Friday, May 6, 2011

The Efficiency Expert: How I get so much done and how you can too

I've decided to write a book, The Efficiency Expert. Getting More Done in Less Time. (Alternate subtitle: How I get so much done and how you can too.)

HERE is a draft of the proposal for that book. It contains a good number of my tips. I'd welcome your feedback before I submit it to my agent.


Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I like what I'm reading so far, Marty. But I'm a pretty big fan, so I'm biased.

Anonymous said...


I think this is a worthwhile project--an excellent use of your time writing it and our time reading it. I'd love to hear more of your ideas.

ST said...

This reminds me of one time driving into work, and there was another car just racing to get in and ahead of everyone it could, pretty much cutting me off, speeding, etc. I saw who it was. Then, when I walked into the office, this same lady was standing at the coffee pot, leaning on the table with one hand, holding a coffee cup with another, and chatting leisurely with another coworker. So, I'm thinking to myself, she was in such a hurry to beat traffic and get to work as fast as she could, just to stand around and chat? The reality was, and is, with people, they need to rush around while driving for some reason. Or probably, she had to get to work by a certain time, but once there, it was face time and she didn't actually need to WORK. :)

Anyhow, I'm somewhat of an efficiency expert myself, and I even contemplated that as a career. Day to day, I'm always thinking of ways to make my work duties more efficient and easier.

But, I've noticed all through my career, people don't want to bother, especially with any methods I come up with that I try to "sell" them. They'd rather do it their own way, even though I don't see it as elegant or streamlined. I mainly do it for myself, and I enjoy getting a lot done, at least with things under my control.

If you like cramming in a lot of "useful" things into every waking hour, that's OK, if that what makes you feel good. I also enjoy a lot of "non-useful" things, too, I don't have to constantly be productive. I don't waste a lot of time with TV, sports, and chatting with friends, however, so my "downtime" is maybe considered productive, but only to me.

The book might be popular, because people love to "think" they're improving themselves by buying a diet book, efficiency book, etc., but I wonder how many would follow through it as a life changing endeavor. I guess it doesn't matter as long as they buy the book.

Marty Nemko said...

ST, it matters more to me that the readers of The Efficiency Expert become more productive than that they buy the book. After all, I have given more than books-worth of advice on this blog for free.

Few book authors--I'm guessing that pulp fiction writers may be an exception--write because they think it's a likely path to making good money. Even authors like myself who have sold more than 250,000 copies of my books, could have made at least as much money per hour flipping burgers at McDonald's than by writing, even if we include the ancillary income, for example, the additional consulting clients.

Most of us write mainly because we believe we have something to say that we want others to know about, and often because we believe that if people act on the advice we offer, the world will be better for it.

That may sound high-minded, but talk to serious writers as I have, and you'll find that's a commonly held feeling.

ST said...

No, I do understand writers wanting to say something meaningful and hoping to make their readers better, and the world a better place.

Anonymous said...

Marty, thank you for this post. The concrete examples of how to save time even during routine outings such as going to lunch are very useful. I know you provided here only an excerpt of a larger work, but I might suggest that you include passages about your "down time". For example, what types of things do you do when you don't have your efficiency expert hat on and when do you decide to take down time.

Thank you.

Marty Nemko said...

Good thought, Anonymous. Yes, I'll write about how I make even my downtime efficient--that is, getting maximum pleasure with minimum time and hassle.

Horse Girl said...

Be sure to cover interpersonal relations. You know, how it makes more sense to have a 10-minute discussion on a difficult topic quickly than to spend hours resisting it.

Shawn said...

Great post Marty, I got a lot out of it.

People usually spend 1-2 hours in their car so from an efficiency standpoint getting phone calls out of the way while driving makes a ton of sense, the problem is it isn't safe, unless one uses a hands-free device.

Shawn said...

One huge time saver is to order groceries over the internet.

Locally in Minnesota we have Coborn Delivers, but ever state has their own company. I get quality food and my grocery shopping takes 20 minutes for the first-time order, and then subsequent orders only take me 2 minutes because what I ordered previously is saved. Cost wise, it is only about $5-10 more on a $100 worth of groceries, but it saves me about 1-2 hours every two weeks.

Marty Nemko said...

I believe hand-free is the law here in California. Law or not, I've always used Bluetooth handsfree--much more comfortable than holding a phone to your ear, and it eliminates any issue of radiation from the phone affecting your brain.

Dan said...

Marty, regimenting your day down to the minute doesn't seem like an enjoyable way to live. I think being reasonably efficient or realistically efficient is a better way. Humans aren't supposed to live like robots. Wasting time occasionally is very enjoyable and healthy, but it's probably a sin in Marty's world. I guess we all have our own pathologies.

Marty Nemko said...

As I tried to stress, I don't try to be efficient all the time, nor expect others to. be. For example, in the introduction, I wrote, "Do not misinterpret all the efficiency tips as implying I don't advocate brief inefficient pleasures. For example, throughout the day, I might take a quick break to shop for an unnecessary item on the Internet, hand water some plants even though I have an automatic irrigation system, or simply get on the floor for a minute to play with my doggie, Einstein. But I do generally keep those breaks brief."

But time indeed is our most valuable possession and I hope that my book's presenting myriad ways we can painlessly, often pleasurably save time will enable us to more often be conscious rather than reflexive in determining the best use of that most precious possession.

How sad that so many people often say, "I don't know where the day went!" or even "I don't know where the years went!"

I hope my book will be an antidote to that.

Dan said...

Marty, "I don't know where the day went" is not necessarily a negative statement. What about the saying, "Time flies when you're having fun"? And your brief interludes of inefficiency seem like 10-minute work breaks when you're on a time clock -- that's no fun. Anyway, to each his own.

Marty Nemko said...

Dan, as I've tried to stress in the article, making a conscious decision to not be productive for a given time is not a sin. Indeed, I mention that I do it all the time. The article mainly urges being conscious of how you choose to spend your time and then offers an array of small, usually painless things I do to find some extra time in each day. Is there anything I could have done to make that clearer in the article?

Anonymous said...


As we've discussed previously, I feel your efficiency recommendations would make an excellent book. Getting the word out, unfortunately, lies mainly in the marketing.

In the body of the book I suggest you frame your suggestions as tips tailored to your readers, rather than as strategies you use.

Dr. Michael R. Edelstein

Dan said...

Marty, I read the entire article. Sometimes I don't read close enough, so if I glossed over a point you thought you made clearly, then I'm sure you did and I apologize for not paying close enough attention.

I can see that you are trying to maximize the day by organizing it by the minute. But your regimen, even when you allow for brief interludes of unproductive time, strikes me as oppressive.

Don't we have enough regimentation already? Clocks everywhere. Rush hour. Time pressures galore. So why should machine-like productivity (even when leavened with brief, carefree lapses in that productivity) be something we strive for?

I can see your book as being catchy and popular, but I wouldn't buy it. If I adopted your way of time management, I would feel more pressure and stress in my everyday life than I already do. And that's something I try to avoid.

Marty Nemko said...

Dan, apparently I continue to have not made my message clear. I do NOT organize my life by the minute. In fact, rarely do I wear a watch. But in choosing my tasks and how to pursue them, I try to think of ways to do them time-effectively.

And I'm not regimented at all. Part of why I like being self-employed is that I can decide which tasks to do when, when I feel like a break, etc.

Sorry I wasn't clearer.

Anonymous said...

Apples and oranges. The thing some people are discussing/disagreeing on here is not "time/efficiency" per se, but that which precedes it in Marty's proposal: the actual premise of productivity. If Marty thinks "productivity" is the bottom line goal, then his approach to tasks, and to life in general, will be different than say, some who thinks enlightenment or balance, is a goal. To the former, efficiency is fun, to the latter it is counter-intuitive, given the latter's emphasis isn't on the time spent, but on the event itself dictating it's course. The focus shifts from "how efficiently can I do this?" to "How can I interact with this moment, regardless of time." There are separate constraints and freedoms.

No one is acknowledging that the premises is what may be adding hurdles to the discussion. As a result, the discussion is becoming a little defensive.

Marty Nemko said...

Thank you, most recent Anonymous for the fine contribution. As a result, I've added this paragraph to both the long and short version of the article:

I care to be that productive because, by my definition, a life is well-led to the extent it makes a positive difference. All of our activities, indeed all the minutes of our life could be scored on a meter from -100 (selling crack to kids) to +100 (trying to cure cancer), with ) being neutral activiities such as watching TV. I want my life's average score to be as high as possible.

After the Pulpit said...

Look forward to reading the book Marty! I've read a few time management books but none of them seem to match your no-nonsense practicality. I will not adopt all of your suggestions, but I recognize and appreciate that efficiency is more of an outlook, orientation, way of viewing time and how precious each moment really is. Thanks for initiating a call to intentionality with my daily tasks.

BTW, I've recently found you and the radio podcast and have become an insatiable listener of your archived shows. Talk about efficiency--I receive more insight and wisdom from those podcasts than a whole library of books. Time well spent (usually on my commute or while cooking dinner) indeed!

Marty Nemko said...

Thank you, After the Pulpit. It is gratifying to hear that I might be adding a bit to the time-management literature.

I'm guessing that your moniker "After the Pulpit" means you are a former cleric who perhaps has a vocation of helping people who have left the church. Great niche. I remember having a guest on my radio show who left the pulpit, a fabulous woman, Barbara Brown Taylor who wrote a fascinating book called "Leaving Church."

After the Pulpit said...

Yes Marty, I'm a big fan of B.B.Taylor and enjoyed your interview immensely. I am leaving the ministry (for reasons too myriad to articulate here) after 11 years of service and a lifetime of preparation.

Truthfully, you are one of a number of career counselors (in person, print and radio) who fired the proverbial light bulb over my head--Aha! Maybe I could make careers my career!

After all my favourite aspect of ministry has always been helping people in their own vocational discernment. I believe my skills are transferable into the career counseling field, and I find the work you do to be very meaningful and personally satisfying.

As I transition out of a part-time interim pastorate (will leave very soon), I have enrolled in a university certificate program for Career Development Practitioners (part-time, 9 months).

As you rightly guessed, my vision and hope is to help clergy who leave ministry find a new calling in life. Every month 1,500 pastors leave their positions in North America. Even more staggering is the fact that 50% of all pastors would leave the ministry if they could envision doing something else. I'd love to help these colleagues of mine courageously step out and follow a new path--one that intersects their own deep gladness with the world's deep need (Frederick Buechner)

Be Well,

Anonymous said...

When/how can I get this book? (I know you will write it.)

Marty Nemko said...

I've just finishing drafting the proposal for the book and will submit it to my agent, Jan Miller, who, if she likes it, will try to sell it to a publisher committed to distributing it well.

If that doesn't occur, I'll self-publish it as an e-book, possibly through In short, it's months or a year away.

The good news is, however, that, thanks to your interest, I've decided to replace the article/chapter I had posted here with a draft of the actual book proposal, which contains a good number of my tips on how to become more efficient. Hope it's helpful.