How to Do More With Less Time

one man band You need better time management. You’re looking for time saving tips. Whether you’re in a huge organization, a team of 30, or a solo practitioner, it’s fairly guaranteed that you’ve got more work to do than you have time to complete it. Further, the effort it takes to keep up with people in social media and do it like a human being takes some time. In this post, I’ll talk about how to do more with less time. Part of this will be about the philosophy behind it, and the next part will be about the tools. In a subsequent post, I’ll talk about my social media workflow.

How to Do More With Less Time

I’m finding that there are two keys: have a simple system, and automate everything you can. In both cases, this allows for more time to do the work that matters to you. Remember, a good chunk of our day is spent doing things that don’t really pay us back (in any sense of the word). Part of this comes with a philosophical perspective to consider, and the other is pure business reasoning. Let’s talk about the mindset stuff behind a simple system first.

Have a Simple System

I’m a lifelong fan of Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and also his later book, the 8th Habit. To the end, I work hard to begin with an end in mind. That helps me center on what I should be doing. For those of you who haven’t read it, essentially think like this:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Sounds simple, but it’s not. If you have big things to do and little things to do, focus on the bigger ones. If you fill your day with answering email, your inbox will be empty but your important work won’t be done.

If I were to sum up WHAT I think about to keep my day flowing well, it’s this:

What’s going to move me closer towards my goals? (where “my goals” equals company goals, personal goals, family goals).

Now, let’s move into the tools.

Tools to Automate And Free Up More Time

Once you’ve got a sense of what you want to do with your time, you have to start guarding it. There are many opportunities in a given day when people will ask for some of your time, or distractions will snatch a bit away, or idle time will shift from being a refreshing pause into being a wallowing gap in what you’re doing. Time is the one variable you can work with more than any of the others. Here are some ways to give yourself a bit more time.

awayfind

AwayFind is Jared Goralnick’s tool to help you keep your less urgent emails at bay. I’ve been using it ever since going through Stever Robbins You Are Not Your Inbox program. Essentially, AwayFind lets you set up a small gate on your inbox. People receive an auto-responder message (you customize it) saying that you’ve received their mail and that you’ll respond when you can. BUT, if this is urgent, just click this link to fill out this quick form.

What it does for me is gives me a way to tell people that I saw their email come in, that I’ll get right to them when I’ve a moment, and it gives the person the ability to tell me something is urgent. (By the way, so far four people have submitted via the “urgent” form simply to say, ‘I just sent you email. Did you get it?’ Not exactly urgent, so I tweaked my message to hopefully clean that matter up.) AwayFind is in Beta, but if you beg, Jared might give you a free-level account.

jott

Jott lets you call a number, record a brief voice message, and that message comes out in text format. You can import your contact book in there, and thus, you can both send messages to yourself for reminders and later information retrieval, but you can also send quick voice messages to others as text emails. It’s a great way to get back some time while driving in the car.

spinvox

SpinVox (which I talked about briefly here) is a voicemail service that translates speech to text for up to 3 minutes of voice. I’ve only been using it for a few days on my cell phone, and I’m LOVING what it does for me. I’m often in an area where I can’t pick up my phone (meetings, webinars, etc), but I can usually scan a text reproduction of someone’s voice message very quickly. I get back LOTS of time using SpinVox to cover my voicemail messages.

google reader

Google Reader is my RSS reader of choice. I use it for both reading blogs and news sources, but also for tracking social media information from other places. For example, Twitter Search has an RSS subscription button for the searches you cook up, so if you need to dashboard some social media activity, throwing it into a capable, fast-paced reader is important. I get lots of time back reading blogs and scanning information rapidly through Google Reader.

firefox

Firefox is a fast, flexible, customizable web browser. I use it more than any other application on my computer. To that end, I use it smartly, as well. I use the tabs feature to keep up a few pages that I need throughout a day (like my RSS reader, like some search information, etc). I also use all the keyboard shortcuts so that I can move even faster.

evernote

Evernote is a great tool for capturing snippets of information. It’s a lot more powerful than that, including letting you snap photos, and having a built in optical character recognition system. It also has a mobile client for iPhone and Windows Mobile, a standalone client for Mac and Windows, and a web sync. This saves me time in lots of ways, including making sure I have important notes at the ready wherever I am.

Also use some kind of text replacement application. I use TextExpander for the MAC all the time when typing. I have complete emails stored and at the ready in there, as well as all kinds of nifty html replacement information to help me with repetitive tasks.

If you can afford it, get a wireless cellular modem for your computer. I got one from work and now I have no idea how I wasn’t doing this all along.

What I Do With All This

Giving you a list of applications and saying this will make your life better is like sending you a box of paint and wishing you well on your new portrait career. Let’s go through a few ideas on how to do more with less time, and how I use my philosophy, methods, and tools to do that. Let’s just run through that now:

  • Guard your time. If you have work to do, ask yourself repeatedly if this work moves forward your main goals. Learn how to minimize the work that doesn’t.
  • Work towards checking email less frequently in a day, and also not being a slave to your phone. We forget all the time that these tools are supposed to be helpful, not constant distractions.
  • One trick there: kill notifier lights, buttons, sounds, and other indicators, and instead, schedule a task on your calendar or however you keep your appointments, where that task is to check your mail. (I haven’t gotten that far yet, but I’m working at it).
  • Find pockets of idle time and use them for something productive. When I’m grocery shopping, I Jott little audio reminders to myself to follow up on later. When I’m sitting in a waiting room, I read books on subject matter that nourishes my career. I use drive time for LOTS of things to go along with driving.
  • Build your projects to be modular, so that you can work on them when time comes up. Blog posts are a great example. I keep a text file where I can jot ideas for future posts. Then, I go back and flesh those in from time to time, or delete them, if I can’t remember what my notes meant.
  • Learn polite ways to decline things. We say YES to wayyyyyyyy to many things. Learn very warm and polite ways to say no. (Here’s a great audio podcast by Stever Robbins about saying “no” that I need to listen to often.)
  • Decide how much of your down time is really recharging you, and whether some of it is just idle for idle’s sake.

I know that some folks are going to retort and say that rest is important, that overworking one’s self is a bad thing, things like that. You’re absolutely right. All those things are true. I love relaxation and rest. I love finding time to rest and recharge, play with my kids, that kind of thing. My point is, if you need to find more time, there are ways to go about doing it.

Your Additions

How are you finding more time? What have you found out about the way you work that might be helpful to others? What tools are you using that maybe we should consider for this list? Let’s talk about that in the comments.

The Social Media 100 is a project by Chris Brogan dedicated to writing 100 useful blog posts in a row about the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests. Swing by [chrisbrogan.com] for more posts in the series, and if you have topic ideas, feel free to share them, as this is a group project, and your opinion matters.

Get the entire series by subscribing to this blog, and subscribe to my free newsletter here.

Photo credit, Jarosław Pocztarski

Print Friendly