How to Save 90 Minutes a Day

Excerpt from “What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 a Minutes Day” by Laura Stack (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, June 2012).

By Laura Stack, MBA, CSP

Chapter One Tip Sheet: Determine What to Do

How do you know what to work on?

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

2. Would you like it if people gossiped about you? No? Then stop gossiping about them. It’s a hurtful waste of your time.

3. Recalculate your personal Return on Investment periodically. This will help you determine what you need to brush up or cut back on.

4. If one of your tasks properly belongs to someone else, hand it back to them—even if they don’t want it. Your needs must come first.

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

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

7. Perform a “brain dump” of all your important but non-urgent tasks, as well as all the “someday” tasks you want to accomplish. This will form the basis of your master to-do list.

8. Spend 15 minutes a day assigning the tasks on your HIT list P1-P4 priorities, following this schema:

  • P1: You’ll get fired if this isn’t done today.
  • P2: A valuable long-term activity that should be done soon (often from the master list).
  • P3: Someone will be unhappy if you don’t do this eventually.
  • P4: Human “pain-management” activities such as socializing and Facebook.

9. Stop viewing your HIT list as a “Must-Do” list. Instead, consider it a “Want-to-Do” list, and stay flexible.

10. Occasionally, triage your master list to cull any tasks you clearly will never do, or that are out of date.

Chapter Six Tip Sheet: Manage Your Capacity

How do I have enough energy to work productively?

  1. Instead of being depressed because you can’t perform at superhuman levels all the time, readjust your expectations to fit your energy levels, and stop running your “battery” dry.
  2. If you spend a lot of time fixing your own mistakes, you may be working more hours than your body can handle. Do you need to cut back on your work schedule, or do you need to repair your energy habits—or both?
  3. When you have no choice but to overwork yourself, try to do so in short bursts separated by longer periods of normal work—or rest. Otherwise, you’ll soon hit the wall, and your productivity will diminish sharply.
  4. If you suffer from insomnia, try drinking a soothing herbal tea in the hour or so before bed, or consume some dairy products. Avoid caffeine and sugar after about 2 p.m..
  5. Watch what you drink, too. Stay hydrated, but limit your intake of coffee and colas. The caffeine causes a diuretic effect that can dehydrate you even more.
  6. Join forces with an “exercise buddy” to help you stay on track, especially if you have trouble maintaining your exercise routine.
  7. Consider joining a professional group, so you can surround yourself with others who know exactly what you have to deal with—and who may have some tips on how to handle those things successfully.
  8. Consider mentoring someone new in your field. Not only will you get a natural high from helping someone, the teaching process tends to go both ways. You just may learn a thing or two from your mentee.
  9. If you ever feel the urge to burst out laughing because everything’s going so badly, share the joke with those around you, so they know you’re not laughing at them.
  10. While working on something, give it 110 percent of your energy and focus, so you don’t undershoot the mark. That way, you won’t have to waste time doing it over.

Excerpt from “What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 a Minutes Day” by Laura Stack (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, June 2012). For more information, visit:

Laura Stack is an expert in productivity. For more than 20 years, her speeches have helped entrepreneurs, leaders, teams, and organizations improve output, lower stress, and save time at work and in life. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides time management workshops around the globe that help attendeesachieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time. An expert in the field of performance and workplace issues, Stack is theauthor of many books, most recently “What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do.” Connect with her at;; or

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.