Productivity 103: Maximum Efficiency

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Productivity 102: A Great Working Environment

A good workday isn’t full of constant work

Working nonstop runs the risk of burnout

Intensely productive people work far less than what others may see

  • The trick is about the same number of hours worked with drastically more results

Learn to trigger great work

“Triggers” activate productive thoughts and behaviors or deactivate unproductive ones

  • The “cue” for the trigger should trigger a routine you want to establish or trigger stopping it
  • The cue also has to trigger a craving for the reward
    • You have to believe that you will get the reward
    • Avoid triggers that start negative thoughts or behaviors
  • Motivators keep our minds on the task by aligning our thoughts
    • Waking up in the morning
    • Starting the work week
    • Listening to a specific song
    • Exercising
    • Being in a certain location

Use the Spider Technique to re-focus when you are about to segue off-topic

  1. Re-focus when you’re mildly aware that you’ve strayed from your current task
  2. Become slowly aware of what you are naturally susceptible to being distracted by
  3. Proactively remove any distractions from your environment

The Concentration Vortex focuses your thoughts and energy

  1. Write out what you believe you can do
  2. Write it out again, but with the letters more closely spaced together
  3. Repeat ten times

Create short-term rewards for tasks you want to reinforce

  • Place a dollar or quarter into a jar when you do the task, and then treat yourself after you’ve attained enough money
  • One of the easiest rewards is eating a snack when you make a “micro-victory”

A “forcing function” limits your resources to inspire you to work harder

Forcing functions help us understand we only have so many minutes in a day by creating urgency

  • Fear is the greatest motivator, and a forcing function is a fear of adverse consequences from not finishing tasks

Find “bad” reasons to do “good” things

  • Create personal motivators and reinforcements that push you when you don’t want to go

Limit your resources

  • Set alarms to remind about tasks
  • Set a 30-minute timer and race yourself to finish before it goes off
  • Keep your laptop power cord at home if you’re working somewhere else
  • Create inconveniences that make tedious work more necessary
  • Force short-term deadlines on yourself
  • Pay a non-refundable fee for lessons or a membership

Constrain yourself with a fear of being distracted

  • Imagine the pain you will feel from the incomplete work
  • Hold yourself “hostage” until you’ve finished a particular task
    • Use a public or library computer if your personal computer has too many distractions
    • Alternately, make a separate account on your computer that only has what you need for work
  • Tell others about your commitments to hold yourself publicly accountable

Create legitimate punishments for when you’ve failed at your deadline

  • Snap a rubber band wrapped around your hand
  • Take away privileges like coffee, recreation or leisure activities

Procrastination is a huge inhibitor to productivity

Procrastination is avoiding doing what you want in the long-term to satisfy what you want in the short-term

  • Procrastinating often comes from imagining the worst parts of a project
    • Fear of the worst work will prevent you from ever starting
  • We all desire perfection, but we must suppress it if we want to start anything

Even when you love your work, there’s always something you’d like to do instead

  • We tend to like doing unimportant and fun tasks

While you’re procrastinating, your brain will do small, mindless simple tasks to fill up time

  • Sometimes planning itself is a form of procrastination, especially when it’s vague
    • Use this to your advantage by doing important smaller tasks related to your current project
  • If you need to, keep sub-dividing your tasks until planning for them is more work than doing them
  • It can help to divide the tasks out by energy requirement or time commitment

Manage your time instead of your work

  • It’s frequently difficult to predict how much time something takes
  • It’s physically impossible to do everything you want to do

Stop and talk to yourself to prepare your mind for the work you’re about to do

Nothing stops procrastination outside of starting the tasks

The most work comes with your mind in the present moment

Stay ever-present in the task you are doing

  • Present awareness is more difficult than it appears
  • From as early as we were small children, our minds will wander when we’re not engaged

Do a Mindful Minute to realign your thoughts with meditation

  1. Center yourself for 20 seconds
  2. Acknowledge what’s going on for 20 seconds
  3. Take a mindful pause

Change your pace or rearrange your tasks to make tedium more interesting

Try chewing gum (especially peppermint or cinnamon flavor) or listening to comedy if you’re driving

Most of the time, you can listen to music to speed up the work

Avoid anything that requires you to multitask

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is one of the most inefficient ways to work

Focus solely on every singular task that comes your way

If wayward thoughts come while doing your task, write or dictate notes and deal with them later

Sometimes multitasking is inevitable, but don’t let it become routine

  • Multitask anything necessary by devoting full focus on each task for at least a few seconds or minutes at a time

Stay mindful of what your body needs

Long periods without breaks will make you bored, inattentive, unfocused, unhealthy and unmotivated

  • The human body is only capable of focusing on any task for about 90 to 120 minutes without a 20-30 minute break
    • Ultradian rhythms cycle at 90 minutes of productive work followed by 15-20 minutes of rest
    • Devote work time to focused bursts
    • Have a scheduled break every 20 to 90 minutes
  • Even if we ignore our bodies, they will naturally take breaks for precisely 17 minutes every 52
  • Take a deep breath, hold for as long as you can, and then breathe out slowly to increase your heart rate and improve focus

Don’t sit for too long and stand up when you can

Sit upright and straightforward when working at a desk

If you work while sitting down, do quick exercises to increase blood flow and energy

Take proper breaks

You’re only taking a break when you’re not thinking about work

  • Unfocused breaks will feel strange at first but are necessary for your mind and body to reset
  • Use a timer or a timed light if you have to

Use break time to reorganize

  • Contacts list
  • Desk space and workspace clutter
  • Emails
  • Computer files or paper filing system
  • Briefcase
  • Reference and reading materials
  • Supplies

Recharge your emotional battery

Use the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eye strain: every 20 minutes look for 20 seconds at an object over 20 feet away

Go for a 20-minute walk outside

Meditate for 10 minutes

Do pushups or situps

Take a very quick 10-20 minute power nap

Look up photos of cute animals or nature on the internet, which has been proven to improve performance

Read a book

Do something you’ve been craving to do

If your job permits it, add variety by using a more flexible work schedule or working from home occasionally

Make plans for the future to motivate yourself

  • Daydream about future projects you’d like to do
  • Make plans for the weekend or a well-deserved vacation
  • Think of how much better your life will be after completing what you’re presently working on

Fuel your work correctly

Drink the right fluids

Avoid high-sugar drinks like juice and soda

Drink plenty of water throughout your day

  • Fill a water bottle 1/4 of the way with water and freeze it lying sideways to have ice water throughout the day
  • Some drinking fountain spouts can be turned around to fill water bottles

Drink coffee strategically between 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-5:00 p.m. when your cortisol level naturally drops

  • Avoid spilling it while walking by either stirring it or throwing off the cadence of your steps

Switch from coffee to tea for less shock to your body’s system

  • Green tea is especially helpful for alertness
  • Chai tea helps if you feel sluggish

Apples are more effective than caffeine at increasing alertness

Alternate between a hot drink and a cold drink to shock the body awake

Maintain a consistent blood sugar level with frequent snacking

Choose healthy snacks

Be preferential to high-protein snacks

Have complex carbohydrates (grains, granola, etc.) over simple carbohydrates

Eat as part of a routine

Manage stress properly

Leave personal and unrelated matters away from the current task

  • Write notes for dealing with those tasks later

Schedule extra time for unforeseen distractions

Learn meditation and relaxing techniques

Minimize your distractions

There are three types of interruptions

  1. Necessary and vital – handle these immediately
    • Necessary vital tasks are usually infrequent
  2. Necessary but untimely – requires non-urgent action
    • Includes calls, email, and visitors that can cut off your focus on something else highly important
    • Measure how it will affect your workflow
      • Take a moment to measure the real value of the interruption and not on how urgent it might feel
      • Calculate the actual cost in time that it will take to stop your current task and then pick it up later
        • We don’t often calculate the time to pick up the work later, which is usually about the same time as the length of the interruption
        • A 10-minute interruption ends up taking 20 minutes of our time
      • Ask what the consequences will be if you don’t handle it immediately
    • There are several ways to manage this type of disruption
      • Agree on a follow-up time and date with them, then schedule it into your calendar
      • Practice saying “no” consistently
        • Get more information before saying “no”
          • Ask for help in deciding where the new task should fall on the list of priorities
          • Ask what they would like you to give up to enable you to do it
          • Give suggestions or alternatives, such as procrastinating the task
  3. Unnecessary and untimely – not relevant, urgent or significant
    • Tactfully ask a direct question that focuses on the work at hand
      • A pointed question lets you see the importance of the interruption while also letting them understand you’re working on something important

Turn off or remove every technological distraction

  • Technological notifications have been proven to make you less effective
  • Technology creates opportunities to see and learn more but makes deep focus more difficult
    • Instead of asking what the new features are, ask how it will improve your life

Turn off your non-work phone or leave it in another room

  • To avoid calls, remove the battery instead of powering off
  • Set your phone to silent or to activate “Do Not Disturb” mode during your work hours
  • Pay attention to who is calling you before answering
  • Unless the job requires it, only check the phone once every few hours

Social media and surfing the internet destroys productivity

  • Turn off notifications in apps like Facebook and Twitter
  • If you don’t have the willpower to stop surfing the internet about non-work-related things, block some websites
  • Use an app like Freedom to stop wandering the internet needlessly

Set up your technology to ignore notifications

  • Set your favorite songs as custom ringtones for people you don’t want to talk to
  • Name a contact “Ignore” or “Spam” and set the ringtone to silent, then add any numbers you don’t want to respond to on it
  • If someone keeps texting you, send the text: SERVICE ERROR 305: MESSAGE DELIVERY FAILED. FURTHER MESSAGES WILL BE CHARGED TO YOUR ACCOUNT
  • Forward spam texts to 7726 (SPAM) and the carrier will stop that service from sending spam

Email is an enormous productivity drain in office work

Email is only good for three things

  1. Coordinating meetings with multiple people
  2. Sending short and concise notes, along with attachments or links to attachments
  3. Sending newsletters

Turn off email alerts

  • Instead of checking emails as they come, designate up to three specific times every day to review and respond to them
  • Set up reminders for particular emails with FollowupThen
  • Alternately, if you cannot escape the emails, then adapt your workflow around it with alertful or an automatic mail checker

Don’t open your emails for the first few hours of the day, since it will scatter your thoughts

Aim for “Inbox Zero”, where you pay zero attention to your inbox when you’re not in your inbox

  • If possible, only touch each email once
  • If something is important or urgent, mark it as unread or flag it
  • Organize the non-actionable emails into folders for archiving or use filters on them
  • Look for extensions and plugins that can make your workflow more seamless in processing emails
    • Set @@ as the keyboard shortcut for your email address to cut down on typing it all the time
  • It might be fun for you to play The Email Game

Send less and better email to receive less email

  • Try to avoid back-and-forth conversations via email by talking with someone in person
    • Only convey sensitive or complex things in a more interpersonal setting
  • Spend extra time on critical emails
    • Choose your words carefully when sending emails to avoid vagueness or misinterpretation
    • Never ask “why?” in an email

Store any relevant emails with an effective tracking system to let you retrieve them when you need them

  • Try to only have action items in your inbox and the rest in other folders, deleted or archived elsewhere

Remove yourself from email lists instead of deleting them as they arrive

  • Search for “unsubscribe” or “opt-out” in your inbox to find all the newsletters
  • Automate the process with Unroll.me
  • Use a separate email address for mass-marketing emails to cut down on future mailing lists

If you frequently text message someone and know their cell phone provider, you can email them instead at [number]@[provider’s website]

Remove every social distraction from your workday

Avoid watercooler gossip

Find subtle ways to tell others that you don’t want to be bothered

  • Close your office door
  • Use a conference room to set aside time for a project
  • Wear headphones or a phone headset, even if you’re not listening to anything
  • Set aside time on your calendar as “Do Not Disturb” time
  • If you need a whole day of uninterrupted work, have a “No Meetings” day
  • Work odd hours to keep others from interrupting you

If you need more time to work, arrive late to casual social events or meetings

Try to avoid all unnecessary meetings

Most meetings can be summarized by an email

Don’t agree to a meeting unless it is decisive

  • It must have a stated objective and clear agenda
  • Be clear about the specified end time, which should never be more than 30 minutes unless it’s critical

If you must have an impromptu meeting, avoid small talk and start with “what’s up?”

When new urgent tasks arrive either quickly Do it, Defer it or Delegate it

Do it immediately if it’s worth it

  • Deal with it if it’s a legitimate emergency
  • The 2-Minute Rule: if it takes 2 minutes or less, do it now
    • Adding it to a task list often takes twice the time
  • If it was already on the to-do list, move it up to a higher priority

Defer everything possible that you don’t presently need to do

  • If the task is not an emergency and not on the to-do list, make a note and return to it later

Delegate anything that isn’t your expertise or is very time-consuming

  • Use the 70% Rule: if someone else can do 70% of the work, give it to them
    • Define limits on how much authority they have and on whatever you want to follow up on
  • Look into a service like Fiverr that can do small tasks for $5 per item

Listen to music with headphones or speakers to focus more easily

Hold headphones to the side of the desk with a large binder clip

  • Wind rubber bands around the clip for a more secure attachment

Tie a small knot in the left earbud cord or paint one a different color to distinguish left or right from a glance

  • To untangle headphones, pick a point about halfway along the wire and shake it

White noise, brown noise or pink noise easily drowns out ambient noises

Any music you are familiar with, no matter the genre, will improve your mood

  • People perform repetitive tasks more quickly and with less energy when in a good mood
  • Music enhances creativity unless the task is language-related and the music has lyrics (more on creativity later)
  • If music is at all distracting, though, it will inhibit any learning

Music with a dominant beat can improve concentration even after the music is turned off

Instrumental music, especially video game music, is very repetitive and increases productivity

If you’re listening to Pandora, use the browser’s incognito mode to get unlimited skips for free

Make each part of the workday more efficient

When walking into your workplace

Make your most important decisions in the morning while your mind is clear and uncluttered

Make a list of what you want your day to look like

  • Make a short list you can reasonably finish
  • If you have multiple calendars, keep them synchronized
  • Update the list three times a day
  • Break it into two lists if it becomes cumbersome
    1. Ideas you probably won’t do
    2. What you intend to work on today
  • Add high-concentration and low-concentration priority to list items if you need variety and options
  • Permit open spots in the schedule in case some tasks take longer than you expected

Focus on the most significant and essential task of the day first thing in the morning, when your brain is clearest

Avoid talking at the water cooler with coworkers unless you have a purpose in mind

Set aside your best work for the first few hours of the day

  • Don’t let anything interfere with what you’re planning to do during those first few critical hours

Try to predict when the work comes in across hours, days and weeks

Get ahead of the flow during slow times or find ways to automate some of the work

Drink coffee a half hour before you expect to need it to feel its full effects

Near the end of the workday

If you need to make any decisions later in the day, postpone them as much as possible until the next day when your mind is clearer

Avoid coffee after 2 p.m., since it can interfere with sleep for the next 6 hours

If you start growing tired, work on tasks that don’t require as much mental energy

Set a hard “finish time” that keeps you from going home too late

Make a “stopping point” for where you can pick up the next day

Create an end-of-day “wrap-up” routine

Tidy your desk and close down everything

Review your completed tasks

  • What did I do?
  • What could I have done better?
  • What should I have not been doing?

Plan tomorrow’s to do list or break down the tasks

Leave the single most important thing in front of you for tomorrow

Instead of seeing it as leaving work, look at it as going to something else

Have something to look forward to

Plan for something specific after work you want to do

At the end of your work week

Wrap up every project you possibly can

Reflect on what you did correctly and could have done better

Figure out your priorities for the beginning of the next week and make a schedule

  • Look at the calendar for anything coming up in the next few weeks
  • Insert downtime to organize or rest when you need to
  • Take photos of your relevant schedules with your phone to ensure you always have it

Spend some time organizing and cleaning to start the next week  off well

Inform how accessible you’ll be during the weekend to anyone who needs to know

Think about your weekend plans

  • Plan something fun that night to celebrate how well you did

Say goodbye to everyone as you leave and make sure you’ve communicated tasks connected to them

Improve the way you do tasks

Never touch something twice if you can help it

  • Most worthless work is either from perfectionism or in fixing avoidable errors

Ask if some of the work is even worth it

  • Figure out how much you make an hour, then think about how much time it takes to do something, then calculate if it’s worth you doing it
  • e.g., $30/hr means that saving $5 should take less than 10 minutes
  • Many people try to save money and lose money in the process

Automate your computer tasks when you can

Productivity tracking

Scheduling

  • ActiveInbox or Sanebox – cleans up your email and turns it into a task manager
  • Assistant.to – meeting scheduling
  • Tripit – travel itinerary
  • Plan – schedule your tasks into a calendar
  • Doodle – schedule appointments using “polls” to ensure everyone meets
  • WhichDateWorks.com – synchronize a date for a social event

Focusing

  • Freedom – turns off distracting phone apps
  • Noisli – ambient noise generator
  • Simple Blocker – blocks specific websites for a set period
  • StayFocusd – gives a time allowance for particular sites and then blocks them
  • WorkLife – focuses meetings on what matters

Create email responses for common replies you make

  • Rapportive will give social media information right next to your email

Create macros and triggers to speed up computer routines

  • Use keyboard shortcuts for software you work with (more on this later)
  • Make templates for common work projects and tasks
  • Try IFTTT or Zapier to speed up routine tasks between services
  • Get a gaming keypad, gaming keyboard or mouse, or try AutoHotKey

More features or complexity isn’t always better

  • Everyone has to have a system that works, and more features can drag down how easy the system works
  • Text files and spreadsheets inside a cloud folder system is a perfect solution for some people
  • Handwritten notes alone are all some people’s need for ideas and tasks

Manipulate technology faster

Cross and tuck cords under each other like the first part of tying a shoe when plugging in to avoid pulling them apart by accident

Make computer cords easier to plug and unplug with binder clips

Attach velcro strips to frequently used items to make them easier to grab

  • Secure a laptop charger that keeps falling out with velcro
  • Velcro remote controls to the side of a coffee table

Attach a stylus to a jacket’s zipper pull if you need to use a mobile device with gloves on

If a mobile device is unresponsive

  • Plug it into its charger
  • Clean the glass screen

Charge a mobile device faster by setting it to Airplane Mode

Record with mobile devices more efficiently

  • Snap the photo and then zoom in afterward
  • Use binoculars as a zoom lens
  • When recording audio or video in a crowd, put a finger over the microphone for better sound quality

When scanning photos, make a higher quality image by scanning the negatives and reversing the colors on the computer

Using remote controls

  • To check if a remote control works, look for non-visible light through any camera lens
  • Point the remote control at a transparent glass or bowl of water to refract the IR beam a longer distance
  • Put masking tape over all the unused buttons on remote controls to avoid distraction

Use the Google webpage to test a printer, since it has all of the colors and barely uses ink

On a calculator, the C (clear) button clears all entries while the CE (clear entry) button clears only the most recent entry

Look at Lifehacker for more techniques and software

Do office work more quickly

Sealing envelopes

  • Rubberband a small damp sponge to the top of a pencil to make an envelope sealer
  • Re-open an envelope without breaking its seal by placing it in the freezer for 1-2 hours
  • Remove a postage stamp without damaging it by putting a few drops of water on it and microwaving it for 20 seconds
  • Anything under 13 oz, such as a box of candy, doesn’t technically need an envelope to be mailed

Working with books

  • Tape a small flat piece, such as a tongue depressor, to your thumb to make it easier to hold your place
  • Clip a book to a pants hanger to read it more easily
  • Transcribe more easily by clipping a pants hanger to the top of a laptop
  • When putting paper in a binder, tape over the holes to prevent them from falling out

Draw a perfect circle without a compass

  • Twist a piece of wire around a pencil and sharpen the other end to improvise a compass
  • Alternately, hold a pen while pressing pinky and pen on paper and then spin the paper around
  • Draw a perfect ellipse by tying a string into a ring, then circle it around two pins pushed into a piece of paper

Navigating phone systems

  • Most automated phone systems can direct you to a human by pressing 0, #, *, pressing a lot of buttons or by not pressing anything
  • Repeat relevant words like agent, representative, and operator
  • Speak nonsense and mumble
  • Dial for French or Spanish since they almost always speak decent English but aren’t as inundated with calls
  • Cursing at the automated customer service will often get you through to a human

Calculate math in your head more quickly

  • To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, double the Celsius number and add 28
  • Calculate percentages by dividing the number by 10 and multiplying it by 1/10 of the percent
    • e.g. 40% of 300, 4.0 x 30 = 120
  • Calculate 15% by dividing the number by 10 and then adding in half
    • e.g. 15% of 25.40 = 2.54 + 1.27 = 3.81
  • Calculate multiplication by doing the opposite to the same side of the formula, then break apart the pieces
    • e.g. 48 x 7 = ?, 24 x 14 = 12 x 28 = 6 x 56 = (6 x 50) + (6 x 6) = 336
  • Convert approximate hourly wage into salary by doubling and adding three zeros, then convert back by halving and removing three zeros
  • Find other math tricks for things you use often

Work more productively with tools

Missing tools

  • Measuring tape
    • Always have a measure by measuring and memorizing from your elbow to your hand and various other body distances
    • For smaller dimensions, commit the weight and lengths of coins to memory
  • Screwdriver
    • use a power plug for medium and larger screws
    • If the hole for a screw is too big, break off a matchstick in the hole and then use the screw
  • Funnel
    • Cut off the top of a plastic bottle
    • Pour the liquid down a screwdriver and angle it to where you want it to go
  • Campfire lighter
    • Light a stick of spaghetti

Improvements

  • Hammering
    • Attach a magnet to the bottom of a hammer to hold nails on it
    • Hold nails while hammering with a clothespin or a comb
    • Pull out long nails by putting a block under the tool you’re using to pull with
  • Needles and thread
    • Spray the end of sewing thread with hairspray to thread a needle
    • Run threaded needles through a dryer sheet to prevent tangling them
  • Opening jars
    • Use latex gloves
    • Put rubber bands around the top and middle of the jar to have something to hold
    • Put duct tape on the lid to have something to hold
    • Widen the lid by prying under it with a spoon or butter knife
  • Untying knots
    • Rub cornstarch onto it
    • To untie plastic bags, twist the large open end into a spiral and push it through the knot

Use tools unconventionally

  • Open blister packs with a can opener instead of scissors
  • Carry water by grabbing the handle and holding the inside of the container with your thumb
  • To prevent fogging glasses, rub them daily with soap
  • Hold your spot on a roll of tape with a bread clip or paper clip
  • Speed up glue hardening with baking soda
  • Hold small tools conveniently in a broad brush
  • Change out keys using a staple remover
  • Dry dye more quickly by microwaving it

Reuse other everyday items for unconventional purposes

  • To break change, put cash into a vending machine and hit the coin return button without ordering anything
  • When eating fast food, the lid on your drink cup often also serves as a coaster
  • Learn to use chopsticks with a metal spring from a clothespin
  • Detect a bicycle tire leak by placing it in a bucket of water
  • Detect a gas leak by painting a strong soap solution over the pipe, then looking for bubbles
  • Make cup holders with shoes or boots
  • When having keys cut, request a circular notch cut into the top for them to double as bottle openers
  • If you need an indoor light in the daytime, fill a soda bottle with a water-bleach mix and then stick halfway outside through a hole
  • To see the bathroom at night, put LED lights on slippers
  • Sign up for free trials with a depleted cash gift card to avoid having to unsubscribe

Travel everywhere productively

Leave earlier than you’d expect to ensure you get there early

  • As a general rule, you should always be 10 minutes early to everything unless something interferes with it

Make a routine for leaving

  • Back everything up online before you leave
  • Bring extra chargers/cables in a glasses case with you that will keep you productive later
  • Keep everything you need to take  in one place to permit yourself to “grab and go”

When approaching a door, look at the hinges to tell if you need to push or pull

When adjusting to bright light or a dark room, close one eye to adapt more quickly to the changes

Look into phone apps that enable texting while walking

Instead of calling for a cab to go home, walk to a pizza place that delivers and order a pizza, then get a ride with the delivery driver

When driving

  • Keep a laundry basket in the back of your car to carry items more easily
    • Put a muffin pan in the bottom of it to carry large drinks or other smaller items
  • Remember where you left your vehicle with a GPS tag, an app or taking photos
  • Cool your parked vehicle down
    • Turn your steering wheel 180° after parking to avoid burning your hands when you get back in
    • If the car is too hot when you get in it, roll down a window on one side and quickly open and close the door on the other side
    • If the gear stick is too hot, put a can warmer over it
  • If you need directions, stop at a pizza place and ask for directions instead of a gas station
  • If in an area with lots of stop lights, go exactly the speed limit to hit more green lights
  • If a green light changes to yellow count to three, it will change to red on the fourth
  • Pay attention to the lights to your left and right at a stop light, since they have to turn red before yours turns green
  • Continually switching lanes in traffic is slower than staying in one lane
  • Pay attention to which lane trucks use since they communicate accidents and which lane they are in
  • Remember that interstates and highways with odd numbers run north to south and even numbers run east to west
  • The Exit ## sign above the large highway sign shows what side of the road to be on to take it
  • Try to get to the lane you want to turn on a while before you get to it
  • When refueling, the side of the gas pump light indicates which side the gas cap is on
  • Most cars have a built-in gas cap holder on the small gas cap door
  • When parking in your garage, hang a tennis ball where the windshield should touch

When running errands to a store

  • Take a picture of your pantry or fridge if you want to remember what to buy
  • Amplify the signal on your car’s wireless remote by pressing it against your head
  • “Star” the location you park in your phone’s Google Maps application to not lose where you parked
  • Grab shopping carts outside to avoid the ones with bad wheels
  • Position heavy or bulky items with the barcodes facing upwards to go through checkout faster
  • Use the loops on the tops of the shopping cart to hold the grocery bags
  • When trying to find your car, press the key fob to your head to amplify the signal by using your head as a radio signal extender
  • You can tell if jeans will fit by seeing if the waistline wraps around your neck
  • In electronics stores, stand by a TV and look at the price tag to get helped by a sales worker
  • Carry plastic bags inside the house together with a carabiner

When flying

  • Dress comfortably, since even business travel doesn’t matter if you’re not meeting someone at the airport
  • Stay sober during the flight to avoid any risks due to drunkenness
  • Store your boarding pass on your phone to avoid losing it
  • Pay close attention to the gate number to not miss your flight
  • Show up early to avoid missing your flight from any delays
  • Never check a bag, since checking bags takes time
    • If you’re close to the luggage weight with your luggage scale, consider what you’ll move to your carry-on if it’s too heavy
    • If you must check a bag
      • Don’t leave keys or anything of value in it, just in case it gets lost
      • Keep an identification tag on the outside as well as identification on the inside in case the tag comes off
      • Mark your luggage clearly and conspicuously
  • Bring a backpack, messenger bag or rolling suitcase as your carry-on
    • Don’t bring any liquids with you, though you can bring containers
  • Take off everything you need to before you’re next in line at airport security
    • Avoid making jokes with the airport security or passport workers
  • Enjoy your layover time at the airport
    • Play video games or golf
    • Get pampered at a spa
    • Order takeout
    • Rest at a lounge
  • Find a quiet spot in the terminal and use the extra time
    • If the flight isn’t that long, work on something
    • Don’t leave anything unattended
    • Don’t sit down for the entire time, since your flight is in a cramped seat for hours
    • Bypass the airport’s wireless Internet by adding “?.jpg” at the end of any web address
  • Right before the flight
    • Use the bathroom
  • Use time on the plane to work on non-internet tasks
  • Listen carefully to any airport staff that drive the shuttle, just in case you need special instructions
Next: Productivity 104: How To Be Organized