10 Practical Tips To Boost Your Efficiency

Chris Marsh Tips & Advice

Did you that know Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama all wear the same outfit every day?

“Colour-blind?” I hear you ask. Nope – they choose to, in order to preserve their mental energy for decisions that are more important than whether that tie makes them look fat. Ok, so this is pretty extreme, but it does show how increasing efficiency can involve cool creative solutions.

Here at Trackpal, we help our customers report more efficiently, so this is a topic close to our hearts. I’ve rounded up a selection of (hopefully) more practical ideas that you might like to try out to help boost your own efficiency.

1. Take a day off from email

It’s early morning and you’ve just sat down, about to tackle a day of hard work in order to complete a tough project. Armed with coffee and headphones, nothing can stop you. Until 9:15 when the first distractions start bombarding your inbox. Before you know it, your priorities are derailed and your productivity plummets.

When you really need to focus and get lots done, take the day off from email. Pop an explanation in an autoresponder, and provide a phone number for emergencies.

Thanks to Josh Nicholas (@joshuapnicholas) from Digivate for showing me this technique.

2. Optimise your communications

At Trackpal we’ve moved our internal communications from email into Slack. Communication within Slack is more manageable and enjoyable – a marked improvement. We can choose which notifications we receive, and just pop in and out of the app to catch up on communications in relevant channels as required.

When it comes to daily e-mail use, try limiting your email sessions to three batches throughout the day (if this is possible in your role).

3. Know your focus

Experiment to find the best methods that help you focus (after all, everyone’s different) – here are some suggestions:

  • The Pomodoro technique – Experiment to find an effective time-frame that works for you (Chris Winfield writes about this technique in more depth)
  • Put on some headphones – listening to the right music can help focus, as well as deterring colleagues from interrupting you unnecessarily. I recommend:
    Focus @ Will (paid, but great)
    Rainy Mood (free)
    Pink or brown noise (free)
    Sounds of a coffee shop (free)
  • StayFocusd – Limit the amount of time you spend on time-wasting websites
  • Don’t multitask –  A new study suggests that multitasking can lower your IQ and EQ
  • Use your natural energy – Know the time of the day you work best and make the most of it!
  • The classic dose of focus – A lovely strong coffee ☕
Abraham Lincoln

Invest time to find the right tools and methods.

4. Make fewer mistakes

Ok, so this is pretty obvious – make fewer mistakes and save time for your future self!

How can we reduce our mistakes? Most experts suggest through adequate sleep, as well as taking frequent short breaks throughout your workday.

Try an app which encourages you to take short eye-breaks and scheduled longer breaks. I use EyeLeo and would highly recommend it.

5. Speed up your trackpad or mouse

If you haven’t changed this setting, you’re in for a treat!

Increase it to close to max speed, and you’ll quickly get used to it. Wait a few days and then bump it right up to the max. A super easy efficiency win.

(Instructions: windows | Mac)

6. AutoHotkey: A lesser-known tool for text automation

AutoHotkey allows you to script your own desktop automation with hotkeys – with a little setup, you can create a super useful script. For example, you can set predefined short-codes to auto-correct as defined by you.

Whenever you find yourself hunting for the same piece of text to copy and paste, add it to your AutoHotkey script. In future it will be just a short-code away.

For example you could save your clients’ brand colours as hex codes. So when producing marketing material, fire up notepad and type their short. AutoHotkey will kick in and spit out the hex colour codes you’ve set.

7. Set your podcasts to 1.1 or 1.2x speed

A 40 minute podcast will last just 32 minutes at 1.2 speed, and is still easy to listen to. Any faster and you’ll feel like you’re listening to The Chipmunks.

Thanks to our Data Analyst Tom Nice for this tip.

I use Pocket Casts for android, a great app that offers speed control.

I use Pocket Casts for android, a great app that offers speed control.

8. Keep a notepad to hand

Reddit user Asmodiar_ mentioned how their best ideas often come while lying in bed trying to sleep. Asmodiar_’s tip is to have a notebook and pen next to the bed ready for these sleepy creative ideas.

If you’re an avid note-taker, check out AquaNotes.

9. Use the 80/20 rule

Also known as the Pareto principle, this rule states that:

“For many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”

Try to be aware of whether you’re spending the majority of your time focussing on the most effective areas of your role. If not, try to eliminate, automate, or delegate tasks that aren’t super effective.

10. Use time-tracking to discover time-saps

To follow on from above, use time-tracking to gain insight into where your time is being used. Find time-saps and methods to eradicate them such as streamlining or outsourcing. Try RescueTime for free automated time tracking or Tick for time entered tracking.

Mastering efficiency

When it comes down to it, increasing our efficiency requires a bit of effort. After all, if it was easy we’d all be experts! Apps can help, along with a bit of creative thinking and practice to figure out what works for you. But most importantly, have fun with it.

I’d like to end this post with a nice quote from ex-Coca Cola CEO:

“Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time. Give the required time to your family, friends and have proper rest.”

Check out the rest of his fantastic quote on life and balance.

What improves your efficiency?

If you have any other tips, be sure to comment and let us know what works for you!