It’s what we all want. To increase our productivity (and thus make more money) without putting in any extra effort.

And no, this is not a post inspired by a late-night get-rich-quick infomercial. Rather, this post offers ways to work smarter, not harder. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Think of it like this. No matter how fast you’re able to run to the mailbox, your letter still won’t beat an email. You’re already using email. Now it’s time to see what productivity strategies you have yet to implement. And hey, maybe working less is your goal. You can find out how to do that as well with this post.

Create a Plan and Let Your Subconscious Plan Loose

With a plan, you know exactly what you should be doing. This makes it easier to focus on your most important tasks and can keep you from skipping from one task to another. It also makes you more aware of how you spend the day. It keeps away those feelings of, “I worked all day today but I don’t feel like I have anything to show for it.” And if you still have those feelings ever, just look back on your list. See what you’ve accomplished. You will no doubt feel good about yourself.

According to productivity expert Brian Tracy, “You can increase your productivity and output by 25 percent or more-about two hours a day-from the first day that you begin working consistently from a list.” In his popular book, Eat That Frog! Brian Tracy writes about how planning for the day in advance helps ready your brain.

Try planning the next day for just 10-15 minutes at the end of the day. What you’ll find is that your subconscious begins working through your list while you’re away from the office. It’s getting prepared for what it knows lies ahead. Your brain is gathering its resources and getting them ready to use.

After reading Eat That Frog! about four months ago, I’ve planned each day. It has helped me become so much more productive. When I sit down to work the next morning, I start doing things automatically. It feels the same as when you brush your teeth and you don’t unconsciously go through the motions. It’s pretty wild. I’m more productive as well. I’ve had to create lists nearly twice as long as when I first started planning. You can also use time management systems that can help you stay on course.

Choose the Fastest Plan

According to a report carried out by the Chalmers University of Technology, doubling the internet speed increases an economy’s GDP by .3%. That’s equivalent to pumping the United States economy with an extra $126 billion. Much of the increased revenue is due to the increased productivity of the workforce. By distilling this information, we can see that an increase at a personal level is achieved.

If you want to get more done online, consider increasing your internet speed. It’s a fairly low cost way to add more time to your day. What’s your time worth?

Get off the Email Treadmill

According to Business Insider, we look at our phones 150 times per day, on average. And the biggest reason we do it is to check email. Maybe this is too much.

Now, depending on how your day is structured, checking email frequently may be very important. If you’re a manager for instance, you may need to watch for fires. But for most of us, emails can be a distraction from our top priorities. Instead of checking emails multiple times per day, schedule times to check your email. You can add this to your daily plan. In the popular book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss states that he rarely checks his email. And he tells people that if it’s an emergency, to call him directly. He’s found that most people solve their issues without ever needing to email him in the first place.

To get started answering emails less often, set an auto-response letting people know your new routine. This way they won’t get upset since you normally respond right away. Try this out. See how your day may open up to more productive activities.

You can take this one step further. You can have an assistant let you know what happens in your inbox. I attended a conference where author Carl Richards spoke. He said that his assistant reads his emails and copies the important information into a Word document for Carl. He then reads each and writes his response within the Word doc. This way, he can’t get bogged down in his inbox.

Make It Automatic

Let robots help you. Though we all don’t have personal robots yet, we can still automate many things. Instead of worrying about watching the stock market, consider dollar-cost-averaging. Instead of worrying about paying bills, set them to be paid automatically. Set programs to auto-update. Basically, if there’s an option to automate, take it. If you really want to free up your time, consider hiring someone to take care of the minor details of your day which can’t be automated.



William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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