5 Productivity Hacks: No Fluff, Just Stuff

Hack 1: Time Blocking

The Gist: Dedicate chunks of time to specific tasks.

Time blocking isn’t new, but it’s gold. Ever find your calendar looks free, but your day vanishes? That’s because time, like water, fills available space. Block off hours for coding, hours for meetings, and don’t forget hours for thinking.

Hack 2: The Two-Minute Rule

The Gist: Do it now if it takes less than two minutes.

This gem is from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.” Got a quick email to shoot off or a document to skim? Two minutes or less? Don’t stall—knock it out.

Hack 3: The Eisenhower Matrix

The Gist: Classify tasks by urgency and importance.

Divide tasks into four categories: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither. Tackle them in that order. Why is it on your list if something’s neither urgent nor important?

Hack 4: Email Sprints

The Gist: Cluster your email-checking.

Don’t be an email addict. Check it two or three times a day in focused sprints. Anything requiring more thought gets its time block.

Hack 5: The 90/20 Rule

The Gist: Work 90 minutes, break for 20.

Your brain operates in cycles called ultradian rhythms—roughly 90-minute periods of high activity. Work with that flow. Go hard for 90, then take 20 to recharge. You’re not a robot; don’t act like one.

That’s it—five hacks to get more done with less stress. Because productivity isn’t just about doing more; it’s about doing what matters. Now go get it done.

Read The E-Myth, Watch Wampler’s Ascent, Stop Services No Longer Needed

Here’s what I’m reading, watching, and stopping:

  • Early in starting Intertech, I read The E-Myth.  It focused on the importance of consistent systems in running a business.  The author, Michael Gerber, shares how Mcdonald’s with systems built a business on getting kids to do in their stores that most can’t get them to do in homes.   
  • Watch Wampler’s Ascent, which is a documentary on a man who has severe EP but does a climb up “El Capitan.” It’s inspiring and reminding that all is achievable in life if we have the right attitude.
  • Stop services you may have been using but no longer need.  In reviewing credit card and other statements for myself and the firm, some services and charges are no longer required.  For example, for the local paper, I choose digital.  Yet, The Economist has more comprehensive, in-depth articles that I like to read in print.

Read The Strangest Secret, Watch Yellowjackets, Stop Unwanted Email

Here’s what I’m reading, watching, and stopping:

  • Read The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale.  I first read this book a couple of decades ago.  Every year or so, I reread it.  It’s the foundation for many of today’s “self-help” authors and speakers.  If you want to save time reading the book, the “secret” is we become what we think about.
  • Watch Yellowjackets on Showtime.  It follows a girl’s soccer team that gets stranded with a storyline that flips from when it happened as teenagers to where they are as adults.
  • Stop getting unwanted emails.  Because I get more spam than legit emails, I’ve found that the native Outlook and Gmail apps provide an easy way to block and report spammers instead of using my iPhone’s built-in email app.  Note that I typically preview my emails on my phone before reading them on my laptop.

The Art of Stopping Time

In The Art of Stopping Time, Pedram Shojai, the author, shares something we all know; our most treasured resource is time.  So how do we leverage it?  Stop it!

What we get out of time depends on mindfulness, energy, and how we focus and spend our time.  For all of us, time is the great equalizer—we all have the same amount of hours in a day.

The first step is to determine how we are spending our time to begin an assessment to maximize time.  Is time spent on something meaningful or pleasurable?  Next, consider energy to invest in worthwhile endeavors versus low-energy tasks like doom scrolling social media.  Last, Are we mindful?  Are we living in the moment?

The author reminds us to cut bait on goals or activities that are no longer relevant and deserve our time.  Then, use this newfound time in rewarding areas and produce results.

What’s your ROI on time?  In investing, there’s a return strategy.  What’s your time investment strategy?  When time pops up, say an appointment cancels, or a commute is faster than planned, there’s a decision on how to use this extra time.  Like investing, knowing how to “invest” this spare time is essential.

We have more power over our time than we may initially think.  While some obligations are required—say, paying taxes or feeding our pets—others are at our discretion.  These discretionary activities could include letting go of relationships or no longer relevant or essential activities.

For time, the “how” is as important as the “what.”  Are there ways to get two things done at once?  Say you want to exercise and spend time with your kid.  Could you have your kiddo join you for your run or bike ride?  Or, if you have a conference call and need to drop off your child for a playdate, could you drop your kid off while having your conference call?  Small decisions compounded make for big-time impacts.

Our mobile phones are a double-edged sword.  While they can be productive, it’s a quick way to be distracted or entertained.  The next time there’s a fleeting moment, resist the temptation to grab the phone and use it to think through a current problem or reconnect with a past friend.

Be mindful.  Be present.  Be thankful.  On vacation or at work, wherever you are, think “this is the last time I’m ever here.” If this was the case, how would you be present?  Being mindful lets us live in the moment and stop time. 

While no one can stop time, we can prioritize, organize and be mindful.

The 5 Second Rule

In The 5 Second Rule, Mel Robbins shares how to stop procrastinating, eliminate worrying, and make dreams a reality.  From waking up to starting a challenging project, count down from five to one and get out of bed or start the project.  While simple, this approach redirects to what we should be doing.  If you need motivation or inspiration to take action, the five-second rule gets you moving.

Further, Robbins uses the five-second rule to compliment a co-worker or make a decision at the moment instead of waiting for the right time.  From the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, to the Fifty Shades of Grey author, the book shares they went from waiting for the right time to taking action.

Instead of focusing on how we feel, the five-second rule focuses on taking action and moving away from distraction.  Smartphones and other devices were created to make us more productive, but because they can provide a convenient distraction, they can have the opposite effect, resulting in destructive procrastination. 

As the book Mindset states, our minds and personalities are flexible.  To get the results you want in life, take action in “five, four, three, two, one.”