3 Productivity Experiments I’m Conducting

I'm currently going through a re-vamping, refining, and re-evaluating phase of all my business and productivity systems, and I thought it might be useful to you if I shared some ideas I'm trying out.


I'm telling you right up front these items are EXPERIMENTAL. If they prove successful, I'll have more to say here in the future about them.

1.Three-Sentence Emails.
I have tried this one before, abandoned it, and am now giving it another go. If you receive a lot of email, you know what it's like to feel overloaded by it. This is a personal policy that all email responses (regardless of recipient or subject ) will be three sentences or less. Read more at http://three.sentenc.es/ Here's my latest twist: While I am practicing this policy, I have not included the e-mail signature explaining it. So far, I have not received a single complaint. Apparently, nobody is upset that my e-mails are not long enough.

2. Fifteen Minute Meetings. Most meetings will be 15 minutes or less. That's my default meeting length. If it needs to be longer, we can negotiate in 15 minute blocks. If it needs to be longer than 45 minutes, we'd better be working on something like the Middle East Peace Talks or nuclear disarmament.

3. Free Days.  This is something I have tried to enforce in days gone by, failed, “reset the clock”, and tried again. I “fell of the wagon” on this one again recently. Embarrassing. But, as it says in the Book of Proverbs, “though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again”. So here's the practice I'm aiming for… a “free day” is one in which there is no business activity of any kind: no emails, no blogs, no IMs, no phone calls, no reading articles, no business books… nothing. Right now, I have at least one scheduled Free Day per week (Sundays). The purpose is to allow for real refreshing, rejuvenation, and creativity to arise. My goal is to eventually reach 3 Free Days per week. This does not mean that I'll be spending 3 days a week doing nothing... these days will be filled with family time, spiritual and charitable pursuits, and yes, even recreation. For more on this, see Dan Sullivan's “The Time Breakthrough”.

 Question: what productivity tricks have you been testing lately, and what is working well?

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

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  • Thanks Ray,
    I have used the “eat the frog” concept after making a list of priorities (task list).
    But I always ask the Lord for Wisdom and Favor and Insight to help me tackle issues that seem too complicated (I pray James 1:5 all the time)
    So – I set up a task list of all the things that need to be done for a day that are in alignment with my goals, family goals, client needs and then I tackle the “frogs” first and find that it gives me energy because I know the toughest stuff is out of the way in the first half of the day – then I enjoy the rest of the day’s more creative activities like working on other projects that I am growing on the side.  Hope this makes sense.
    Also- if one of the frogs takes longer and it begins to drain me – I table it an pray over it some more and ask God for wisdom – James 1:5
    Thanks for this post – I like the 15 minute thing and the short emails. . .  also helps you improve your writing by being succint – which my response was clearly not here!
    God Bless-

  • williammcpeck

    Three sentence replies Ray seem arbitrary to me.  As a two fingered typist, my strategy is to think about what my email reply should be.  If it is an amount I can easily type, I do so.  Otherwise, my reply is that if they want an answer, call me at  X time for an answer.  Some call, some don’t.  (Oops, two sentences too many already!)
    As an employee, I can see where it would be harder to limit meetings to 15 minutes when I am an invitee.  I will test out making meetings 15 minutes for the meetings I call.
    Business free days are good for the body, mind and soul.  Be resolute!

  • StuMcLaren

    I’m a BIG fan of the email trick as well – only mine is 5 sentences (maybe I’ll graduate to 3 someday LOL).  
    However, I DO leave the signature because I find people respond the same way when they know that it’s a priority for me – therefore saving me from having to read long winded responses.  
    There are three “time hacks” that I’ve been playing with lately…
    1)  The Baby Stopwatch
    Our baby girl Marla usually wakes up between 6-6:30am and my Daddy Duty shift starts as soon as she gets up (that means work stops for at least 3-4 hours).  So what I’ve been doing is getting up at 5am and racing to get as much work completed before she gets up.  
    I’ve been doing this for the last 3 weeks and it’s been working great (it almost feels like a challenge to see how much I can get accomplished before Marla wakes up).
    I know new fathers like adii and robbsutton  as well as Dads with young ones like patflynn , zen_habits and _ryanlee  could definitely relate… it ain’t easy to get work done when it’s Daddy time 🙂

    2)  Computer Battery
    Another habit I’ve developed is to unplug the power from my computer and work until the battery dies.  Again, it’s a race against time – only this one you can’t press “snooze”.
    When the battery completely dies, it takes several minutes for it to become functional again after you plug it in.  This forces me to take a break, stretch, do some pushups, grab a drink of water etc. 
    In the busyness of the day, it’s these little things that get lost but can make all the difference.

    3)  Use:  www.Followup.cc
    If you ever feel stressed because of email, go setup an account with followupcc .  It’s such a simple tool but saves me a LOT of headaches.
    Essentially what it does is resend an email back to you at a specific time.  So instead of “starring” or marking an email as “unread” and then trying to remember to come back to it, you simply resend it to yourself.
    For example, let’s say I needed to follow up with someone in 3 days.
    Instead of trying to remember to follow up or clogging my calendar, I simply forward the email to 3d@followup.cc.  It then resends the email to me in 3 days so that it’s at the top of my inbox.
    That way I can mark the email as “read”, move on and not worry (and my inbox isn’t full of “unread” messages).
    It’s genius.
    You can schedule emails to be sent at a specific time, date, period of time (2 days, weeks, months) as well as all kinds of other combos.
    It’s been one of the most refreshing tools I’ve used and I HIGHLY recommend it.

    Whoop… there it is – 3 of my productivity hacks 🙂

  • Love the 3 sentence emails! Can’t always do it…but short replies are so much easier on the reader and on my productivity.
    After a transition from the US to Africa I found myself unable to use several systems that depended on being ‘plugged in’. 
    Am now working on a simple notebook in the pocket, left pages are projects and coming to-do’s and the right page is the action steps that need to be done. Each night move from left to right as needed. Each morning, pick the one on the right most needed to be done and do it. Then move to the next most important.
    So far I am liking it, but still refining. 

  • TheEmailWriter

    For myself, the good old fashioned timer. I write ten times faster with a timer ticking away. If I don’t use a timer then I find myself wasting whole days editing the same few paragraphs.
    I love your suggestions. I like the idea of free days.
    I tried that with my Sundays for a while and it worked till I stopped doing it.

  • Hi Ray,
    I found that starting my 24 hours off on Saturday evening and then going until Sunday evening worked a lot better for me.  It allowed me to have a fun free evening and then a great day with God and family and then in the evening I can plan out my week. 

  • JRogier

    Man, each one of these ideas really hits home with me.  Lately things are getting out of balance in terms of work/life separation. I will give it all a try myself!  Thank you so much! 

  • Ray Eickhoff

    Love the 3 line email. If I can’t do this, I will pick up the phone and call!

  • Milafel

    I love free days, and I think Sunday is good. I even call it my lazy day since I hardly do anything productive at all.