Most of us would agree, there are never enough hours in the day. Generally speaking, for most of us there isn’t enough time to complete all the tasks we hope to accomplish in any given day – and almost invariably, it seems that most days and weeks turn into a struggle to complete the items on our ever-growing ‘to do lists’.
Of course, there’s no magic pill that gives anyone twenty-five hours in a day, or a mythical eighth day in which to work, but there are a few simple guidelines you can apply to better manage your work-days and work-weeks.
Here are three tricks to get more done in less time.
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
The odd, repetitive heading is purposeful and deliberate. The easiest way for someone to accomplish more in less time is to fastidiously craft a schedule that minimises (or outright eliminates) wasted time.
If emails sent on Friday afternoons tend to go without response, stop writing those emails on Friday afternoons; do something else. People who feel most focussed in the mornings should avoid meetings in those prime hours and choose other tasks, instead. Standing responsibilities (weekly team meetings on Wednesday afternoon, for example) could be considered and worked around if it’s particularly advantageous.
From there, creating a schedule will help drive working efficiency. Highlighting strengths and limiting weaknesses should assist in using focussed time for the most intensive work, while using the post-lunch lull for busy work or tasks that don’t necessarily require the same sort of concentration. Building a schedule around strengths and holding to that schedule should improve your efficiency considerably.
Work More on Less
Restricting focus can yield much better results. Trying to juggle multiple things at the same time can cause all sorts of difficulties, particularly as silly mistakes can occur when too many separate tasks pull you in radically different directions.
Focussing in more on fewer projects boosts productivity significantly. A narrower focus usually leads to working with highly specific problems, provides for easier access to project refinement and more exposure to project issues as and when they arise. Working on a smaller number of separate projects means much greater experience with, and easier work on, those more clearly defined tasks.
There’s a rule known as the Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. In the business context, this could be defined as 80% of your progress comes from 20% of your effort. In essence, 20% of the work done will drive 80% of the results. Those who plan accordingly and work on fewer projects with greater impact will get far more done and use less time in the process.
Work the Cycle
In a strange biological twist, humans have a hard-wired and natural work-cycle. This work cycle can best be described as ninety minutes on, thirty minutes off, then repeat as necessary.
Working without breaks or disconnecting from tasks can burn mental stamina quickly. Driving too hard has the odd consequence of diminishing mental capacity after a certain period of time; those who seek to work non-stop will actually decrease their performance as a result.
Trying to fight biology is folly. Rather than trying to get more done by pushing nonstop, which will only lead to fatigue and burnout, take little breaks at predefined intervals. Small moments of levity and relaxation will help reset the work-cycle. Though it may seem counter-intuitive at first, working on a cycle isn’t wasting time by any means, and will actually improve your performance in the long run.
While nobody can expect twenty-five hours in a day, a few simple tricks can help you find a little more time for yourself through becoming more efficient in your tasks and projects. These tips cannot be adhered to under every given circumstance, of course, as circumstances can sometimes dictate work rate and almost everyone is occasionally subject to events outside their control.
Still, these are effective methods you could use to get a little more work done. If you feel as though you need extra hours in your day, give these tricks a shot and see if your results improve. As a final note, taking periodic short breaks to recharge is especially effective in high-stress positions or industries.