Five Quick Time Saving Tips for Busy Executives

If you’re tired of being overwhelmed trying to get “everything done” here’s a short list of things you can do to turn that around.

1. Stop Checking Email in the Morning. I know this is a difficult one (most of the people I know are addicted to email), but the problem with checking email first thing in the morning is that it automatically puts us in a reactive mode to other people’s agendas–and not our own. In other words, the best strategy to getting more work done is to work from your list FIRST–which leads to the second key.

2. Block Out the First Few Hours of the Day for You. Instead of letting other people suck up your time, take a look at your top priorities and block in several hours of uninterrupted time to work on your items. As an executive, you need think time. You need to be out in front of everyone else. And you can’t do that on the fly. You need time where no one is interrupting you. So, take out your calendar and block in several appointments with yourself for the next few weeks. Even better, if your work allows it, work out of your main office (either at home or at a bakery like Panera Bread).

3. Shorten Your Meetings to 45 Minutes. Take all of the 60 minute meetings you normally have (like staff meetings) and cut them down by 15 minutes. Doing this will keep everyone more focused (and off their Blackberrys and iPhones). You’ll be surprised how much more gets done by shortening your meetings–plus you’ll end up getting back several hours of your week.

4. Use an Egg Timer. We’re all familiar with Parkinson’s Law (work expands to fill up the amount of time available for completion), but few of us do anything about it. One simple, but effective way to do something about that is to purchase an egg timer (like this one made by Polder ). Then set it for the amount of time you think you need to accomplish a task. For example, “Write CEO letter for strategic plan packet” (60 minutes). Then watch how much faster you write knowing there is a countdown clock on your desk. You’ll be amazed by this one if you haven’t done it before.

5. Make a Smaller But Prioritized List. If you’re not making a list, make one. But the majority of owners and CEOs I work with have lists that are way too large for anyone to get done in a day, let alone a week. Secondly, the point of planning is not just to create a list, it’s to make decisions–in this case, it’s about what’s more important (vs. something else). In other words, when you’re creating a list, you should be evaluating “To do” #1 vs. #2 and deciding which is more important. Or to put it another way, if you want to get more done by the end of the year, you need to have a very focused (i.e. small) and prioritized list that you’re working from each day.

I don’t know about you, but the line that haunts me every day of my life is from Alec McKenzie who wrote,

“Nothing is easier than being busy. Nothing more difficult than being effective.”

So, what do you think? Do you have any other time saving ideas that work for you when you’re under the crunch? If so, add them below (or if you’re reading this by RSS or email, click the link for this post and add your comments).