Just a Minute

No doubt you’re familiar with the radio programme “Just a Minute”. Maybe you’ve fancied yourself as something of an expert – one who could speak on a given topic for 60 seconds without “repetition, hesitation, or deviation”. Or it could be that like most people you are gobsmacked by the quick-wittedness and verbal skill displayed by the able contestants.


How do they do it?

At the risk of seeming to deviate from the topic at hand, you ought to consider the similarities between this game show and your ability or, perhaps more accurately, inability to manage your time. You see, in the game, Nicolas Parsons, or an unheard colleague, is watching the clock. He knows how much time you have left. The goal is for the contestant to fill it, and the person who is speaking when the whistle blows is the winner. At that point, the round is over.

When it comes to how much you try to accomplish in a day, however, no one is watching the time. Not only that, but the “round” isn’t over. It’s not over until you finish, and that may never happen.

One similarity is that the contestants know that they only have to get to the end of 60 seconds. This is why you hear so many of them try to draw out their words. There’s a fine line between doing so and hesitating. Derek Nimmo was a genius at this.

The point is that those who play the game aren’t seeing how much they can cram into a fixed period of time, but rather how they can use the time most wisely.

And that’s key to all of this. Managing how you use the time you have.

The problem is that most of us try to do far more than a reasonable person should within a fixed period of time; and in so doing, we place ourselves under unnecessary pressure.


Why do we do this?

It’s because we all have incredibly short memories. We’re also are overly optimistic about our capabilities. We forget that we haven’t been able to achieve as much as we planned to in the time allotted in the past; and when we do remember, we put down our failures to a “bad day” rather than to “that’s normal for me”.


Here’s a method for making better use of the time you have. You’ll get more done and have less stress.


First, a little groundwork. You probably know this already, but the review won’t do you any harm.

Ever heard of Pareto’s Law, or the 80/20 Rule? In a nutshell, it goes like this: You get 80% of your results from 20% of your effort, and you spend the remaining 80% of your effort on trying to get the remaining 20% of your results.

In terms of time, it means that you spend 20% of what is available to youto accomplish 80% of what you do in a day.

So if you work an eight-hour day, then you achieve 80% of what you planned in just 90 minutes.

Now you have to ask yourself what you do during the other six and one-half hours of the day. It’s worth considering, don’t you think?



How often do you find yourself going over the same stuff? Although the idea that you should never touch a piece of paper more than once or twice, or whatever the rule is, seems like a good plan, it won’t work if you haven’t organized yourself.

You never “get organized”. Organization is dynamic. It has to change with your circumstances. If, however, you find that all you’re doing is rearranging the files on your desk, then it means that your “system” no longer reflects your reality. And so you need to stop and sort it out; otherwise you will repeatedly handle the same files and the same papers, over and over and over again.



Maybe you just get stuck or stymied. Maybe you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t know what to do next. You don’t stop to think, rather you pause to panic.

All of us occasionally want the world to stop so that we can get off. The pace of life is unnerving. That’s partly why holidays mean so much – the ones we actually take, that is. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people still check their work email while they’re allegedly on holiday, and answer it.

If you find yourself hesitating because you’ve taken on too much and now you’re feeling the pressure, then you need to take a couple of steps back away from where you are. You need to gather your thoughts and “regroup” as it were, like troops who have been vastly outgunned. There’s no sense in adding to the psychological and emotional blood that is already on your desk.



Deviation in our world has another name. It’s “distraction”. When we’re smothered by all the things we need to do, many of us run the other way. We find something mindless to do that distracts us from what is most important and postpones the inevitable.

We tell ourselves that we’ll be better the next morning; but then we surf the Internet until late the night before, and so we’re under pressure to get moving as soon as the alarm goes off. Or we make a mental note to do some work when our favourite TV show finishes, but then find another programme that looks interesting and decide to watch it, too.

Maybe you get really distracted and choose to load the dishwasher or fold the laundry. It’s amazing how our minds will lead us to do any number of things that ordinarily we would shun if we were thinking clearly.


The “secret” method

So what’s the secret method for getting more done? You’ve read it already. You just didn’t recognize it. It’s this: Only schedule what you’re sure you can accomplish in 90 minutes. That may sound insane, so let’s think about it from a different perspective.

What 80% of your work would you like to accomplish today? Those tasks or projects will take you approximately one and a half hours to accomplish. So, plan to do them first and follow through.

Then take a break: 20-30 minutes if you have that flexibility.

Then ask yourself, what 80% of the next tasks or projects that you have to do look like; and then apply yourself to do them.

And incidentally, at such time as you find yourself repeating, hesitating, and especially deviating, it means that it’s time to stop. There’s absolutely no point in wasting time just to fill it. This is as true of you as it is of your employees. It’s better to close the computer and quit for the day. If you grew up to be a member of the “clean plate club”, then you’ll find this really hard to put into practice. That’s because you have the mind-set of one who works for eight hours at least, regardless of whether you accomplish anything or not.

So, remember 80/20, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time.



If you want to become more effective at time management – email me today

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