Time

How Can I Achieve My Goals Faster? The 3 principles effective people use to get more done in less time

We would all like to achieve our goals faster. But why is it often so hard to get things done quickly?? 

I believe the main reason we struggle with productivity because we don’t understand where speed comes from. Sometimes we are super productive. But what we lack is a recipe for being productive on a consistent basis. 

Speed utltmately comes down to just 3 things: Focus, Urgency, and Trust

Focus

Focus is all about limiting how much you are allowed to do. This is the most important part of speed. Effective people get things done quickly because they choose to do fewer tasks – not work faster. There are two pieces to zeroing in on fewer tasks:

  1. Limiting the SCOPE of the work
    The first part is to cut all todos that are not absolutely, can’t-live-without, essential for getting what you need done. You only have focus when you physically can’t cut anything more from the list without certainly failing the goal.
  2. Limiting how much of the work YOU get to do
    This part is about asking yourself: “How can I achieve my goal by not doing ANY work?”. This question helps you identify work you need – but which don’t have to be done by you.
          For example, when my thesis partner and I were deciding our theis topic, we settled on doing a study with machine learning? Why? Because 1) the AI program would collect the data for us, and 2) a previous paper had already written 80% of the AI code we needed so we could just build upon their work. This decision saved us weeks of work. 

Urgency

Urgency is the twin of Focus. When you are forced to do something quickly, you limit the scope of the work and how much work you get to do. But Urgency also has a second gift – it forces you to settle for GOOD ENOUGH and move on. When you don’t have time to perfect the details (a.k.a unnecessary fluff) you have no choice but to say: “Good enough. Next!!

The mother of Urgency are deadlines. Deadlines can be either internal (we set them ourselves) or external (someone else sets them for us). But external deadlines are always best, for they leave you with no place to hide without disappointing someone or missing an opportunity. To get more done in less time, you can create external deadlines by:

  1. Promising someone that you will fulfill it by date X, or 
  2. Having someone else set the deadline for you

I just started a project at work I knew would take unnecessarily long to complete without a hard deadline. So I promised my boss I would have the report done by Wednesday next week, and wow did that force me to work fast!

Trust

The saying “Things move at the speed of trust” is repeated often for a reason – it is so true. Trust is what allows us to work faster together because we don’t have to spend any effort on protecting ourselves. There are 3 things that create trust:

  1. Mutual connections
  2. Shared values
  3. Giving to help

A personal example is how I got a job offer just 2 weeks after meeting the company – and without interviewing. First, the company’s CEO and I had a mutual connection with one of my professors at school, who gave me a personal introduction to the CEO. Second, the CEO and I connected immediately over our shared passion for helping young people find their life passion. Third, I then spent a week writing a report for solving an issue the company was struggling with just to help. My only goal was to contribute what they were building, and I gladly did that work for free. Within 2 weeks of meeting her, the CEO invited me to her home(!) and personally gave me a job offer. 

If you want to get more done in less time, think about how you can use Focus, Urgency, and Trust to increase your speed. Can you: 

  • Limit the SCOPE of your work?
  • Limit how much of the work YOU need to do? 
  • Promise someone to complete the task by Date X?
  • Use mutual connections, shared values, and giving to help to gain others’ cooperation?

When all 3 speed principles – Focus, Urgency, and Trust – come together, it’s remarkable how fast things can happen! 

Where Did My Time Go? How your time vanishes and how you can make more of it

How much is 1 minute worth to you? 

Probably not much. But 1 minute is actually a quite significant part of your day. If you sleep for 7 hours and 20 minutes, you have exactly 1,000 wakeful minutes each day to live your life. 10 minutes is actually 1% of your wakeful day. 

A day is just a tiny part of our entire lifespan. But if you perform the same 10-minute activity every day, you are actually spending 1% of your entire life on that activity. 

When an activity is done every day, don’t allow yourself to think: “Well, it is only 10 minutes. It is no biggie.” 

No, It is 1% of your life! And you have only one life to spend. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Do I want to spend 5% of my life commuting to and from work?
  • Do I want to spend 5% of my life preparing food?
  • Do I want to spend just 5% of my life connecting with the people I love most?

When an activity is a one-off, it is as if you are being asked: “Would you spend 10 minutes of all the time you have left on this activity?”. 

But when you do an activity every day, it is as if you are being asked: “Would you spend 10 minutes on this activity if you had just one day left to live?” Because until you change your routine, you are choosing to spend 1% of your life on this activity. That is the same percentage as 10 minutes of your last day on earth. 

Now, imagine if you had the opportunity to do a task once that would save you 1 minute for the rest of your life. How much time would you be ready to invest in that task today? 

Personally, I would gladly give up 5 days to save 1 minute each day. 

This might seem ludicrous. Until you do the math. 

I am 22 years old and expect to live to at least 80. That is 58 years * 365 days per year / 1,000 min per day = 21 days more that I will enjoy my life. 

I get 21 days back for 5 days of work. 

That is a 4X return on my time! 

I do value my time being young more than being old, but 4X is a great return for me. And these days are not going to come when I am old and wrinkled. They are going to be evenly spread throughout my life. 

Realistically, saving 1 minute every day might require 1 hour of work. Imagine if you kept finding ways to save 1 minute per day for the rest of your life, with each minute saved requiring 1 hour of work. If you kept doing this for one month, how much more time would you have to enjoy your life? 

Assuming that you have 50 more years left to live, you would give up 22 days to earn an extra 547 days! Does that sound like a good deal to you? 

The reason why I show these numbers is to help you realize just how powerful daily activities are. 

If you enjoy the routine for its own sake, by all means keep doing it! But if you are only interested in the outcome, here is a list of possible time-saving strategies you could try:

  • Eliminate: Could you buy two power cables for your laptop for home and work, instead of unplugging, packing, and re-plugging the same cable? 
  • Automate: Could you set up automatic deliveries for products you need to restock regularly, such as toilet paper, cereal, or batteries? 
  • Outsource: Could you find a friend who would be happy to do the research you need? 
  • Effectivize: Could you dim your lights one hour before bed to help you fall asleep faster? 
  • Templatize: Could you create templates for emails you frequently need to send? 
  • Bulk actions: Could you prepare dinner for 5 days in just one evening? (For added variety, consider making a large pot of a staple good, like pasta, and using that same pasta for two different recipes). 
  • Task-combining: Could you call a friend to catch up while commuting to work?

Which daily activity can you shave off a few precious minutes from?