50 Ways to Be Productive
By: Kelsey McGillis
In the grand scheme of things, ten minutes really isn’t a lot of time.
It amounts to one sixth of your favorite TV show—with commercials. It’s equal to the length of two and a half songs. And it can be easily wasted checking email, scrolling through your Facebook feed or watching TV.
But ten minutes can also be a great opportunity.
In fact, you can accomplish one (or more) of these 50 tasks within a ten-minute time span—from better managing your money to retooling your approach to your career. And let’s not forget checking something off your to-do list!
Be More Productive With Your … Money
1. Find a great deal for something that you’ve been meaning to do. Need a haircut? Promised a friend that you’d go out to dinner? Daily deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Gilt City offer discounts for everything from restaurants to hotels. Just remember that the goal is to be productive, not distracted, so limit deals to things that are already on your list.
2. Set up a budget in the Money Center. Whether you need to pay off a debt or save up for a goal, creating a budget is the most effective way to accomplish your financial goals.
3. Pick one expense that you can reduce—or cut completely. Look at your folders in the Money Center and challenge yourself to dial down one expense next month.
4. Automate your payments. You’ll never forget to pay a regular monthly expense if you automate payments for fixed costs, like rent or car payments.
5. Set a money goal. Whether you want to buy your dream house in a few years or pay off your student loans in a month, your money goal should be something specific.
6. Scavenge deals for three items on your supermarket list. Check out your local grocer’s website to score weekly savings on everyday staples.
7. Start a $5 jar. Establish a savings goal (concert tickets? a fancy dinner?), then each time that you have a $5 bill, put it in your jar to work toward that goal.
8. Sign up to monitor your credit score. Your credit score—which you can track for free through Credit Karma—enables you to borrow money for major purchases, so it’s important to stay on top of your score and find out how you can improve it.
9. Calculate your retirement number. How much money will you need to maintain your lifestyle in your golden years? An online calculator can quickly give you an estimate, so you can start to retool your approach to saving for retirement.
10. Find your financial sock drawer. Your “sock drawer” is the first, small money task that you should tackle in order to reach a bigger money goal, like buying your first home or paying off a credit card. Ask yourself these five questions to figure out how to locate your own “drawer.”
12. Figure out how many hours you work to cover spending habits. This sweat equity calculator will help determine what your biggest spending vice is costing you.
13. Pick three ways to reduce your spending this month. Need ideas? Consult these 80 tips to cut costs and save money.
15. Toss seven-year-old tax records. The general rule of thumb is that tax returns can be shredded after three years, but there are certain cases when they should be kept for up to seven years, so err on the side of caution.
16. Create a new password for a secure financial account. Research indicates that a password that’s less than 12 characters long isn’t sufficient, so make sure that it can fool the best of hackers.
17. Put a price tag on an important dream. Always wanted a vacation home? Love traveling the world? Our M.A.S.H. calculator will tabulate how much you’ll need to save in order to make that dream a reality.
Be More Productive With Your … Career
18. Schedule a check-in with your boss. Discuss your performance, plans for the future and ways that you can improve. Being proactive about your career can only lead to good things—and the first step is getting that meeting on the calendar!
19. Invite a coworker out for coffee. Wharton Business School professor Stuart Diamond recommends fostering relationships with colleagues whom you don’t interact with much normally—because you never know who’ll help you in the future.
20. Assume a power pose. According to a Harvard and Columbia study, striking a power posture (hands on hips, with your legs spread—superhero-style) for a few minutes can help you feel confident, calm and in control, so you can ace that presentation or interview.
21. Read an article about your industry …or the one that you wish you were in. The more you know about a field, the better your chances are of succeeding in it.
22. Enlist a second pair of eyes. Ask a trusted contact to edit your résumé and cover letter to provide feedback—and maybe even catch a few typos.
23. Shoot an acquaintance a “just saying hi” email. According to recent studies, informal contacts are better resources for networking and employment opportunities than close friends.
24. Clear the clutter. When you arrive at work, instead of killing time on social media, tidy the mess on your desk—it improves productivity and provides fewer distractions during the day.
25. Practice public speaking. Do you have trouble communicating with coworkers and clients? For ten minutes, try talking to a mirror without using any filter words, such as “like” or “um,” which distract listeners. It’s harder than you think!
27. Revamp your LinkedIn profile. Think there’s nothing to improve? You’d be surprised at how often these common mistakes pop up on people’s profiles.
28. Reach out to someone whom you admire. Natalie MacNeil, cofounder of digital media company Imaginarius, recommends asking for just five minutes of a person’s time (or three questions), minimizing your chance of getting turned down.
29.Prep for an upcoming meeting. Review any emails or documents, and then jot down two goals you want to accomplish in the conference room. You’ll be prepared and goal-oriented from the moment you walk in the door.
30. Take a personality test. Are you a people person? Do you work best at night? Once you know your key personality traits, you can leverage them to better advance your career goals.
31. Update one section of your résumé. There are plenty of overlooked résumé dos and don’ts that can be remedied in 10 minutes or less.
32. Write your elevator pitch. For those not in the know, it’s a one-minute speech that you should have in your arsenal when trying to sell yourself to a potential employer. And thanks to Harvard Business School’s Elevator Pitch Builder, you can easily craft one in ten minutes.
33. Run an inventory of your skills. Write down all of the professional skills that could help you change industries, get a promotion or even enable you to make extra money on the side.
34. Perfect your answer to one interview question. What do employers want to hear? Research the hidden meaning behind a common question, and then figure out how to answer it.
35. Now choose the best question to ask your interviewer. Show a hiring manager that you’ve done your research—and really want to be there.
Be More Productive With Your … Daily Life
36. Sort your to-do list according to the 1-3-5 rule. This upgraded version of a typical to-do list helps prioritize chores by prompting you to choose just one big task, three medium tasks and five small tasks to tackle in a given day.
37. Then digitize your list. Download a simple to-do list app, so you can access your must-do tasks anywhere and anytime.
38. Look at photos of cute animals. Researchers in Japan found that concentration—which leads to increased productivity—improved 44% after people perused pics of adorable animals.
39. Put the kibosh on website distractions. By downloading SelfControl, a computer app that blocks sites you designate as unproductive, you’ll put a stop to hours spent aimlessly surfing the Internet.
40. Pack your work bag and lunch before bed. This way, nothing will slip your mind during the morning rush.
41. Go for a stroll. Research suggests that taking a walk can increase productivity by improving blood circulation and alertness. If you don’t have time to head outside, a few paces around the office will also do the trick.
42. Tabulate the value of your time. Our Time Worth Calculator boils your hours down to dollars to decipher exactly what is and isn’t worth your precious minutes—like whether to stay on hold with your cable provider!
43. Put the finishing touches on one project. Interruptions are common in the workplace, so take ten minutes to wrap up something that you’ve almost finished.
45. Prepare snacks for the week. Spend ten minutes cutting up fruit and veggies, so you have a quick and healthy nosh on hand when you’re rushing out the door.
46. Dump your junk. Spend ten minutes cleaning out your miscellaneous drawer, so you don’t have to waste time digging for items in the future. When you have the opportunity, you can organize the remaining items with these helpful tips.
49. Create five filters in your email. Set up labels and filters for major categories of correspondence—like clients, events and travel reservations—that will automatically categorize your messages in the future. (If you use Gmail, here’s a simple tutorial on how to do this.)
50. Draft a “done list.” Jot down everything that you have completed today. It will make you feel more accomplished and ready to tackle your agenda for tomorrow!