The quote, "You have as many hours in a day as Beyonce" comes to mind when thinking of how to work less and get more done. Do you think Bey sits around for two hours answering emails, focuses on filing instead of the big project looming in her inbox, or dedicates the day to unimportant tasks? My money is on the answer no. If you're tired of clocking out for the day and feeling like you've got nothing done on that mammoth of a to-do list, the problem might not be how much effort you're putting forth. You're probably a total star of a go-getter, and lack of ambition isn't your problem. But you might be pouring all those efforts into the wrong activities, making yourself work more for less.
The trick here is to only focus on the things that bring you the most results. While housekeeping tasks will always be necessary (emails will have to be answered and files stowed away,) they don't necessarily need 100 percent of your time. What does, though, are those career-moving projects that help you make an impression on the office and help you build your skills. So here's a new way to manage your time at work: Below are 11 ways to work less and get more done.
1. Focus On The 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 Rule is that you spend 20 percent of energy to get 80 percent of your results. If you're not a numbers person, that means you focus on the big money-making efforts and cute all the little things that don't contribute to your bottom line. Lifestyle writer Scott H. Young from Lifehack offered, "The purpose of 80/20 is to force you to be more ruthless in cutting time in areas that contribute little." For example, cut the time you spend on emails and focus on projects, only accept projects that move your career forward (if you can,) or keep housekeeping tasks down to a minimum.
2. Stop Multitasking
While you might pride yourself over the fact that you can talk to a client while answering an email while writing up a report, multitasking actually drags you down. Business writer Jeff Sutherland from entrepreneur site Inc explained, "Every time you switch tasks, from crafting a report to answering an email, your productivity plummets. Do one thing at a time. Create uninterrupted time." When you're working on one specific task you're focused and know what step needs to go next and what outcomes you're after. When you tear yourself away to answer an email or quickly file something away, you have to spend time getting back into that groove. Don't.
3. Take It One Project At A Time
In that same vein, don't make the mistake of labeling everything a priority. Instead, focus on your most important project and don't move on until it's finished. Sutherland advised, "Focus on the project with the most value. Put it at the top of the queue. Work to get it to done and then move to the next project." Not only will you do a much better job, but you're focusing on the aspects that will move your career forward, rather than doing 10 tasks that are just considered housekeeping.
4. Commit To One Hour At A Time
In order to cut the option of multitasking out, break up your day into hourly time slots. Lifehack quoted Startup Workout’s Kevin Fleming, suggesting, "Completely commit yourself to work on something for one hour. At the end of that hour, decide if you want to keep working, and if so, fully commit for another hour." That way, if it's a project you're dreading you're only committing yourself to an hour, and chances are you'll keep going after the 60 minutes are up. Either way, you'll get more done with a lot less effort.
5. Put A Deadline On Everything
Do you have a report ti write? Give yourself a 30 minute deadline. Do you have a big project that needs to be tackled? Break it up into chunks and give those smaller pieces end times. Do you have a tendency to let your inbox stack up? Give yourself 10 minutes to answer that one urgent email. Giving yourself deadlines ensures that you don't waste time dawdling and jump into action. Young explained, "Give yourself strict deadlines and cultivate a desire to finish projects, not just check tasks off on a to-do list." It puts you in a forward-moving mindset.
6. Take A Look At How You Spend Your Time
Do you think you spend most of your day working on tasks that move you up in your career, or doing trivial projects that keep you rooted in the same spot and don't teach you anything? Write it down and see. Business writer Matt Royce from entrepreneur site Ragan offered, "How do you spend your time? You may want to fill out a Wheel of Productivity and give it a hard look. Do you spend enough time on the colors that matter most to you?" If you see on paper that you spend most of your day doing things like filing, answering emails, or perfecting assignments that don't mean that much, then it's no wonder you feel snowed in and over worked. You're not focusing on the big things.
7. Make People Fit Your Calendar, Not Vice Versa
Is your calendar getting cluttered with meetings, extra assignments, and pawned off tasks? Schedule differently, and you can get more done in less time. Royse pointed out, "Don't fill up your calendar with standing meetings. These meetings may be good if you aren't doing anything else, but evaluate whether you need to restructure or cancel certain meetings altogether." Have your to-do list scheduled into the day, and if you don't have any wiggle room to fit someone in, then you can't fit someone in. By refusing to take on extra unnecessary tasks, you get the big stuff completed and don't waste time on small efforts.
8. Break Projects Into Chunks
If an assignment feels like a massive mountain, you're going to drag your feet on starting it or plowing through it because it's so intimidating. To offset that, break it up into smaller assignments. Business writer Gregory Ciotti suggested, "Instead of trying to conserve your energy for multiple hours, we are at our most productive when we break big projects down into smaller chunks and plan a recovery period right after." Finish a task, take a quick break, and then move onto the next one. That mammoth of a project will be done in no time, with a lot less work.
9. You Don't Need To Be A Perfectionist
While it feels brilliant giving your 100 percent, sometimes a finished job gives you the same results whether you handed it in 80 percent perfect or 100 percent. Keep an eye on whether a project really needs your perfectionism, or if it could be handed in at a decent level. Young pointed out, "you should stop working on a project when the extra input invested gives less output than doing a comparable task." If your boss will grunt "good job" at either level, stop wasting time on a task that doesn't need buffing. Save those energies for something that will.
10. Keep Yourself Accountable With Lists
You're going to need some good old fashioned pen and paper on this one. Ciotti advised that keeping an hourly list of what you've accomplished keeps you accountable and encourages you to keep pushing forward without any distractions or mindless dillydallying. He recommended breaking up your paper into two columns, where "Column 1 will list the time-span of one of your productivity sessions. Column 2 will list what tasks you’ve accomplished in that limited time-span." Once you see all that you've accomplished in an hour, you'll feel hella productive and keep blasting forward, doing more in less time.
11. Take Breaks Every 90 Minutes
If you allow yourself 15 minute breaks every 90 minutes, then you'll have more energy to get more done. Royse pointed out, "It's a simple concept: Spend energy wisely, and you will have more of it." By kicking back and grabbing coffee or reading your favorite website, you're actually ensuring that you'll be more productive throughout the rest of the day.
And the more productive and energetic you are, the more you get done faster.
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