As a professional, your calendar should reflect your goals. To keep your business calendar in check and make the most of every day, here are six time-hacking tips I’ve found effective:
1. Block Off Time
I block off three hours in the morning every day. Usually it’s 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., but if I have an early stage time for a keynote or a meeting, I’ll start as early as 4 a.m. I use this time to read news, reply to work emails, and sort my business calendar. I also spend 60 to 90 minutes in my home gym to prepare for my workday: There’s no wait, no commute and no distractions. When I’m traveling for work, I make sure the hotel has a gym on site. This can be crucial for focus and energy, especially in the busy world of business development and speaking.
I do this seven days a week, whether I’m traveling or at home and on weekdays, weekends, and holidays — no variation, no excuses. This helps me set up every single day for success. What do you need to do daily to set you up for success in your workday?
2. Remember: Copy-and-Paste is Your Friend
Copy-and-pasting can save you considerably more time than you think. Keep a spreadsheet or document up to date with templated language for bios, descriptions and more, then use it to streamline your business language and marketing materials. I keep a Word document open with general copy-and-paste language that I use frequently.
3. Use the 90% Rule
I live by this rule from the world of entrepreneurship: if it’s 90% done, then it’s done.
If you try to achieve that extra 10% to make something perfect, you may fail – or the last 10% may require a significant amount of time and resources. As Silicon Valley VC Reid Hoffman famously said about startups: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” We cannot afford perfection.
In my experience, perfection equals failure and is your enemy. Get your work to the 90% level, and then move on. As you do, you will likely realize just how true the Pareto principle is: 80% of the results do tend to come from 20% of the input.
4. Make Fast Decisions to Seize Opportunities
Delayed decisions lead to inaction, which can lead to lost opportunities in the world of business development.
When you’re having trouble with a decision at work, try using this worksheet to organize your thoughts and direct you to the right answer. Set a timer for five minutes.
- What’s the decision you need to make?
- What other things do you need to consider?
- If you decide to do this, what would be the immediate consequences to your business?
- What would the potential consequences be of delaying the decision?
- What’s the best business benefit that could come from your decision?
- What fears or anxieties do you still have around your decision?
- Write your decision here.
5. Use the Five-minute Rule to Create Habits
When you want to create a new habit, you can commit to doing it five minutes a day for one week. Then gradually add minutes. Go to 10 minutes per day, then 15 minutes per day. By starting small and gradually increasing your commitment, the task may be easier to accomplish. Because I’ve found that the first two minutes of doing anything are the hardest, you may find you greatly surpass five minutes during that first week. You can always fit five minutes into your workday.
This works for anything you want to turn into a habit or change at work: Imagine you want to get a promotion, and in order to do so, you need to learn a new skill. Commit to spending five minutes a day learning that new skill and gradually increase the time. That makes it easier to slip into the habit. This also works for business writing, especially if you have just decided to start publishing articles and sharing your professional knowledge but aren’t experienced at writing yet. Doing it for five minutes a day can be a great jumping-off point because it is a small commitment to do something that is initially difficult.
6. Finish the Small Task
If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it now. In your personal life, instead of putting your dirty dish in the sink, rinse it and put it in the dishwasher. Professionally, instead of letting your inbox pile up, respond to as many emails as you can from clients or employees in two minutes. This rule of mine is why you’ll sometimes get immediate responses from me through email and text. This goes for any of those small tasks that pile up on your desk and create a cluttered work environment. This concept can be crucial in the world of sales and business development, especially with smaller tasks like recording contacts and following up with leads.
When you take immediate action, it doesn’t pile up on your to-do list and you save time in the long run. What works for me is thinking or saying the mantra “finish the task” whenever I am about to become lazy and push the tiny task to “later,” where it can pile up with other tasks and be much harder to finish. Saying those three words can be enough to motivate you to do it now.
Which time-saving tip will you implement in your life?
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