2 Key Principles of Working Smarter to Master Time Management and Get More Done in Less Time
The first rule in working smarter is to realize that just because you do something efficiently doesn’t mean you are being effective. You could be processing over 100 emails very efficiently. However, if that distracts you from working on your big project or major goal (the thing that will really make a difference), then you aren’t being effective.
There are two key principles to master.
The first is Pareto’s Law or the 80/20 Rule. The second is Parkinson’s Law, which states that work will expand to fill the available time.
In order to be effective you need to eliminate, automate or systematize the 80% that takes up your time. Then you focus on the 20% that really makes a difference. Then condense the time to handle everything you do by setting tight deadlines for yourself. You do not need to work 9 to 5, five days a week if you vigorously apply these two principles to your work.
If you are stuck in an office, then yes, you may need to work 9 to 5. However, you can certainly get your work done in a fraction of the current time. Then you can use the rest of your time to network or do other more interesting tasks or projects to advance your career. You might start by clearing your office clutter and getting rid of excess email. To read on how to do this, refer to the article: How to Get Rid of Your Email Once and for All.
1. The 80/20 Rule for Effectiveness
Working efficiently doesn’t necessarily mean that you are being effective.
The 80/20 Rule applies to all things. We get 80% of our results from only 20% of our actions. The key to working smarter is to sort out what is the 20% that really matters. That is, the 20% of your effort or activities that makes the biggest impact. For example, it could be that one critical phone call that results in the biggest sale. Or it could be the work on an innovative project that transforms the company.
So, how do you know what the 20% is?
The quickest way to do that is to ask yourself one simple set of questions every day. “What is Important About Today?” Then write the answer down. If every day you first focus on the truly important project or task, then you’ll be working smarter.
Are you doing the thing that really matters? Ask yourself these three questions every day: What
- is important about today? (consider both business and personal)
- MUST get done today? (not what you think you should get done)
- is important about the future?
By focusing on these three questions you’ll be focusing on the 20% that really matters. Then let the 80% fall into what’s left of your day. Most people do the reverse and never get around to the really important stuff because their day is filled up with busyness and frittered away on the 80% that rarely makes a difference.
2. Parkinson’s Law—Work Expands to Fill the Available Space
If work expands to fill the available time, the solution is to reduce the amount of time you have to get the work done. When pressed, most people can get the job done in half the time they are currently using. Have you ever noticed that the day before you are leaving for a trip you always manage to clean out an entire in-box that has been jammed for weeks? There is nothing like an incentive to get a body moving. How could you get your work done in half the time? It may take some creative thinking, but it is well worth the effort.
Hint: Set a kitchen timer and challenge yourself to beat the clock. You’ll be beating Parkinson’s Law!
You can learn more about the 80/20 Rule and other tips for working smarter, not harder in Coach Yourself to Success: 101 Tips to Accomplish Your Personal and Professional Goals.
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