It’s everyone’s dream to be able to do more in less time. Our lives would be plenty less stressful. Especially when you’re part of a team, each member needs to be working at similar levels of efficiency so things get done. With the right productivity tips, you can really make this happen. Try the 10 minute rule. Management consultant Michelle Bryant lays out the ways setting a 10 minute timer for every tasks gets her through her work day faster and better.
By far, the most effective means of finding additional time in your day is to outsource the things on your to-do list that someone else can easily do in 10 minutes or less. For example, I have a very successful and revered colleague who claims that a linchpin of his success is that he “says ‘yes’ to everything, but only actually performs the tasks that only he can do best.” Everything else, he delegates.
Delegating is not as easy as it sounds. It can be difficult to let go of a task when you fear that another person’s work won’t be as good as your own. It’s helpful to remember that “done is better than perfect,” and the only way you are going to move ahead in your career is if you let go of the things you’ve mastered and take on new challenges. Another mindset shift that helped me was realizing that delegating creates opportunities for others. Now I actively think about what tasks and projects I can create for my team that will help them learn, grow, and advance their careers (which conveniently helps clear up my plate as well).
One of the challenges I see most with people who have trouble delegating—especially those in entry-level positions—is that they forget that they can and should delegate up. If you feel uncomfortable asking a supervisor or superior to do something, try this: Start by pointing out what you are doing, and position your “ask” as a request for help. For example, instead of, “I need you to call the team leads,” you could say “I’m working on pulling the data for this analysis—would it be possible for you to help me by calling the other team leads?”
As a manager, I can tell you that I too often find myself begging my teams to delegate something up to me, and I love it when they create opportunities for me to help.
2. Find the Easy, 10-Minute Task
You may be skeptical at first, but by simply changing how you frame your tasks, you will see that just about everything can be broken down into 10-minute tasks. Do you need to research a new topic? Start with 10 minutes on Google scanning news articles, followed by 10 minutes of jotting down everything you know and the top few questions you still need to answer, and then 10 minutes each calling people to get advice on answering your open questions (bonus points if you were savvy enough to notice that the phone call is a form of delegation!).
Voilà! You have just squeezed a task that may have otherwise lingered on into hours into 30 minutes.
This approach works after hours, too. I have a colleague who was so intrigued by the 10-minute rule and how it helped her during work hours that she decided to try it at home. She took out her timer for a few mornings to time her pre-work routine, and with a 10-minute shower, 10-minute breakfast, etc., she found that she was able to cut her standard “getting ready” time, trading it in for coveted sleep instead. She had never thought it was possible to shower in 10 minutes—until she tried it and realized it was actually pretty easy!
3. Use That Timer
Using your timer is a critical part of the rule, so don’t forget it. As everyone in the business world knows, “we do what we measure.”
This is true of the 10-minute rule as well—you must use a timer or clock to keep track of how long you are spending on things. Smartphones make this easier with their built-in timer apps, but any clock with a minute hand will do. Whatever you do, don’t guess—because if your approximately 10 minutes always becomes 20, you’re not maximizing your productivity.
Sometimes, you’ll spend less than 10 minutes on a task (more time back—yay!), and sometimes that alarm will ring and you’ll still be on the phone (no, I’m not suggesting that you just hang up when the alarm goes off). Don’t feel badly about running over—just make note of it for next time.
For example, if one co-worker tends to ramble, preface your next conversation by telling her you have 10 minutes to brainstorm. What if you really need more time? That’s fine too: Tracking your time spent will provide insight into how you work, so you can plan your day better next time.