Get Way More Done in Just 10 Minutes a Day

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 26, 2010 in: Time Management Strategies, Tips in 10, Tools & Resources

Nearly all of the Tips In Ten articles  have some kind of focus to them – information sites, Twitter, customer service, etc. But every once in a while I come across a great tip that takes ten minutes or less but it’s just a “quick hit” and it doesn’t have enough to merit an entire newsletter. So I’ve collected them into this newsletter and we’ll call this a “Get stuff done” theme – it’s a series of tips and ideas that I’ve found help me to get things done quickly and effectively. Some of these ideas are very specific, other ideas are widely applicable.

10 Minute Tip #1: Get Started Now.

I always have lots of projects that need to get done and I’m always thinking of more things to do, too. So I’ve got a list of projects that are “do them right now” projects and a list of projects that are “it would be nice to do these when I’m less busy” projects. Guess what: Items from that second list rarely get crossed off. It’s not a procrastination problem, it’s just that the projects in the “do right now” list take precedence, usually because they are revenue-generating work for clients.

However, that big “nice to do” list still needs to get done and, in my case, often includes long-term business growth ideas that will ensure my business is still running a decade from now. So, how do I do these? I use the 10 minute tip of Getting Started Now. I recognize that it might take me a while to finish and maybe I don’t even know what the project will look like when it’s done, but I sit down and I do something – anything on the project – for 10 minutes. For example, if it’s an ebook, I’ll sit down for 10 minutes and maybe start writing the introduction or perhaps a table of contents. It’s not much but it’s something. Here’s what I find: By the time 10 minutes is up, I’ve figured out what I need to do on the project and I’ve even figured out if the project is right for me to continue on. That time is valuable to me to help me figure out if I should move it to the “do it now” list or not.

10 Minute Tip #2: Touch projects every day.

My day is filled with lots of little projects that, once done, can be crossed off my list. But my day is also filled with big projects that I don’t actually complete in a single day (or often in a single week). But I’ve found that I am far more productive on these big projects if I do something on them for 10 minutes each day. This keeps them at the top of my mind so when I sit down to do a large amount of work on the project, I don’t have to spend my time getting refreshed.
Just take 10 minutes and move the project forward somehow. I don’t know how; it depends on the project. It might be just adding a couple paragraphs of ideas or creating an outline for the next chapter. One thing you don’t want to do is just review the work because that is less valuable and doesn’t keep the project’s momentum going.

10 Minute Tip #3: Take time to remember why you do this.

I try to make my tips really practical – stuff you can use in your business. And this is less practical but I think it is still pretty important: Sometimes, when you’re bogged down in details and you’re frustrated at your clients or your payables or your receivables or your productivity or the quality of your work, it’s good to take ten minutes and step back from it all and remember why you do what you do. Chances are, you got into your business because you have an interest in the industry, you have some talent in the work you do, you don’t want to work for someone else, and you want to build something of value for the future (perhaps to retire or perhaps to pass on to your kids). Those are four big reasons and you might have other reasons as well. Take a moment and remind yourself of these. It helps to put your day back into perspective when the frustrations and annoyances seem bigger than they really are.

10 Minute Tip #4: Avoid distractions.

The web is a great thing to be connected to… most of the time! But sometimes we find ourselves happily working away and then suddenly struck with a tangent of an idea and – bam – we’re distracted with something that isn’t the best thing to be doing at the time. To solve this, I keep a piece of paper at my desk. It’s just a scratch paper – the kind you might use to doodle while you’re on the phone. I never write anything important on it, but it usually gets filled up by the end of the day with little scribbles and notes and whatever. But one thing I use it for is distractions.

Rather than immediately following those mental rabbit-trails that are not EXACTLY related to the thing I’m working on, I write down my idea on the paper. And later, when the project I should be working on is done, I look up the non-related rabbit trails. My big weakness is business-related rabbit trails that often have to do with extending my current business in some way. But I do know of someone whose weakness is stock market quotes and when he thinks of something stock related, he drops everything and goes in search of the stock quote. And someone else I know is a recipe fiend and she’ll suddenly think of a delicious idea and she pursues that rabbit trail. So, put a piece of paper on your desk and when you have that great idea, write it down for later instead of following it up right now.

10 Minute Tip #5: Scrutinize your actions and shave off the seconds.

I have a big calendar on my wall with all of the days of the year on it. In theory, it’s there for me to glance up and see what’s coming up. The problem is, every single time that I look at it, I end up searching for the month that I’m in. Yes, of course I know what month it is. But it’s a big calendar and, once you get into the middle of the year and the months are clustered together, it’s easy to catch yourself looking at the wrong month, just for a moment. So I’ve started putting an “X” through the months that are done. It’s not a big thing but it’s enough for me to quickly see where we are. With the amount of time that I look at that calendar every day, it’s just enough to shave a few seconds off every time I look at the calendar. And those seconds add up.

And here’s another example: I sign into a bunch of sites first thing in the morning – project management sites, social networking sites, etc. But not all of the sites give you a place on the first page to sign-in. Sometimes you have to click through to a second page to sign in. So I’ve bookmarked the sign-in page, not the first page of the sites I go to. Again, it’s not a big thing but it shaves off seconds of unnecessary clicking. And those seconds add up. Scrutinize your actions and look for unnecessary things that might only take a second here or a second there but have a cumulative impact on your productivity.

On their own, these ideas aren’t huge. But it’s often the little things that add up and make a big difference. I have a few more of these ideas and I’ll post another Tips In Ten like this in a few weeks’ time.

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