Have you ever heard yourself, or others complaining that you, “don’t have enough time”? We have all felt this to some extent, however in reality shortage of time is not the problem, the real problem is lack of time management. We all have the same 24 hours in the day, what we do with that time is up to us to decide.
In this article, we highlight the 5 pillars of productivity; preparation, prioritization, delegation, concentration, and organization as well as 9 time-management hacks to help optimize your performance within each of them.
9 time-management Hacks:
Preparation is imperative for highly productive days; it helps you to remove the resistance that stands between you and your desired outcome. Being prepared will allow you to focus all your energy on the task itself rather than on deciding how to do it.
Below are 2 of the best preparation techniques:
1. To-do list.
To use To-Do lists effectively every night write down all tasks that you want to do and must do for the next day. This clear layout helps you prepare mentally for the following day. Study’s show that unfinished tasks can cause severe stress but simply writing down a plan of action can significantly alleviate it.
Writing a to-do list assures that you are ready for a highly effective day the second your alarm sounds.
Originally a project management technique, Timeboxing is another tool you can use to help prepare for your day. Timeboxing works most effectively when paired with the to-do list. Once you have a list of all the things you wish to complete, write next to each a designated maximum time to complete the task within. (This should be a slight overestimate to account for unforeseen circumstances throughout the day) Setting strict completion-time goals and focusing on solely one task will help you to work more efficiently. A study by psychology and neuroscience specialist David Meyer suggests that when multitasking, (the way most people work) overall productivity declines by over 40%.
If you live a busy life, you likely have numerous different tasks calling for your attention simultaneously, it is essential to prioritize these tasks to determine which deserve energy. Prioritization allows you to assure that you spend your time on tasks that are progressing you forward and are most and align with your overall goals. (How to define your goals)
Below are 3 of the best prioritization techniques:
3. The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a prioritization technique developed by Dwight David Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States. Essentially the Eisenhower Matrix works by putting tasks into 4 quadrants:
– urgent & important
– important & not urgent
– urgent & not important
– not important or urgent.
Urgent tasks being those that require immediate attention, usually with clear consequences for not being completed. Important tasks are those that contribute to your long-term goals and life values.
Depending on which categories the task falls under you can choose to delete it, delegate it, complete it immediately, or schedule it to be completed later.
Here are examples of the different categories and how you should address them.
Urgent & Important: This should be completed immediately.
Ex: Finishing a client’s project
Important not urgent: Should be Scheduled onto a calendar.
Ex: Professional Development
Urgent & not important: Should be delegated to someone else.
Not important or urgent: Should be deleted from your schedule.
Ex: Consuming social media
4. Eat the frog:
The eat the frog technique, first coined by Mark Twain, is an extremely simple form of prioritization. To “Eat the frog” you do the most important, and difficult task first thing in the morning. It is thought that if you challenge yourself in the morning, everything will be easy to accomplish afterward. This may seem extremely difficult at first (especially for procrastinators) but once you consistently tackle the most difficult task first, soon it will just become a habit.
5. 1-3-5 Rule:
Cal Newport, author of “Deep work” and distinguished professor at Georgetown University developed the 1-3-5 rule as another tool for prioritization. The rule states that at the beginning of every working day you should plan to accomplish only 1 big task, 3 medium tasks, and 5 small tasks. Rather than trying to complete an endless number of things each day, by just focusing on those 9 tasks you can truly concentrate your energy on producing the best quality of work.
Jeff Bezos is an expert at focusing on essential work, he says that “If I make three good decisions a day, that’s enough. They should be as high quality as I can make them.” Rather than wasting his time in countless areas, he achieves perfection in the most important areas.
Sometimes to save time, tasks are best given to other people. Delegation should be used for things that need to be done but do not help you achieve overall goals. Delegate tasks when they are tedious, and your time could be better spent in other areas.
Below is a technique that helps with clear, effective delegation:
6. SMART Delegation
When delegating a task, be sure to make the instructions SMART. This helps to clearly show when the job has been completed and allows for it to easily be assessed.
Specific: Specify to the person what, where, why, how and with who the task should be completed.
Measurable: Give them specific quantifiable expectations.
Attainable: Be sure it is a reasonable task that they can complete.
Relevant: Make sure it is relevant to their goals and skillset
Time-bound: Give a specific timeframe of when you expect to have it completed.
Having focused efforts is extremely important, especially in our digital-distraction abundant world. Being able to work with concentration on a specific task will not only save time but will result in improved quality of work as well.
Below are 2 techniques to help with concentration:
7. The top goal technique
A technique that is great for keeping yourself focused on your primary objective is the top goal technique. For each task, you begin, write down your core objective and have them at the forefront of your mind as your approach it. This allows you to be sure that all your effort is concentrated around your end-objective, preventing energy waste on unimportant details.
Great ways to be reminded of your Top-Goal are writing the objective of projects at the top of them while working or posting sticky notes around the office with other key objectives on them.
8. The Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro method, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, uses a timer to break down work periods into 25-minute blocks separated by 5-minute breaks (after multiple Pomodoro’s the break can be expanded to a 15–30-minute break). The goal is to focus completely on one task for each interval and work at the highest possible intensity. A typical Pomodoro session may look something like this:
25 minutes work: 100% focus
5 minutes rest: Reflecting on what you just learned/rest.
25 minutes work: 100% focus
5 min rest: Reflecting on what you just learned/rest.
Finding ways to work in an organized, structured manner is vital to your overall productivity. It allows you to save time on transitioning between projects, gives you a direction to follow when working, and makes your progress easier to measure.
Below is a highly effective method for organizing your day:
9. Time Blocking
Time blocking, originally developed by Benjamin Franklin, is essentially large-scale time boxing. Time blocking means that you plan the structure of your day in a series of pre-defined, consecutive, time-bound tasks. You first organize all the tasks that you need to do in the order that they need to be completed (a great opportunity to use the Eisenhower Matrix and the Eat the Frog technique) then schedule specific windows of time in which you will complete each task.
Entrepreneur and innovator Elon Musk uses this technique avidly to manage his busy schedule. He says that he divides his schedules into 5-minute chunks, claiming that having these restrictions has helped him to complete the work faster.
Musk is not the only one claiming its efficacy, Parkinson’s Law, proclaimed in 1955 by historian Cyril Parkinson, states that work tends to expand to fill the time allotted for it. Although his statement is not a real “Law” the statement remains true.
By restricting time, the task gets done quicker. – Cyril Northcote Parkinson