More work doesn’t necessarily equal more productivity.
Before you read any further, pause for a moment. Think of how many days you felt like you’d achieved more results in less time?
And how many times have you found yourself stuck in an endless loop of a to-do list?
Some people may come up with the idea that the longer you make the to-do list, the better you can manage the deadlines. You can meet higher expectations and stay ahead of the competition.
It’s absolutely wrong.
This would only end you up with overwork, with your freedom being robbed by your work approach.
Overwork often leads to burnout and stress, as per studies. And it’s because many people are following outdated ideas that not just cost them productivity and freedom, but sound health.
But what if you adapted to a smarter work style that could cut off unproductive habits and help you achieve your goals in less time?
Indeed, you can.
I would like to share with you 10 strategies that you can apply right from today to get more done in less time.
Creating a to-do list is a good old way to keep your tasks organized. Turns out it may leave you overwhelmed with an impossible number of tasks to get done on time.
Imagine what’s the difference between you struggling with workload and your colleague who gets done with the work in less time? Chances are, he/she follows the process called Chunking.
As per behavioral science, our brain aren’t designed to handle multitasking. You may prepare your breakfast and take your official phone calls at the same time. But the chances for mistakes due to attention gaps are greater. And this would only take an extra time.
Where focus goes, energy flows.
– Tony Robbins
So, where to begin?
Create your good old to-do list. But this time, don’t count the number of items. It would only make you feel intimidated.
Rather, divide your most purposeful and time-taking tasks with the trivial ones. Now within your most purposeful tasks, prioritize those demanding tasks that can serve your long-term goals.
Everything becomes easier with grouping.
Not just on purpose, but you can chunk your to-dos by looking for commonalities. For example, planning expenses and banking activities can be classified under financials. Whereas attending family functions or meeting a long-time friend can be grouped under relationships.
Following such measures not just helps you accomplish your task on time, but improves productivity, reduces backlogs, and makes you organized.
2. Parkinson’s law
In 1955, British historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson came up with an idea about how setting a deadline can help to analyze a work and accomplish it in time.
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
– C.N Parkinson
Deadline change the approach to your work. It fuels desires, motivation, and challenges your focus. There are side effects, however.
With stricter deadlines, you can’t make practical decisions over unrealistic goals. On the other hand, it’s unreasonable to dedicate your whole day to finishing three-hour work.
It’s a waste of time and doesn’t add quality to your work. They only create distraction and procrastination for most of your day.
Instead, try breaking the bulk into chunks. Set a timer for each of those chunks. And try setting a deadline that sounds challenging to you. How about setting a timer for 2 hours to finish a 4-hours task?
With some practice, you will surprise yourself with the decisions you take under pressure. No distractions, time waste, or irrelevant details.
3. Batch producing tasks
Distraction at work is pretty common regarding social media, people interruptions, or phone calls. But when you talk about micromanagement, most of your focused hours are generally affected by low-value tasks.
You’ll find many people having them scattered throughout their daily routine. For example, emails, official phone calls, administrative tasks, or any micro tasks that don’t add to your productivity.
And it’s no surprise that about 70% of knowledge professionals keep their inboxes or notifications active all day. Switch-tasking breaks the continuity and focus during your most productive hours.
But what could be the consequences?
It takes about 25 minutes to return to the swing of things once you’re distracted.
The amount of time it costs you = length of low-value tasks + 25 minutes
This is where batch production can save you time. How do you purchase the items at the supermarket? You pay for everything in your cart altogether, right!
Similarly, you need to schedule a block of time to get all such low-value tasks done at once instead of keeping your notifications and email tabs open and getting distracted throughout the day.
4. 80/20 rule
Most activities in our daily lives are unevenly distributed. And because of that, we contribute a very short time to some impactful tasks. But the rest of the time is spent on interruptions or unproductive work. This is a serious waste of time.
Considering the problem, an Italian economist Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, introduced the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle.
As per the principle, generally, 80% of the impact comes from 20% of the task.
What if your senior lauds 20% of your work to have contributed to 80% of the company’s goals? This reflects your small contribution that has a multiplied impact on the result.
But if you want to get more done in less time, you need to minimize your unproductive 80% of the time by focusing more on that impactful 20% effort.
Here, I’ve some common thought-provoking questions many of you can relate to. And hopefully, you can figure out many of your problems through the lens of the 80/20 principle.
- Is 80% of my time wasted on emails, phone calls, social media, miscellaneous notifications, or binge-watching shows?
- Do I spend 80% of my money on things that are not useful for my lifestyle or productivity?
- Am I happy or enjoying the company of people with whom I spend 80% of my time?
- What are the 20% of my daily diet that I eat 80% of the time?
- What are the 20% of my daily activities that give me 80% fulfillment?
Everyone has a unique sleep-wake cycle. Your body has a natural tendency to reflect energy at both high and low levels throughout the day. And this depends on your body clock, which is rather a fancy term for the chronotype.
When you align your schedule as per your chronotype, you spend the most working hours with the advantage of high energy and attention. And this helps you reach the peak of productivity and get things done in less time.
Studies have found that about 75.5 % of people fall into the category of larks and owls. However, most people try to adjust to the stereotypical 9 to 5 routine, which may or may not work for them.
If you’re not in sync with your sleep cycle, you may find it hard to work where you need your peak mental focus.
No matter wherever you fit in, the chronotype helps you take full advantage of your peak activity hours.
If you’re not yet sure about your chronotype, do this:
- Reorganize your daily routine
- Observe your daily adjustments
- Take notes of the time blocks where you find yourself most optimized for the work.
Here is a quick survey to give you an idea of your chronotype.
By rituals, I don’t mean lighting incense on your work desk. It’s just a way to add structure to your routine. While your routine keeps your work more controlled than everyday chaos, ritual helps to add a deeper meaning to it.
You may not have an idea, but you subconsciously include 40% of your everyday actions as your long-term habits. But often, these habits pave the way for mental saturation or confusion.
Rituals, however, shift your attention to where it’s required the most. It helps you develop new work ethics and a better way to approach mundane tasks.
You might have seen people working from off locations, for instance, replying to mail or other trivial tasks while traveling. You may even choose to work from your productive zones. For example, some people find it more creative while working in the bedroom or in a park.
Another great way to develop a work ritual is to switch to reset mode.
For example, when you’re done with a project, clean every unimportant file and re-download the apps associated with it.
Don’t leave them to mess around, and keep the documentation neat. The ritual not just helps you with a sense of accomplishment but adds a fresh breath to your next projects.
Rituals, therefore, prevent waste of time and energy and make it easier to manage your work.
7. Never be 100% booked
Everything needs space to breathe and grow. It’s a common assumption that most people from corporate backgrounds or entrepreneurship have their day 100% booked. And if you have a similar thoughts, here’s a question for you.
Do you believe in finishing a task within a sharp deadline? Okay, one more.
Do you think that no such unexpected situations would occur anytime that may need your urgent attention?
If you keep your day fully packed, you’re giving yourself a flawed sense of productivity. In pursuit of getting more done in less time, you’re putting yourself at catastrophic risk.
But if you look closely into the lives of successful people or companies, you’ll see the flexibility in aspects such as resource building, creativity, and personal wellbeing. It’s quite the opposite.
Life doesn’t cooperate with your balanced routine. Instead, you should remain open to the possibilities and uncertainties that may require your quick attention.
Creativity and inspiration have no limits. And you never know when you will need to improvise on your planned work. Sometimes, it’s good to pause when some unexpected or crazy ideas pop up in your mind for your business or projects.
So never dedicate a fixed time block and always keep your mind open for uncertainties.
From the management perspective, delegation means entrusting responsibility to someone less senior than you. Understanding what you need to delegate is the first key step in the process.
You don’t want to bottleneck your project by delegating wrong tasks or entrusting ineligible people. Because as a team leader or manager, getting things done on time should always be your priority.
Now, when you’ve identified what to delegate, your next step is whom to delegate.
As part of strategic planning, these are the key points to delegating the right person for the right task.
- Identify time wasters
- Clarify tasks in routine
- Is the person experienced and passionate enough for the task?
- Is the person creative or analytical as per the type of the work?
- If he/she can follow through?
- Feedback loops to improve delegation processes
9. Set work hours in backward
It means to start from the deadline and work backward. Cal Newport, a renowned professor and the author of Deep Work introduced this method.
According to him, setting the calendar backwards is a means to fixed-schedule productivity. When you work backward from the target date, you’ll figure out your most important tasks by cutting your trivial tasks and remaining less accessible to people.
Psychologically, the method gives you a reflection that the work is anyhow going to be finished on time. Also, you feel less stressed about the possibility of not finishing the project and more excited about planning ahead.
For example, you have a project that normally takes a week to finish. However, you have a plan for a trip on the 7th day but are unsure if you’ll get it done by that time. But when you reverse engineer your schedule, you’ll cut off procrastination, interruptions and limit your reach to people.
Also, delegating your work further increases the chances of getting done with the work before time. Any.do is one of such tools you can use to reverse-setup the calendar. With several task management and reminder features, it helps you to stay on track with your routine.
10. Saying no or yes
If your life is a coin, yes and no are flip sides of it. Every yes or no has a cost attached to it. Using it precisely not just helps you save time but gain control over financial, social, and emotional aspects. In entrepreneurship, it’s called the opportunity cost.
For example, if you say yes to a business meeting, that is going to cost you the time you could spend with your family, friends, or hobbies. Or say you’re a part of the marketing team and want to work on digital tools but refuse to travel. You’re missing out on social aspects.
But keep in mind that you should never decide in the heat of pleasing everybody to like you. If you’re the one who feels saying no is quite hard, think about your values and priorities over the requests or invitations you receive.
They say if you’re more of a “No” person than the “Yes,” you’ll have a better sense of fulfillment. So every time you say Yes or No, observe if it is a productive decision or a barrier to your workflow.
Now, it’s your turn to apply these strategies to your work and observe how smartly you could make use of the hours you have.
You may use the strategies to your advantage, but you can’t add any extra hours to what you’ve got in a day. But you can squeeze more productive hours into your day that will eventually help you find that you can accomplish the task before the deadline.
So when you use these strategies, consider them as a tool. They’re not meant to enslave you. You can always reschedule because of the choice and control in your hand.
But what matters the most is how consistent you are with the discipline, no matter you miss out following them a few times. Because they’re meant to track your progress and give you more control.