by Laura Stack, MBA, CSP | March 01, 2013
The following checklist is adapted from What to Do When There's Too Much to Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes a Day (Berrett-Koehler) by Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, whose company, The Productivity Pro Inc. (, provides workshops on productivity, potential and performance. This month, in the first of a two-part Checklist, Stack provides an overview of the first three of her six steps to save 90 minutes a day.

Step 1: Determine what to do
• Periodically recalculate your personal return on investment; determine what you need to brush up or cut back on.

• Instead of putting all your tasks on one huge list, establish separate daily High Impact Task (HIT) and master lists so you can prioritize appropriately.

• Spend 15 minutes a day assigning the tasks on your HIT list P1-P4 priorities, as follows:
P1: You'll get fired if this isn't done today.
P2: This is a valuable long-term activity that should be done soon.
P3: Someone will be unhappy if you don't do this eventually.
P4: These are human "pain-management" activities such as socializing and Facebook.

• Prepare a list of time-wasting things you refuse to do. Keep this not-to-do list close, and refer to it frequently.

• At the end of every workday, take a moment to ask yourself: Was I productive today, or did I just stay busy?

Step 2: Schedule Time to Do It
• Schedule a 30-minute block of time on your calendar during which you will work uninterrupted on a P1 task (or start with 15 minutes if you are working on your focus skills).

• Rather than spend an inordinate amount of time on meetings, distribute necessary information via email, phone calls and other media.

• Stop being so generous with your time. Learn the value of saying no when it's appropriate to do so.

• If you get a project without a deadline, set one yourself to help you stay on track.

• Practice purposeful abandonment, letting low-priority tasks drop off your list.

• Don't accomplish tasks in the order you feel like it, as you think of them or as they show up (email doesn't appear in priority order).

Step 3: Focus Your Attention
• If you think of something you need to do while you're in your focus time, don't do it! Write it down instead and go back to your HIT list.

• Don't allow people to hold conversations outside your cubicle or office door. Politely but firmly shoo them away so you can get work done, and don't worry about what they think.

• Stop multi-tasking. It dilutes your attention and fools you into thinking you're being productive when you're just doing busywork.

• If you break down a large task into subtasks in order to overcome procrastination, make sure you set deadlines and internal milestones for each of the subtasks, and track them carefully.

• Don't let perfectionism paralyze you; get to work! Figure out the details as you go along.

• Turn off your electronic devices before you attend client meetings. Focus on face time.

Next month: Ways to process new information, close the loop and manage your capacity.