Time is one of the few things in life dealt out equally. Everyone is given the same amount–168 hours per week—and if we subtract the 56 we sleep (7 nights at 8 hours per), how we fill our remaining 112 waking hours determines how our lives unfold and careers evolve.
My friend Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP, believes in living with passion and working with urgency. He strives to maximize every day, an approach he calls “Finding the 25th hour.”
McDermott role models the concept. The man is a doer who wastes nary a second.
Also in this category is Hall of Fame golfer and entrepreneur Greg Norman. The Great White Shark’s personal motto is “Attack Life!” Norman does this daily. He lives with tremendous urgency. Few jam more into a day than Norman.
Efficient people like McDermott and Norman zealously manage moments – time decisions that free them to engage deeply in things they are passionate about.
Listed below are 10 tips to immediately become more efficient.
1. Remain vigilant about how your waking hours pass by.
Time passes by one of four ways: Wasted (netting you a zero return), Spent (generating little return), Invested (high return), or Cherished (ultra-high emotional return).
To improve efficiency, eliminate as much Wasted time from each day as possible and Spend only what you must. Maximize your Invested and Cherish time (defined as life’s most wonderful moments).
Since we are carving up a 16-hour pie into four slices, if we do less of one we must do more of anther. Waste and Spend as little as possible and maximize the other two, Investment time and Cherish time.
2. Track your waking hour activities and study how the time passes.
We mentioned in tip #1 the four ways our waking hours pass. Time is Wasted, Spent, Invested, or Cherished. For one week, track what you are doing, how long it takes, and which category the activity falls into [Wasted, Spent, Invested, or Cherished].
At week’s end you will be able to plot a pie chart of how your week was spent. At a glace you will see whether or not it is unfolding how you want.
Efficient people make better time decisions and execute those better decisions with urgency. For example, an efficient person gets on a phone call with a specific objective and then ends the call when the objective is attained.
3. Stop “multitasking.”
Digital use, dependence, and addiction continue to increase. So too are the self-justification excuses people give when challenged to justify the value of multitasking.
Research has proved that working in a linear form – absent lateral digression – is quicker and more efficient than jumping back and forth between tasks. This is especially true when work involves substance and thought.
Multitaskers do not get more done — in reality they achieve less. Work quality diminishes too. Too many fool themselves into thinking otherwise.
Truly efficient people demonstrate that concentrated effort without distraction is the best way to quickly produce better results. Work quality minimizes “do-overs,” which waste time and effort because the perpetrator must go back, work through the assignment again, and fix mistakes and omissions in order to produce a better result.
4. Delegate, empower, and hold others accountable.
Oversubscribers think relentless engagement demonstrates greater commitment and, by sheer quantity of activity, more output. This is not necessarily true.
Efficiency requires a productive balance between doing good work without taking on more than you can handle. Efficiency erodes when people take on too much. This is true regardless if oversubscription is rooted in personal motivation or the desire to please or appease others.
Workaholics overload their schedules and trade a real life for an 80-hour workweek. These people should be pitied, not admired. People who work too much often have a hole in their lives that home life cannot fill and working more lets them avoid confronting the root cause: the real reason they don’t want to go home.
Since happiness is an emotional conclusion, the best way to in a positive place is to keep your life in balance. In order to that, efficient people delegate effectively.
Efficient workers delegate, empower others to do the job, and are clear about what success look like. They let the “doer” figure out the best way to get desired results and hold the person accountable for a quality outcome.
Efficient delegation does not involve hovering or micromanaging. Nor is it “dumping.” Delegation is the reassignment of a task or objective that lets someone else produce and be accountable for an output that matches clearly defined success criteria.
When we empower others, we free ourselves to focus on initiatives better suited for our skills and interests. When working in our comfort zones, we typically zoom through projects quickly without distraction.
5. Know, practice, and utilize the 4 elements of effective communication.
Poor communication is a plague that affects millions of worker relationships. The arising problems and misunderstandings are huge time-wasters. Efficient people know this and proactively minimize chances of miscommunication.
There are four elements to effective communication: Sender, Receiver, Channel, and Message.
The Sender is us. The Receiver is our intended audience, which can be one or many. The Channel is the vehicle through which we choose to communicate. The Message is two things: what we say and how we say it.
Another culprit is brevity, which breeds a lack of clarity or incomplete/unclear instruction. Both cause wasteful or ineffective exchanges that produce less than desired results.
Masters of efficiency plan their objectives, select the appropriate channel, tailor their messages to the selected channel, and deliver them with clarity. Good communicators tend to be concise and speak to be understood. They avoid clichés, jargon, assumptions, and unnecessary acronyms.
A smart front-end investment in channel selection and message management positively impacts desired results two ways: it accelerates execution and brings a greater clarity to the project.
6. Structure your schedule.
I often say that the more gadgets we invent to simplify our lives the more complicated it becomes.
Way too often people are living with their schedule driving them rather than the other way around.
Efficient workers have a structured approach to each day. Structure provides a framework routine, which allows for consistent discipline in execution. The better you control your calendar, the easier it is to execute while also adapting to unexpected circumstances.
For example, I when I am writing I write in early morning and read at night. What I write about varies, as does what I read, but I try to schedule all calls and meetings around these AM/PM priorities.
On days I teach, my schedule is totally structured. My time is blocked from two hours before class and to just past dinnertime.
7. Prune inventory. Organize your necessary basics.
People waste tremendous amounts of time chasing down supporting items. Hunting for misplaced keys, pens, wallets, sunglasses, or reading glasses wastes time, creates frustration and multiply stress.
If you are truly serious about gaining efficiency, do yourself a favor: get organized!
Establish home locations for regular items, organized in the open in a logical way that lets you easily see what you are looking for.
It may take you an extra minute or two to put things away, but you will save multiples of that time and avoid stress by not having to hunt for necessities.
8. Organize, purge, and backup your electronic files.
If you had one extra dollar for every file or app on your computer(s), tablet(s), phone(s) and other gadget that you did not use, need, remember, or know how to find, how rich would you be?
Build into your calendar the important task of getting truly electronically organized. Cull your files and delete what you do not need. Assign recognizable names to files and folders. Back-up important things you may need later or don’t want to lose. Remote storage is worth the time and money.
Enhancing electronic navigability expedites efficiency. Because so much clutter abounds organization is increasing important in order to stay digitally efficient. Avoid the digital mummification caused by the passage of time and neglect.
Efficient folks know where to quickly find what they need. Less efficient people must hunt. Hunting wastes time. Lots of time.
Here are five other tips to consider on a daily basis:
- Avoid clicking links.
- Delete early and often.
- Respond in five lines or less. Preferably less. If the appropriate answer is long or important, use the phone to discuss. Don’t waste time writing it out.
- Speed-read your inbox. Zoom your eyes vertically down the center portion of each message. Read down, not left to right. Reading the periphery is not necessary — the message will fill in.
- Respond less. The less often you reply, the fewer messages you’ll receive.
9. Plan smarter. Plan more frequently.
Effort is wasted when people muddle along without a clear, unimpeded path to success.
This is sometimes easier to say than do since ours is becoming an increasingly impatient society. Everywhere we look we see impatient people demonstrating impatient behaviors, such as being brusque, selfish, or rude.
Doing things “right” is being traded for “right now.”
This trend is bad because impatience is the enemy of efficiency. Efficient people make and take the time to plan. They see the end vision – what success looks like — and work backward.
If you can see defined success, what two things must occur in order to produce the desired result? And once you identify those two key success drivers, figure out what you must do first in order to position yourself to succeed.
Front-end planning takes time, but we recoup that time in multiples through more efficient execution. Planning helps in other areas of efficiency too, such as “zoning” activities. Zoning lets up fulfill necessary stops in the shortest, most logically linked progression possible.
Planning applies to activities and days. Tomorrow, for example, should be mapped out by the end of business today. Doing so provides a big side benefit too: We tend to sleep better when we know what lies ahead.
Planning should be a habit. Do yourself a monstrous favor and get into the habit!
10. Commit to — and protect – your personal downtime.
The mind does not run on batteries. A day full of thinking and doing requires brain exercise and emotional energy. High achievers burn a lot of cerebral energy. Behavioral studies have proved rather dramatically the restorative power of the brain at rest, especially while we sleep.
Efficient people know they must rest and sleep. Tired and overworked people do not perform well, nor do people who oversubscribe their lives and sacrifice a full night’s sleep.
Some sacrifice rest because they give too much of themselves for others. They trade personal downtime helping others but do not realize that fatigue is a saboteur. Fatigue dramatically (and negatively) impacts productivity.
Get plenty of rest. Recharge physically, which enables you to reboot emotionally. Doing so enables you to sustain a pace of peak performance.
If you sleep a lot but are still tired, you may have a blood sugar issue. Get a physical and figure out why enough rest is not recharging your body and mind the way it should. If you manage what you worry about and get plenty of rest, you wake up feeling good and raring to go.
Since one amazing employee can out-produce multiple grinders, if you have aspirations to “be somebody someday,” it is vitally important to rest up during downtime in order to achieve your personal best.
Hopefully these tips will help live you life in a way that makes you happy.
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