If we talk in the context of why time management is important, I have to agree that a lot of us waste it as an indispensable resource. Imagine your entire day spent, while you did nothing of value. This could be interpreted as time wasted in the form of doing useless stuff for yourself and for people around you.
Wouldn’t you agree and do something better instead? Sadly, many of us are guilty of this predicament.
The good thing is that nature has blessed us with 24-hour time duration on a daily basis. Whether you are working as a business owner in the corporate sector or doing a white-collar job, you have to get by with those 24 hours each & every day.
Therefore, it is up to you to decide whether you want to utilize these 24-hours, or you just want to “spend” your day aimlessly.
Why Time Management is Important?
I’m an Agile & Software Consultant at nTask and observe my fellow professionals, who work in different IT sectors and industries. I often hear complaints about lack of time at their disposal — “I wish there were a few more hours left so that I could have done a little extra”. These are the kind of statements that are a living testament to why time management is important for your work life as well as personal life.
On the other hand, there exists a group of people, who are likely to say that they have an abundance of time — and that they are able to do a lot in one day than an average person.
In this article, I’ll be highlighting why good time management is important and give you 25 Super Tips for mastering the art of productivity.
In addition, at the end of this write-up, there is a bonus tip shared by Elon Musk on this subject matter. He calls it: ‘Time Boxing’ — and it is one of our personal favorites! Read on…
Stop Procrastinating and Focus on the Task At Hand:
Good Time management is not just about working things on a schedule. Besides, schedules can get awfully boring because people feel restricted. On the contrary, time management is about convincing yourself to execute a task at hand. The biggest wastage of time is procrastination. Haven’t you seen people often say “Yes! I’m going to do this XYZ task; but “in a bit.” In reality, that “bit” never comes up and the task keeps on getting delayed until the 11th hour.
This form of procrastination is your biggest challenge in becoming effective at time management. Also, you might have heard people say that we got late to office because of the traffic, you’ll figure out in most cases they weren’t 100% motivated to go to the office which is why they got late.
Have you ever heard a person getting late for a date? Wherever they want to reach on time people manage to do it. It’s about motivating yourself for a task. On that note, we have published a post about The Pomodoro Technique. It is an effective time management exercise where you can not only complete a preset number of tasks but also get a short break at the end of each interval. How cool is that?
In a nutshell, we complain a lot over lack of time, but we fail to plan accordingly. You need to prioritize your time.
Perhaps the greatest problem that people have today is “time poverty”:
Time management is of great importance for career success and your personal life. You need time in your life for enjoyment. Financially poor people don’t have money, but time-poor people DO have time. We all get 24-hours a day as I said earlier. Our goal is to have the income of a CEO and the free time of a retiree.
So, the trick is to make your time more valuable.
Time Management Begins With You:
It begins with your thinking through what is important to you in life. You need to set goals in three major areas of your life.
- You need family and personal goals.
- The second area of goals is your career and business goals
- The third type of goals are your personal development goals
Now that you understand the importance of time management; here is a list of 25 Super Tips of Mastering the Art of Time Management.
Time Management in Work — 25 Time Management Tips and Tricks that Work:
1. Schedule Everything
If it’s not on your calendar then don’t do it. So that means time blocking; keep everything on your calendar. Put everything from waking up to drinking your coffee to getting ready for work to client meetings; block out every moment of your day and treat every time block as a deadline you must meet.
2. Kill Unnecessary Distractions:
Turn off desktop notifications & Twitter notifications on your phone; news notifications because it will cause you to ping pong from one thought process to the next. Which is a recipe for time-wasting? Because as soon a desktop notification pops up and you will start thinking I have to respond to this email and your entire schedule will be up in flames. Before you know you are completely distracted.
3. Do That One Thing
Do that thing if you just made progress on one thing and at the end of the day you reflect on that thing you would feel a sense of accomplishment. I personally suffer from productivity paralysis. Most people have the tendency of doing low priority things first because they are small, and I think
I can get them out of the way but eventually what happens is that you miss out on the most important thing. So do the thing that you are procrastinating about because that might be the most important thing on your agenda list.
4. Set up a Reward
Set up a reward for getting a thing done or a series of things done; it could be as little as a cookie or walk around the block or listening to your favorite music or it could be a big dinner out or a trip to Vegas. Give yourself a reward and something to look forward to.
5. Make Plans:
Set up plans for the end of the day because that way you’ll have a timeline during which you have to achieve all your targets during the early portion of the day. It sounds really simple and it is so just making the plan and do something. This forces you stay focused.
6. Take Breaks
You must schedule your breaks according to your calendar. It’s proven that the top 10% performers take 15-minute breaks every hour and it maximizes their productivity. Just taking a break clears your mind and when you come back to work it helps you focus. It sounds counter-intuitive but its better for your body as you get up from your desk and it gets your circulation going.
7. Do Something Unrelated:
For example, if you are doing a lot of creative designing work you might want to look at a book or do some crosswords. By giving your brain a break and focusing on something unrelated on your to-do list and it refreshed your brain.
8. No Delete Keys, Please
If your writing doesn’t start off as a perfectionist; instead keep on writing and make the edits at the end. Go for volume. It will make you more productive and stop you from being perfectionist too early on.
9. No Multi-Tasking
People think that they are great multi-taskers, but it has been scientifically proven that they were not built for that & you will have to get rid of the distractions. If your writing close Skype; if your designing than don’t have multiple screens running. Focus on the task at hand.
10. Document Your Processes:
Write down every major goal and the process you need to follow. For example, we at nTask have a checklist of 15 things before we write a blog article. By documenting your processes, it becomes easier for you to delegate your responsibilities to your staff as they will have clarity on the “How” part of the task.
We recommend you use nTask for streamlining your tasks and delegating tasks to your team members. So, you need to codify the steps for content development, publishing, marketing activities & new business development.
11. Write it Down
To-do lists are mandatory to increase productivity; they get you organized, allowing you to understand in which direction you need to be moving and they give you a sense of accomplishment when you tick an item off the list.
Create a to-do list for the upcoming day to have a clear image of what needs to be done. This will help you when your day starts as you will have everything lined up for the day. You can signup for nTask for free to manage this point!
12. Cut down on Your To-Do List:
When writing a to-do list you will be tempted to list down a lot of things which are not that important. A very long to-do list will make you anxious in the morning or frustrated in the evening when very few things would have been completed.
Here is what you should do: Pick from between one- and three-time consuming tasks for a day and then three to five less time-consuming activities in a day.
The 31 Best To-do List Apps of 2019 for Personal Task Management
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13. Minimize Distractions:
In order to be focused on one task at a time you need to minimize distractions. You don’t need to answer all your phone calls or emails in a day; unless that’s your job. Turn off your social media notifications. Put your phone and Skype on do not disturb mode; you’ll be amazed at how much work you will be able to complete during a day.
Don’t let your friends and family members bother you as long as you are busy. You can let them know beforehand so that an “inconvenience” doesn’t come up.
14. Organize Your Work Space:
When everything is in place and your work desk is organized unless feeling the urge to fix the pile of sheets on your table, searching for a pen not knowing where you left it, etc. Lots of people spend a lot of time and money on their workstation; so, it’s better having it organized. The importance of time management in the workplace cannot be emphasized enough.
15. Track and Monitor Time Spent on Each Task:
In order to optimize how much time you are spending on a task, it’s important to evaluate your work. Do you spend too much time researching similar articles or you go on Facebook for a 15-minute break but end up spending more than half an hour?
You can’t improve it unless you keep an eye on it.
16. Embrace Technology
Don’t be afraid of using every app out there to be as productive as possible. Track time spent on each task, create schedules and set up reminders, make sure all your tasks are at the tip of your fingers.
17. Set Smart Goals
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. Set a way to measure your goals and set a deadline it doesn’t finish “SOMEDAY” have a specific timetable for each task and goal.
Ever heard of that phrase, ‘Work smarter, not harder?’ That’s the whole idea here.
18. Choose Your Friends Wisely
Surround yourself with people who have the same ambitions as you do and try to work beside them. This way you can motivate each other and brainstorm specific ideas. This will help you strive to perform even better with each passing day. This is a very important point, so you need to figure a way to surround yourself with people who are ambitious and aligned with your own goals.
19. Learn New Things
There is a principle called the compound effect which states that no matter how little you do it eventually adds up if you stick at it consistently. Before you know it you have mastered a new skill.
For example, if you allocate one hour for a particular skill a day; that will equate to 365 hours a year. In 3 to 5 years you can become an expert on a topic of your choice. Don’t know where to start? Pick up a book and start reading.
20. Develop the Habit of Saying No:
You can’t be a yes man and still finish all your projects and tasks on time. You should get yourself ready to say no to colleagues who want your help because that would interfere with your own work.
21. Be Proactive, not Reactive:
This one is straight forward. Don’t let incoming calls become a hurdle in your schedule.
22. Don’t Engage In Endless Meetings:
Meetings are the black hole of productivity. Avoid meetings that are not of importance at all costs. Even if it’s important to certain stakeholders, try and arrange the meeting at such a date and time that it is convenient for everyone involved.
23. Focus on Results-Oriented Activities:
Many of the activities which we do are not urgent and don’t much impact on our lives. There is the Pareto Principle which states that 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions. What you must do is to find the 20% activities which bring you the 80% results and get your main focus there.
24. Take Care of Yourself:
You must invest in all portions of your life to be properly productive. Go to the gym, take care of what you eat. Being productive means having a balanced life. Nothing beats living a life in harmony.
25. Do More, Think Less
Thinking and worrying is the biggest time waster.
Bonus Tip: Time Boxing by Elon Musk
Time Boxing is the practice of setting a fixed amount of time for each task and integrating the resulting time blocks into your schedule.
Let’s start with the obvious question. Why should we utilize this method? There will be a critique from the offset by certain people who might say scheduling your entire day in advance will turn you into a robot… Why would you want to do that?
If you’re of the same opinion then I would say that you are looking at it from the wrong perspective. Yes! Scheduling your day will mean you’ll have to stick your initial plan and you will have less unstructured free time. You might not know this but having a lot of unstructured time might just be a bad thing for you.
Parkinson’s Law states: Work expands to fill the time allotted for it.
So, the advantages of timeboxing are:
- It removes choice from the equation
- The time limitation intensifies your level of focus
So, how can I utilize timeboxing?
The simplest way is to write down my plan for the day on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper. I estimate how much time each of my tasks will take. For example, going to the Gym (60 minutes), Shower and Dress (25 minutes), Write the next article outline (1.5 hours) and so on.
You may use nTask to create a to-do list for all your activities in a day.
If you want to utilize Time Boxing the right way; you will have to learn how to properly estimate the time each task is going to take to complete. But the bad thing for both you and I is that we cannot predict time to 100% accuracy. We are all susceptible to what’s called the “Planning Fallacy”: The human tendency to be over-optimistic in making time estimations.
There was a study that was conducted on this topic at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Students were asked to make two types of predictions; the first was the best possible scenario time prediction while the other was the average run of the mill productivity and time estimation.
Researchers found out that results for both types of predictions were virtually identical. What that means is that when you predict a scenario you picture that there would be no traffic on the streets, no chance of an accident & everything is hunky-dory.
This type of time estimation is not very effective when it comes to using it for time boxing.
Because when you overestimate your task completion capacity, in the end, that results in nearly only half of your planned tasks reaching completion.
So, one way to get at better estimating your tasks if you track time. You can signup at nTask to get things done effectively.
Now, we’re at the last step: How do deal with interruptions?
When your plan gets interrupted then you need to change your plan.
Split your notebook into columns. The first column will point out the Original Plan while the column adjacent to it will comprise the Revised Plan.
The second piece of advice is to designate certain time slots as blocks; known as reactionary times. These are blocks of time specifically made for dealing with issues that come up during the day. So if there is some task that popups up during the day which can be dealt later on than reactionary time blocks are perfect for this.
One thing I would like to add here is that don’t get demotivated if you’re not able to follow your plan to the letter. Life is inherently unpredictable in nature but that doesn’t mean that planning out your day is a flawed tactic.
No tactic can work out 100% as you planned. So, if there was something which popped up during the day and acted as an interruption than you can identify such aspects as something which you account for in the future or maybe that was just a one-off thing.
The last suggestion from my end would be to not give in to the temptation to over-schedule the day. Yes, Elon Musk is managing 80–90 hours a week but firstly that dude is a monster and number two if you have a lot of work on your plate which needs concentration and a lot of creativity than that’s all you can do in a day.
As authors of the 4 Principles of Execution state “The more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish”. So, take advantage of the productivity that timeboxing brings to the table but give that difficult task the time it deserves.
Originally published at https://www.ntaskmanager.com on September 4, 2019.