The Time Is Now
Trying to cram in 36 hours worth of 'to-dos' in the space of a day? Experts share the time-saving strategies that actually work.
Unless you live in a remote Wi-Fi-free haven, where work emails and demanding bosses miraculously don’t exist, you’re probably struggling to fit breathing into your to-do list most days. The good news is, there are ways to end the mad rush. All you need are these handy timesaving commandments to help you ace work, conquer deadlines, and still have enough room to keep up with your fav Kardashian's tweets every day.
Effective Vs Efficient
It might sound like fancy wordplay, but understanding the difference between "efficiency" and "effectiveness" is the ultimate secret to boosting productivity, says author and business coach Carl Taylor (carltaylor. com.au). “Efficiency is about getting things done as quickly as possible, like ploughing through your Facebook newsfeed in record time, whereas effectiveness is about getting the right things done, such as drafting that important client email.” Bottom line? Pick your battles. In the words of productivity guru Tim Ferriss, “What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it”.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged: the longer you leave something untouched, the scarier it becomes, the concept, known as Parkinson’s Law, applies to pretty much everything, from the increasing amount of mouldy lunches in the office fridge to the 20-page report you’ve been asked to read “ASAP”.In his bestselling book,
The 4-Hour Workweek (Random House, RM30), Ferriss explains that the more time you allot to a project, the more it will “swell in [perceived] importance and complexity”. The solution, he writes, is to schedule critical tasks with “very short and clear deadlines”, as the ticking clock keeps you focused. You’ll be surprised at how much more you accomplish, and it may even give you time to finally clean out that fridge!
The 80/20 Rule
If there’s one important mantra to squeeze into our overworked minds, it’s this: “20 per cent of of what we do makes 80 per cent of difference”. In other words get the best return on your time by focusing on tasks that produce the most high-impact results. This means getting rid of "energy drainers" in your day – like responding to meaningless emails – so that you can spend more time on the genius project that’ll land you a promotion.
Clock On, Clock Off
According to career and productivity coach Faye Hollands (outshineconsulting.com.au) staying back and burning the midnight oil every night is likely to do more harm than good. “Working longer hours reduces your [efficiency], which means you actually get less done. You’ll be more easily distracted, find it difficult to focus, and will ultimately make more errors.” Instead, Hollands believes it’s important to work effectively during the day and go home on time, so you’ll start with a clear head in the morning.
Did you know that every time you get distracted, it takes 20 minutes to get back in the flow? "Instead of writing a to-do list, try writing a "stop-doing" list," says Taylor. "These are all the things you're currently doing that are actually distractions." In addition, Taylor recommends streamlining meetings and limiting your email checks to twice a day (llam and 2pm) rather than replying to every non-urgent query right away.
The Perfect Batch
“Learn to batch activities according to your personality type," recommends executive coach Michelle. Identify whether you're a task focused or a project focused person - that is, whether you're likely to focus better on a single project from start to finish or whether you prefer tackling a batch of similar tasks at the same time, such as returning all your emails or organising all your paperwork.
Just Say No
Are you a compulsive "yes" woman? Taking on new tasks indiscriminately, or being too timid to say no, can lead to a world of deadline woes. "If you're the kind of person who says yes to every request, then it's important that you work out what triggers this response,” says professional organiser Louise D'Allura. Learning to say "no" confidently will help you re-focus on your real priorities.
"We all have better times in our day and better days in our week. These are the times to schedule things that require all of our abilities creativity," says life coach and motivation speaker Ronit Baras (behappyinlife.com). So if you're a morning person, make that the time to tackle your most challenging tasks. “The rest of the time should be dedicated to making creative plans come true, step by step,” says Baras.
Did you know being busy can be a form of laziness? "If you prioritise properly, there's no need to multitask," writes Ferriss. Have no more than two primary goals a day and complete them
The more time you allot to a project, the more it will swell in [perceived] importance. The solution is to schedule critical tasks with short and clear deadlines.
from start to finish without any distraction. “Each task you do will take longer to finish when you’re splitting your attention between different things,” Hollands explains. "Your brain doesn't process multiple tasks simultaneously - it actually flicks back and forth rapidly between them."
Kill Chaos There's no such thing as creative chaos. "A study published in
The Journal of Neuroscience revealed when your environment is cluttered, it limits your brain's ability to process information," says D'Allura. What’s more, a recent survey found that 83 per cent of HR professionals believe the neatness of an employee's office reflects their level of professionalism - meaning a clean desk won’t just save you time, it will probably save your job as well.
Picture The Finish Line
A clear picture of your goals will help you prioritise. Taylor says to be effective, you need to visualise the end result. "With focus, things become simpler and you become more efficient. You'll not only get the result you want, but also get it done faster."