If you want to get all of your work done so you can go home two hours earlier, you have to eliminate two hours’ worth of activities. You won’t find all two hours in one place; it will be more like five minutes here and 10 minutes there.
Start by examining how you’re spending your time. Look at the tasks on your Master List and your Daily List, and consider all unscheduled tasks.
For each, ask these two questions:
- Was this the best use of my time?
- Was I doing the right task at the right time?
You should categorize the tasks that you handled:
- Which could have been eliminated?
- Which could have taken less of my time?
- Which could I have delegated?
- Which could I have batched with similar tasks?
This analysis should suggest ways to manage your time better in the future. How could you plan, organize, and prioritize better? Are you working on everything but the right task? Try to be painstakingly honest about what you could improve.
The key for most people is to start with the morning. If you’re a morning person, that’s where you can make the greatest productivity gains. If not, then look at the afternoon. The early afternoon is best; it’s generally a mistake to leave important tasks until the late afternoon or to try to do them after hours. About 90 percent of all productivity gains typically occur in the first part of your day.
How could you set up each day so you could start faster, work with more discipline, and get more done in the morning? Organize before you leave work rather than when you arrive. Minimize the time you spend “relationship building” the first thing in the morning.
Here are four recommendations for finding time:
Anticipate problems: Schedule realistically, aware of things that might go wrong, rather than optimistically. You’re more likely to do tasks right and not waste time as problems surprise you.
Protect your “veggie” time: You should have two “power hours” every day. I recommend the morning, as I outlined in the lesson “Plan for Power.” This is when you should do your “veggies.”
Prevent and limit interruptions: The biggest problem productivity killer people encounter today is the sheer number of interruptions they face in the form of e-mails, phone calls, and face-to-face visitors. If you could save two to ten minutes on each interruption you get, that could save you up to 120 minutes a day, or two hours.
Batch similar activities when possible: It may be more efficient to handle (read and write) e-mail, answer voice mail, and make other phone calls in chunks of time—15 minutes as a break or an hour between bigger tasks.
“We shall never have more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.”