Productivity 103: Maximum Efficiency

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Productivity 102: A Great Working Environment

Efficiency involves a lot of self-discipline

  • Create “triggers” that activate productive thoughts and behaviors or deactivate unproductive ones
    1. The “cue” for the trigger needs to trigger the routine you want to establish
      • A motivator can be morning, Monday or a specific song
      • A demotivator can be a rubber band around your hand that you snap
    2. The cue also has to trigger the craving for the reward
    3. You have to believe that you will get the reward
  • Find ways to avoid triggers that start negative thoughts or behaviors
    • Use the Spider Technique to re-focus when you are about to segue off-topic
      1. Re-focus as soon as your are mildly aware that you’ve strayed from the task at hand
      2. Become slowly aware of what you are naturally susceptible to being distracted by
      3. Avoid those weaknesses proactively by removing them from your environment
  • Create short-term rewards of some of your tasks
    • Exercise has an immediate pleasurable sensation
    • Finishing an ugly task decreases the amount of stress about things to be done
    • One of the easiest rewards you can make yourself is to eat a snack when you make a “micro-victory”
    • Place a dollar or quarter into a jar when you do the task, and then treat yourself after you’ve attained enough for it
    • Try the Concentration Vortex to focus 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 a “forcing function” that limits your resources to inspire you to work harder
    • You only have so many minutes in a day, so work with an emotional way to understand that
      • Create urgency to ensure you’re always focused
    • Find “bad” reasons to do “good” things
      • Learn to create personal motivators and reinforcements that push you when you don’t want to go
    • Limit your resources
      • Set alarms to remind about tasks
      • Don’t bring your laptop power cord if you’re working away from home
      • Create inconveniences that make the boring work more necessary
      • Force short-term deadlines on yourself
      • Pay a non-refundable fee for lessons or a membership
      • Set a 30-minute timer and race yourself to finish before it goes off
    • Constrain yourself with a fear of the consequences of being distracted
      • Imagine the pain you will feel if the work is not done
      • Hold yourself “hostage” until you’re done with a particular task
        • Use a public or school library computer if your own computer has too many distractions
      • Tell others about your commitments to have others hold you accountable
  • Procrastination is one of the biggest inhibitors to productivity
    • Procrastination is not doing what you want in the long-term to satisfy what you want in the short-term
      • Procrastination often imagines the worst parts of a project, which prevents ever starting
        • You’ll never get it perfect, but the desire for perfection needs to be suppressed
      • No matter how “in tune” with your work you may be, you’ll always have something you want to do instead just because it’s unimportant and more fun
        • Your brain will do small, mindless simple tasks to fill up procrastination time
          • Sometimes planning itself is a form of procrastination, especially when it’s vague
          • Use this to your advantage and do important smaller tasks that are related to the project you’re working on
          • If you need to, go back and sub-divide the tasks until planning for them is more work than doing them
            • Divide the tasks out by energy requirement
            • Divide the tasks out by time commitment
        • Sometimes it’s a good idea to stop and talk to yourself to prepare your mind for the experience
      • There is nothing that can be done to prevent procrastination except simply starting on it
    • It’s much easier to prevent procrastination by managing your time instead of managing your work
      • It can be hard to gauge how much time something takes
      • Doing all the work you run across is physically impossible

The most work comes when you’re in the present moment

  • Stay ever-present in the task you are doing
    • 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 or listening to comedy if you’re driving
      • Most of the time, you can listen to music to speed up the work
    • Chew gum to stay focused, especially peppermint or cinnamon gum
    • 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 specific task that comes your way
      • If wayward thoughts come while doing your task, write notes and deal with them later
        • If you can’t write down ideas, dictate them
      • Sometimes multitasking is inevitable, but it is not good for it to be routine
  • Pay attention to your body’s needs
    • Sit upright and straightforward when working at a desk
    • Don’t sit for too long and stand up when you can
    • 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 run for 90 minutes of effective work followed by 15-20 minutes of rest
          • Devote the time to focused bursts of work
          • Have a scheduled break every 20 to 90 minutes
        • In fact, our bodies will naturally take breaks for exactly 17 minutes every 52
      • If you need to increase your heart rate take a deep breath and hold for as long as you can, then breathe out slowly
    • Learn how to actually rest from the work you’ve done
      • At first you will feel strange about it, but you need to force yourself to not think about work
        • Use a timer or a timed light if you have to
      • Use the time to reorganize everything
        • 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
        • Learn something you want to do instead of have to do
      • Get motivated through future plans
        • Make plans for the weekend or for a vacation
  • Keep yourself fueled with the right things
    • Drink the right fluids
      • Avoid high-sugar drinks like juices and soda
      • Drink lots 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
        • When filling a bottle at a drinking fountain, some spouts can be turned around
      • 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
      • If you really can’t focus, alternate between a hot drink and a cold drink
    • Snack regularly to maintain a consistent blood sugar level
      • Choose healthy snacks
      • Be preferential to high-protein snacks
      • Have complex carbohydrates (grains, granola, etc) over simple carbohydrates
      • Eat as part of a routine
    • If you work at a desk, do quick exercises to increase blood flow and energy
  • Manage stress properly
    • Leave personal and unrelated matters away from the current task and write notes for dealing with them later
    • Schedule extra time for unknown distractions
    • If your work allows it
      • Try a more flexible work schedule to create variety
      • Make an arrangement to sometimes work from home
    • Learn meditation and relaxing techniques

Minimize your distractions

  • Turn off or remove every technological distraction, since notifications have been proven to make you less effective
    • Technology creates opportunities to see and learn more, but removes the opportunity to focus more easily
      • Instead of asking what the new features are, ask how it will improve your life
    • Turn off your personal phone or leave it in another room
      • To avoid calls, remove the battery instead of powering off
      • Set it to silent
      • Pay attention to who the caller is when you do look at it
    • Set your work phone to silent and check it once every few hours
    • Stop using social media or surfing the internet
      • This is one of the most understated problems of productivity, mostly because there are so many social media addicts
      • If you don’t have willpower to stop surfing the internet about non-work-related things, block some websites
      • Use an app like StayFocused to stop needless internet wandering
    • Email is one of the biggest productivity drains
      • Email is only good for three things, and the rest of it is a lot of arbitrary noise
        1. Coordinating meetings with multiple people
        2. Sending very short 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 check and respond to them
        • Set up reminders to deal with specific emails with software like FollowupThen
        • Alternately, if you cannot escape the emails, then adapt your workflow around it with  alertful or an automatic mail checker
      • Typically it’s best to not 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
        • Try to only touch each email message only once, if at all possible
        • 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
        • One fun trick is to try out 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 important 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
        • This is easiest done by only having action items in your inbox and the rest in other folders, deleted or archived elsewhere
      • Opt-out of/unsubscribe email lists instead of just deleting the emails
        • Search for “unsubscribe” or “opt out” in your inbox to find all the newsletters
        • Try Unroll.me to unsubscribe from more common emails
        • 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
    • Avoid watercooler gossip
    • Find ways to tell others to not bother you
      • 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 really need time to work, have a “No Meetings” day
    • Try to avoid all unnecessary meetings
      • Most meetings can be summarized by an email
      • Don’t agree to a meeting unless it is decisive
        • Stated objective and clear agenda
        • Specified end time, which should never be more than 30 minutes
      • Working odd hours can allow time where nobody will interrupt you
    • Consider being late to social events that don’t require you to be there to give yourself more time
  • Wear headphones or listen to music over speakers to be more productive
    • 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 which one is which from a glance
      • To untangle headphones, pick a point about halfway along the wire and shake it
    • White noise, brown noise or pink noise is great for drowning out ambient noises
    • Any music you are familiar with, no matter the genre, will improve your mood
      • Repetitive tasks have been proven to be easier and quicker when the person is in a good mood
      • Creativity is enhanced from music, unless it’s a language-related task and the music has lyrics
      • Learning anything, though, will be inhibited by music if it is distracting
    • Music with a strong beat can improve concentration even after the music is turned off
    • Instrumental music, especially video game music, is very effective at increasing productivity
    • If you’re listening to Pandora, use the browser’s incognito mode to get unlimited skips for free
  • Sometimes you can’t avoid interruptions, and there are 3 categories of them
    1. Necessary and vital, and you need to handle these immediately
    2. Necessary but untimely, which require action that isn’t urgent
      • This includes calls, email and visitors, which can cut off your focus on something highly important
      • Measure how it will affect your work flow
        • 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 generally don’t calculate the time it takes to pick up the task later, which is usually about the same time as the length of the interruption
          • This means that a 10-minute interruption will take 20 minutes
        • Ask what the consequences will be if you don’t handle it immediately
      • There are several ways to manage this type of interruption
        • Agree on a follow-up time and date with them, then schedule it into you calendar
        • Practice saying “no” consistently
          • If your boss is asking you something you need to say “no” to, get more information:
            • 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 in order for you to do it
            • Give suggestions or alternatives, such as procrastinating the task
    3. Unnecessary and untimely, which isn’t relevant, urgent or significant
      • If you think an interruption is unnecessary and untimely, 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

Make each workday routine as efficient as possible

  • When walking into your workplace
    • Make a list of what your day will look like
    • Focus on the biggest task of the day first thing in the morning, when your brain is clearest
    • Make your most important decisions in the morning while your mind is clear and uncluttered
    • Avoid talking at the water cooler with coworkers unless you have a purpose in mind
    • Drink coffee a half hour before you need it to feel its full effects
  • Near the end of the work day
    • Avoid making any decisions that were handed to you later in the day that you can put off until the next day when your mind is clearer
    • Don’t have coffee any time after 2 p.m., since it can interfere with sleep for over 6 hours
    • If you start growing tired of working, try doing less important tasks that still need to be done
    • 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)”
      • Have something to look forward to
      • Plan for something specific after work
  • 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 down-time 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 anyone who needs to know how accessible you’ll be during the weekend
    • Think about your weekend plans and what you plan to do with them
      • Plan something fun for that night to celebrate how well you did
    • Say goodbye to everyone as you leave and make sure tasks connected to them have been communicated

Improve your workflow

  • If a task takes 2 minutes or less to do, do it immediately
    • Adding it to a task list is often almost twice the time compared to doing the task
  • When urgent things do arrive, quickly decide if it’s worth stopping your current workflow for it
    • Deliberately ignore some tasks
      • Don’t be afraid to say “no” when your current work is more important
      • Press 9 on a phone when receiving a telemarketer call to add it to the “don’t call” list
      • Set good songs as custom ringtones for people you don’t want to talk to to make it easier to ignore them
      • Make a contact called “Ignore” 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
      • Sign up for free trials with a depleted cash gift card to avoid having to unsubscribe
    • When new tasks arrive from others either Do it, Defer it, or Delegate it
      • Have an action plan for every task that you have to do
        1. If it is an emergency, deal with it
        2. If it is on the to do list, move it up the list to a higher priority
        3. If the task is not an emergency and not on the to do list, make a note and return to it later
    • Impromptu meetings can interfere with your focus
      • If you must have them, avoid small talk and start with “what’s up?”
    • Learn to understand the flow of work that comes in across the days and weeks
  • When you have many tasks, create a simple daily to do list that can be reasonably accomplished
    • If you have multiple calendars, keep them synchronized to ensure you have everything captured
    • Update the list 3 times a day
    • Break it into two lists if it becomes cumbersome
      • One to capture ideas you will probably never do
      • A daily list of things to actually work on
    • Add high-concentration and low-concentration priority on the list for you to have variety and options
    • This list should allow for open spots in the schedule to permit things that might take longer
  • Try to never touch something twice
    • Most of the useless work will either be from being a perfectionist or from fixing errors that could have been avoided the first time around
  • If the task is not your expertise or is very time-consuming, delegate it to someone else
    • 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
  • Automate anything that you can make faster
    • 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 your phone’s apps that can be distracting
      • Noisli – ambient noise generator
      • Simple Blocker – extension that blocks specific domains for a given period of time
      • StayFocusd – gives an allowance of time for specific domains, then blocks it
      • WorkLife – focuses meetings on what matters
    • Stock email responses for common replies you make
      • Rapportive will give social media information right next to your email
    • Templates for common work projects and tasks
    • Keyboard shortcuts for software you work with
    • Create macros and triggers to speed up complex computer routines
      • Recurring tasks in software for persistent and routine tasks
      • Software like IFTTT or Zapier to speed up routine tasks across services
    • Sometimes more features isn’t always better
      • For some people, .txt and various office files inside of a cloud folder system is a perfect solution
      • Others still use handwritten notes exclusively for all of their ideas and tasks
    • Find ways to speed up your technology’s use
      • When plugging in power cords, cross and tuck them under like the first part of tying a shoe to avoid them coming unplugged
      • Use binder clips on computer plugs to make it easier to plug and unplug
      • Attach velcro strips to things you use frequently to allow yourself to grab them more easily
        • If the laptop charger keeps falling out, use velcro to secure it
        • 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
      • Speed up a mobile device’s charging by setting it to Airplane Mode
      • Record with mobile devices more efficiently
        • Snap the photo and then zoom in afterwards
        • Make a zoom lens with binoculars
        • When recording audio or video in a crowd, put a finger over the microphone for a clearer sound
      • When scanning photos, scan the negatives and reverse the colors on the computer to have a higher quality image
      • Use remote controls better
        • To check if it works, use any camera to check if the remote control emits a light
        • Point the remote control at a clear glass or bowl of water to refract the IR beam for a longer range
      • Use the Google home page to test a printer, since it has all of the colors and barely uses ink
    • Look at Lifehacker for more techniques and software

Save time when you’re traveling anywhere

  • Always leave early for everything to ensure you get there early
    • As a general rule, you should always be 10 minutes early to everything unless something interferes
  • Have 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
  • 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 adjust to the changes more quickly
  • While walking, there are phone apps that allow you to text 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
    • Try to cool the car down when it’s parked
      • 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 a door on the other side
      • If the gear stick is too hot, put a beer coozie 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
    • When stopped at a stop light, pay attention to the lights to your left and right, since they need to turn red before yours turns green
    • Switching lanes in traffic continuously 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 other larger 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 the 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 at in your phone’s Google Maps application to not lose your location where you parked
    • Grab shopping carts outside to avoid the ones with bad wheels
    • Position heavy or bulky items with the bar codes 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, hold 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
    • Electronics wrappers are easiest unwrapped with can openers
  • 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
      • Remember where you left your car by using a GPS tag, an app or taking photos
    • 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
    • Have your carry-on be a backpack or if you’re a professional a messenger bag/rolling suitcase
      • Don’t bring any liquids with you, though you can bring containers
    • Take off everything you need to before you have to be scanned 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

There are many miscellaneous tricks to increase productivity

  • Find ways to speed up calculating math in your head
    • 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 hourly wage to salary by doubling and adding 3 zeros and convert back by halving and removing 3 zeros
    • Find other math tricks for things you use often
  • Doing office work
    • 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 placing a few drops of water on the stamp and microwaving it for 20 seconds
    • 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, put pieces of tape over the holes to ensure they don’t fall out from use
    • Draw a perfect circle without a compass by twisting a piece of wire around a pencil, sharpening the other end and using it like a compass
      • Alternately, hold a pen while pressing pinky and pen on paper and then spin paper around
      • Draw a perfect ellipse by using a tied string circled around two pins set on a paper
    • On a calculator, the C (clear) button clears all entries while the CE (clear entry) button clears only the most recent entry
    • Anything under 13 oz, such as a box of candy, doesn’t technically need an envelope
  • 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 key words like agent, representative and operator
    • Speak nonsense and mumble
    • Dial the French button, they always speak decent English and you won’t have to wait
    • Often swearing at the automated customer service will get you through to a human
  • Working with tools
    • Missing tools
      • Measuring tape
        • Measure and memorize from your elbow to your hand and various other body distances to never need a measuring stick
        • Measure and memorize the weight and lengths of coins to more accurately measure small things
      • Screwdriver
        • use a power plug for medium and larger screws
        • If the hole for a screw is too big, break off a match stick inside it 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 clothes pin 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 hair spray to thread a needle
        • Threaded needles don’t tangle if they’re run through a dryer sheet
      • 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
        • Pry under the lid with a spoon or butter knife to make the lid wider
      • Untying knots
        • Rub corn starch onto it
        • To untie plastic bags, twist the large open end into a spiral and push it through the knot
      • Others
        • 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 by using an old large brush
        • Put masking tape over all the unused buttons on remote controls to avoid being distracted by them
        • Change out keys using a staple remover
        • Dry dye more quickly by microwaving it
  • Reuse other common items for unconventional purposes
    • To make 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 clothes pin
    • 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, ask for a circular notch to be cut into them to make them 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
  • Some items have a unique purpose that you may not have been aware of
    • Tic-Tacs have a tiny lid crevice meant to hold 1 Tic-Tac
  • Find your own tricks that work best for you, always stay organized and learn how to work with computers faster

 

Next: Productivity 104: How To Be Organized