Thursday, November 13, 2008

Effectiveness 101

I've spent a good bit of time this fall reading about ways to become more effective and get the essentials done in less time. I wanted to take a moment to share some of my favorite findings with you...
  1. Check email 2-3 times per day: This is definitely my #1 tip. If your job involves a lot of communication via email, this will make a huge difference. My set times to check email is 1 PM and 4:30 PM. The key thing is to not check email in the morning, because it will get you off track before you've been able to accomplish anything.
  2. Complete three Most Important Tasks (MITs) each day: This is another huge one. I had actually already started doing this before I found out there was a name for it. Each day, determine which three tasks are most important to accomplish the next day. Don't do anything until you finish those tasks (e.g. don't check email). It will make you feel so relaxed the rest of the day. I try to get my MITs done before 9 AM each day. This isn't always possible if your MIT involves a conversation or has a dependency on somebody else, but for everything else, it works.
  3. Don't write a lot of emails: You won't get as many...
  4. Get out of non-essential meetings: You won't miss anything. Along those lines, make sure every meeting has clear objectives. I state the objectives of the meeting for 90% of the meetings I host. It's the courteous thing to do.
  5. Schedule "Doing Time": I schedule around 20hours of "Doing Time" in my calendar each week. This is my time to get my own work done. Much of this time is early in the morning before most people get to the office. Which leads me to my next tip...
  6. Get up early: I get up at 4:30 AM most mornings. I am at the gym by 5 AM and at work by 7:30 AM. This head-start on the day provides a mental boost and makes the rest of the day more relaxing.
  7. Simplify your space: Due to various circumstances, we now live in a less than 1200 sq. ft. apartment. In order to fit into this space, we got rid of a lot of stuff. Having less stuff makes it easier to keep the space clean and requires less maintenance. It's great! The same concept works at the office. A clean work space minimizes distractions and makes you look organized.
  8. Fit activities to your time slots: A lot of time I find myself with 15 minute pockets of time (between essential meetings...). It's a good idea to have a list of quick tasks ready in order to take advantage of these small pockets of time. E.g. File expense report, review sales presentation, call Bob to follow up on X. Save more complex tasks for the larger blocks of time you scheduled in tip #5.
  9. Take advantage of travel time: If you travel a lot (like I do), my favorite travel tip is to use the time to read. I have an email category called "Read/Review." Before I leave the office for a business trip, I look at my "Read/Review" category and print out items to read on the flight. It is amazing how much material you can get through on a 1 1/2 hour flight. Make sure to bring a good book as a backup in case you finish faster than you expected. (You don't want to be stuck reading the airline magazine!)
  10. Be careful with the Internet: The world wide web can suck up more time than TV. If surfing the web is your passion, then obviously do it. However, if you have other interests and you're trying to be more productive so you can have time for these interests, I suggest cutting down on the surfing. I limit my blog reading to a few good blogs which I enjoy in the following categories: Simple Living/User Experience/Product Management. That's it. Now, shopping online (especially on can save time, so use the interweb to your advantage!

"Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things."
-Peter F. Drucker

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