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Productivity Tips to Maximize Your Minutes

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Top 10 Time Tactics:

Tip #1 - Be First

The #1 timing strategy.
  • Be first to reply. If you participate in a group chat, messaging or email chat group, a fast response can set the tone for follow-on replies. If you are first to respond, you can manipulate the group’s response with a quick message; your attitude will likely be adopted by others and scare away conflicting opinions. People are often afraid to argue in a fish bowl: Everyone behaves differently with an audience.

  • Be first in negotiating. The first party to make an offer puts an anchor point on the table — a number which creates cognitive traction that can provide an overwhelming advantage. Listen, then make an initial offer, then sell the other party on why it’s unbudgeable.

  • Be first in a fight. Run, hide, de-escalate ... but if violence cannot be avoided, disable your opponent without delay. If you give your opponent a chance to land the first blow, you risk starting Round 2 already injured — a strategic disadvantage.

  • Be first to respond. Create an email rule to text you when the boss emails. On server-based systems like Gmail or Outlook, you can arrange to signal your cell phone, using your vendor’s email-to-text facility. To send an alert about your boss's email to a mobile device, set up a rule (or filter) to send a notification to your 10-digit phone #:

    AT&T:            1234567890@txt.att.net
    Sprint:           1234567890
    T-Mobile:        1234567890@tmomail.net
    Verizon:         1234567890@vtext.com
    Virgin Mobile: 1234567890@vmobile.com

    When an email from your boss is received, you’ll be alerted instantly by text sent to your phone number.

“Be First, Be Smarter or Cheat”
— Shay Kun

Speed moving. My first job out of college was to work as assistant to Richard Meltzer, founder and chairman of the advertising agency, Meltzer, Aron & Lemen. He was a gray eminence in the advertising biz and I knew I would learn a lot from him, but it turned out a bit differently than I expected. He was selling his piece of the firm to an advertising mogul from Palo Alto, and retiring to create a solo marketing consulting firm. We worked out of his top floor corner office with a fabulous view of San Francisco Bay. But, a few months in, we were suddenly in crisis. The new partner didn’t bring with him the promised clients, and as the 1980s recession kicked in, expected work didn’t materialize — but they had already hired the staff. As cash started to bleed, I was told confidentially of one tactic they used: They paid the payroll taxes, but stalled issuing the payroll checks. (Non-payment of taxes is a federal crime.) As the situation darkened, we learned the firm was going to declare bankruptcy on Monday; so over the weekend we moved our office — from one high-rise tower to another at their prestige address, One Market Plaza. To avoid damage to his reputation, he decided he needed to be somewhere else on the day the firm collapsed.

Timing can change the perception of facts.

Tip #19 - Strategies

Fire the Big Guns First. Put your best foot forward. Always lead with your strongest material. If you begin your presentation with the most convincing points — and establish credibility — your remaining arguments will seem more compelling. Strut your best stuff first in your job or school application, résumé, screenplay, story, sales pitch, article, speech — or courtroom plea! It’s a hard fact of life: most readers will sample the beginning and move on if it doesn’t speak to them. Classic advice to screenwriters: Put your all into the first ten pages.

“Don't forget that the only two things
people read in a story are the
first and last sentences.
Give them blood in the eye on the first one.”

— Herbert Bayard Swope
Sometimes, our safety is in our speed. Kayaking alone in San Francisco Bay, I paddled to the far edge of a small bay where I decided to investigate an urban canal that branched into Sausalito. To do this, I had to lift my kayak out of the water and carry it across a paved bike path which curved along the waterfront. I approached the path cautiously, and set down my boat parallel to it. I looked and listened, but detected no danger, so I began the awkward motion of picking up the kayak, turning it perpendicular to the path, and walking across. If there was ever a fateful moment in my life, this was it. As I stood and put the boat in motion, a bike raced around the curve and sped past me. If I had moved a second earlier, I would have blocked the path in time to meet a speeding metal frame carrying a couple hundred pounds of flesh; the bike would have sliced through my plastic boat (and maybe parts of me), and catapulted the rider into the Bay. I was astonished at the carnage I avoided.
Approach new frontiers with caution — fast or slow?

Tip #23 - Strategies

Hedge your bets. Anticipate likely risks. Scan or photocopy the contents of your wallet. Copy key cell phone contacts onto paper and keep in your car or wallet. When traveling, carry a copy of your passport on your person. Use your cell phone or camera to carry images of your passport, drivers license, etc. — and your luggage (in case of loss). Joggers and bikers: carry your ID and medical card. Backup your computer data monthly or weekly. Wear your safety belt. Review your credit report annually. Gather referrals or business cards for computer and auto repair.

“Don't let yourself fall into 'empty.'
Keep cash in the house.
Keep gas in your tank.
Keep an extra roll of toilet paper squirreled away.
Keep your phone charged.”

— Gretchen Rubin
Hitler's wedding-by-wireless. During the summer before college, I worked in a couple branch offices of Bank of America. The Operations Officer in one small town branch told me an amazing tale about a customer who died. As is often the case, the safe deposit box had to be drilled open and inventoried for probate. Inside the box they found newspaper articles and a videotape of a TV news interview laying out the box-holder's remarkable claim:
She married Adolph Hitler! She claimed that she was wed by radio to the leader of Nazi Germany during WWII — she standing on the grounds of the German consulate in San Francisco, he in Berlin — for a wedding-by-wireless. Of course, maybe she was crazy and the claim was just a self-deluding fantasy. On the other hand, it does seem possible that Hitler, in a lucid moment, might have made contingency plans in case Germany lost the war. Perhaps he set up more than one wife-by-wireless to provide a choice of quiet hiding places to run to if the unthinkable happened.
The best time to plan for a contingency is long before you need it.

Tip #32 - Sleep On It

Sleep hygiene. Maximize brain health into old age with good sleep habits. The brain’s sewage system works during deep sleep to remove dementia-causing plaque (amyloid protein). Get the best sleep by keeping the same bedtime and waking time each day. Avoid caffeine after lunchtime; avoid exercise and tech in the hour before bed; make your bedroom dark. Use a clock alarm to soften rising with music/radio. The body wakes to eat, so train your sleep cycle by regularly eating or drinking something you like soon after rising. A TV or smartphone in the bedroom is a mistake.

Recommended: Get to bed by 10:00 pm. Circadian rhythms focus the brain’s plaque-removal process during slow-wave sleep — between 10 pm and 1 am.

“A good laugh and a long sleep
are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”

— Irish saying
Put your dreams to work. Harness your unconscious brain power. As you drift off to sleep, phrase a question in your mind. Your sleeping brain will work on it overnight. When you wake, you will have greater clarity and maybe an answer. Similarly, if you have to tackle an important project tomorrow, review it before you go to bed tonight. (Not advised if insomnia is a problem.)

“It is a common experience that a problem
difficult at night is resolved in the morning
after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”

— John Steinbeck

Tip #37 - Morning Methods

In November, rise an hour earlier, painlessly. Keep the same bedtime, and let the rest of America change its clocks! Become an early riser on the first Sunday in November, when Daylight Saving Time ends, and the whole country sets back the clock to return to Standard Time: simply maintain your usual sleep pattern and reset your morning alarm an hour earlier. Go to bed an hour earlier (by the new clock), with no change in body time. For example, if you normally go to bed at 11 pm and awaken at 7 am, you’ll change your clock, like everyone else, but continue to follow your regular sleep rhythm with a 10 pm bedtime and a 6 am alarm.

“My formula for success?
Rise early, work late, strike oil.”

— J. Paul Getty
Early morning advantage. About 3:00 am, the police entered the 1960s building I lived in, came to my apartment, and knocked loudly on my door. They had come to investigate if I had murdered or kidnapped someone, I suppose. Surprised and groggy, I opened up to hear a strange story. They said a 911 call had been placed from my home; no voice, just a call and disconnect. After they looked around to their satisfaction, they explained that sometimes old equipment malfunctions to cause such calls. They usually investigate early in the morning, at 3 or 4 am, because that’s when people are in deepest sleep and most disoriented when awakened — sleepy and slow to react or make up a lie — the best strategy for what might turn into a chase or a fight.
There’s a best time for everything.

Tip #38 - Morning Methods

Be an early bird.
  • Go early to avoid bumping.
  • Studies show, surgery and airline flights are much more vulnerable to delay in the afternoon. Morning pile-ups make everyone wait.

“Minor surgery is surgery
someone else is having.”

— J. Carl Cook
Make hay while the sun shines. In high school, I took up weight-lifting. After a while playing with sand weights in my back yard, I fell in with a couple of serious power lifters I met at school and began working out with the heavy iron, at a gym, three days a week. Only three months later, I was wearing gym shorts during PE class one day and stood up as I looked down — and was startled to notice that I had developed impressive quadriceps. Proper training at the right time in life — exploiting the surging hormones of an 18-year-old — had made it easy to achieve my goal: muscles.
All things in life are easiest at the right time.

Tip #51 - Tips for Parents

Ban devices overnight. Encourage kids not to use the phone/computer when they should be sleeping. Eliminate late night usage, tweets, texts, and notifications by not allowing phones or devices in the bedroom after bedtime. A recent study found that daily screen-time in excess of 4 hours caused behavioral disorders in kids aged 9 to 11.

“The serpent, the king, the tiger, the stinging wasp, the small child, the dog owned by other people, and the fool: these seven ought not to be awakened from sleep.”
— Chanakya

Tip #61 - Tools

Send email on schedule. Don’t stress your subordinates (or family) by sending Sunday or late-night lightning bolts. Do motivate them with timely alerts/advice. Schedule messages in your email software to launch when recipients will be awake and most receptive.
Use timing to show you care.

Tip #77 - Timing Trends

Avoid the crowd. Save time and money, and gain flexibility, by following the path less traveled: Be a contrarian investor. Vacation during the off-season. Go camping or visit crowd attractions (museums and amusement parks) on a weekday while everyone else is working. Shop at busy stores in the morning, early in the week. Delay your visit to that popular tourist site until the relaxed priorities of late afternoon. Expect a crowd if you visit a restaurant right after it’s reviewed. Go to the movies on Mondays; skip free days at museums. Watch for sales to exploit seasonal bargains (toys and swimwear in January, skis and winter coats in March, candy after Halloween, gas grills in Nov-Dec). Plan a year ahead.

“Swim upstream.
Go the other way.
Ignore the conventional wisdom.”

— Sam Walton
Monday night end run. In 1992, I was elected President of the San Francisco PC Users Group, the oldest and largest personal computer club on the West Coast. They liked me, so I served for 2½ years. Along the way, I tackled a timing issue: During football season, attendance was poor because we had our meetings on the second Monday each month. Many members preferred to watch Monday Night Football on TV rather than go to Monday night meetings. So, with great effort to counter inertia, I engineered a change to third Tuesdays. After that, our attendance grew throughout my term — until the internet eventually put us out of business by providing such a convenient and effective tool for self-learning.
Everything has its own timing.

Tip #83 - Timing Trends

Thursdays online: Post ads or listings early on the web so buyers researching on Thursday and Friday nights will see your listing in time for weekend action — if you really want to sell that couch on Craigslist, promote a rental on Airbnb, or list a house for sale on Zillow ... (Property listings often update on Tuesday.)

“A whopping 89 percent of buyers start their home search online. How your house looks online is the modern equivalent of 'curb appeal.' Rent a wide-angle lens and good lighting, get rid of your clutter and post at least eight great photos to win the beauty contest.”
— Barbara Corcoran
Just-in-time Judo. In my years at Cal, I took a series of martial arts classes. Harmon gym provided the uniforms, but we had to wash them — or suffer the consequences. One weekend, I did my laundry, including my Judo gi. Washing is a slow business, relaxing. But the spin cycle is fast, and therein is potential energy for disaster. As my laundry spun dry, the heavy material and reinforced collar of my gi held water; bunched in a corner, it shifted the machine’s spin off balance. The washer began to vibrate. And wobble. I reappeared on the scene just in time. My stroll toward the machine turned into a mad dash as I saw it shaking and ‘walking’ off its concrete pad. A guy loading a machine nearby noticed and threw his hip against the washer to stabilize it — to no avail. A moment later, I was on it and flipped the door up to halt the spin — and avert disaster.
Monitor carefully and allow lots of time for new endeavors.

Tip #93 - Tame the Telephone

Do not call! Politely interrupt fund-raisers and phone surveys with this pleasant and direct mantra:
"Please put me on your
Do Not Call list — Good luck!”

“For a list of ways technology
has failed to improve
the quality of life,
please press 3.”

— Alice Kahn
The Collections Desk. My senior year in high school, I took an R.O.P. class in Banking, and had the opportunity to intern in several local banks. Initially, once a week, I got to sit beside the Collections Desk at a Bank of America branch, where the big money flowed in and out of accounts electronically. It was in fact a big, boxy, gray steel desk, with a handy pull-out writing panel at the side I could use for note-taking. To prevent theft, fund transfers (wires) used complex authentication codes which changed with the day and time; procedures and passwords were posted on a page of paper called the ‘Code-Key,’ kept in a secure drawer of the Collections Desk. I didn’t know it existed, until it disappeared. It mysteriously went missing, and suddenly the branch was in turmoil over a potentially damaging breach, possibly the first step of a major theft. Two investigators came down from San Francisco HQ; everybody was interviewed — except me. When I arrived the next day at my usual time and assumed my usual place at the Collections Desk, I pulled out the writing panel — and the Code-Key popped out! Apparently, it had been placed on the panel, closed, jammed into the desk — and stuck. It had been opened in the search, but I was the lucky one who happened to open it again, after sufficient time had elapsed for the paper to become unstuck.
Good timing is better than luck!

Tip #97 - Paying Bills

"Charge It" — after your closing date. Delay large credit card purchases until the day after your billing period ends — to maximize float and ease cash flow. It’s worth $4.17 for each $1,000 payment you delay for a month (30 days at 5% APR).

“Credit cards are like snakes:
Handle 'em long enough,
and one will bite you.”

— Elizabeth Warren
Well-timed lesson. A house on fire! We heard the sirens in the night. I was only 3 years old, so it was a big deal when my two brothers (ages 5 and 8) led me on a dangerous mission a couple days later — across the street and down the block. We wanted to see what the fire had done. The abandoned house was dark and empty, scorched but relatively un-damaged. I remember the smoky smell as we explored and found a prize — a box of cigars forgotten in a dresser drawer. When we got home, we begged to smoke one. Our Dad, in his infinite wisdom, agreed. In turn, we each took a puff, promptly turned green, and erupted in coughing.
After this timely lesson, none of us ever thought to take up smoking.

Tip #98 - Computer

Search for exact text.
- When trouble-shooting a computer problem, do an internet search for the precise error message you received and you’ll get directly to comments from people who’ve been exactly there before you.
- When shopping for a specific product, search for the model #.
- Before heading to the airport, to see if your flight is on time, search for the airline + flight#.
- Search for a small piece “er pr” as your search text instead of “computer problem” — it’s easier to type and a faster search.

“To err is human,
but to really foul things up,
you need a computer.”

— Paul Erlich
“Testing, testing.” In 1980, I got early exposure to personal computers by using a Radio Shack TRS-80 in my Treasury duties at Cal-Can. A software developer named John Cormack created a program for us that analyzed operating vs. capital leases, in accord with the new accounting rule, FASB 13. He told me the cautionary tale of how one of his programmers had created a game for the Atari in BASIC. After testing, it was deemed ready to ship. But the programmer, a teenager, wanted to maximize available memory (ridiculously tight in the early days of PCs) to speed up the game. He ran it through a program that removed all the spaces between the codes. This had always worked before, but in this code an ASC (Ascii) command joined with another to produce a bug. After nationwide distribution, it was learned that the game wouldn’t run! The mistake was in the timing of the testing — important at every phase of software development, but critical at the end.
Testing is good, but time it right.

Tip #100+ - bonus tip!

Time it right and there really is a free lunch!

Free on your birthday.

Top ten quotes about time and timing.
  1. “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” — Leo Tolstoy
  2. “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” (Parkinson’s Law) — C. N. Parkinson
  3. “In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  4. “If my doctor told me I only had six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” — Isaac Asimov
  5. “Time and I against any two.” — Baltasar Gracian
  6. “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.” — Hector Louis Berlioz
  7. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
  8. “Buy on the cannons, sell on the trumpets.” — London financier Nathan Rothschild
  9. “Chance favors the prepared mind.” — Louis Pasteur
  10. “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” — Peter Drucker

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