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Four Vital Rules of Time Management

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The four most vital rules of time management (80/20, 50/10, Drucker’s, and Effectiveness) ensure that you are using your time wisely, expending your energy wisely, prioritizing correctly, and not sacrificing time where you should be committing more of it. Effective time management reduces stress, increases your energy, and allows you to plan for a life outside of work.

80/20 Rule or Pareto Principle

This rule for time management states that 20% of our effort goes into 80% of the results you achieve—or stated another way, the last 20% of the project takes 80% of your time.

Let’s say that one of your goals is to reduce turnover among your best performers. You take a look at your current activities and see you are spending 80% of your time mentoring and coaching your lowest performing staff. When you reverse that and spend 80% of your time mentoring and coaching your most productive staff, you give high performers the attention they deserve, advance their careers within the company, and stop them from leaving.

50/10 Rule

Our ability to focus for long times—especially on work we find uninteresting—is limited. The 50/10 rule recommends devoting 50 minutes to a task, then taking a 10 minute break of any kind but (for health reasons, if no other) preferably walking or moving.

This rule is sometimes modified to the 5/50/10 rule, in which the first 5 minutes are devoted to gathering up all the data and tools needed to work the next 50 minutes.

Drucker’s First Principle

Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant, insisted that managing your time is impossible until you know where your time is currently spent. For example, you may believe that writing a single email takes only seconds when actually—between thinking about what you mean to say, researching content, and figuring out who needs to be copied—the entire process takes 10 or more minutes.

By tracking your time, you begin to control it because you now know:

  • How much time you will need for a new project because you have tracked the time needed for previous projects
  • Where you are wasting time; for example, an open door policy may be a priority for you, but not if you are interrupted every few minutes by people who simply drop by to chat
  • Whether you are assigning time by the difficult of the task or by the quality of the results.
  • What low priority tasks you need to delegate because they are taking more time than high priority tasks.

Effectiveness vs. Efficiency

One rule of time management that is often overlooked is that certain tasks deserve more time. Efficiency is an excellent measure of effective time management, but if it is the only measure it can lead to decision debacles such as multitasking and sacrificing quality for speed.

Research has shown that a concentration on efficiency can lead to choosing the wrong goals to work on in the first place. Moreover, if unrealistic time limits are set in the name of efficiency, then any effort at time management is doomed from the start.

Key Takeaways

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