The Inefficiency Assassin by Helene Segura
Read the summary below and get the key insights in just 10 minutes!
In this summary, you will learn
- How to manage your time using the “CIA framework;”
- How to master the “clarity,” “structure” and team work it requires; and
- How to deal with organizational and productivity issues.
When You’re Too Busy
Most executives, managers, employees and entrepreneurs are tremendously busy. They routinely work in the evenings and over the weekends. This leaves little time for themselves or their friends and families. They feel overwhelmed and can often miss out on life’s special moments.
You can fix this pervasive problem with self-awareness, planning and organization based on efficient time-management systems, processes and strategies. To manage your time, you first must manage your mind. “Half the battle of getting organized is figuring out your own brain.”
Considering your “thinking patterns” and identifying the work that’s most crucial will help you develop a clearer sense of how to systematize your time. For most people, this means making major changes in how they operate. However, embracing time saving tactics can give you real control over managing your work and personal life. Putting one good idea into regular use can save an hour per workday; that’s “5 hours per week, 20 hours per month, 240 hours per year.”
The “CIA Framework”
This time-management system rests on three components:
1. “Create Clarity”
Many people think they can find a magic bullet for managing their time more effectively. They don’t know if their instant cure should be a “calendar, file folder, filing cabinet, task app” or something else. Alas, the answer to this quest isn’t a tool you can buy.
The answer lies in how you use your brain. Time management depends on mind management. If you control your mind, you can control your time. Creating clarity requires understanding what matters most to you.
Set out by choosing your priorities and goals. Brainstorm and make a list of your priorities. Post it in a prominent place where you can refer to it daily. Select your primary work and personal priorities each day as you review your list and plan what you hope to accomplish. Use your priorities to guide how you apportion your time.
Establish your priorities in three areas: “people, activities” and “work.” Decide which people are most important in your life and which activities contribute the most to your health and peace of mind. What business tasks do you most want to get done? Select the ones that will increase your income and sense of satisfaction. Organizing your life depends on having crystal-clear goals and plans. Once you identify them, you can organize your time effectively.
Rely on one bedrock principle. When something comes along that might deflect you from your path, ask yourself: Will this help me achieve my priorities? Then act accordingly.
Next, choose your goals. Select three “measurable targets” from your work priorities and three from your personal priorities. Base your time-management choices on these targets. Make sure your priorities and targets challenge you – but don’t make them impossible.
Be specific about your priorities and goals. For example, you might say, “I will work Xhours per week, make $X per year, get X new clients” and “earn the X title.” On the personal side, you might specify that fulfilling your goal of spending weekday time with your family means “X hours per weekday with my kids” and “X hours per weekday with my significant other.”
Before your workday is done, list your three most important tasks for the next day and the three most important chores to finish at a future point – but not tomorrow. These are your crucial “3+3” tasks. List them on your calendar, numbered one through six in order of importance.
“Reflect With Power”
To build your sense of clarity, periodically step back from all your activity. Pause and think about your time-management program and your efforts to achieve your personal and work-related goals and targets. Do this reflection exercise weekly: Review all the tiny, midsize and big jobs you accomplished. Be happy with your achievements. Think about what you decided not to do; celebrate these acts of self-control and discipline.
Building clarity also requires taking care of yourself. Prioritize your health, and physical and emotional well-being. Take deep breaths before you start any new work. Maintain a nutritious diet. Drink 64 ounces of water daily. Take a walk every day and build periodic breaks into your work routine.
Consider and appreciate the lessons you’ve learned so far. Reflection and celebration provide the encouragement you need to stay committed to your CIA time-management program. In the beginning, your new program will be tough. Some steps may feel uncomfortable, but take comfort in your “discomfort.” It shows you are willing to change. Don’t quit. Meaningful change takes time. Ride out the feelings of disquietude and don’t retreat back to your comfort zone.
2. “Implement Structure and Flow”
Your CIA time-management program requires orderly processes, routines and systems. Success depends on your ability to set up your system, but then be flexible enough to go with the flow when the unexpected occurs. Establish a step-by-step drill for managing your time in new ways, and modify it when necessary.
The process of implementing structure and flow has several components:
- “Assignment and task completion” – Plan your procedures. List your pending tasks and projects, their due dates, the steps required for each job and how much time each step will take. Allocate time blocks for each. Add a due date and a margin of extra time for every step. Once you complete your planning, inform your colleagues of your plan.
- “Go-bag and work-space layout” – Arrange your office to suit your specific work requirements. Position your supplies to be easily accessible. If you set up several storage areas and have “triplicates of supplies,” the materials you need will be in easy reach all the time so your brain can focus on more important matters. People who work on the road should be just as thoughtful when organizing their go-bags of work supplies.
- “Electronic communication” – Computers, smartphones and tablets are great tools for making life and work more efficient. But these electronic miracles also can waste your time and deflect your attention. Transfer your “temptation apps” off your main screens or eliminate them. Check messages only at specific times daily.
- “Notes, document and file management” – Set up your files based on “how often you retrieve” information. Organize papers on a “DID” basis: First, “Do something” papers, then “Important to keep” papers and, last, “Discard” papers. Whether you prefer to enter your notes on paper or digitally, choose a portable “note-capturing” system so you can take it with you. The DID acronym also stands for “Deal with Incoming Daily Paper.”
- “Time protection” – To manage your time, you must know how you’re spending it. Track your time in detail, for instance, in 30-minute increments. Target and drop unimportant or extraneous activities that waste your time.
3. “Assemble Your Team”
Every person needs a back-up team – Even James Bond had his supervisor “M,” his technical wizard “Q” and the entire crew at M16 watching his back. Organize your office and home support teams with these components:
- “Assemble your personal team” – Enlist at least two people to audit your activities, advise you on handling logistics and pressure, and occasionally push you along. One person should come from “outside your household.” Tell the team your priorities.
- “Assemble your work team” – You need two team members at work to perform the functions your personal team deals with at home. One should be from your industry and one from outside it. If you are a corporate employee, find two people in your department. Keep your team members updated on your progress. Support them as they support you.
- “Facilitate productive team meetings” – Make sure your meetings don’t waste time. Set up well-defined agendas built on specific time blocks. Schedule weekly department meetings and request RSVPs. Prepare questions you can use to get people engaged.
- “Delegate the right stuff to the right people” – Gather your task lists and delegate some jobs to the people on your office team. Figure out which tasks you must do and which ones you can assign to someone else who will handle them well. Categorize each task according to the particular “talent, knowledge and skills” it requires.
In addition to the formal CIA efficiency program, consider these time-management tips:
- The folly of multitasking – Multitasking doesn’t work, at least not with tasks that require thinking. Multitasking burdens you with too many simultaneous mental demands. However, you can multitask on jobs that require “low-function brain skills,” like, for example, manicuring your nails while watching TV.
- Mental interruptions – Go-getters constantly spark new ideas that divert them from the work in front of them. To silence this disruptive mental storm without losing good ideas, create a reliable system – perhaps on your cell phone or tablet – for quickly capturing random, promising ideas.
- Really bad days – Unexpected problems plague everyone. Don’t let them throw you. Take 30 minutes to verbalize your frustration. Then plan a step-by-step repair strategy.
- Procrastination – Start your day with the most unpleasant jobs. Get them out of the way. Reward yourself after you finish a task you dislike.
- Perfectionism – Achieving flawlessness in work or in life is impossible. Learn to tolerate tasks that are “finished well”; don’t always hold out for “finished exactly right.”
- Appointments – Busy people sometimes have a tough time staying current with their appointments. To cope, lock down the relevant details about each meeting, block adequate time, and confirm and “reconfirm” the logistics. Factor in travel time.
- Saying no – Managing your time requires saying no to yourself. You also must be willing, on occasion, to say no to other people who make demands on your time.
- Interruptions and diversions – Distractions undermine your focus and halt your progress. You can’t eliminate them, but you can reduce them if you’re proactive. Reserve times when no one can interrupt you. Reduce your “self-interruptions.” For example, silence the alert signals on your phone, tablet and computer.
- Sleep – To operate efficiently, plan to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night. To prepare for a good night’s sleep, “take 10 deep breaths” before you try to fall asleep. Prior to that, devote 30 minutes to mental and physical relaxation. For two hours before you plan to go to sleep, don’t eat and don’t drink anything but water. Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Staying with your new time-management program – Adapting yourself to any new behavioral program is challenging. Time-management affects every waking moment. Stay positive and focused. Banish these phrases from “your internal dialogue”: “I’ll try,” “I can’t” and “I never can.”
- Is your brain in overdrive? – Do you work all day and into the evening, seven days a week? If so, your brain won’t function efficiently. Set up formal “business hours for your brain.” Don’t work any other time. Plan on regular breaks during the day. Work 50 minutes, and then take a 10-minute break. Schedule regular “play days” when you don’t work at all. If you can, take a week to play or even an entire month.
Time management means making a series of smart decisions every day about how to allocate your time and energy. This requires brainpower and regular practice. Your goal is to create a sustainable work-life balance – to “work smarter, not longer.” Remember the primary precept of your personal time-management revolution: Manage your mind to manage your time.[/text_block]