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3 Tricks to Create More Time in Your Workday

Shaking up your workload can also makes you more successful. Use these three simple rules to make a change.
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Just about everyone in the working world complains about not having enough time. In most cases, though, the complainers create their own problems by not understanding the "RED" rule of time management: "Reduce, Eliminate, Delegate."

Here's how it works:

1. Reduce

Numerous studies have shown that the "sweet spot" for work productivity is 40 hours a week. Spending more than 40 hours at work per week creates a temporary productivity improvement, followed by a sharp drop in productivity.

This is not just a matter of diminishing returns. Working consistently long hours can create health problems, make focused effort difficult, and result in situations where work must be re-done to correct errors.

Because of this, a person who works 50 hours a week is getting about as much quality work accomplished as a person who works 35 hours a week. Therefore, you might as well only work 35 hours--thereby freeing up 15 hours for other stuff.

If that sounds too crazy, reduce your work hours to 40 hours a week.  You'll actually get more done--and you'll end up with 10 extra hours for other stuff, like relaxation and recharging with family and friends.

2. Eliminate

It's a scientific principle that 20% of your effort creates 80% of your results.  You should therefore strive to identify and eliminate the 80% that's creating the final 20% of your results.

Assuming you're working around 40 hours week, eliminating the 80% of semi-productive activity should free up about 32 hours.  However, since you want to still perform at 100%, simply add another couple of hours of doing the 20% that really matters.

Is it really possible to get the same amount of work done in 10 hours that a normal (or as I like to think of it, clueless) person gets done in 40 hours? Oh, mais oui.  People who ruthlessly eliminate non-essential meetings, paperwork, emails and so forth are wildly more productive than their peers.

Of course, if working only 10 hours a week is sound too radical, fill your 40 hours a week by doing more of 20% that really matters.  You'll triple your productivity and absolutely amaze everyone.

3. Delegate

Finally, once you've pared back your workload to the essentials, look at everything that you're still doing at work and ask: "Can I get (or pay) somebody else to do this for me?" If that person's time is less valuable than your own, delegate that task.

The ability to delegate--as much and as frequently as possible--is the key to being a great manager.  You want to spend your time doing only those things that you alone can do.  That's exactly what the most successful CEOs do.

I once asked Mitchell Kertzman, currently a venture capitalist with Hummer Winblad Venture Partners and formerly CEO of Sybase, what was the key to being a successful leader.  Here's what he said:

When I started the company, it was a one-man business. I did every job in this company. I wrote the programs, I sent out the bills, I did the accounting, I answered the phone, I made the coffee.

As the company has grown, I do fewer and fewer of those jobs. And that's just as well, because I was certainly less competent at them than most of the people who are doing them now.

I'm the reverse of the Peter Principle in the sense that I've finally risen to my level of competence, which is that I don't do anything very well and now what I do extremely well is nothing.

Follow the three steps and you'll not only create more time in your workday, but you'll also make yourself even more successful.

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IMAGE: Flickr
Last updated: Jul 19, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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