How to Get More Done in Less Time
Everyone has 24 hours in a day.
Why do some people get so much done in those 24 hours, and others never have enough time?
It’s not as though the successful artist has been endowed with an extra 10 or 20 hours each day. Yet Artist A will often get ten times more done in the same 24 hours as Artist B, and still have extra time left over to attend that event you invited him to. Artist B will tell you, “I’d love to, but I have no time.”
What is going on here?
Artist A is organized and is using his time wisely. Artist B is, likely, a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants type, spending most of his time on putting out fires and busy-work.
Everyone is busy. All the time. No matter what, time manages to fill itself with something, even if it’s surfing the web. The question is, what specific things are getting done? And how efficiently are they getting done?
So, the key is organization.
You might say, “I am organized — I have a To-Do list.”
A To-Do list is a start, but it’s certainly not enough, because a To-Do list does not exist in a vacuum. What tasks make it to your To-Do list, is crucial. And how efficiently those tasks are completed, is essential.
I knew an actress that got so many tasks accomplished every day, but her career stayed in the same place. It didn’t go anywhere. The reason for this is: she didn’t know what actions were the priorities. Those actions that would have done the most for her career or business were not on her To-Do list or not being accomplished. Those that were somewhat helpful, but not essential, were being completed by the dozens.
Some actions are 100 times more important than others. And often, those actions are the ones that get neglected or never make it to the To-Do list. Perhaps it’s because they are the most uncomfortable to confront, so other things get done instead. That’s one way time gets wasted. Writers talk about this all the time — whenever they sit down to finish the novel they are working on, they get an irresistible urge to clean the house. And they do. And no pages get written. Sure, it’s nice to have a clean house, but that’s not going to finish their novel, is it?
So, knowing which actions are the most important and seeing to it that they are done, is essential to efficient time management.
But before we can determine which tasks are the most important, we need to look at the big picture — where are we going? What’s the big goal? What’s the purpose? In business school, they used to tell us, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. In other words, if you don’t know your goal, it doesn’t matter what you do. Essentially, without a goal, you will go nowhere or in circles.
So, the first step to prioritizing tasks is to take a look at your goal. The tasks you accomplish each day should be those that are aligned with that goal — the ones that take you a step in that direction, in one way or another. You will find that some tasks may take you ten steps in the right direction, and some a hundred. A task that takes you a hundred steps would be a hundred times more important to accomplish than one that takes you a single step. You will also find that some tasks take you no steps toward your goal. And some, even take you a step backwards.
Since we all have 24 hours in the day, we have to divide it efficiently to get the most important tasks done first. But we need to know where we are headed, in order to prioritize our time.
So take a look at your goals and purposes. If you’ve broken them down to doable actions, you will find certain tasks are far more important than others. Those are the ones that need the most attention. Set a target to get them done. If they are too time-consuming for a daily To-Do list, break them down further and put the baby steps on the list. And get them done. Don’t go off and do a lessor task because the important one is uncomfortable. See it through to a done. Move on to the next priority.
Keep and maintain a schedule. Keep and maintain a prioritized To-Do list. Get the priorities done.
There’s more that can be said to using time efficiently. But focusing on priorities is a key.