Comment: Prioritising key tasks is the best way to be more productive

Haslemere Travel and Aito Specialist Travel Agents’ Gemma Antrobus shares tips for effective time management

As a business owner in the travel sector, there never seem to be enough hours in the day to achieve everything I need to do. If I’m ever asked what I’d like for my birthday or for Christmas, the very boring answer that I normally give is “another day in the week, please…” That is despite the fact that, as a colleague reminded me recently, while an extra day in the week would be very useful, I’d probably spend it working rather than enjoying it with family and friends. Unfortunately, their words ring true.

This got me thinking about how I structure my days and whether I am so busy because I simply am not organising myself well; I always seem to be trying to spin too many plates at the same time. It’s hard to accept that you’re disorganised, or unproductive, if you seem to tick off most things your to-do list. What I wanted to know was if/how I could I use my time more efficiently.

One of the greatest misconceptions is that the business owner – or a member of their team who never shuts off, is always working, and constantly on their phones for business purposes, alongside carrying a very high level of stress – must be the most successful person in the business, and therefore is doubtless also earning the most.

While there are certainly times when working flat out is required, this should definitely not be continuous, and should not be worn as a badge of honour, especially when we know that we should all, ideally, be striving for that elusive, but better, work-life balance.

Inspirational advice

My search for tips on how to become more productive and efficient with my time drew me to interviews with, and books written about, Warren Buffett, one of the most successful businessmen and investors of the 20th century.

At the grand old age of 93, and with an empire worth over $100 billion, Buffett still goes into his office regularly, but his many years of experience in business have taught him how to be supremely productive. This enables him to really enjoy his later years in life, rather than to be tied to his desk.

What I’ve learnt from Warren Buffett is simple: you must be really committed to completing just five goals, or to-do items, daily

I found that his very simple method of improving productivity was a great place to start. He keeps it incredibly simple with what he calls his 5/25 rule. It can, literally, be applied to anything.

I make lists all the time – and I expect you do too. Unfortunately, juggling these all at once, adding to them daily, occasionally ticking things off but rarely, if ever, completing them all, means the lists just get longer, which is hugely frustrating.

Dedicated focus

What I have learnt from Buffett is simple: you must be really aggressively committed to completing just five goals, or to-do items, daily. Each day, write your list of 25 jobs or tasks, but highlight – and focus on – just the five most important ones.

Complete those, and you will find that, by concentrating solely on the key five tasks, and committing fully to that minimum number of goals, you will increase the chance of completing them far more than if you simply try to juggle the full 25 items on the list that you started off with. The following day, you take the original list, which may now have new tasks added to it, and do the same – and repeat, day after day.

If this sounds simple, that’s because it is, but it is also incredibly effective at the same time. By following this strategy, you are actively acknowledging that you just can’t do everything at once, which is, while I hate to admit it, very true.

If you delve further into how some of the world’s most successful businesspeople plan their days to maximise efficiency, it’s fascinating to see that their methods are just as basic and straightforward as Buffett’s way of working. How does that well-known phrase go? Ah yes: KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

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