Got a minute?
Maybe not. But make one, just for this:
Our annual Productivity Guide, in which we asked dozens of successful but potentially time-starved people — CEOs, restaurateurs, business owners, parents, managers — about the one thing they do that saves them the most time.
For some, it was an app. For others, it involved exercise or meditation. And for a few people, it was just looking at their calendars a little differently.
These 55 tips are quick and easy to pick up, and any of 'em could become your one thing.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
If you’d like to save a few hours a week, you need to be using TextExpander. It’s an iPhone and Desktop application that allows you to create custom keyboard shortcuts (AKA “text snippets”) for those reoccurring phrases, emails, or paragraphs that you find yourself typing over and over again. Also, I place a footnote in all my emails letting people know that I respond at specific times. — Nathan Michael, Founder of Low Res Studio
IFTTT is a web-based automation platform that eliminates tons of manual actions every day. The main thing I use it for is information capture. Whether I take a screenshot on my phone, save a blog post on Feedly, upvote a new entry on Product Hunt or any number of other content sources, they all get added automatically to an email digest that I get at 8 p.m. so I can properly digest and process that information. It's the ultimate external brain. — Ari Meisel, Co-Founder of Leverage and Best-Selling Author of "The Art of Less Doing" and "Idea to Execution"
Anytime I listen to audio content, like a podcast in Pocket Casts or a saved article using Pocket, I turn up the playback speed. This lets me get through all the content I want and saves me a couple of hours a week. — Joshua Zerkel, Evernote’s Director of Global Community
OneNote from Microsoft. I’m able to document everything relating to all of my projects, including typed notes, audio recordings, pictures, and much more. And everything is synced to all of my devices. — Scott Wesper, Hiring Manager for Arch Resources Group
When working from home, the app StayFocusd helps avoid Facebook and Twitter distractions by restricting the amount of time you can spend on them. The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites with a 10-minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can’t be accessed for the remainder of the day. — Lori Cheek, Founder/ CEO of Cheekd
The Pomodoro time management technique saves me time. For that, I use Focus Keeper: It's a timer that gives me a 5-minute break every 25 minutes. After the 4th round, it gives me a 25-minute break. This keeps me more focused and productive, allowing myself to work longer hours without getting burned out. — Katherine L. Garcia, Digital Marketing Manager, Web Marketing Therapy
Wunderlist is a simple to-do list and task manager app that helps you get stuff done, and it keeps myself and my team in sync. Tasks can be assigned, workflow managed, docs and messages exchanged. Its power is in its simplicity. — James Goodnow, attorney at Fennemore Craig
Todoist works across multiple different platforms, so you I track what you have to get done across just every device I own, online and offline. I break tasks down into sub-tasks, share with other users for collaboration and color-code for different priority level. I really like the simple navigation and minimalist design. — Dr. Alex Roher, San Diego Botox
To hold yourself accountable, stay on track and save some time for yourself, begin implementing a form of time tracking. Time tracking your work day will help determine how much time you are spending on a given task, and it allows you to set goals based on these commitments, providing a clear view of how to best prioritize and adjust your busy schedule. Software apps like Timely and Asana have made time and task tracking a seamless process. — Sacha Ferrandi, Founder & Head Principal, Source Capital Funding, Inc.
ON INBOX UPKEEP
Gmail Labs has some phenomenal productivity hacks. Canned Responses save an absurd amount of time if you find yourself composing the same emails over and over. — Susanna Tolkin, Human Resources Business Partner at Salesforce
I only read an e-mail once, and either trash it, file it, send it to someone else or, in dire circumstances, write a reply. — David Bohnett, technology entrepreneur/philanthropist
I email I’m while walking my dog. Since voice-to-text has gotten so good, I now can answer my emails while I'm walking around the neighborhood with my pooch. I haven't walked into a parked car or hole yet, thank goodness. — April Davis, owner/founder of LUMA
My favorite productivity tool is Boomerang for Gmail. It’s an email plug-in that – among some other functions – allows you to easily set emails to pop back into your inbox at specific times. It helps to keep the inbox clean, to be very productive, and to never miss following up on anything. — Christoph Seitz, CEO of CFR Rinkens
I respond to emails twice a week, and provide my number for those who need to text with urgent items in the meantime. — Janis Isaman, speaker, trainer, owner of My Body Couture
If you focus on one thing without distractions, you can knock out a sequence of tasks in no time. For example: I check and respond to emails twice a day. While I'm doing that, I'm not listening to music, checking Twitter or reading the news. When that's done, I move on to the next item on my to-do list. It's the opposite of multitasking. — Sean Hopwood, CEO of Day Translations
HEALTH IS WEALTH
Setting out your clothes the night before saves one an extra 10-20 minutes of searching what one is going to wear that day, whether it be at the gym or at work. Additionally, I find this extra helpful when holding myself accountable to make it to the gym in the morning. — Robert Eyler, owner of GetFit42
Working out in the morning. I try to hit the gym 7-8 a.m. everyday. This helps me feel energized and more efficient for the rest of my day and also frees up my evenings.
— Rohit Anand, Vice President, Brand Activation and Partnerships, Dream Hotel Group, LLC
Listen to a book on tape while working out. It's difficult to find time to read, and working out gets tedious quickly. So, I'll use Audible to enjoy some quality literature (and occasional trash) while I'm pretending to be an in-shape human being. — David Klein, Director of Marketing at ClickTime
What saves me the most time each day is immediately waking up and heading to the gym first thing to clear my head. The endorphins that surge allow me to be present and mentally map out my day, giving clarity to the tasks at hand ... and given that we are an international company, emails come in from all corners of the globe and I’m able to address many questions and challenges that have come in overnight right off the bat.— Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato
Exercise videos on YouTube. When I am rushed for time, but need to get my exercise on, I just go to YouTube and choose what area or areas I want to work that day. A great time saver. No travel involved, done in the comfort of my own home.— Conchetta "CJ" Jones, author/speaker/mentor
I use Headspace daily. With so much information coming at us all of the time, Headspace is an efficient way to clear your head and get through the day. — Kevin Boehm, co-founder Boka Restaurant Group
Meditate daily. Meditation quiets the mental chatter and allows me to focus on the most important tasks at hand. By intensely focusing on one thing at a time without mental distraction, I’m much more productive, and it saves me a tremendous amount of time each day.
— David Waring, co-founder of Fit Small Business
We're always on the road. Because of this, it's hard to get into any kind of steady fitness regime. I use the NYT 7-minute workout app whenever I can. It's super easy, you don't need any specialty equipment and it's great when you’re not sure which hotel room or city you'll be in the next day. — Gaelan Connell, Creative Director, Quirk Creative
I realized one day that if I ran to work, it would only take me 10 minutes longer than it would if I took the subway. Now I can get a workout in and commute to work all at once. — Jenna Tanenbaum, founder of GreenBlender
I prep my meals so that when it's time to eat, everything is basically ready to go. For breakfast I'll put together smoothie ingredients (fruit, yogurt, peanut butter, milk) into a cup ahead of time, then when it’s time to eat I'll mix it up with a hand blender. For lunch, if I'm doing a salad I'll throw all the kale, meat, other veggies and a little dressing in a big bag. Then I'll shake the thing up, throw on a plate and it’s good to go. If I'm doing sandwiches I'll portion out what I need for the week on Monday then each day all my stuff is there and can quickly be thrown together."
— Ari Klenicki, Director of Client Relations at Wellness Corporate Solutions
Forgo the top sheet. Almost 40% of Americans no longer sleep with a top sheet and it makes sense. The only function of a top sheet is that it ends up tangled at the foot of your bed. If you use a high-quality duvet cover, which protects your comforter and feels luxurious, ditch the top sheet for a cozy night’s sleep and a no-fuss morning when making your bed. — Chris Sun, founder of Crane & Canopy
On Sundays I take 20-30 minutes to map out my week, noting my days in the office and work appointments, my daughter's school and social events, my home "to-do" list and a preliminary idea of which days I am cooking dinner and what the meal plans are. It's amazing how much that makes my week flow and saves me time and crisis management. Then, I follow the rule by Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project): "If it takes less than a minute to do it, do it now." — Jennifer Lasik, cultural arts director
As an organizer and father of two young boys, I’ve found the number one time saver is making their lunches the night before. — Ben Soreff, House to Home Organizing
Use my 7-Second Rule: Whenever you remove an item of clothing or bring a dish to the sink, I ask myself, "Do I have seven seconds to hang this item or rinse it and put it in the dishwasher?" The answer is invariably "yes" and it saves me hours every month trying to decipher my dirty wrinkled laundry from my cleaner wrinkled laundry. And for dishes it saves me a half-hour per week by not having to soak and scrub caked-on dirty dishes. — Jim Ireland, owner of White Glove Elite
Do not check social media first thing in the morning. This’ll save you about 15 minutes. You should be focused on your day, your goals and your priorities. — Elisette Carlson, founder of SMACK! Media
I make old fashioned pen and paper "to do" lists of every ancillary thing I need to get done, then I just prioritize them and start crossing things off. I use them at work, at home, even when I'm packing for a trip. I find it takes everything out of my swirling brain and creates a solvable problem. — Anne Becerra, Certified Cicerone and Beverage Director, Treadwell Park
I do not watch any television, ever. Since the average American watches 32 hours a week, that's 32 hours more that I have to do what I need to do. — Dan Nainan, comedian
The biggest time saver is my “rule” to “only touch things once.” I try not to have intermediary time-wasting steps in between tasks. This applies to many things: When I get the mail, I sort it immediately throwing out trash, recycling paper and putting bills in my to-pay folder. Laundry gets picked up, folded and put away. Dishes go from the table to the dishwasher, etc. When I get an email, I answer it or immediately delete or file in a project email inbox. — Jennifer Bright Reich, Cofounder and CEO, Momosa Publishing LLC
I make a list of all the things I need to do and don’t go to bed until I cross all of them out. Plain and simple. Recommendation: I get the job done early and have more time for my hobbies. I don’t save hours, I save days. — Linas Kliarskis, A City Suburban Services, Inc. owner
Make a list of your "Big Three" before going to bed. This allows you to know exactly what you need to do when you wake up the next morning without overwhelming yourself with a huge list. If you accomplish those three large tasks, you can move on to the minutia. — Chris Brantner, Founder of SleepZoo
Analyze what makes you money that you enjoy doing, then outsource all the tasks you don't like that you can pay someone to do. I make so much more money by focusing on my patients and not doing my own medical billing or answering my calls or email. I also have someone update my web page, manage my money, clean my house and sometimes even cook for my family. — Erin Wiley, Executive Director, The Willow Center
I outsource repetitive tasks. I've hired virtual assistants from Upwork to help me out with tedious work, and I'm also using a service that delivers food for me based on a pre-set diet three times a day. — Paul Koger, Founder/Head Trader of Foxy Trades
Delegate routine items to a virtual assistant. Working with one gives me the peace of mind that new client inquiries will be followed up on, contracts with clients will be completed, bookkeeping will be in order and much more. Working with her saves me 5-10 hours a week or more, and a lot of psychological space. — Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of Divine Time Management
I wake up before the crack of dawn (as early as 5:30 a.m.) to get a jump start on my day. Arriving to the office before everyone else allows me to work in a quiet, beautiful and library-like environment. My peak performance from a cognitive standpoint is before lunch, and so I try to maximize my early mornings with any serious critical thinking. — Kyle Bergman, Senior Grooming and Lifestyle Merchant at BirchboxMan
I have a “touch each piece of paper only once” policy in my office and it has been tremendously successful. While the natural reaction for most people might be “I’ll get to that later,” the “touch each piece of paper only once” eliminates procrastination on menial matters that clutter up your desk and your life. I save at least a couple hours per week and untold stress from this. — Stephen Babcock, Esq. / Founder / Babcock Partners, LLC
Whenever I leave a room or car, I leave it just a touch neater or cleaner than when I arrived there. This simple tip allows my car to be “customer ready” all the time. And keeps my desk to at least some semblance to clear. I think I save a couple of hours per week with this habit. But most important, my stress is reduced. — Jim Estill, CEO of Danby Appliances
Stand up during phone calls. The simple act of standing during a phone call helped shorten the call, saving me time. By standing, I am less likely to be involved in idle chatting and get to the point of the conversation faster. — Ian McClarty, President at phoenixNAP - Global IT Solutions
Most of the time a phone call is as effective as a face-to-face meeting. It saves lots of time for both parties. — Sarunas Budrikas, Owner of Angle180
I utilize Acuity for appointment scheduling. When I send an email with a current or prospective client or a vendor, they are able to view my calendar availability and schedule an appointment directly. This saves so much time from back and forth communication between two people checking their calendar availability and conflicts. — Jason Parks, The Media Captain
I usually take care of my biggest projects before lunch. This gives me time to breathe, enjoy the rest of my day and start working on the next day's projects. I also plan my week out in advance, which saves me 12 hours or more per week. — Vid Lamonte' Buggs Jr., Founder/owner of 4-U-Nique Publishing
I’m much more productive on certain tasks when I work outside of the office. For example, when I drive, I have my phone on dictaphone because that’s when I think. I also make a lot of my calls when I am on long distance drives (hands free, of course). I also try to hold creative meetings outside of the office whenever possible, as I believe that new surroundings inspire. — Grainne Kelly, founder of BubbleBum
Remove conference tables from meetings. The lack of a physical barrier between teammates leads to a freer exchange of ideas (nobody felt they were "pitching" across the table) and more intuitive collaboration (people walked around, started drawing on whiteboards and built on each other's ideas more organically). It had the added effect of finishing the meeting in 45 minutes instead of the allocated 1.5 hours. — Nahema Mehta, CEO/Co-founder of Absolut Art
Have an automated process in place across your company, whether it’s software, automated scripts or people. For example, we have a simple training automation process that we have set up. If we didn’t have this set up, our hiring manager would spend 2-3 weeks per hired individual teaching them everything they need to know vs placing a video or written course where they learn everything themselves and your manager spends one day making sure they understand everything. — Filip Boksa, CEO of BookingKoala
THIS MIGHT NOT WORK FOR EVERYONE
I cut my own hair. If I didn't do it myself, I'd have to make an appointment every 2-3 weeks, go and get it cut, come back and shower before going about my day. That probably takes half a day or so, making scheduling big things on those days really annoying. I can do it at any time at any hour in my own home in about 15 minutes. — Jerry Hum, CEO/Co-founder of Touch of Modern