There's no way to ensure that you'll never waste time, but that doesn't mean Inc.com readers aren't eager to find some way to get a better handle on their workload. To help you start 2016 off on the right foot, we've rounded up some of our most popular tips from the year on how to be more efficient, effective, and creative.
1. Use this seven-minute morning routine to clear your head before the day begins.
Inc.com contributing editor John Brandon tested out this short morning routine, which proved popular with readers. The idea is to take seven minutes in the morning to readjust your mindset to prepare for the day ahead. Here's a quick breakdown of the routine:
Minute 1: Clear your head, and get rid of any thoughts about what you have to do that day. Think about the moment.
Minute 2: Take deep breaths.
Minutes 3-6: Take the first thoughts that popped into your head that morning, and take notes about them or draw them out.
Minute 7: Take a look at everything you wrote down, and write out a brief plan on how you are going to act on one of those items.
2. Don't focus all of your attention on the almighty to-do list.
In the March issue of Inc., editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan took a deep dive into the psychology of productivity. According to Leigh, one of the most problematic misconceptions about productivity is that adhering to a strict to-do list will help you be more productive.
Rather, some of the leading researchers on productivity say that it's better to spend the end of the day reflecting on all of the things you did accomplish, and not on the things that you never got around to. "Giving yourself credit helps you feel productive--that actually makes you more productive," Walter Chen, the CEO and co-founder of productivity startup iDoneThis, told Inc. iDoneThis provides customers with tools to report the tasks they accomplish each day.
3. And while you're at it, stop multitasking.
According to Devora Zack, author of the book Singletasking: Get More Done--One Thing at a Time, multitasking can cut your productivity by as much as 40 percent. You may think you're getting a lot done, but all you're really doing is switching between activities.
"Singletasking obliges you to do one thing at a time, excluding any other demands at that moment," Zack told Inc.com columnist Minda Zetlin. "This means you must stand firm and genuinely commit to your choices." In addition, Zack suggests picking a place to "park distracting inspirations," that is, to create a folder or a note dedicated solely to good ideas that pop in your head when you're working on something else.
4. Cutback your dependence on email.
The quest to send fewer emails didn't stop in 2015. From Inc.'s feature on our 2015 Company of the Year, "email-killer" Slack, to Bert Jacobs's revelation during a Live Chat that he doesn't use email at all, articles on how to cut back on the message flow proved to be a hot topic for discussion. Startup founders who can't entirely cut out email may want to take a hint from inDinero founder Jessica Mah: She checks her email only once a week. The rest of the week she has an administrative assistant go through her inbox, and tells close friends and colleagues to contact her via text.
5. The eight-hour workday is so last year.
Startups are out to bust long-standing traditions, and the 40-hour work week is no exception. Take company No. 239 on this year's list of the fastest-growing private companies in the country, Tower Paddle Boards. CEO Stephen Aarstol instituted a five-hour workday, and though Tower's offices are officially open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (a number of studies show that people are more productive during the first few hours of the day), Aarstol lets employees pick when they want to work their five hours. He estimates that people stick to that "70 percent of the time." He also believes that employees are still getting the same amount of work done as when they were at the office for eight hours a day.
"At the same time that people have the ability to be massively more productive, they also now have the ability to massively waste time," says Aarstol.