How to be efficient – limit your work time

I’ve been listening to some of the podcasts at Manager Tools, while I’ve been running. Two advantages – if I’m listening to someone talk, I’m less likely to notice how unfit I feel, and I keep running, and the podcasts are some of the most practical management advice I’ve seen anywhere.

One piece of advice I’ve been pondering has been about calendar management. Two of their recommendations (the first two) boil down to – limit your time, because you will be more efficient. Specifically, Mike and Mark recommend:

  • schedule your family time first – i.e. set yourself a time that work stops, and stick to it
  • specifically set aside time for email, and only answer email during that time – you’ll find yourself ignoring email that doesn’t matter if you don’t have time for it

They argue, very persuasively, that if you know your time is limited, you use it much more effectively. It’s interesting, because working mothers have been saying this for years. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have had a conversation with a working mother lamenting how much more efficient they are now than they ever were before they had kids, and how they get negative credit for leaving early despite that efficiency.

It’s great to see two well regarded management writers making that point, without even realising that it is a feminist one.

  4 comments for “How to be efficient – limit your work time

  1. February 6, 2008 at 4:27 am

    “specifically set aside time for email, and only answer email during that time” If only I could be that disciplined.

    I wonder if I could schedule Outlook to shut itself down automatically and only go online for one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon?

  2. February 6, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    I totally agree with this. Whenever I shut my email down, I get more done. I also triage my email, and only deal with the non-emergency (work-related) stuff on Monday mornings. My supervisor hated it until he got used to it, but it works for me.

  3. February 6, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    I haven’t managed to implement the email suggestion yet, but it made me think. I’d heard it before, but not the suggestion that it makes you more efficient in actually responding to email.

    I can believe it – the authors suggest that you will start being ruthless about ignoring cc’d emails, emails from the corporation at large, etc. etc, until you have dealt with the important things first. I’m going to try it, I think.

  4. outish
    July 14, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    working on schedule really helps. working smarter and not harder is the real key to success. An interesting article on the perils of working too hard and ways to avoid it at

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