9 immutable laws of time management

1. In anything, 20% of tasks are critical, 80% are trivial.

Of all the things most people do, most really aren’t that important. Sure, being busy may feel like progress, but it’s important not to confuse activity with progress. Time management masters take the time to identify which tasks on their list are truly critical and focus their attention there. The benefit: they get a lot farther, faster. Of course, to know what tasks are important, you have to be clear on your goals. Buttoned Up has two free goal list printables for getting clarity on that front. Organize multiple goals within a big picture with this printable and use this printable to reach individual goals.

2. Delegating is the only way to get more done in less time.

By enabling others to take on some of the work load, you’ll not only have more time to focus on what really matters (see law #1), but you’ll also give them the opportunity to stretch their full potential as well. Learn more about the art of delegation (LINK: http://getbuttonedup.com/2009/02/11/the-art-of-delegation/).

3. Inertia is a powerful force.

Starting something is the most difficult part of any project, particularly big ones. Your brain may come up with lots of excuses as to why something is too difficult to tackle now, #1 being: I don’t have enough time to get to that right now. Fortunately overcoming project or task inertia is easy. First, break the bigger task into smaller parts. Then, simply grab an egg timer and set it for 10 minutes. Go! It doesn’t matter how much you get done in those ten minutes, but you will have started – and once momentum is on your side, it is much more likely to stay there.

4. Work will fill up whatever time you have allotted for it.

This statement is otherwise known as Parkinson’s Law. Working with simple and clear deadlines forces you to focus your attention on getting the essentials of the task done. When you give yourself too much time to do something, you tend to make a mountain out of a molehill (and suffer all the anxiety that goes along with having a big, looming task hanging over your head). If you are struggling with this concept, ask yourself the question, “If I had to complete my most pressing project in half the time, how would I do it?”

5. Multi-tasking impairs intelligence (& tanks your efficiency).

Researchers at the University of Michigan have shown that multitaskers actually take longer to finish tasks than those who did each task sequentially. That’s because our brains work sequentially. Instead of doing two tasks at once, the brain actually toggles between whatever tasks are under way. Other studies at top-tier institutions like UCLA have shown switching between tasks impairs our ability to learn and even impairs our IQ more than smoking marijuana. Bottom line: multi-tasking is a giant waste of time.

6. Nothing goes according to plan.

Arnold Bennett said it best, “A first-rate organizer is never in a hurry. She is never late. She always keeps up her sleeve a margin for the unexpected.” The unexpected WILL happen. Kids get sick. Websites crash. Skilled time managers know this and build time into every day for dealing with unexpected, unforeseeable issues.

7. What you write down – and schedule – gets done.

Parkinson’s Law (#4) has a corollary: if you haven’t allotted any time to complete something you can bet that your empty time slot will be filled with crap or whatever seems most urgent. Have a basic plan for your day, and actually go so far as to schedule critical tasks so that they get crossed off your list.

8. Every person has a “prime time.”

Some people have much more energy first thing in the morning. Others find their levels of energy and ability to concentrate peak in the mid-afternoon. Understand your personal rhythms and schedule tasks that require the most effort and energy during that optimal “prime time” window.

9. Batteries run out.

Human beings need to take time to recharge. A relentless schedule that does not allow for a break from the stress impacts everything from our cardiovascular health to our weight, our ability to learn, our mood, our creativity levels and even our immune systems. Build in time each day, each week, each month, and each year to take care of yourself and renew your energy. Skipping things like exercise may seem like a more efficient thing to do, but it really makes you less efficient.

Are you a skilled time manager or do you struggle with it? What (if any) “law” do you break most often?