Abandonment, outsourcing, discipline and other difficult productivity questions

Time is your most valuable possession. What tasks do you devote the most energy to every day? You may be working hard to climb the big ladder of success, but you’ll waste a lot of energy (and time) if you discover it’s leaning on the wrong wall. An intense, personal commitment to achieving your goals gives you the vigor you need to move forward every day.

Try these time management tips on for size.

1. Practice purposeful abandonment. If you have too much on your plate, get rid of anything that doesn’t meet your objectives or have long-term consequences for your work. Your only other option is overwork and flagging energy.

2. Get some help. Don’t try to do everything yourself, especially if you’re running a business. Hire someone to deal with all the repetitive or minor tasks anyone can do, so you can get the important work done.

3. Focus on value. Work when you’re at work: don’t check your eBay listings, surf the Internet, or answer your private email. Otherwise, you’re robbing yourself of your precious, irreplaceable minutes.

4. Outsource to a third party. If you’re overloaded with tasks that someone else can do more cheaply, then by all means hire someone to do them. Specialist websites like Elance.com can be lifesavers in such a situation.

5. Do one thing at a time. Even if you’re good at multitasking, do just one thing at a time. Otherwise, you’re giving each task less than the attention it deserves, and it’ll take you longer to get things done.

6. Be disciplined. When you promise someone you’ll complete a task by a certain timeframe, do you do it? Or does the deadline slip past, with you muttering to yourself, “Stupid. What’s wrong with you?” Guilt sucks the energy right out of you, so avoid it by forcing yourself to get your work done on time. 

7. Make some progress. Don’t just maintain the status quo; work to get something done every day. Understand the difference between maintenance and progress, and make sure there’s some forward momentum to at least some of your tasks.

8. Realize that your to-do list is never going to end until you’re dead. You’re not going to get it all done; there will always be more things to do than time to do them in. It’s called life. That’s okay; what would you do with yourself if your to-do list did end?

When you work on a task, your capacity to work on other tasks will slowly decline.  When your energy is depleted, you don’t work well until you catch your “second wind” and your energy is replenished.  So you must select tasks purposefully, making sure the most important things get the lion’s share of your energy and attention.

(c) 2008 Laura Stack.  Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time™. She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations.  Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces.  She is the bestselling author of three works published by Broadway Books: The Exhaustion Cure (2008), Find More Time (2006) and Leave the Office Earlier (2004).  Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and 3M.  To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401.  Visit www.TheProductivityPro.com to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.



  1. Hi Laura. I just stumbled on to your post and I wanted to let you know I really like the key points you make. Each of these can make a big difference in improving your time management. I particularly like the purposeful abandonment (I find most of my clients are busy doing things that don’t need to be done) and the mindset set that your to-do list will always be there with stuff on it – And that’s OK. I encourage anyone who has read the article to try doing at least on of these key points for a week. Keep up the good work Laura.