Everyone wants to save time, and everyone has too much to do! Are you looking for better ways to save time and get more done? I’ve found the secret is really more to do with finding focused ways to get the right things done. Listen to hear my five favorite time saving tips you can apply to all areas of your life.
In this episode of The Career Rx we’ll discuss:
- How priorities, scheduling, and an approach so easy (but few people actually do it!)
- Time blocking, efficiency, and how to ignore most of what’s competing for your attention
- The real secret to “doing all the things”
Today I outline my top five tips to not only save you time, but to make better use of your time. These tips are probably things you hear all the time but today I challenge you to think about them a little differently and to apply them how I have described – even if you think it won’t work for you.
Special announcement: My course, Industry Insider, is now accredited for up to 12 CME credits. Learn how to land an exciting and impactful role as a physician in the world of pharma, biotech, or medical devices, AND how to do that even if you think you're not qualified, don't have any connections, or concerned about a pay cut… I’ve got you covered!
In this Episode:
[2:30] Taking control of tomorrow and the week ahead
[6:00] Before you check another notification, ask this key question
[9:05] Learn how to batch, even if you think that won’t work for you
[11:30] Ignore it! No, for real. It’s OK and it works
[20:00] Look for the “clutter” – and never leave the room empty-handed
Links and Resources:
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TRANSCRIPT: Episode 102 – Five Tips for Saving Time and Getting The Right Things Done
Hey there, I'm Marjorie Stiegler and you're listening to The Career Rx podcast, where we tackle the important things they don't teach you in medical school. Like how to treat your career, like the business, it really is, with strategies to accelerate the kind of success that you want, because you deserve a career you love, and a career that loves you back. Are you ready? Let's get into it.
Hey, y'all welcome back. Today we're going to be talking about some top tips to save time. And while that sounds like probably pretty generic, it is something that I get asked about a lot, right all the time, people often asked me how I have time, for example, to do this podcast, or to teach the courses that I teach, and how do I have time to, you know, fit in other things at work or with my family? And of course, obviously, you know, it's a matter of prioritization, right?
Not everybody can do everything. I mean, nobody can do everything. None of us can do everything. But I do have some tried and true tips that I think really do make the difference, at least for me. So I'm happy to share them on the podcast here with you today. And I hope that if you're already doing some of these things, maybe chatting about them helps you to think about it in a slightly different way.
Or maybe you hear something today that you'll decide to give a try. If you know if the sound like the kind of advice that you've heard already, try to think about it in a new way in your life, because I will say I think one of the biggest barriers to time management suggestions is people say, “well, that won’t work for me, that'll never work for me.”
In fact, and again, I'm going to get into my tips here in a second. But I recall being on Twitter, not that long ago, somebody had posted a, you know, a question, and there were a bunch of replies. And her question was about, you know, people who, who worked full time and have kids and some other things, you know, what are their best time tips?
And I've replied with one of mine, and basically got laughed out of the room because people say, “Oh, everybody does that.” But I'm not sure that people do. So. With that, let me just dive right in with what I think is actually the thing that is probably the most important for me, when I find myself slipping on this. It's very apparent in my life, because things start to get all crazy.
So number one is I plan my day, the day before. And I plan my week, the week before. I know that sounds like that's not rocket science. But I plan it and I stick to it. Maybe that's the part that people don't do. I stick to it. And just like everybody else, yes, things come up, things come up that try to compete for my time, my attention, things come up for my family, things come up at work. And you know, I'm not saying I never deviate from my plan.
But I've tried very, very hard to stick to the plan, I certainly do not deviate from my plan for you know, just emails or pings or the phone rings or things like that. I definitely don't. So what I mean by that is, you know, as I'm finishing my work the day before the next day, I sit down and I think about okay, what do I really need to get done the next day.
And sometimes that's a bill I need to pay, like, it's a personal thing that I need to take care of, make the kids dentist appointments, whatever. Sometimes it's something that I didn't get done that day that I know is urgent enough, I need to make sure the next day I really focus on it. If it's none of those things, then I really just think about my work in general and I pick no more than two or three things that need to happen the next day and I plot it out on a little list, but also I literally stick it into my calendar.
So I do have meetings that occurred during the day. But if I have tasks that need to get done, if I have things that need to get done, those can't get done during the meetings. So I either put them in spaces in my calendar where there aren't meetings, or I move meetings. And you know, it's ideal to not do that the night before, which is also why I try to plan my week, the week before. So similarly on Friday before I call it a week, I look at the week ahead and I think about you know, is there anything really important leftover from this week I didn't get to, because I better put that first if indeed it's important.
And then I think about, “well what is on my calendar?” And does the sort of schedule that I have on my calendar support me getting done the things that really need to get done? Or are the meetings the most important things or whatever. So for you, you may have a different kind of job. So it may not be about meetings and tasks, but however it is, you really think about what is coming in the week ahead. What do I need to get done that week, and I put those things in my calendars if they are appointments, and then I just don't deviate from it.
I know everybody else. We're not everybody else. But many people make plans like this, but what they find is they only get half of it. Half of their day matches what they intended to do, or or even less. And that's oftentimes because we wake up, we reach for our phone, we see an email or a ping or a direct message and we're suddenly off on a completely different direction. And I strongly encourage you to just simply not do that. Stick to the plan that you have thought about the night before and the week before.
That way you can sleep well you don't wake up all in a flurry on the morning that you are trying to figure out what you need to do and And you sleep well on the weekend, because, you know, it's not a Sunday night scramble to try to figure out what your week is, you already know you've planned it out, well, you've made the space to do the things that are most important. You're thoughtful about it, and you stick to it. So that's number one. Easy, easier said than done. But if you do, it makes a huge difference.
Okay, number two, this is something I've been doing for a very, very long time, right? Even in the old days where everything was on paper, don't open mail, or I guess today, it would be also email messages and whatever else, notifications unless you are ready to act on them. Don't do it. So I know you're looking at your phone, and you have all those little red bubbles that tell you how many unread messages you have. And it feels really compelling. Go and take a look. And perhaps you go to the mailbox every day and check out your physical mail and you kind of want to rifle through it. I mean, you could do that, if that's relaxing for you.
But to me, these are not only sort of time sucks, but they're also a really good way to get disorganized and forgetful. So what I like to do is if I imagine everything is on paper, I would just take it and put it in a pile and I don't look at it right away. And I have a set time, sometimes it's a set time per day, maybe it's a set day per week, where I sit down and go through all of it at once.
So with physical mail, back in the day, you know, snail mail and bills and things like that, that used to be a every two weeks activity. So I wouldn't look at the stuff. Unless it was that, you know, bi weekly day that I do. And then I would sit down and I would do all of it. I had my checkbooks you know, I'm really dating myself, I had my checkbook and my stamps, you know, and whatever was necessary to take care of what was going on.
The same thing is true today, in your email, and in your direct messages and all of the various platforms that you're using. If you open the things and you look at them, then you have to keep track of them. If you don't have the time to actually act on them. If you need something that requires you to be at a laptop or desktop, but you happen to be on your phone, if you would need a file or some other piece of information that's not immediately available to you.
To me then what happens is it gets kind of lost in the shuffle, and less. By the way, listeners, if you have an amazing solution for this, I'd love to hear about it. But especially notifications, they just get marked as red. And then they just get buried. An email, of course, you can mark it as unread, you can snooze it, send it back, there are ways to do this. But I think basically this just invites disorganization, because it takes the time in the mental capacity to look at things and to think about them but you don't get to kind of cross any of it off because you're not ready to do it.
So not only is it taking you more time when you do sit down, and you're ready to do it, because you've already sunk some time thinking about it when you weren't ready to act. But at least for me, this has a tendency to make my brain wonder, did I do that? Or did I just think about doing it? Right? Did I really do it? Or did I just think that I did it and then that gets me confused makes me forget things. It just does not keep things really orderly.
So it's not only less efficient, but I find it can be one of the reasons why things could fall through the cracks, if there's something that I truly forget to do. Because I opened it up, I thought about it, and my brain convinces me I took care of it, but I didn't. So that's number two, don't open it until you're ready to act on it.
That leads me to number three, which is again, for me a big lifesaver. But it depends upon how you work. So this may or may not work for you. But for me this really makes a big difference. I batch my projects, I batch my work. What I mean by that is I am not checking email constantly, all day long. I check email twice a day.
And again, it's in my calendar, right but I have a time in the morning where I check the email. And I do have enough time blocked off that I'm ready to act on it really important. I don't open more email than I'm ready to act on etc. So I batch it, I get a portion of it done in the morning, and a portion of it done in the afternoon.
And I am not therefore constantly responding to people because there is always stuff coming in. I mean, there's a flood of, you know, emails and requests and pings and DMS and it's always coming in. But if I spent my day reacting to things like that, as they came in, I would never get my daily and weekly plans done. So I don't do that.
And I let my colleagues know. So people know that that's how I manage my email my messages, they know their you know, they can send it to me that way. But I'm not going to be getting back to them in that quick of a manner. Also, my core team knows I like that I give them the bad phone, right they do have a way to get in touch with me if they're having a true emergency.
So there's a guaranteed way that if there's really really something that needs my attention, then they can get me but it needs to be done. justify right? It means to justify that particular method of communication because it will be disrupting my plan and my day, but it's there. Right?
So there is sort of a backup. So I know a lot of people are saying it wouldn't work for them to batch their work, because they wouldn't be, you know, their expectations at work that people would, you know, expect them to be at the ready. I would suggest, though, that unless your job is to answer questions all day long, and that that literally is your job.
If that's not your job, I think there is a way to work with, with batch communication management. And you just need to tell people that that's how you do it, people will learn. And part of that is boundary setting.
All right, this takes me also into number four, because I did mention things are coming in all the time, right? Emails coming in, messages are coming in, things are coming in much faster than most people can handle them. This is true for me, I'm sure it is true for you, too.
And I've said don't open things unless you're ready to act on them. And I've said you should batch them. And so the logical sort of question in many people's minds is, well, I will be buried, right? How would I ever unbury myself? How will I ever get on top of things? And my answer to that is ignore things.
And I know that for some of you, you'll be thinking like yes, absolutely right. And we're speaking the same language. For others of you, you're thinking, “What do you mean, Marjorie? How do I just ignore things”, but you can and should, because most things are not important. Maybe only about 20% of things that come across your radar are actually important and actually require you to take action and to do them.
And there's always going to be more stuff to do than a person can ever get done. So you have to prioritize what you intend to do. And so what I do, and this heart, you know, kind of goes against the grain, right? Goes against what I feel like I should be doing, but I'm training myself. And I've been doing this for a long time, and it does work. But it kind of takes work.
I only open about 10 to 15% of my email and messages. And I only respond to maybe 5% of those. So I scan a lot of things. And I use a software that does a lot of filtering for me to literally just intercept it before it lands in my inbox. And when I see things, you know, I give them a scan, I scan the subject line and the sender. And most of the time those things go directly into archive.
I often don't delete things, that's just my preference, you might just stick them in delete, there's no reason but I'd like to archive, it's reference material in my mind. But I get it right out of there, I'd literally do not open up.
Why not? Well, because as I said, again, most things don't actually require you or they're not all that important. And if that's the case, if it's just an FYI, or something that you've been kind of looped in on, that's not something that you necessarily need to invest your time in, and definitely not something that you need to respond to.
Also, if things are unsolicited, and you know, they're from an unknown sender, that's another like flag for me that I'm probably going to ignore it, right? Because if it's not something that I'm expecting that I already know what it is and that I want to be engaged in, a lot of times, it's just frankly, something that is not important for me.
And whoever it is, the sender will find somebody else that will do just as great of a job, in fact, probably a better job because it'll be something that catches their eye and they're more interested in. And this also avoids just even having to kind of sift through. And just, again, more unsolicited email, write things that are just not that are not a priority for you. Right, someone's sending them to you, but they're not a priority for you.
And so that helps me to decide what I respond to right, or I'm sorry, what I open are about 10 to 15%. And I said I only respond to maybe about 5% So what are the kinds of things that I don't respond to? I definitely do not respond to “reply alls”, right?
I mean, don't respond to things that are an FYI. Unless someone has specifically asked me to close the loop and I, in particular, am an important person, right? It's not just for my awareness, but it's for my action, or my agreement, right? Otherwise I do not respond to those at all.
And I just don't respond to emails that don't have enough information for me. And so as a couple of examples that came in actually to my inbox today I got two emails. I often get listener emails. I do look at those, right? Those are something that I do look at, but today I got two emails that I did not respond to so I opened them but I didn't respond and if you're listening and you recognize this is you, I asked you to please write me back, because now you'll know I'm not responding.
One was someone telling me about how she's starting her business, and she wants to know, if I have any tips for getting noticed on Instagram. So this was one or two sentences, you know, “hey, I'm retired. Now I want to take the information that I've learned over the past three decades, and put it into educational information, and how do I get noticed on Instagram?” So that was one.
And the other was from a professional who said, you know, I'm, I've been really struggling in my career. And do I have any suggestions that would help for what she's going through? So you can see that both of those are incredibly nebulous, right? I mean, an Instagram strategy for a new business is not an email conversation. And also, it's a conversation for which, you know, I have the branding prescription, it's an 18 hour CME course, I'm not going to be able to via email reply, no matter how long that reply is, to be able to unpack the question and like to learn enough about this person's business and be able to make a strategic plan for them, and how to get tips on Instagram.
Also, a person can just Google that right? I'm sure there are a ton of references on how to build your Instagram platform that are quite up to date, probably more knowledgeable about that specific question than I am. So not only am I maybe not the right person to answer this question, but I definitely do not have enough information to act on it in a way that would be meaningful to the sender. So because I can't help I ignore it.
And then while my heart went out to the person who said they were really struggling and asked if I had any suggestions for what they're going through, I have no idea what they're going through. Because they didn't say anything about what they're going through, or how they are struggling. So again, I don't have enough information to respond in a way that would be meaningful.
I can understand why a senator maybe doesn't want to put details about what they're going through in their email. But then that's, again, I may not be the right person to answer that question. Maybe this is more of something for a coach, maybe it is for a therapist. If it is for me, then it's probably managed best through one of my courses. And I would need details on what's going on in order to be able to make a recommendation.
So again, I guess I've taken more time just to even record this on the podcast than to answer these emails, but I don't have enough information. And in the past, I used to respond to each of these things, saying everything I just said hear out loud, you know, write it down for everybody.
But the reality is, I get too much of that, to do that all the time. And so when people send me information or questions that don't have enough information for me to respond in a meaningful way, today, I just don't respond. And you might be asking, what about if you're missing things, I mean, if you're scanning your email, and you're only opening 10 to 15% of it, and only responding to 5% What if you miss things that are from an important sender or an important opportunity?
I think this is a totally valid concern, you may well miss some things that could happen. For me, that's the right trade off, I might miss a couple of things. But that's the trade off for my sanity, that other 85% of my email that is out of my management pile. So that gives me a lot more time. The other thing is that when people are trying to get in touch with you about something important, they're usually quite persistent. So if it is important, and if it specifically requires you like you're the person that they have in mind, they will get back to you again, I don't think you need to worry about that
And then my fifth tip, and the way I’ll close this episode, this is really less of a work one and more of a literal one for around the house. But I find it could be interpreted both literally and maybe metaphorically. So see what you can pull from this. I recall reading an article that I believe was about, like keeping your house tidy. And one of the recommendations again, not rocket science was never leave a room empty handed.
And they went on to, I'm sorry, whoever wrote the book or the newsletter, I don't remember where I heard this or who you know, I would like to give the credit. It's definitely not my idea. But I can't remember so I'll just say that.
But the person's point was, you know that if you are in the living room and you know there's something that needs to go to the kitchen like when you stand up just take it when you're leaving the kitchen, is there something that needs to be put away in a different room? If so, just take it you know if the kids socks are on the floor, just pick them up right and just never leave the room empty handed.
Always be on the lookout for something that's right here in front of me that really is better placed somewhere else and just do it. Like with yourself. If you get in that habit this author said and I find to be true. You can usually identify something that actually just flows so that you're not taking a different trip, right? You are in the room where you are, you know where you're about to be going. And there's often something that needs to go there. So it works out perfectly.
If you just keep it top of mind, never walk out of the room, empty handed, I think there's probably a metaphorical way too, to apply this to work in terms of, you know, whatever it is that you are doing, to really be looking for tiny actions that you can do right away. And again, you know, don't open things unless you're ready to act on them.
But when there are things in front of you that take just, you know, less than a minute to do, just get them done right away, instead of letting them accumulate. Even just this sort of lowered cognitive load, and not having to keep track of those things. And thinking about those things I find is really, really valuable, even if it doesn't directly translate into saved time.
So those are my tips. Plan your day, the day before and your week, the week before and stick to it. Do not open things unless you are ready to act on them. Do that kind of communication work in batches. Ignore most of the stuff and never leave the room empty handed. I love it.
This is what helps me, I hope it helps you too. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time.
Before you go, please leave me a review on Apple Podcasts, share and subscribe to this podcast. Your support makes all the difference and it truly helps this information reach someone who may really need it. Until next time, thanks for listening.