12 Most Actionable Ways to Work Less

12 Most Actionable Ways to Work Less


What would you do with an extra 20 hours a month? Devote more precious time to your family? Get fit to run the marathon you’ve always dreamed of doing? Or maybe you’ll re-invest the time in your business. At an hourly rate of $100, an extra 20 hours per month is worth over $20,000 a year.

Sound enticing? Then let’s get to it!

1. Get a reality check

Set aside two days to track everything you do in extreme detail. To keep your focus detailed enough, track your time in 15-minute increments so you can see the big picture of how your business fits into your life. Do this from the moment you wake up to when you go to bed.

This sounds incredibly simple, but the awareness it will bring you will change your life — I guarantee it.

2. Assess the damage

Look through the time-log of the two days you’ve tracked. What trends do you notice? What tasks are taking up too much of your time? Where are you wasting time? You will likely find times when you think you are working. But in reality, you aren’t getting much done at all. Plus, that squandered time will drain you at the same rate real work does.

This honest reflection develops the awareness you need to get more accomplished in less time.

3. Drop time drains

Which of your time-spends are offering the least returns for your investment? You might find a lot of time gets eaten up in:

  • Traveling to meetings (why not schedule meetings on Skype instead?)
  • Going to networking events that add no value to your business
  • Browsing social media
  • Responding to low-quality prospects who don’t buy

When you’ve found your worst time-drains, drop them.

4. Stop multitasking

Working on more than one thing at a time might feel productive, but it actually drains your energy. Multitasking drives up your stress levels and lowers the quality of your work.

5. Start task-batching

Focusing on one task at a time is the way to go. Then organize tasks into batches. An easy way to do this is to organize tasks by days. For example, Monday is for content creation, Tuesday is for sales calls and admin, and Wednesday–Friday are for client work.

One of my clients saved 90 minutes per week by task-batching his writing tasks into a single day.

6. Streamline tasks with apps

Apps are an easy way to streamline and automate repetitive tasks. Buffer App or Hootsuite can save you hours a week on social media. Boomerang and Streak will streamline your email management. There are also plenty of options available to help you automate invoicing, scheduling meetings, and pitching new clients.

7. Use canned responses

Do you compose a fresh email every time you receive an inquiry from a prospect? Sure, it might only take 10 minutes to write an email, but those minutes quickly add up. Instead of writing from a blank page, create a folder of email scripts. You’ll save a ton of time. And you’ll keep up with your inbox without the backlog.

8. Filter your emails

On average, we spend over a quarter of our working lives reading and responding to email. Directing time-wasting emails away from your inbox will make your email time more productive. Use filters so that email newsletters, Google Alerts and social media updates skip your inbox and automatically go to another email folder.

9. Work when you’re hot

For most people, early mornings are the most productive time of the day. That’s because our bodies are most alert starting at about 6am, peaks at around 10am, and drops off sharply after 12pm.

I’ve found that I can get twice as much done working in my morning peak hours. Give it a try — you’ll surprise yourself with how much you accomplish.

10. Work to a timer

Having a timer counting down in the background boosts your focus on the task at hand. You can use the one on your iPhone. Or take it a step further with an app that uses neuroscience to dramatically increase focus: Focus@Will has enabled me to stretch from 20 minutes of focus work to 60 minutes.

Take a break. Then repeat!

11. Outsource niggle tasks

“Niggle tasks” are the jobs you don’t enjoy, that you’re bad at, or that would be cheaper for someone else to do. Tasks that can be effective to outsource include bookkeeping, copywriting, data entry, content creation, business admin, and updating social media.

12. Give yourself time

To win back 20 hours a month, you’ll have to reprogram your mind with new habits. Research shows that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit, so allow yourself enough time for your new behaviors to become automatic.

Time is the only resource that we spend and can never buy back. Once time is gone, it’s gone. So give yourself the gift of an extra 20 hours per month. Start today. You’ll look back and wonder how you ever managed to spend so much time at work.

Photo credit: Big Stock Photos

Mandi Ellefson


Mandi Ellefson helps busy entrepreneurs find the time to grow their business. And create freedom of: time, location, and money. Check out her website for more actionable items.

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This is a great Article Mani, I do most of the things above and they work! 

Chad Egeland
Chad Egeland

Great post Mandi! I have tried focus@will and loved the service. My new favourite time management technique is the Pomodoro technique and have found I am so much more productive when I stick to this.

Outsourcing is one of those things I really want to do but find I have trouble giving up control. Maybe I'll make take a leap of faith and give it a try.

Thanks for the great tips.

Mandi Ellefson
Mandi Ellefson

Thanks Chad! I like the Pomodoro technique too. Outsourcing does require a leap of faith. But once you do it, you'll wonder why you didn't start much sooner. It's easier to start task with things that you can't do or really find frustrating. If you do know how to do the task, write down the steps to give the person to do as a checklist ie. steps to publish a newsletter. That way you can make sure they don't miss steps and it's done right. Good luck and tweet me if you have any questions. @MandiEllefson