I believe over 50% of the time spent in organizations today is wasted. There is a significant opportunity to free up your time and focus by removing the unnecessaries. Here are 10 ways you can do this right now.
1. Turn off digital notifications
You pay a huge switching tax every time your focus is pulled away by a notification. Let's be honest: if something is urgent, you're going to get a call or a text.
99% of notifications are not urgent. Turn off as many of them as you possibly can: apps on your phone, Outlook "new mail" notifications on your desktop, and more. These are massive time and focus pirates.
2. Check your email only a few times a day
If you keep your inbox open and check it 37 times per minute, what are you focusing on? The answer: you are focusing on other people's priorities.
Try checking email twice a day, or once an hour. Do whatever you can to wean yourself off the urgency addiction of checking email. Remember: not everything that is urgent is important!
3. Cut down email volume
Unsubscribe from mailing lists or newsletters that you don't need (hopefully not this one).
4. Rapidly delete or archive 90% of your email
For the email that does come in, get super fast at deciding what to do with them. 90% of email is DELETE or ARCHIVE.
Set up one-button or one-swipe deleting or archiving. Learn how to search for email effectively so you eliminate anxiety over archiving emails and not knowing how to find them.
5. Cut unnecessary meetings from your calendar
Humans are creatures of habit. We will go to meetings and do things just because we've been doing them for a while.
Once a quarter, detach from your day-to-day activities and review your calendar. Look a few weeks back and a few weeks ahead. Critically evaluate every meeting you see. Does it support my priorities? What value is it providing? Does it have to be this long or this frequent? Make reductions, then do it again the next quarter.
6. Have a few, clear priorities
Ensure you (and your team) have clarity on the most important priorities. Three is a great number. Any more can start to dilute your focus.
If you find your team consistently cannot accomplish the number of priorities you have to high quality, reduce the number of priorities you are focusing on.
7. Give yourself permission to say no
Don't be afraid to say no. If you are overcommitted and say yes to new things, you are not serving anyone.
Use a Someday List for both yourself and/ your team to park things for discussion at your next quarterly check-in.
8. Stop pleasing everyone
Get comfortable saying no with tact. For example, if your boss asks you to take on a new commitment, you can say "Let's look together at which of my other commitments will have to be delayed or dropped to make sure I can do this new one".
9. Cut off unnecessary verbosity
Tell people what they need to know, not everything you know (thank you, Alan Weiss).
Meetings and emails are often much longer than is necessary. If you chair meetings where you have unnecessarily verbose people in attendance, don't tolerate it.
Get comfortable at (tactfully) interrupting people. You can ask, "What are we solving for?" For status updates, just ask "Are you stuck?" and "Do you need help?"
10. Spend some of your newfound time on important (but not urgent) energy-breeding activities
Don't use the time you freed up time to burn yourself out by just doing more. Use some of it for those important, energy-breeding activities: exercise, sleep, walking outdoors, meditation. My challenge for you: Spend 20 minutes to complete at least one of these 10 tips and you will automatically free up time. For example, if you pick just one recurring weekly hour-long meeting that is no longer needed, you've freed up an hour every week! Use more of these tips to free up even more time and focus.