Pay-off: the easiest and most realistic way to get more done in less time
Investment: 3 minutes
You want to get more done in less time. I know, I know.
This is easy.
Let’s not make a meal of it.
There are two main parts to your goal here, “less time” and “get more done”.
“Less time” is something you have direct control over.
So deal with this first. You just need to shrink the time available to get the job done. Slice it in half. There’s a knight in the picture above with a sword. You’re going to boldly use your sword to slice your time in half and decide to get the job done in less time. This isn’t for wimps. It’s for the knight in you.
Decide (cut off)
You get to decide how to cut off your time. Decide. Cut off. Did you know the Latin root of that word is decidere – de- ‘off’ + caedere ‘cut’?
A real decision
Worried that you won’t stick to your new self-imposed deadline?
Easy, make a real decision. Worthy of a knight. Schedule a social event or a non-work related appointment to commit to and fill your time up. Now you’ve made a real decision to get your job done in the time available. I’ve always said that you haven’t really decided until you’ve acted on your decision. That’s when you’ve made a real decision. (And you haven’t really committed until you’ve acted again and again, no matter what.)
Right, that’s the “less time” bit dealt with. You now have less time. Simples.
Now for the ‘get more done’ part.
“Get more done”
This is easy too. Nature has got your back.
Since you have less time, you’re going to have to sharpen your focus and attention to get the job done. You don’t have long. Some overconfident nitwit knight cut your time down (I don’t know, perhaps they were trying to heroically put some balance back into your life? I know, crazy.)
The beauty here is that you don’t need to try to sharpen up. It’ll just happen.
You’ve just forced yourself into using your time more wisely. This is called ‘forced efficiency’ and leverages Parkinson’s Law where work expands to fill the time available. No time management course necessary. (You’ve saved time attending one too). You’ve just accelerated your learning of all the main principals they teach…
Instantly manage your time like a pro
You’ll find that you:
- instantly value your time
- focus on the important
- don’t answer phone calls
- don’t check emails
- don’t aimlessly browse websites or float around social media
- say ‘no’ more easily (and from the heart!)
- start considering how to get the job done leveraging things that already exist (rather than reinventing the wheel)
- adopt the entrepreneur’s way of thinking of “how can this get done?” rather than “how can I get this done?”
- delegate better
- avoid perfection
- focus on ‘good enough’
- strip out the nonsense
- work faster
- focus your mind
- get in the zone, in ‘flow’, failing to notice time passing (set an alarm!)
- enjoy your social event or rest time
- have more energy and focus for the next days work
Some thoughts to help get this right
- clarify first what’s most important for you to get done or deliver before slicing your time in half. You need to know what ‘complete’ and ‘good enough’ looks like. Obviously, use this technique tactically.
- you don’t have to slice your time in half, you could estimate how long it would take normally, and take 25% off. You could even take 90% off when you’re a pro, and still it will force your efficiency to consider how to best deliver.
- the thought exercise alone is valuable (“how would I get this job done so that it’s good enough if I only had half the time?”)
- if you’re worried you won’t get it done on time, do this:
- note your actual deadline
- create a virtual deadline a few days before the actual deadline
- convince yourself that this is your new ‘actual’ deadline to commit to and slice the time available between now and then to get the job done (this is about discipline. If you’re bold enough you could use the actual deadline, and truly force yourself into a corner, but you’ll have no room for error, so be careful!)
- I designed a half day workshop once in the one hour before delivering it. Yes, it was risky, but experience and confidence helped me do this. And it turned out to be one of the best workshops I ever delivered as I kept it crisp, simple and remained very flexible to the group. Value for many things has nothing to do with time.
Some questions to sharpen your approach
- If you had just two hours tomorrow to make maximum impact in your job, what would you do?
- If you had just one week to land a new client, how would you do it?
- If you had just 10 minutes to create your next presentation, and step up and deliver it with impact, how would you do it?
- If you had to get your next article written in 15 minutes, how would you do it?
- How could you read that next book in 60 minutes flat (getting at the magic 20% of important info that makes 80% of all the difference, since 80% of a book is usually filler and supporting info)?
- If you worked just 3 days each week, and took 4 days off, how would you maximise your impact and value in those 3 days? How would you make yourself even more valuable to your employer or customers?
- What one thing are you paid most to do?
- What one thing can you do that no one else can do in the way that you do? (Sorry if that sounds like a Brian Adams B-Side.)
What are you working on now?
What does ‘good enough’ look like?
What’s the actual deadline?
What’s a sensible virtual deadline that gives you just enough time to bail yourself out if all else fails?
What’s 50% of your estimated time for completing this?
Block out the remaining 50% with something non-work related. Schedule it. Lock it in.
Brainstorm how this job will get done to ‘good enough’ using all resources that come to mind. Consider asking someone else for ideas.
Set a timer.
Remove all distractions.
Any questions for me?
If you’re unsure about this, I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions in the comments below. Or you can get in touch with me directly here.
How to optimise your day
For a more structured approach to shrinking your to-do list, see my article here: Optimise your day, make maximum impact, and get home early
You may also like some of my other articles on productivity here.
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Also published on Medium.