A common answer to, ‘How’s your day?’ in business circles is generally something along the lines of: I’m stressed, overworked or crazy busy.
Due partially to technology, we end up playing while working and working while playing. What’s more, our rest and leisure and jobs get meshed together until the lines that should distinguish them, don’t.
Our brains don’t know how to turn off anymore because we place them in a constant state of being on. We’re constantly thinking about work, social media, making connections, family obligations, and kids’ schedules, whatever. No wonder doctors on nightly news implore us to get more relaxation and sleep.
Usually, the bag of tricks in time management books and articles emphasize the basics like setting deadlines, breaking big tasks down, replying to emails at noon and keeping to-do lists. Undoubtedly helpful, but aren’t most of us already doing these things?
Consequently, to make any significant improvements to how we prioritize or accomplish important tasks isn’t likely to result from another routine efficiency tune-up. The next level to conquer involves identifying and incorporating new habits.
Here are seven super efficiency-yielding tips that go beyond most time management fundamentals.
- See your summit. Plan your day or week but keep your eye on your organization’s summit. Your summit is the one goal or priority that must be achieved above all else. Get clarity on your summit, identify which activities can get you there and then align time from that vantage point.
- Take a peripheral view. Don’t stop with keeping a to-do list but also keep a won’t-do list. Author Michael Porter said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Knowing what your business won’t do or won’t pursue is a key to not overinvesting in outlying opportunities or initiatives. Leaders that can say no have an advantage when it comes to execution.
- Be adaptive-proactive. It’s important to adapt to changes in the business environment, but not without realizing the implications change can have on your time. When leaders take the initiative to make prioritization decisions, they limit the results if they don’t also decide what time trade-offs are necessary.
- Schedule with a scalpel. Time creep occurs when activity that shouldn’t rob too much of our time, does. The ‘everything’s urgent approach’ to time management is a common limitation on organizational and personal efficiency. Your schedule should align closely with critical issues and goals.
- Collaborate efficiently. Recently I attended a meeting set for 25 minutes; in part I attended to see if it could be done. Surprisingly, it ended on time and I admire the leader for his approach. Unfortunately, collaboration often wastes time because meetings are poorly organized or facilitated, discussions drag on and people leave unclear on follow-up responsibilities.
- Never trash scraps of time. If you have five minutes between meetings use that time to start or finish an email, make a quick phone call or update contact information. Those five minutes quickly add up to over twenty hours a year of additional productivity.
- Manage interruptions aggressively. Studies show that it can take several minutes to get back into the flow of work after an interruption. Obviously, we can’t prevent interruptions altogether, but we can control them better by letting people know when we need undisturbed time.
Recognizing what needs to improve is an important first step to incorporating new habits. But then, it takes meaningful action to get more work done in less time with new control over a crazy busy workload.