How To Save Time By Avoiding This Productivity Trap

Published: November 2, 2010
By: Faye Hollands

The challenge for many time-poor people is that, because they’re rushing around trying to get everything done, they don’t stop long enough to think laterally about their priorities – they just jump straight in and do whatever grabs their attention first or seems the easiest task to get on with at the time.  The problem with this approach is that you can end up losing even more time by focusing on the wrong things! If you’ve ever found yourself caught in this time-trap, here’s how to escape…

Mission Critical

To avoid wasting time you need to know what your key goals so that you can prioritise effectively   Once you know what you’re aiming to achieve, it’s important to identify your ‘mission critical’ tasks which will help you maintain the right level of focus.

Mission Critical tasks are the tasks that contribute DIRECTLY to your key goals, and the good thing about completing them is that they increase your overall level of satisfaction because they are directly linked to what’s most important to you.   This in turn will help to increase your level motivation, so the knock on effect of managing your time this way can be very beneficial!

Despite what the name suggests, mission critical tasks don’t have to be big or time consuming – they simply need to be DIRECTLY related to your key goals and objectives.  So returning a phone call or replying to an email might be a mission critical tasks if the email or call helps you achieve one of your goals (or moves you closer to achieving it).

Once you’ve identified your mission critical tasks for the day (which I suggest planning the night before) they need to become a priority over everything else, and should be meticulously scheduled in your diary so that you know what you’ve got to do, and when.

What I recommend is identifying and limiting yourself to two mission critical tasks per day, and the reason for this relates to the 80/20 rule which is valid across a number of areas, including time-management strategies.  It’s been proven that….

  • 20% of meeting time is spent making 80% of the decisions
  • 20% of your activities account for 80% of your results
  • 20% of your tasks account for 80% of the value in your to-do list.

As these numbers suggest, some tasks have a much greater return on your investment of time and energy than others, and in order for you to get more done in less time and prioritise effectively it’s important to focus your time on these high payoff, mission critical tasks rather than the low-end time fillers that many people often find their to-do list full of. This means that on a to-do list of 10 items, two items will be considerably more important than the other eight.

If you can discipline yourself to start your day with the most important item on your to-do list you can be sure that you will accomplish vastly more than the average person, which again, in turn will increase your satisfaction and motivations levels.

So my big tip here is to focus on the items that will account for the major share of your results and do them first where possible. These are often the items that you will procrastinate over, are most complicated or time-consuming.

To be an effective time manager you need to realise that you simply cannot do everything. So you have to be selective with the time you have and consciously choose to spend it on what’s most important.

How do you manage your time smartly?  Let me know what works for you – post a comment below…


Written by Faye Hollands – Director at Outshine Consulting. Faye is an accomplished Career Coach and Time Management Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success.

To receive your FREE MP3 download of Faye’s popular teleseminar ‘How To Create A Career You Love‘ and weekly articles to improve your career and time management skills click here.

You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email

If you’d like to find how to change, develop or manage your career more effectively simply click here.

Faye Hollands

About Faye Hollands

Faye is an accomplished Career Coach, Small Business Coach and Productivity Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success. To receive weekly articles to improve your career, business and time management skills click here or book your Free Focus Session here.

You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email

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3 Responses to How To Save Time By Avoiding This Productivity Trap

  1. Hi Fay,
    Great article.
    When I was in the success summit in Sydney this year, Siimon Renolds (first speaker) mentioned the schwab formula (kind of similar to your idea here) which I am assimilating since.. it works like a charm.

    • Thanks John – glad you enjoyed the article. I thoroughly enjoyed Siimon Reynolds presentation at the Success Summit – a very smart guy! Make sure you’ve signed up to receive his blog posts and newsletter if you haven’t already, he’s always got something thought provoking to say. Have a great day, Faye

  2. Pingback: 5 Simple Ways To Boost Your Energy Levels At Work - Career Coaching - Life Coaching - Small Business Coaching — Outshine Consulting


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