THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- 4 tricks: How to give yourself more time

Success depends on being a good time manager, because it doesn't matter how good you are at your job if you never have time to do it. Herewith, four tricks:

1. Prioritize ruthlessly 

Everyone has time to do the most important thing on his or her to-do list each day, and most people have time to do the top five things. Problems arise when people do the number eight thing first, because it's easy. 

Instead of doing the easy things, do the things that will have the most impact. Often that means doing one difficult thing that has the potential for big, long-term reward. The problem is that this one thing probably has a lot at stake; if it goes poorly, then no long-term reward. So we get nervous. The number-eight task has little impact, so doing it poorly doesn't scare me as much. 

If you do the easy stuff first, then end of the day arrives with you going crazy-busy trying to get the top of your to-do list done. Whereas, if number eight is not done, you can go home anyway.

2. Stop doing research 

One of the biggest black holes on a to-do list is research. "I need to read this book before I start writing," or "I need to have three more numbers before I start the project."

In most cases, you can start without all the research. Journalists are so used to writing before all the facts arrive that there's a sign– "TK"– that means "to come." So you could write, "TK children are shot each year, which is TK percent of all homicides. John Doe has proposed TK legislation to address these deaths." 

My friend Mary had an employee whose job was to write client work proposals, but she kept saying she needed more information. Mary would tell her to make up assumptions for things she didn't know, and fix it later. But this employee couldn't do it. Buh-bye.

3. Sort immediately 

Another form of procrastination is pile-making. To read a piece of paper briefly and then put it down to be read again is to double your work. If you forced yourself to deal with every piece of paper as soon as you touch it, you will find that you deal with papers in 50 percent less time. 

Barnes & Noble is so convinced of this theory that it has made touch-it-once a company policy. When Barnes & Noble opens a new store, hundreds of workers unpack boxes of books. Some books are easy to shelve and some are difficult. Rather than shelving the easy ones right away and making a pile of difficult ones, Barnes & Noble mandates that employees touch a book only once. Implement this in your life to expand your career as fast as Barnes & Noble has.

4. Stop cyber-slacking 

This morning, I sat down to my computer to write a column. I checked e-mail. Then I rechecked. Then I told myself I could surf a little. I came across a study from the University of Carleton that said cyber-slacking is a form of procrastination, and it's killing peoples' productivity. I saw myself in that study, so I skipped it, and I surfed a little more ... CNN, the Onion ... then I went back to the study. 

The Internet is useful, yes, but in most cases, it's a way to take a break from doing the hard stuff. 


It seems that most of time management is being honest with yourself: At each moment, ask if you're doing the most important thing or the easiest thing.  The more honest you are with yourself, the more time you'll find. 


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more. She penned this column several years ago, but she's busy with new things–- too busy to write new things.