Yes we all wish to make the most of every minute of every waking hour, but periodically loose sight of that goal.
Here are a few ideas to help you get more done in less time:
- Identify your priorities (and those of your boss) so you know what’s critical and what’s trivial. Then take care of your top priorities first thing in the morning. The rest of your day will flow more easily once you’ve got the important stuff under control.
- Set aside a block of time to return phone calls, texts and answer emails. Of course, urgent messages and phone calls should be returned in a timely manner. But plan a few minutes on a regular schedule on the phone or responding, saving or deleting messages so important emails don’t get lost in the electronic clutter.
- When talking on the phone or in face-to-face conversations, give the other person your full attention. Don’t check your email or fill out your daily planner when you’re talking to someone. Make sure that your communication is clear and focused, which will reduce the need for clarification and other time-wasters in the future.
- Identify quick tasks. Make a list of routine items you can do in five minutes or less. Tackle these when you’ve got a little spare time – between meetings, or waiting for a long document to print. That way they won’t distract you when you need to concentrate, or waste your time when you should be working on more important things.
- Determine whether you really are necessary to meetings. Find out what the meeting is intended to accomplish. Ask yourself, “Do I get anything out of the meeting?” and “Do I contribute anything to the meeting?” If your answers are “no,” ask meeting organizers if your attendance is really necessary or if you can attend only part of the meeting.
- Take good notes. When you’ve got an idea, or realize you need to do something later, write it down. Review your notes regularly so nothing slips away.
- Just say no. Avoid tasks and projects that don’t directly contribute to your primary objectives. Use your list of priorities to identify work that you need to do. Turn down (politely) requests to take on irrelevant work, or negotiate for a deadline that allows you to focus on your key tasks.
- End each day with a plan for the next day. Make a to-do list with reminders about phone calls, meetings and appointments so that you can hit the ground running. When you make and prioritize your to-do list, leave yourself some flexibility to handle interruptions and unplanned tasks that are bound to come up during the day.
Using your time well will become a habit. And it will lead to some shocking revelations, such as getting more done doesn’t always mean doing more things. Sometimes it’s about doing less. Don’t try to schedule every minute of every day. Because that’s when you discover that time can be your enemy as well as your friend.
Harvey Mackay is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of the New York Times #1 bestseller “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” This article also appears on Harvey’s website, and was reprinted with his permission