Be Ruthless With Your Time, And You'll Have More Of It

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We are so harried and pressed for time that we become blind to how much of it we squander.

Here are a few tips for being ruthless with how you schedule and manage your time, which can give your hours back each week:

  • Plan your week. Map out important meetings (and drive time to/from them), key phone calls or conversations you need to have, major project deadlines and due dates, deliverables and other time-sensitive things. This overview will help you prioritize how you spend your time. Be willing to reschedule that quasi-social coffee or lunch to a later date.
  • Write down a to-do list. This goes hand-in-hand with mapping your week. List projects and tasks in order of importance, with due dates/times, and then cross them off as you finish them. The sense of accomplishment will energize you for the next item.
  • Stop emailing so much. Email is great for quick notes or a single longer detailed note. But it can become a major time suck when you're swapping five or six exchanges when you could have simply picked up the phone and had a 10-minute conversation to cover more detail. A greet rule of thumb is the 1-or-5 rule. If your message can be covered in just 1 paragraph, or needs 5 or more paragraphs, email is great. Anything in between might be better suited for a phone call.
  • One and done. Aim to complete tasks the first time you tackle them. If this isn't possible, break the task into smaller chunks and try to finish each piece the first time you touch it. Same goes for email. Don't flag a bunch of email and then have a mountain to re-read and reply to later. It gets overwhelming and things get lost in the shuffle. Wait to read emails in batches when you have time to peck out a quick response.
  • Walk away. Our focus and mental alacrity fades when we stare at a computer screen too long. Some productivity experts recommend an ideal schedule is 52 minutes of focused work, followed by a 17-minute break. That's just enough time to take a brief walk outside, get a coffee and return to your desk revived and invigorated.