Be Effective, Not Busy

“If companies spent money as recklessly as they spend time, they’d be going out of business.” Jason Fried, CO-Founder & CEO of Basecamp

Do you have too many items on your to-do list? Are your days stretching beyond five o’clock? Your work week’s stretching beyond 5 days?

If so, try using scheduling constraints to increase the amount of time you spend on what’s most important to your business without the profligate addition of hours worked.

You need to know what really matters to your business for this approach to produce useful results. If you do not know this, it’s worth spending time figuring that piece out first. If you do, then here is the basic flow for this process:

apply constraints  → force decision-making  →  uni-task  →  create new habit

Let me briefly run through each element:

  1. Apply constraints — Keep your total working hours to 40. Pick your hours per day and days you work. Then start scheduling your days with activities that are in line with what really matters to the business. Be dogmatic about keeping activities within your chosen schedule. Nothing bleeds beyond the constraints you have set for your time;  
  2. Force decision-making — Applying the constraints will put you in a situation where you will have to choose between activities. Often it is hard to decide if Action A will be time better spent and have more impact on your business priorities than Action B. This is a great problem but not an excuse not to decide. Pick one,  follow through, and see the result;
  3. Uni-taskAvoid multi-tasking wherever and whenever you can. Try to do it even when it feels like you can’t. Focusing on one task will produce higher-quality work;
  4. Create a new habit — In the beginning this will feel a bit artificial. Keep at!  Making more decisions and focusing will increase the amount of time you spend on what really matters without increasing the number of hours worked.  After a while, this will become the new status quo for how you work.

If emergencies crop up. Don’t panic! Make sure it’s a true emergency, deal with it, and then get back to the process above.

Try this out for a few weeks and let me know how it goes. 

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Author: Mark Cassar
Great businesses solve problems really well. And solving problems is what physicists do best. Mark has spent the last 20 years helping people understand and solve problems, in business and academia.