We are all familiar with the ever increasing “to- do” list and that sinking feeling when it grows rather than gets smaller. How can we increase our output without increasing the time spent achieving this?

Elizabeth Grace Saunders in Harvard Business Review describes 5 helpful strategies for getting more done with our limited time.

  1. Clarify actual expectation
  2. Reuse Previous Material
  3. Develop templates and Checklists
  4. Make it a conversation
  5. Time box your work

1. Clarify Actual Expectation

Do you really know what the actual requirement for the project/task/job is? Many times we overwork the requirement losing valuable time that could be used elsewhere. Not every task requires a PhD level analysis. By being clear on the actual requirement i.e. what is actually needed and to what degree, time can be saved getting the job in question done.

2. Reuse Previous Material

Consider the possibility of copy/cutting/pasting (carefully!).

If the task requires you to do something similar to previous work, this strategy can help reduce the amount of time you need. There is no need to reinvent the wheel all the time. Emails, presentations, reports, and proposals can all be reused in similar situations to save time with cleaver editing.

3. Develop Templates and Checklists

This strategy can speed up the process of dealing with routine and repeat job/tasks. You can develop a simple template using WORD documents or other apps and systems and check lists are very useful for weekly planning and meetings for example.

4. Make it a Conversation

You can save time by verbally sharing information with your client/ boss/colleague rather than having to write out what you want to deliver. This can be very helpful and time saving when you need to “check in” or give unofficial feedback.

5. Time Box your Work

Try to decide in advance what amount of time you need to complete the task and try to stick to it. This can make time management more efficient and can also make sure you are more focused on the task in hand. By time boxing your work, you can get more done in less time.

I have tried some of these strategies and have certainly found them useful particularly in terms of focus. Saunders refers to Parkinson’s Law which states that work expands to fill the allotted time and by using some or all of the above techniques, we can make this law work to our advantage.