Keep close tabs on your time

Watch your timeTo squeeze more productivity out of your workday, identify and plug holes that waste precious time. That requires awareness.

For starters, analyze how you allocate your time. Divide a worksheet into four quadrants, and use it to categorize your activities from the past week. Create four headings for each quadrant as follows:

1. What I did to advance toward key goals. Examples: devising strategy, leading brainstorming meetings, researching a vital legal issue.

2. What I did that only I can do to add great value. Examples: writing code, wooing a star job candidate to join your organization, conferring with investors.

3. What I did that others can do—that doesn’t add great value. Examples: shopping for a gift for a client, designing slides for a presentation.

4. What I did that added no value. Examples: attending a four-hour unnecessary meeting, reorganizing old files.

Alternatively, you can apply the same four categories to the week ahead—assigning every activity to one of the four groups.

After sorting each of your tasks in the appropriate quadrant, assess the results. Ideally, most of your work focuses on the top two categories so that you’re progressing toward important milestones and adding value.

If you’re spending too much time on assignments that you could automate or delegate (i.e., the third group), hand them off. Reserve your time for higher-priority matters.

Above all, eliminate any tasks in the fourth category. If you find you’re allocating even a few hours a week to activities that do not add value, reset your priorities to avoid unproductive tasks.

— Adapted from Short Cut Your Start Up, Courtney Reum and Carter Reum, Gallery Books.