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.

CLEO (Malaysia) - - SMART REPORT -

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”.

Parkin­son’s Law

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.

Ban­ish In­ter­rup­tions

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.

Know Your­self

"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.

For­get Mul­ti­task­ing

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."

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