The 60-30-10 rule of time management

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Almost every time management advice you’ve ever read stressed the importance of spending more time on important tasks and less or no time on everything that distracts you from your productivity goals.

But what if you could take is a step further and distribute your time based on high-value tasks and low-value activities.

The 60–30–10 rule can do just that for you and give you a framework for allocating your time to your tasks.

This rule sets a structure that gives you a better idea of which tasks are worth doing at what time of day.

60% is the top tier, 30% is the mid-tier, and 10% is the lower tier.

The 60–30–10 rule means designating 60% of your workday to high-value activities; 30% to low-value tasks that still advance your goals; and 10% to other activities that can help you prepare for tomorrow.

If you’re familiar with investing, think of this time management model as your time portfolio allocation across different tasks.

60% top tier to high-value tasks

There will always be more to do than there is time to do them. “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves,” says David Allen in his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

It is easy to get excited with tasks and try to take on too much every day but if you do, you’ll be spending your energy all over the place without accomplishing your most important things for the day.

To improve your results and get more done, separate your high-value work from all other activities. At least 60 percent of your day should be allocated to all your high-value tasks.

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically — to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside, ” argues Stephen Coveywell known for his popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

High-value tasks contribute to your long-term mission, values, and goals. These are things like that book you want to write, the presentation you’d like to make for a promotion, the sales calls, and the company you plan on starting.

For each big goal, identify the individual tasks and choose what you want to focus on for the day. Get that done first thing in the morning when you are most active.

Producing-high value results require that we give the priority to tasks that end up producing a valuable and precious outcome.

To do more high-value work, take a look at everything on your plate. Examine your micro activities, or tasks/deliverables. Do they align with the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve? Pick what you think is most essential, clear some space, and just work on your most important measurable and attainable goals — it’s about focusing on tasks that add value.

30% mid-tier to low-value activities

Allocate 30% of your time to urgent but not necessarily important tasks.

Things like processing email, organizing files, returning phone calls, sending team status updates, writing reports, and some meetings fall under this category.

Every time you open an email, you have to make a decision, which interrupts your flow. The problem is, each individual email can make or break my next few minutes, the next hour, or even the whole day.

Mid-tier tasks can seem urgent but if they don’t directly contribute to your end goal, choose to do them after completing high-value tasks.

Think of this category as maintenance tasks. If you neglect them completely, you’ll run into problems but you don’t want to focus on them at the expense of more important work.

Who wants to devote the bulk of their work time to answering email or paying bills? Some low-value tasks are easy to automate. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again every day, find a way to automate it and use the free time for something else.

Whether it’s scheduling, acknowledging, or making standard arrangements, there are probably apps you could use.

We need to keep such tasks from taking over our lives, so we have time to tackle the truly great challenges that can make a real difference to our work.

If you can afford to spend less time on those activities in order to reinvest it in what matters most, reduce the percentage of time you spend on this category and do more high-value work.

10% lower-tier should make a difference tomorrow

How you end the day is critical, as it has much to do with how you start the next day. Tasks in this category are things that add no real value to your work, vision or long-term goal but can help you get a better start tomorrow.

Some people allocate less than 10% of their time to this tier. It depends on your personal schedule. it’s up to you.

Outside of important work activities, some people have other tasks they have to sort out but can’t justify them at the first few hours of the day.

You can use this tier to create a new to-do list, or evaluate the old one — make sure you are where you need to be on these activities and that you’ve accomplished as much as you could. If not, make a better plan for tomorrow.

You could also review your schedule for the next day. Or use some of the time to tidy up. Before walking out the door, take a few minutes to toss any trash, organize your paperwork and clean your desk. This will give that feeling of a fresh start when you arrive the next morning.

If you don’t have a plan for your commute home, you can schedule things to do while commuting — what to read, podcasts you can listen to decompress after a busy schedule.

Of course, these categories can be revised to reflect your unique situation and schedule. — You can change it to 50–30-20 or 70–20–10, depending on your personal circumstances.

Prioritizing and optimizing your time can give you more time to focus on what really matters — getting more accomplished in a lesser amount of time. The idea is to set yourself up for optimal success by categorizing your tasks according to the best use of your time.

This article first appeared on Medium.

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