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In Chapter 2 of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen spells out the four criteria model for choosing the next thing to do. He says that you choose what to do next based on (in this order) context, time available, energy and priority. In this series of articles, I will explore ways to maximize the criteria so that you always have the most possibility of getting something done.
Maximizing the Amount Of Time Available
Maximizing time isn’t about getting more time to do things, but rather doing the most with the time you have available. These tips can help you make the most of your time:
Don’t split your attention when working on a task. The amount of time it takes the brain to shift from task to task can drain away large amounts of time. If you have fifteen minutes to work on a presentation, spend the whole fifteen minutes doing so; don’t fragment your attention by checking email in the middle of it.
Break Down Tasks
Just about all tasks can be broken down into smaller tasks that take less time. You don’t have to take this to the level where a task can’t be broken down anymore in order to make this effective. But many tasks lend themselves to smaller chunks, particularly ones that are not thought-intensive. For example, if your task is to empty the garbage cans in the house, and you know you have ten minutes before you have to leave, empty two or three and leave the rest for later. You will be very surprised at what you can accomplish in these short bursts of time.
For larger things that require significant effort and thought, or have significant (time-wise) start-up or clean-up activities, schedule the blocks of time into your schedule. It may not be possible to schedule an entire day, but perhaps a few hours would be possible. Treat these times as appointments, and you will protect their boundaries, and maximize what you can accomplish.
The End Result
By staying on top of how much time something will take, and making use of the odd bits of time to do things that do not require a lot of concentration, you can maximize your time available.