How to Work Better and Accomplish More

Paul Jarvis is a web designer and bestselling author, who’s obsessed with nature and hairless rats. His latest book, Everything I Know, is a guide to freelancing as a creative professional (without living on ramen noodles or settling for bad clients).


I’ve been told that I get a lot of work done quickly. Both in terms of client work I take on, as well as the sheer number of side-projects and hobbies I’ve got on the go at any given time. Here are a few of the things I’ve figured out that work for me.

  • Unsubscribe from any newsletter you don’t immediately want to devour. The less full your inbox is, the less you have to deal with and the less you have to filter through when the next email comes in.
  • If an email that doesn’t require a response or action, archive it. A ‘zero inbox’ is a truly wonderful thing. Use your inbox as a todo list, and archive emails you don’t need.
  • Use one program at a time. If you aren’t using social media, keep it closed. If you’ve finished checking email, close that. If you aren’t browsing the web, close your browser. Don’t even leave something open in the background. Multitasking makes it hard to focus and makes tasks take longer (because you’re constantly distracted).
  • Turn off every notificationThis includes notifications of new emails, new likes, new mentions. Everything. If it appears on your screen, turn it off while you’re working.
  • Focus in tiny increments. 30-45 minutes at a time or so. Then take a break, stretch, pee, drink some water, stare blankly out the window, check social media. Stop after a minute or two, then get back to it.
  • If you’re frustrated, leave. Get some air, eat a snack, meditate for 10 minutes. Come back with a fresh mind.
  • Donate your television. It’s amazing how much you can get done in a day if you aren’t passively sitting on a couch and staring at moving pictures.
  • Keep a log of what you eat during the day and how you feel afterwards. You’d be amazed at how food affects your mental state. It can make you tired, hyper or unable to concentrate. So figure out what foods do that and avoid them. You’ll probably also see a correlation between fresh, whole foods and being able to focus more.
  • Follow fewer people on social mediaRemove folks you aren’t finding value in. It’s nothing personal, and you can still think they are awesome people. Focus on relationships and value, and less on the numbers game.
  • Work at your peak time. Everyone has a time of the day when they seem to be able to focus more and get more done. During that time, turn off your phone and email, never schedule meetings and remove distractions.
  • Turn off emails from social media networks. Do you really need to know when someone friends you? Mentions you? Suggests a book? Invites you to an event? Don’t let those networks bombard your inbox with notifications. You can log into these networks and check messages, mentions or likes when that’s what you’re actually doing.

It’s funny how hours spent on a task can be used as a badge of honour.

Don’t work hard, work better because busyness doesn’t equal productivity.

Make tasks take less time, so you can accomplish more and then have time for other, better things.

Know that efficiency doesn’t (and shouldn’t) work for everything or every situation. Don’t be efficient with: spending time with loved ones, laughing until your stomach hurts, cuddling with pets or walking in the woods. Things like that don’t need time-limits, end games or any goals. The more you lose yourself in these, the better they are.

Title Photo Credit: flickr