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Four Tricks That Save Time

Four tricks to save you time.

David Allen spends lots of his time trying to change people’s minds about how they spend their time. But he doesn’t just preach new ideas – he also teaches little tricks: “How many times have you put something in front of the door before you went to bed, because you had to bring it to work in the morning? That’s a trick.” Here are four of Allen’s favorite tricks to save time.


1. Make (certain kinds of) lists.

Lots of people have a To-Do list. Allen has five lists. The “Projects” list tracks big-picture outcomes: Conduct performance reviews. Install new tires on the Volvo. The “Next Actions” list itemizes next steps on all active projects: Read research report. Call Elizabeth about next week’s meeting. The “Waiting For” list records activities that depend on someone else. The “Calendar” tracks time-specific appointments and day-specific actions. The “Someday/Maybe” list records discretionary tasks: Go scuba diving in Fiji.

2. Don’t let your inbox box you in.

An inbox is a place for capturing the chaos that comes across the transom. But that doesn’t mean you should treat it as a black hole. Get to the bottom of your in-basket once a day. Take just one thing out of it at a time; don’t look at the second item until you’ve determined an action for the first. And once you remove an item, never put it back in.

3. Remember the two-minute rule.

Any time you’re confronted with an action item that will take less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately.


4. Always do a weekly review.

Take 30 minutes every Friday afternoon to review and update your lists, process loose papers and notes, and think about upcoming events.