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The 3 Most Crucial Time Saving Strategies (by the way, they’re easy!)

The 3 Most Crucial Time Saving Strategies (by the way, they’re easy!)

There is just never enough time in the day to do it all, is there?

That’s one of the biggest issues people face when trying to be productive and effective. Too many jobs have an infinite capacity for work; you could do your job for 60, 80, or even 100 hours per week and still find stuff to do, right?

I believe that not only is the ‘forty-hour work week’ a total misconception, it is actually a damaging belief that many of us have been raised with and are now trapped by. When we are at a job that has a contractual agreement of some kind to do a set number of hours per week, we will fill those hours with work … regardless of our actual workload.

And when you really think about it, how illogical is it for companies to base staff contracts on hours rather than output? It makes no sense for successful profits or other results.

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I have been fortunate enough to have received advanced training from a range of coaches and mentors on effective time-saving strategies. Not just managers trying to figure out how to get the most out of me within 40 hours, but people who have figured out how to be 50-100% more effective than their counterparts, in half the time.

Today, I would like to share my three top tips with you. The idea is that while any one of these strategies will greatly reduce time-wastage (doing more in less time and much less effort), the idea is to combine them all. These tips are just scratching the surface, and I highly recommend you research further into each of these principles:

1. The 80/20 rule of nature—Pareto’s Principle

Most high-achievers are generally good at prioritizing, but most are terrible at being able to let the lower priority tasks go uncompleted. Many of us will complete high priority tasks first, but then still spend many hours struggling through all of the other tasks, trying to reach the mythical ‘empty in-box’. If you are in a job that could provide enough work to keep you infinitely occupied, then you are chasing a rainbow. Most jobs can fit this description.

I believe we tend to fear ‘missing something important’, so we try do it all. Paradoxically, in doing this we actually compromise the quality of our most important work—a much greater risk to our career!

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The Pareto Principle, a term coined by famous quality and performance researcher Joseph M. Juran, suggests that most circumstances in life follow this rule of nature: 80% of outcomes come from 20% of inputs.

In context, this means that most of your results are actually generated by a small portion of your time and efforts. Only 20% of the work you currently do is actually important to the results expected of you. It also indicates that the other 80% of the effort you are putting in will only be getting you 20% of the outcomes you desire.

I recommend that for the next month, you set aside 15-30 minutes per week where you will not get interrupted. During this time try this exercise:

  • Write down your entire task list of everything you do for work (later you can apply this exercise to your entire life—that’s when things really start to shift!) This includes everything from major activities and projects, down to answering emails and phones.
  • Write down a summary of what outcomes or results are expected of you—e.g. % of sales, things built, contracts written etc.—that are most crucial to your success.
  • Now go back to your full task list and uncompromisingly select the 20% of those (one in five) most directly linked to those outcomes and results. These are now your highest priority tasks, and your goal should be to increase the effort you expend in these.
  • Then go back to the remaining tasks on the list and rate them in terms of importance from least to most (e.g. one to five scale). The smaller the number, the more pointless the activity—these are your ‘80%’ activities. For each of the 20% activities you increase, you need to make room by decreasing or simply not doing one of these 80% activities.

Another way to do this is to ask yourself, “If I had to produce the same weekly results but I had to work one day less per week, what would I need to reduce or stop doing?”

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Over time, with trial-and-error experimentation, you will become really clear about what matters and what actually doesn’t matter. You need to let things go, and sometimes you need to allow small negative things to happen in order to make room for much larger positive outcomes.

2. The email trap

I once did a totally informal little study where I found that I lost about four to six hours per week, simply transitioning from what I was doing to check my emails (and back again). This is a completely unproductive activity. All this does is:

  • Eat up hours where nothing is produced.
  • Force you to try and ‘find your place’ again in the incomplete task you were doing (which is more time lost and a complete loss of momentum).
  • Create anxiety about the new emails you now see as pending tasks, which will distract you until you deal with them.

I have since found the solution. I currently have an annoying auto-responder email message saying I only check emails at 11am and 3pm, and including my mobile number “if it’s urgent”. You don’t have to do this, but let’s look at the concept behind it:

  • By only checking emails twice per day, I force people to only contact me urgently when issues are genuinely urgent, which has cut down distractions by about 60-70% (seriously!)
  • 95% of emails do not need an urgent response and can wait a couple of hours. By dealing with emails in bulk, you cut down significantly on distraction and transition time. Teach others to not use email as a form of urgent communication.
  •  I only ‘touch’ emails once each. They are either turned into a task for later (so I can forget about it for now), dealt with there and then (for anything that will take me less than one minute), or they are deleted/archived.

3. Eating the Big Ugly Frog

My coach, Phil Drolet, taught me this one. It is amazing how distracting it is to have a big, ugly task looming in the back of your mind. Your inner attention keeps looking at it while you are trying to focus. This is usually a task that is:

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  • Time intensive, or
  • Involves conflict, or
  • Perceived to be difficult (but in my experience usually turns out to be OK).

Try this for a week and see how you feel: Make ‘eating the big ugly frog’ (i.e. doing the hardest task) the first thing you do every day, even before you check emails or reply to phone messages. There are a few roles that require emails be checked first thing in the morning, but even then it’s usually only a few that need reviewing.

Believe it or not, you are most productive at the beginning of your shift. Use this energy to destroy that anxiety-provoking task, to give you complete peace of mind for the rest of the day. When applied alongside the 80/20 principle, doing this task is usually also the most effective thing you could do that day!

I also often see people bouncing around between two or three tasks of equal priority, instead of just doing one at a time. If this is you, I guarantee that you are losing hours per week, without gaining anything out of it! Research ‘mindfulness techniques’ and learn to do one thing at a time. Have a detailed to-do list that categorizes everything in terms of importance/priority, and then do each activity one by one. If applied properly, anything left over at the end of the day probably doesn’t even need to be done!

These days, it is pretty common for me to have nothing of importance to do after about 11:30am, simply because I follow these rules. Bring freedom into your life, by first letting go of the myth of the ‘eight-hour work day’, and second by disciplining yourself to follow these rules. Counterintuitively, there is freedom in following rules. Try it for a few weeks and tell me I’m wrong!

Have yourselves a productive, effective, time saving and carefree week!

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019

10 Best Ted Talks About Procrastination That Will Ignite Your Motivation

10 Best Ted Talks About Procrastination That Will Ignite Your Motivation

There are two types of people in this world; one who wants to complete their work as early as possible and one who wants to delay it as much they can. The first category of this depicts ‘precrastinators’ and the latter one are termed as ‘procrastinators’.

Much has been researched and published about procrastination; most of the studies terming it as detrimental to one’s health and adding to stress levels. Though, there are ‘procrastinating apologists’ as you would call them who proclaim there are a few benefits of it as well. But scientists have argued that the detriments of procrastination far outweigh the short-term benefits of it.

Everybody procrastinates, but not everybody is a procrastinator. Procrastination is habitual, not situational.

For an employee, it means piling up work until the end hours of their shift and then completing it in a hurry. For a student, it means not studying for an exam that is due the next week and cramming up the whole book one night before.

If you fall into this category, do not worry, there have also been articles published and speeches given by successful leaders on how procrastinators aren’t so bad after all.

Here are 10 of the best Ted Talks about procrastination that will help you regain motivation:

1. Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, by Tim Urban

Tim Urban gives his funny uptake on procrastination and dives deep into how a procrastinator’s mind functions. He goes ahead and tells the audience about how ‘precrastinators’ have a rational decision-maker in their mind but in a procrastinator’s mind, there are two other entities existing — the ‘instant gratification monkey’ and ‘the panic monster’

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From the video, you will learn how to stay aware of the ‘instant gratification monkey’ whenever you have to complete a task.

2. The Surprising Habits Of Original Thinkers, by Adam Grant

In this video, Adam Grant builds on the concepts of ‘instant gratification monkey’ and ‘the panic monster,’ and marks a balance between ‘precrastinators’ and procrastinators giving existence to a productive and creative persona.

He talks about how a lot of great personalities in the course of history were procrastinators giving an example of Martin Luther King Jr. delaying the writing of his speech. ‘I have a dream’ was not in the script but was an original phrase by the leader; he opened himself to every possible avenue by not going with the script.

You can learn about how one has to be different and better rather than be the first-mover, going deep into the correlation between original thinkers and procrastinators.

3. An End To Procrastination, by Archana Murthy

According to a survey,[1] 20% of Americans are chronic procrastinators. Study after study shows chronic procrastination isn’t just laziness and poor time-management, but is actually a byproduct of negative emotions such as guilt, anxiety, depression and low self-worth — which is different from the contrary belief.

Archana Murthy gives us an insight into the procrastinator’s plight and provides ways to help the procrastinator in you.

For a fellow procrastinator, you should check out her good advice on how to end it.

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4. Why We Procrastinate, by Vik Nithy

Vik Nithy has already found 23 companies before coming to give his speech on procrastination. He puts forward the structure of our brain, showing the prefrontal cortex as the intelligent one telling us to complete the assignment due next day.

Procrastinators are threatened by complex work which gives them anxiety and that is where Amygdala comes in telling us to find pleasure in other activities.

Going ahead, you’ll from him how to overcome procrastination i.e. planning for goals, time, resources, process, distractions, and for failure.

5. Trust The Procrastinator, by Valerie Brown

Frankly, this is one of the best speeches on procrastination given on the TedTalks platform. Valerie Brown tells us that we live in a society where every body wants everything right now and procrastinators aren’t in those ‘right-now’ people.

She gives us an example of great procrastinators like Leonardo Da Vinci, who regarded himself as a failure at one point of time and took 16 years to complete the Mona Lisa. She gives us another perspective on procrastinators that it isn’t necessarily bad for one’s career or health.

6. Procrastination Is The Key To Problem Solving, by Andrea Jackson

Andrea Jackson gives us her two categories of procrastinators: the accidental procrastinators and the deliberate procrastinators. She puts Leonardo Da Vinci in the former category and Thomas Edison in the latter one.

There is a part where she labels procrastinators as unlocking a supersonic jigsaw puzzle in their head when they procrastinate; it means bringing thousands of ideas in one’s head when one procrastinates and keeps thinking about it. She calls Salvador Dali and Aristotle as deliberate procrastinators where they used to delay work in order to achieve a more creative result.

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In this video, you’ll learn a new perspective about procrastinators.

7. The Vaccination For Procrastination, by Bronwyn Clee

Bronwyn Clee takes us in the psychology of a procrastinator, telling us that fear stops us taking up new work.

She shares how she taught herself to be a decision-maker and not to fear if she will be able to take an action or not. From this video, you will learn how to bring the change in yourself and end procrastination.

8. I’m Not Lazy, I’m Procrastinating, by Victoria Gonzalez

Coming from a millennial, this is more relatable to the younger generation.

Victoria Gonzalez tells us that procrastination has nothing do with time-management skills. In fact, a procrastinator puts off work but with an intention to complete it; lazy people are the opposite of that who don’t even try.

9. Change Anything! Use Skillpower Over Willpower, by AI Wizler

Al Wizler, cofounder of VitalSmarts, gives us an example of her mother’s smoking habits which she wanted to quit but she just couldn’t even after trying for years. Eventually, she died of cancer.

He reminds us to the need to take control of the forces that influence our decisions, rather than letting them take control of ourselves.

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In this video, you’ll learn the importance of self-reflection, identifying your behaviours, and getting to work on it.

10. How To Motivate Yourself To Change Your Behaviour, by Tali Sharot

Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist explains how we behave when put through alternating situations.

She has found that people get to work when they are rewarded for an action immediately. Procrastinators can get themselves to work and reward themselves for it, which will lead to a change in their behaviour if they actually start that process of working sooner and completing it.

In this video, you’ll learn about the role of celebrating small wins and tracking your progress when you’re trying to reach your goals.

The Bottom Line

Procrastinators can find all kinds of advices on TedTalks.

A few of them, defending the idea and proclaiming that it actually allows for a more creative process and one that people shouldn’t feel so guilty about. Some of them, giving suggestions on how to put an end to it and making you a faster worker.

It all depends on how you want to perceive it and if you want to, you can find the cure for this ailment.

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Featured photo credit: Han Chau via unsplash.com

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