All of your work matters—but some matters more than the rest of it. In my new course Managing Your Time, I share my favorite time management technique: applying the 80/20 rule to classify all your work (people, tasks, and projects) as being of mild importance (the 80 percent) or of serious importance (the 20 percent). The 80 percent is just work that has to be done, but rest is the really good stuff: the work that will make you, your team, and your company better.
Focusing too much time on issues of lesser importance is one way we waste time at work. Here are four other time wasters you have to watch out for if you want to maximize what you get done every day.
1. Helping others. Often we say yes to another person’s request rather than blocking out time for what we need to do. Saying yes may make sense 60 to 70 percent of the time. But there are many times you should tell your colleagues you’ll help them later—or better yet, learn to say “no” and concentrate on maintaining your current momentum.
2. Socializing. We’re seeing more and more open office environments designed to make us collaborate and be creative—and collaborative spaces can be great. But they also make for loud, distracting offices full of excessive socializing! Your new goal: When you find yourself engaged in a nice moment of socializing, give yourself a deadline. Three minutes, maybe five—something small. Then excuse yourself and get back to work.
3. Personal work. This includes paying your bills, shopping, or signing your kids up for camp. It’s okay if you need to take care of an occasional personal task at your desk, but treat it as an exception, not a rule. Once you begin accommodating personal tasks in the workplace it becomes easy to justify more, and soon you’re trolling your favorite dating site and Skyping with friends: not good.
4. Unproductive meetings. Do you want to be more productive? Do you want to be a hero to your colleagues? Take a stand—demand productive meetings, and fewer of them. If you start this conversation within your team, it might just spark the biggest productivity boost you’ve seen in years.
Try these suggestions and see how they work for you, and watch my course Managing Your Time for more tips on making time for your high-value tasks.