This is my second post in a series in which I will show you how to maximize productivity by combining GTD with other powerful time management techniques. The other posts in this series are listed at the end of this entry.

Today’s tip for maximizing productivity comes from Brian Tracy once again and introduces the law of forced efficiency. I will show you a list of 4 questions that – when answered clearly and honestly – will provide insight in the most important activities you should be doing. Finally, I will show you how to use the law of forced efficiency to extend the power of GTD.

The law of forced efficiency says that there is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important things.

If you are an avid GTDer like I am, one look at the large amount of items on your next action and project lists will probably demonstrate this fact of life.

No matter how much I try to avoid them, I frequently find myself in a situation where I have to force myself to finish a certain job at the last possible moment. These are the times when I curse myself for not getting the job done in advance.

I’m sure you’ve been there as well. Perhaps more often that you would like. You have probably noticed increased stress levels and the tendency to make more mistakes in this kind of situation. Don’t kid yourself that you work best under pressure!

Using the law of forced efficiency, you have a much better chance to avoid getting in such a situation in the first place. You need to know how to focus on your most important tasks at all times.

The following list of 4 questions will help you to determine what those most important tasks/activities are. Answer these questions clearly and honestly to yourself, before you start work!

1. What are my highest value activities?
Which activities contribute the most to your professional and personal life? Determine what “highest value” means in your specific situation. Ask yourself, but also ask your family, friends, and boss. Once you get a clear answer to this question, make sure you work on your highest value activities all the time!

2. What exactly am I hired to do?
Or, if you are self-employed, why does my company exist, what value am I adding for my customer? It is amazingly difficult to answer this question clearly and completely. We all have a vague sense of why we are on the payroll, but very few can describe exactly why. Focus on the activities that you were specifically hired to do!

3. What can you (and only you) do that – if done well – can make a real difference?
This is a great question and not always easy to answer. Don’t be modest, recognize your key skill. I’m talking about that specific task or activity that, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done at all. Needless to say, focus on this key task at all times!

4. What is the most valuable use of my time right now?
This is a key question that you should implicitly answer as a GTDer whenever you are looking at your next action list. How much energy do I have to do this task? How much time do I have to do this task? Is doing this particular task the most valuable use of my time right now? Make sure that you always focus on this kind of task!

Ask yourself these 4 questions regularly. The answers to these questions will guide you in selecting the most important things you should be working on. This will maximize your productivity and help you to get your job done in advance.

Using this technique in combination with GTD is very powerful. Obviously, next actions don’t get done automatically. You have to chose the right action to do at any possible moment, given the context, available time, available energy and priority. Using the law of forced efficiency and by answering the questions listed above, you will have excellent tools for determining that priority. On a higher level the same principle applies to what does and what does not go on your project list.

Recognize the fact that there is never enough time to do everything, but use all the tools and principles you can to make sure that at least the most important things get done!

Other posts in the “Maximize Productivity” series:
1. Maximize Productivity: Make a Decision