The time is Now

Trying to cram in 36 hours worth of “to-dos” in the space of a day? Experts share the time-saving strategies that actually work.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Trying to cram in 36 hours worth of “to-dos” in the space of a day? Experts share the time-saving strategies that actually work.
Corbis/Click Photos
Corbis/Click Photos

Unless you live in a remote Wi-Fifree haven, where work e-mails and demanding bosses miraculously don’t exist, you’re probably struggling to fit breathing into your to-do list on most days. The good news is, there are ways to put an end to the mad rush of work and requests. All you need are these handy time-saving commandments to help you ace work, conquer deadlines, and still have enough room to keep up with your fave Kardashian’s tweets every day.

Effective vs Efficient

It might sound like fancy wordplay, but understanding the difference between “efficiency” and “effectiveness” is the ultimate secret to boosting productivity, says author and business coach Carl Taylor. “Efficiency is about getting things done as quickly as possible, like ploughing through your Facebook newsfeed in record time, whereas effectiveness is about getting the right things done, such as drafting that important client e-mail.” Bottom line? Pick your battles. In the words of productivity guru Tim Ferriss, “What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it.”

Parkinson’s Law

It’s a universal truth: the longer you leave something untouched, the scarier it becomes. The concept, known as Parkinson’s Law, applies to pretty much everything, from the increasing amount of mouldy lunches in the office fridge to the 20-page report you’ve been asked to read “ASAP”. In his bestselling book The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim explains that the more time you allot to a project, the more it will “swell in [perceived] importance and complexity”. The solution, he writes, is to schedule critical tasks with “very short and clear deadlines”, as the ticking clock keeps you focused. You’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll accomplish by using this trick!

The 80/20

Rule If there’s one important mantra to squeeze into our overworked minds, it’s this: “20 percent of what we do makes 80 percent of difference”. In other words, get the best return on your time by focusing on tasks that produce the most high-impact results. This means getting rid of “energy drainers” in your day – like responding to meaningless e-mails – so that you can spend more time on the genius project that’ll land you a promotion.

Forget Multitasking

Did you know being busy can be a form of laziness? “If you prioritise properly, there’s no need to multitask,” writes Tim. Have no more than two primary goals a day and complete them from start to finish without any distraction. “Each task you do will take longer to finish when you’re splitting your attention between different things,” explains productivity coach Faye Hollands. “Your brain doesn’t process multiple tasks simultaneously – it actually flicks back and forth rapidly between them.”

Kill Chaos

There’s no such thing as creative chaos. A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience revealed that when your environment is cluttered, it limits your brain’s ability to process information. What’s more, a recent survey found that 83 percent of Human Resource professionals believe the neatness of an employee’s office reflects their level of professionalism – meaning a clean desk won’t just save you time, it will probably save your job as well.