Work Less | More Success
Laura Stack’s Powerhouse Guide to Time Management: 3-Part Series
Ever feel like there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done? You’re a businesswoman, partner, mother and friend? How on Earth can you fit it all in?
In this enlightening three part series, we turn to Laura Stack, “The Productivity Pro,” for tips on dialing down the worry and busy work, and leveling up our success.
Without further ado, here’s Laura:
Since 1992, I’ve dedicated my career to teaching people how to do less while achieving more. American workers need this relief now more than ever. In the past decade, we’ve worked harder and done more with less than at any time since the Great Depression. Unfortunately, the pay hasn’t kept pace with our efforts, and we often excel at the expense of our health, relationships, and free time. People are tired of “do more with less” and want to “do less and achieve more”! Overwork may be slowly killing you, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually.
But it doesn’t have to.
Often, overwork stems from taking the wrong approach to structuring one’s schedule. I have a solution to offer—one that will significantly reduce your task load and help you rebalance your work/life ratio in your favor. In my new book, What to Do When There’s Too Much To Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes a Day, which hit bookstores on June 26, 2012, I introduce my breakthrough Productivity Workflow Formula™ (PWF). The PWF’s core message is simple: reduce, reduce, reduce! It’s always better to do less, not more, so you can do better, more focused work.
In this article, I’ll give you a sneak preview of the six steps of the PWF.
Step 1: Determine What To Do: REDUCE YOUR TO-DO LIST
Too often, we overwork ourselves by doing what doesn’t matter much or what someone else could do. You can remedy this by studying your work requirements closely and then zeroing in on what truly matters. Use the medical concept of triage to reduce your to-do list to manageable proportions. The emergency room doesn’t treat patients in the order they walk in the door; you shouldn’t work in the order tasks arrive in your inbox or by who screams the loudest. Remain flexible at all times, realizing priorities can shift on the fly, with new high-priority tasks muscling their way into the workflow and pushing aside less-important items.
Quit thinking of your To Do list as a Must Do list, and in general, stop doing things that lack long-term consequences for your job. Delegate out low-profit or low-priority items. Take what remains and sort them into a Master “someday” list, where you track important but non-urgent tasks, and a High Impact Task (HIT) list of items you need to work on right away.
Master List tasks might include things like long-term strategies, hiring a new assistant, and reviewing basic French terms before you visit the Paris office. Your HIT List should consist of the items that keep workflow humming along: new and ongoing projects, milestones and deadlines, and critical items you need to accomplish every day. Your Master List flows to your HIT list on a dynamic, daily basis.
Just as important as your To Do list is your Not To Do list. Spell out the things you refuse to waste your time on, such as multitasking, most meetings, handling brushfires, and procrastination. Finally, get rid of general timewasters like arriving late, excessive Facebook time, and superfluous socializing.
Step 2: Schedule Time to Do It: REDUCE YOUR OBLIGATIONS
Once you’ve identified your key tasks, make the time to do them. Remember, time management really boils down to self-management: the willingness to stop misusing time and practice self-discipline. While you’re not going to waste time during the workday, you’re not trying to do it all. Block out time for your critical HIT lists tasks right on your calendar.
Work to reduce your obligations by adopting the computer science concept of “caching.” This involves developing the ability to add, drop, and refuse new data on the fly, in order to streamline your workload. I call this “availability caching.” When you find yourself at or near maximum capacity, it helps make your decisions about who and what to give your time to more automatic, objective, and logical.
Speaking of refusing data: learn to say “no” in a polite yet firm way. Don’t let your coworkers talk you into accepting tasks that either belong to them or you lack time to handle. Ask your boss to prioritize projects when he or she tries to overload you. Meanwhile, keep a firm hand on your own tendency to wander. Don’t derail yourself between tasks; exercise clarity, discernment, and vision to make the right choices “in the moment,” because even tiny time intervals count.
In the next installment of the series, Laura will share how to reduce distractions and quickly process information in order to be our most effective selves. Stay tuned!
© 2012 Laura Stack. Laura Stack is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations. Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces. Her books include SuperCompetent (Wiley, 2010); The Exhaustion Cure (Broadway Books, 2008); Find More Time (2006); and Leave the Office Earlier (2004). Her newest book, What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes a Day (Berrett-Koehler), hits bookstores in May 2012. To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401. Visit www.TheProductivityPro.com to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.
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- First, determine what needs to be done.
- Reduce your To-Do list to the essentials: things tat bring you closer to life/work success.
- Commit to using your calendar and the ultimate self-management tool.
- Your To-Do list is NOT a “Must Do” list.
- Create a Master Task list to guide your efforts.
- Things that lack long-term consequences for your success must go.
- What’s on your HIT (High Impact Tasks) List?
- Your Not To Do list is just as important as your To-Do list.
- Success begins with the decision to stop misusing time and practice self-discipline.
- “No” is your friend. Learn to say it firmly and effectively.
- Stay focused. Even tiny time intervals count!