Both successful and unsuccessful people have 24 hours each day, however how those hours are optimized is the key differentiator. Here are three ways to accomplish more in less time.
- Set daily and startup activities. As author Charles Duhigg explains in his book, The Power of Habit, following routines increases productivity levels. Regardless of your role or rank, there are tasks you must complete on a daily basis. List those you need to ‘start’ your day and those required before you shutdown. After a while, you’ll uncover activities that you should be doing consistently; any that could be optimized; and those that can be automated or eliminated entirely. Not only will you become more efficient, but you’ll have a clear ‘start’ and ‘end’ to your workday.
- Fight fires first. Armed with what must be done every morning and before leaving work, you can now prioritize your day. Apply Dale Carnegie’s 17th Human Relations principle, ‘Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view,’ by tackling critical tasks first. Once you open your inbox, filter out critical communications that must be addressed. This is particularly important if you manage a team as your response may be required before they can move forward with a project, proposal, etc. and the last thing you want to do is limit their productivity.
Consider Elon Musk, founder and CEO of tech companies Tesla, SpaceX and Neuralink. One of the ways he has earned an overall CEO approval rating of 98% is by fighting fires first. Every morning at 7 am, Musk spends a half hour focusing solely on critical emails. This quick-start method enables him to address critical items first and identify his main priorities for the next few hours.
- Say no It’s human nature to want to help others and for many people, to participate in as many activities as possible. The truth is, every time you say ‘yes’ to someone, you are saying ‘no’ to someone or something else. Reviewing life priorities and annual goals regularly enables you to be clear on what you truly want, which in turn allows you to decline anything that doesn’t align with them, or what you don’t want. For example, if one of your career goals is earning a promotion, accepting an opportunity to present on your boss’ behalf is a worthy pursuit, so say ‘yes.’
If saying ‘no’ feels uncomfortable, arm yourself with appropriate responses such as, “Sorry, I have a prior commitment.” There’s no need to divulge what it is—even if it’s YOU. People will eventually respect your decisiveness and clear boundaries, so don’t worry about what others may think. Often times false truths such as, “They won’t respect or like me anymore if I decline,” occupy our mind and usurp our ability to be productive. This is exactly what Dale Carnegie meant when he said, “Instead of worrying about what people say about you, why not spend time trying to accomplish something they will admire.”