We’ve all been there: a big project, presentation or assignment looms before you, as incomprehensibly massive as Mt. Everest and just as daunting. You know you’ve got to start climbing, er, start working. But where’s the best place to start? And what’s the best way to use the time you have?

Unless you’ve taken a really great time management class, or have had the drive to teach yourself how to be an expert (not most of us), then you’ve probably had to figure out (or are still figuring out) your own set of time management best practices. And maybe you’ve done so by figuring out through trial and error which ones did not work out. At all.

But what if you had a cheat sheet?

That’s where Etienne Garbugli’s  “26 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known At 20” comes in. Re-posted by BusinessInsider, the clever slide show covers setting priorities, deadlines, and breaking down a seemingly insurmountable mountain of a goal into achievable, smaller pieces. Interspersed among the minimally designed slides of advice are bits of ready-to-use wisdom, like “There’s always time. Time is priorities.”

And Garbugli isn’t the only one dispensing pithy counsel on how to make the most of your work time so you are super efficient and making a star-studded impact. He’s also included crisp and concise tips from other professionals that are useful in a variety of contexts.

One piece of advice Garbugli offers in the beginning seems basic: “Work is the best way to get working. Start with short tasks to get the ball rolling.” That may seem perfectly apparent, but how many of us – either fueled by caffeine, anxiety, or just plain drive – attempt to immediately hack away at a big task first thing, rather than ease into it? “Easing” helps us build focus and momentum, and we require both in order to make the kind of satisfactory headway on a project that gives us the renewed vigor to dive in deep the next day, and the next – until we’re done.

One of the most attention capturing slides features two very simple graphs. The first one is titled “Multi-tasking like a big shot,” and is followed by four common tasks (well, three, plus one important sentiment) in no particular order:

  • “Answer emails”
  • “Work on a big presentation”
  • “Call clients”
  • “Feel productive”

The next graph, titled “Single-treading and home by 5 p.m.,” features the following in horizontal order:

“Answer emails”/ “Working on a big presentation” / “Call Clients” / “Feel Productive”

Ah. The point is this: rather than trying to conquer all tasks at once, it’s a much better strategy to conquer a myriad of tasks one by one. At the bottom of the slide there’s one final postscript: “Stop multi-tasking. It merely kills your focus.” Good advice.

Garbugli wishes he’d been living and breathing the lessons he detailed in the slide show a long time ago. I’m with him on that. But it’s not too late to pick up another best practice – or five – that will help you move from time management amateur to expert. As Garbugli states on slide 10: More work hours doesn’t mean more productivity. Use constraints as opportunities.”

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