Wouldn’t it be great to supercharge our productivity and not feel like time is slipping through our fingers?
In this post we look at five productivity tips to make us masters of time.
1. Identify a framework
Time Management is as much a philosophy as a practice. They key is to find a framework or philosophy that you can relate to.
Two frameworks I’ve identified with in particular are David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) and Steven Covey’s “7 Secrets of Highly Effective People“.
Allen’s simple GTD process is intuitive and simple to put into practice (Wiki Summary) . Stephen Covey’s 4 quadrant model of ‘importance and urgency” (Wiki Summary) give an excellent perspective on how to bend time.
Whether you identify with these framework or others, try a few philosophies until you find the one that best suits you.
2. Schedule time in your calendar for what’you will do the important
The only way to get the important things done is to make time to do them. Though simple, it’s the most crucial lesson of all. Put time aside first thing in the day do the the high priority work. Get it done first. Everything else….push it back in the day.
I hear you saying ‘there are some things that I can’t push back’. I would be the first to agree with you some things can’t wait – whether it’s paying that bill that’s due right now, or responding to your manager’s email. So this is more a principle than a hard and fast rule. I guarantee if you follow this principle 9 times out of 10, you will be surprised just how much of the important work you do get through.
Time is like a garden. If you don’t tend to it, the weeds will creep in. Make sure you’re spending more time on planting the flowers you actually want to see, rather than just trimming back those weeds.
3. Use your time by context
Did you know if you’re working on one task such as email, and then get distracted by a phone call, it can take your brain up to 20 to 30 minutes to refocus on your original task?
I was shocked when I first heard this. What’s more, it’s true! The emerging discipline of Interruption Science studies this phenomenon, and the loss of productivity that results from it. So, how do we get around this aspect of how our mind works?
One of the ways to be more productive is to focus your attention on a group of tasks based on context. For example, spend an hour doing email. Or an hour returning phone calls.
This way, though the subject of what you’re doing may change, the context of the task you’re performing doesn’t. You’ll be blazing through those tasks in no time.
4. Use tools to support your practice
Whether it’s software like Toodledo (a personal favorite), a diary by Kikki K, or Post It notes stuck to your computer screen – find the tool that fits your style.
It took me a long time to find my chosen tool. Or I should say ‘tools’.
Because I use devices regularly (phone, tablet, diary), I’ve chosen specific software for my Task Management and plain A4 paper which I can sketch on and scan at the end of the day.
My key principle – make sure wherever I am, on whichever device, I can check-in on my important tasks.
5. Book time for yourself
Do you ever feel like working life is getting busier and busier?
We receive more emails than ever before. More notifications from Facebook. Even as you read this there’s a good chance you’re receiving an SMS.
These tools are fantastic to keep us connected and many of us can’t imagine going without them. Yet at the same time it’s common to feel like there’s just too much to get through.
So in this ocean of busyness be sure to book time for yourself.
Resolve every week to make time for a run, or go for a walk. Why not see a movie with your favorite somebody. Whatever makes you happy, make sure you are taking this time for yourself at least 3 to 4 times a week.
This concept of ‘scheduling downtime’ is an important restorative activity to making you more productive. Give it a go. I’m sure you’ll thank yourself for it.