Like money, productivity gains compound over time. A few minutes gained here and a few minutes gained there add up--particularly if you keep up your efforts. That's the gist of a recent blog post from Sam Altman, the president of startup accelerator Y Combinator. "If you get 10 percent done, 1 percent better every day compared to someone else, the compound difference is massive," he explains in the post.
Here are Altman's eight tips for maximizing productivity gains over time:
1. Cut your losses. "It doesn't matter how fast you move if it's in the wrong direction," says Altman. It's important to develop strong beliefs and confidence in your ideas, or you will lose morale and momentum working on things you don't care about.
2. Take breaks. Altman leaves room in his schedule to read, spend time in nature, and hang out with interesting people. Exposing himself to new ideas helps him think about his work priorities.
3. Do what you love. It's hard to be productive working on things you don't care about or don't like. If you can, delegate the tasks to avoid losing momentum.
4. Make time for learning. Understand that you can learn anything you want, and that you can get better at performing a task quickly that will increase your productivity. Having smart, positive colleagues who can push you will inspire you to work harder.
5. Set goals, make lists. Altman makes lists of what he wants to accomplish each year, each month, and each day, and recommends starting and ending each day with something you can really make progress on. If you take the time to make a list and prioritize your goals, you will generate momentum and increase your productivity.
6. Just say no. Be ruthless about saying no to tasks that are low priority, as they will only slow you down. Most meetings can be done in 15 to 20 minutes; most longer meetings waste a lot of time.
7. Work smarter. Chasing productivity for its own sake isn't helpful. Once you've prioritized your tasks, get to work on them.
8. Optimize your lifestyle. Figure out the best sleep routine for you. Make sure you exercise enough and that you have a healthy diet. If you aren't healthy, you won' be able to do your best work. Configure your workspace to suit your working style and eliminate distractions to focus on getting things done.