Time management tips to boost productivity
Time management is the new holy grail. We’re all so time poor these days that rushing has become part of our work and personal lives. But, if you can manage your time effectively, you can boost your productivity. And feel less stressed. And when you feel less stressed, you make fewer mistakes.
When you work efficiently, you get more done. And when you achieve the goals you set for the day, you feel better. You feel on top of things and bring that positive energy to your next task.
Getting through things effectively – not just efficiently – means there’s less waste to your activities. Less re-reading because you scanned the email first time round. Less redoing tasks because you ‘thought’ one thing when, in fact, something else was required.
So, good time management not only boosts your productivity, it gives you more time. And that gives you space for clear and creative thinking. It gives you time for ideas to percolate. For solutions to emerge from the fog of mental busyness. For lightbulbs – Aha! moments – to ping in your brain and for you to notice them long enough to action them.
So, what are our top three tips to boost time management?
1. The Eisenhower Box
The Eisenhower Box is based on the US President Eisenhower’s maxim: What’s urgent is seldom important. And what’s important is seldom urgent.
The idea is that Important things are those that contribute to your long-term mission, values and goals. That means you have to work out and know what your long-term mission, values and goals are. Otherwise, you’ll just keep wasting time.
Important and Urgent: Do it now.
Important and Not Urgent: Decide that it will be done and schedule a time to do it.
Not Important but Urgent: Delegate it – OK, it must be done, but not by you.
Not Important, Not Urgent – Delete it, eliminate it from your life pronto!
There’s a very useful phrase that I live by: If you are not moving towards your goal, you are moving away from it.
Therefore, you gotta know what your goal is …
2. Small wins add up to a big win
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
If you have a big task on your desk, break it down into sub-sections, schedule one section an hour or a day. Do each of those sub-tasks, giving it 100 per cent of your attention. Keep at it, one bite at a time. Then, job done.
The aim of this is to create a positive forward momentum. Do a task, finish it. That way, you will be more likely to keep tackling your tasks because you view them as manageable.
A useful tool to harness your attention is the Pomodoro timer. This was created by an Italian university student who broke down periods of study into 25-minute blocks.
The idea of this is that you do 25 minutes of work, then take a five-minute break. You repeat this four times before taking a 15-20 minute break. Each block of 25 minutes is known as a Pomodora – the Italian word for ‘tomato’.
You can buy a timer – even a tomato (!) – but really, all you need to do is set the timer on your phone. The important thing is that, when you know you’re only going to be at a task for 25 minutes, it’s easier to throw yourself into it. Then, take that all-important break.
3. Do it
Procrastination is the enemy of effective time management! Putting things off makes the task feel bigger, which feels like too much effort today, so, why bother … Repeat.
Motivational speaker Mel Robbins came up with the Five Second Rule. Essentially, the rule is that if you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill the idea.
Author of Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert has a similar proposition – she says that when we come up with an idea, our self-doubt kicks in within minutes to start throwing up obstacles. Oh, the idea is great, but it will never work, people will laugh, we don’t have enough money … Repeat.
And, so, Robbins and Gilbert say that you should act immediately – don’t delay. Do something to move your goal on. Don’t even give your mind a chance to douse your creativity with negativity. Count 5-4-3-2-1, then do something.
So, you get an idea, you identify a goal – now, do something to move it on. Draft that email. Send that text. Outline your idea in a journal. Do something to create positive forward momentum so that your activity moves your goal closer to being achieved.
The key phrase for me is: If you are not moving towards your goal, you are moving away from it.
And so, if you know why you are doing something, you will be more motivated to do it. You will have no desire to procrastinate. You will want to move things forward. And you will get to your end goal, with less stress. Calm and content, that’s the new you!