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How to build slack into your day for more flexibility and higher productivity

Jam-packed days are a big problem.

No matter how good you are at lists, or how well you stick to your schedule, you can never anticipate the unexpected calls, meetings, and problems that pop up each day.

Which is why you need some slack in your day. It sounds counter-intuitive but aiming to do less each day can actually help you get more of the right things – done.

Best-selling author and productivity pro Oliver Burkeman has a method worth exploring. Burkeman’s books and his Imperfectionist newsletter take a fresh and creative look at time management and other productivity issues.

Burkeman has a “3-3-3 Method” that is designed to build slack into a workday, but with structure. Here’s what he recommends:

  • Spend three hours on your most important current project, having defined some kind of specific goal for the progress you aim to make on it that day. For example, have a big presentation or article due? Create a great outline as a first step and call that your progress for the day.
  • Complete three shorter tasks, usually urgent to-dos or ‘sticky’ tasks you’ve been avoiding, usually just a few minutes each (I count calls and meetings here too.) Maybe these are outreach calls, meeting scheduling, or status checks?
  • Dedicate time to three ‘maintenance activities. Think bills, invoices, reminders, and tidying up.

This framework is simple which is key, and it’s also flexible. Most importantly, it builds in the important slack in a day that we all desperately need.

Want to get more done? Stop loading up your days, and start giving yourself more space to think, adjust, plan and focus on the things that really matter for long-term success and progress.

Have a great week.

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