

Then, having been completely distracted from their original task they take off on a restroom break, followed by some chit chat on the way back to their desk, at which point they sit down…to make a phone call they’ve been meaning to make.

The emails didn’t need to be answered at the moment they came in. But choosing to work on what was in front of them (the email inbox) versus what was more important (the letter) they wasted valuable time switching tasks and getting no further along on their most important work.

What a tragedy. Many of us have done something similar. We spend days, perhaps weeks, mindlessly moving from one random project to another. We get really good at playing “whack-a mole” with our emails and phone calls but never make any meaningful progress on the stuff that is most important to us.

Before you begin working decide what the most important tasks are for that day. Pick the top 2 or 3 at the most. Then, begin working diligently on those tasks, focused on completing only those tasks you previously identified. Don’t be tempted to respond to every question you get via email. Those can wait. Your time is more valuable than that. Don’t be lured into 45 minute conversations about nothing in particular when your list is in critical danger of not being completed. Stay focused.

Decide ahead of time what projects need your attention on a given day. Then, be relentless about focusing on only those until they are all completed.

Be focused and get the most important work of the day done.

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