4 Time-Saving Tricks That Shouldn't Work (But Actually Do)

These tips may seem like they're wasting time, but you'll be surprised by how effective they are at saving you time in the long run.
CEO & Founder, The Non-Obvious Company
September 09, 2013

Stanford professor and social scientist BJ Fogg is one of the world's most respected authorities on behavior change. He founded the Persuasive Technology Lab and advises large brands worldwide who pay for the privilege of hearing his advice on how to motivate customers and inspire action. To say Fogg is a busy professional with heavy demands on his time is something of an understatement.

Based on his level of expertise and authority, it might surprise you to learn that anyone (yes, anyone) can go directly onto his website and book a 15-minute conversation with him for free. No hourly rates, no complicated negotiations. Just click the link on his website, go directly to an online scheduler and book your time. 

When I met him at Behaviorcon (a new conference devoted to understanding human motivation and behavior), one of the insights he shared was how much time his online booking engine actually SAVES him. It turns out the most time-consuming parts of agreeing to speak with someone is the time spent scheduling, preparing, traveling and following up. In exchange for generously accepting 15-minute phone calls, Fogg eliminates all those other time wasters. He doesn't schedule the meeting. He won't read anything to prepare, and he won't do any follow up. Those benefits, of course, are reserved for paying clients.

Yet in 15 minutes, he provides amazing value, expert insights and a level of generosity that is rare from someone of his stature. Giving away time to save time? It probably seems too good to be true, but you might be surprised by just how many time-saving tricks like this one might seem as though they would cost time but in reality help you save it. Take these, for example:

1. Open Scheduling 

For advocates of virtual assistants, this is a favorite topic to focus on. Most of us waste a lot of time scheduling (and rescheduling) meetings. Often it's due to the mistaken perception that you need to have total control over setting up your own meetings, or that an assistant may be too costly. Thanks to the "virtual" part of virtual assistant, the cost barrier is an easy one to overcome. As for the control challenge, the simplest and most direct advice is to find a way to get over it.

2. Forced Interruptions

Most productivity consultants will tell you that in order to work most effectively, you should eliminate interruptions. What if they're wrong? To be sure, having a mobile phone beeping every 2 minutes can't be good for your concentration—but sometimes it is easy to get stuck working on something that begins to take too long or has too much inefficiency. In those cases, a regular interruption can provide an important reminder to get back on track or change tasks to start a new activity that may provide a mental break and ultimately help you to be more productive.

3. Going Offline

As airlines slowly add wireless on flights, it might seem like a dream come true for any busy professional. Finally you can avoid six hours of dead time on a coast to coast flight, right? Maybe not. Sometimes going offline forces you to actually think about solutions to problems instead of just blindly typing a query into the search bar. Being offline challenges your mind and may help lead you to new ideas and innovations that you may not otherwise have developed.

4. Taking Vacation

When you are busy, one of the challenges of going on vacation is how to handle your work when you're gone. Some people simply save it until they return. The smart people, instead, actually hand off some of their work to colleagues or employees to handle while they are away. But here's the really smart part: When they return, instead of assuming all their old activities, they watch how people are performing and ask themselves if they really need to take that task back. Taking vacation, in other words, can be the ultimate method to get out of long-term, time-consuming tasks that you no longer need to do anymore.

Any other unconventional time-saving tips that you've heard or tried yourself that surprised you?

Rohit Bhargava is the founder of the Influential Marketing Group and Professor of Global Marketing. He actively seeks new time-saving tools and methods, and sincerely hopes they never figure out how to make the Internet work consistently on long flights.

Read more articles on time management.

Photo: Thinkstock

CEO & Founder, The Non-Obvious Company