Last week, I wrote a post about working 4 days a week  and reducing energy costs. While heading into work less often is great in terms of quality of life and ecological matters, you still have to respect the number 1 rule if you want to keep this benefit; You need to get the job done.
As a youngster, oh wait… I still feel like a kid at heart…, I’ve always wanted to do more with less. I’ve always wondered how to produce the maximum results with the minimum effort. I don’t know if it’s because I am just plain lazy or because I like to be efficient, but this is the first question that comes to mind when I have to do something:
“How can I do it in less time, with the least amount of effort and resources and still produce a great result?”.
This is how I started my journey to efficiency. When I was a teenager, I quickly found that by cutting some corners and not getting caught up in details, I was able to achieve a lot. However, the results were not as “clean” as I thought. In the end, doing things fast with so-so results isn’t really time management ;-). After having learned this hard lesson at my first part time job, I have since concentrated on improving efficiency instead of saving time by skipping steps.
In this article, I am sharing a few time management tips. You will notice that I am not reinventing the wheel here but these tips are still what makes it possible for me to work 4 days a week, manage an online company, spend entire weekends with my wife & children and still have time for other projects on the side (such as completing an MBA or golfing :-D).
Time Management Tip #1: Set priorities
All right, this one is pretty basic but if you don’t first determine what you really want to achieve, you will just bounce from one task to another without having accomplished much. Establish your priorities in terms of “severity of consequences if it’s not done today”.
I was once asked during a job interview what would I do if I was faced with 8 hours worth of work with only 2 hours to do it. Simple answer: do first what matters most. Not convinced yet? You just gotta apply the Pareto Principle! 
Time Management Tip #2: Organize your mess
When I am talking about your mess, I am not only talking about your desk. Sure, you need to clean up and organize your work space, your computer desktop and your agenda. However, you need to organize something much more important: your brain!
I’ve found that my brain work like a computer managing clusters. Where there are too many clusters used here and there, it’s time to defragment my hard drive. Small tasks, things that annoy me, tomorrow to do’s, they are all small thoughts floating around somewhere in your brain that slows your ability to fully focus on what you are doing. This is what causes you to jump from one thing to another.
Looking for tricks to get all those voices out of my head?
#1 write them down on a real to do list.
#2 schedule them later on so you don’t have to worry about them anymore.
#3 outsource to your better half (warning: this can only last so long!)
#4 do them and stop procrastinating!
Time Management Tip #3: Outsourcing is not only for India!
While trying to outsource everything to your spouse might not really work for ever, you can still outsource a lot of things. I outsource my agenda to my BlackBerry and to Google Calendar. I don’t ever have to take care of looking what is coming as I receive emails to notify me in advance.
While we were both working, we had a home cleaning service. I had found back then that it was more profitable for us to enjoy life and be more productive at work than spending our weekends cleaning the house ;-).
You are in school? Outsource paper corrections and building presentations to a third party. Then, you can concentrate on creating the content, someone else (better than you) will take care of putting it together. There are tons of things you can outsource, you just have to be creative sometimes ;-).
Time Management Tip #4: Build a Schedule and stick to it
Have you read my thread about the underestimated power of a strong schedule?  Well it says it all; with my schedule, I am able to run thousands of things at the same time. If you are not organized, forget about it; you are better off going back to bed right away!
Time Management Tip #5: Everything is an emergency
Have you ever noticed that everything is an emergency for someone no matter how insignificant it may seem to others? This is why you have to take the word “emergency” out of your vocabulary. Emergency is the new “nice to have”. If you keep doing emergencies, you will end up burnt out with nothing done well. Forget about the stress and focus on what is truly important and worthwhile doing. There is nothing like seeing what is coming at you.
Time Management Tip #6: Think about tomorrow 
This is one of the best tricks I learned from a friend of mine during the MBA: “at what time in the day do you start to think about tomorrow?”. The earlier the better! This would mean that you are done with today’s tasks and that you are preparing to be better organized and more effective tomorrow. On the other hand, if you are always reacting to what happens around you, you will always fall behind, becoming more tired and losing your mind. This is a terrible catch 22.
What about you?
I’m curious to know if you have any other time management tips? I’m always looking to improve my current situation 😉
Image source: dvs