If you going to write a blog post about how to save time, you need to get right to the point.

So, here's the big idea: If you work on project 2 when you take a break from project 1, you accomplish a lot more.

Here's how I came to learn that.

I am always looking for ways to save time.

I love the Johnny Cash-Steve Jobs-Albert Einstein idea of wearing the same type of clothes every day. (My wife has her doubts, but I am working on her. A light blue button down shirt, khaki pants, and blue blazer is perfectly fine in about 90 percent of work situations.)

I always create a list every night of all the things I have to do the next day and make sure I have everything in place so that I can begin immediately--no wasted time looking for a file, or a supporting document or phone number, or email address.

And everything on that list is always ranked from the most important to the least, so that when something comes up--as it always does--I will have made progress in the most important things I have to do.

The doing-other-work-as-a-form-of-a break came about because I have the attention span of an over-caffeinated gnat. There are some people who can sit for hours at a time and concentrate on the task at hand. I am not one of them.

And what I used to do during my breaks--which only averaged five or 10 minutes at most--was address the stuff that was vaguely important: respond to an email; skim the trades, put all the paper that constantly piles up into the recycling bin. You get the idea.

Here's what I am starting to do when I need a break: More work.

When I need a break from what I am working on, I will spend a few minutes on something that is due months from now. For example, I have to make a huge presentation to my biggest client in three months. So, during my five- or 10-minute breaks, I work on that presentation. There is always something to read that is relevant; a point or two I can add to the detailed outline I am creating; a slide I can edit in the PowerPoint deck I am creating. You get the idea.

I do it and then return to the task at hand.

When I turn my full attention to creating that presentation two months from now, I will be that much further ahead.

And I will be using my breaks from working on that presentation to create something whose deadline is even further away.

I can always skim the trades, return emails, and the like at the very end of the day, when I am tired and organizing things for tomorrow.

Published on: Nov 10, 2014
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