In anything, 20% of tasks are critical, 80% are trivial.

Of all the things most people do, most really aren’t that important. Sure, being busy may feel like progress, but it’s important not to confuse activity with progress. Time management masters take the time to identify which tasks on their list are truly critical and focus their attention there. The benefit: they get a lot farther, faster. Of course, to know what tasks are important, you have to be clear on your goals. Buttoned Up has two free goal list printables for getting clarity on that front. Organize multiple goals within a big picture with this printable and use this printable to reach individual goals.

Inertia is a powerful force.

Starting something is the most difficult part of any project, particularly big ones. Your brain may come up with lots of excuses as to why something is too difficult to tackle now, #1 being: I don’t have enough time to get to that right now. Fortunately overcoming project or task inertia is easy. First, break the bigger task into smaller parts. Then, simply grab an egg timer and set it for 10 minutes. Go! It doesn’t matter how much you get done in those ten minutes, but you will have started – and once momentum is on your side, it is much more likely to stay there.

Work will fill up whatever time you have allotted for it.

This statement is otherwise known as Parkinson’s Law. Working with simple and clear deadlines forces you to focus your attention on getting the essentials of the task done. When you give yourself too much time to do something, you tend to make a mountain out of a molehill (and suffer all the anxiety that goes along with having a big, looming task hanging over your head). If you are struggling with this concept, ask yourself the question, “If I had to complete my most pressing project in half the time, how would I do it?”

 What you write down – and schedule – gets done.

Parkinson’s Law (#4) has a corollary: if you haven’t allotted any time to complete something you can bet that your empty time slot will be filled with crap or whatever seems most urgent. Have a basic plan for your day, and actually go so far as to schedule critical tasks so that they get crossed off your list.

A Simple Solution: Create an Hourly Plan

At the start of each day, I sit down with my laundry list of to-do’s pick out my top 10, and roughly map out an hour-by-hour approach to cranking through the list.