Dear David: How to accomplish more work in one day

December 16, 2016

December 5/12, 2016; Volume 31, Number 13
By David Romano

Dear David:  
Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 3.15.31 PMI read in one of your columns the No. 1 motivating factor to happy employees is a sense of accomplishment. I guess that is why I feel so burnt out and frustrated. It seems the longer I own my business the less I get marked off my to-do list each day. Any advice you can give on how to get more done would be greatly appreciated.   

Dear Normal Owner,
The good thing to know about your dilemma is it is completely mental. You create it; and anything you create, you can manage. It’s time to remove any self-sabotage or self-limitation you have around starting a new project or improving what you are currently doing.

There are countless techniques that can be covered such as the use of a “do not disturb” sign on your office door, doing a better job of delegating the small stuff, to turning off your phone or email for extended periods throughout the workday. Outlined below are the five techniques that have made a real difference in my life when it comes to juggling multiple businesses while still having time to spend with my family and friends.

•Take the last 30 minutes of every day to plan your next day. Don’t end your current workday until you’ve completely outlined what you need to get done and in what order for the next day. The most important part of your day is the time you set aside to schedule time.

•Create a Kanban board listing what you have to do, are doing and what is done. Better yet, paint a wall with chalkboard or whiteboard paint and section it off into the three grids. Use stickies and place a new task on “to do.” Move it to the “doing” section when it is being worked on, and then to “done” when completed. This board is a great visual that is so in your face it is hard to forget what needs to be done.

•Time box your tasks. Time boxing refers to containing your tasks within fixed time slots. For example, box task A from 9-10:30 a.m., task B from 10:30-1 p.m. and task C from 2-4 p.m. Time boxing helps to prevent your tasks from dragging on. There’s a saying that your work will take as long as you want it to, and I find it’s true.

If you set a specific time frame and strictly adhere to it, you will find a way to get the work done. Set a time that is challenging yet achievable. If a task takes three hours, don’t set more than it requires. Box for three hours or less so you can learn to optimize your output during the time frame.

•Use the 80/20 rule. This rule states 80% of output is brought about by 20% of effort. The remaining 20% of output is achieved by putting in 80% of effort.

Let’s say you have a report due, and to produce the best report you need 100 hours. According to the rule, you can get 80% of the quality in by spending 20 hours (20% of 100 hours). In order to boost the report’s quality to 100% you’d have to spend 80 hours (80% of the time). From an effectiveness standpoint, that doesn’t cut it. The 80/20 rule tells us to get 80% of quality in and chuck the remaining 20% since the time needed doesn’t justify the value we get. You can keep revising something to perfection, but that time is probably better spent working on a new task.

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