Time management skills: Work less, get more done

Are there ways to "create" time in the course of our day?

Once a year, we change our clocks and "gain" an hour. Without fail, magazine articles inquire as to what we’re going to do with that extra hour. They make it sound like a windfall. Of course, it’s welcome and useful, but the payoff is short-lived.

In recent months, I’ve been giving time management presentations during which I ask the participants what they would do with that extra hour if they had it every day. Most say, "Sleep!" Understandable and necessary.

I pose the question so that we start reflecting on how we spend our time and, perhaps more importantly, how to turbo-charge our time. Are there ways to "create" time in the course of our day? Is there a quicker, more efficient way to do the things we do? Here’s a small example from a number of years ago that might help illustrate turbo-charging time.

During graduate school, I was asked to market a magazine that the university I attended produced. I said no since I thought it was in dire need of a facelift. So, instead, I asked for permission to do whatever I wanted to the magazine and then I would market it. Never mind that I had absolutely no experience running a magazine. Much to my horror, they said ok.

After a dizzyingly steep learning curve, I started figuring out how this thing needed to work. It was all about assets and access. It originally took three weeks of my time to run the magazine. Then I started assessing the assets available to me.

A minor problem was no one was getting paid for this endeavor. But, I was sitting in a building full of students. So I recruited the students knowing that there was some currency that was of value to them. First, their name in lights. Second, a line on their resume. Third, something tangible to send home that their parents could brag to the neighbors about. Fourth, exposure around the world writing for a unique publication.

I recruited a dozen students not just to write for the magazine but to take ownership. I gave them titles as well as sections of the magazine that they were responsible for. We improved the quality of the magazine and the time required for me to work on it began to be reduced.

After the first year of reprinting articles from other publications, the access stage kicked in. We began to get access to writers from all over the world who were taking note of the improvements in the magazine. Articles began coming in.

We rarely reprinted any articles after that, and the articles arrived without us having to ask. The time required for me to work on the magazine continued to fall.

Before I knew it, my original three weeks of work had fallen to three days. The quality of the magazine improved. The readership increased. Its reputation improved. It was a win-win situation all the way around: the students got what they wanted, I got what I wanted, the university got what it wanted, and the readers got what they wanted.

What does your world look like? What do you want to achieve? What assets are available to you? What access to people and resources do you have? What is there in your environment that you can leverage into a win-win situation and turbo-charge your time?

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