The year 2020 highlights the exposure to Covid-19 which made all of us learn a lot about a lot of things. It is time to self-reflect and maximize your time and life goals.
Being more efficient with your time is irrelevant if you don’t have the right direction. In managing time, the compass is more important than the clock. Know where you want to go and spend your time on the things that get you there.
Many people spend energy trying to be more efficient without first doing what’s important: setting goals. It’s like being lost on your way to a new city. Driving faster doesn’t help if you are going in the wrong direction. Figure out what direction to go in and head that way. Once you’ve prepared it, your list of goals will reveal what is important to you.
Analyze how you spend your time.
It is always good to know how you’re spending your time right now. Divide your day into 15-minute blocks and record each activity you do. Once you have your time logs, examine them. How do they compare to your goals? Are you spending time on things that address your priorities? Find out how often are you getting distracted. Also, what your distractions are.
Keep a to-do list.
This sounds too simple, but it really is the basis of all time-management systems. Your to-do list can be electronic, on fancy paper, bound in a notebook or loose-leaf. The key is to have everything you want to accomplish on one list. Don’t have multiple lists on multiple locations (Phone reminder list, Google Tasks list or paper planner). Pick one tool (whether paper or electronic but stick to it). This will help you focus on the actual task but looking for lists items on multiple platforms.
Prioritize your list.
Once you have the list, determine which are the important items. Mark these with a highlighter, a red pen, or in any other way that makes them stand out. I sometimes find my to-do list is too big. Every item on the list calls out “pay attention to me!”, even though most of them weren’t highlighted as important. In these cases, identify three or four most important items. The way I use to define the most important items is:
1. Tasks that take a short amount of time but have the biggest impact. Do them right away.
2. Tasks that will take a longer time but are important put them in your schedule at a certain time with reminder and task duration defined on the calendar.
3. Tasks that are needed but someone else can do it better or as good as you, delegate the task.
I use a number of tricks to break any lingering tendencies to procrastinate. One most useful way to control procrastination is the Pomodoro Technique. Choose a task that you want to do and set a 25-minute Pomodoro timer. During this time, you only focus on this task. after 25 min, you can take a short break. Then, go back to your task for the next 25 min timer. After 4 Pomodoro timers, take a long break. Finish the task before the next tasks.
If I still find myself procrastinating, I review my reasons for setting a goal. To create extra motivation to complete a task, I strengthen the reasons why it should be done. Similarly, many people reward themselves for completing a job.
Organization and time management are linked. I find that I get important things done when I have all the tools I need to perform the job.
The opposite of organization is chaos, clutter, disorganization which generally leads to busy work. If your desk is piled high, every piece of paper says “look at me.” You can end up doing a lot of work without ever getting to the important stuff.
One way to expand your time is to get others to help you with it. The key to delegation is to hand off any tasks that someone else can do significantly faster or more easily than you can.
If you’re protesting that you don’t have anyone working directly for you to whom you can delegate tasks, no problem. Consider delegating to a peer, a superior, a supplier, or even a customer. Treat delegation like networking: who in your network would be best for the job?
In some cases, you will need to invest up-front to train someone so he or she can take over a task from you. The long-term savings are usually worth the up-front time and costs.
After delegation, remember to thank the person appropriately. You might think people would resent being delegated to, but exactly the opposite is true. People like to be asked, especially if it is to do something that they’re good at.
It’s OK to say no.
Saying “No” can be the most powerful time tool you can master. When someone asks you to do something, ask yourself how important this is. Does it help you achieve your goals? Is this a task you would be better at than most people? Don’t always look for reasons to get out of things, but be strategic about what you take on. If you are overqualified to do that task, then feel free to say no because you could spend your valuable time doing something that is worth more.
This doesn’t mean that I always say no when asked to help out. But if I do say no, I am always polite and tactful and try to suggest someone else who would do the job well.
Committing 100% focus and concentration on one task at a time can be very powerful. Eliminate distractions. Focus on the task. When you’re properly organized and prepared, when your energy and power are high, you can often complete a task in 20% of the time it would take when you’re distracted or open to interruption.
Take care of yourself.
It isn’t possible to be “on” all the time. Take the time you need to look after yourself (body and soul) so that you can reach peak efficiency when you need to. Have a list of things you like to do. Find out what activities energize you, and spend more time doing them. This will give you the power and energy to be more productive when you return to work.
Finally, a word of advice. If after reading this far you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, I suggest you go back to Rule 1 and add peace (contentment) to your list of goals. Time management is not about adding stress; it is about giving you the time to be the person you really want to be.