When we started development of Tameday, our project management and team collaboration app, we were pretty adamant that we were going to build a solution that would really help people and businesses make definite progress in their day. From a research point of view, my starting point was looking into time-management tips, project-management best practice and people’s views on chat apps etc. I was determined to find those common threads of advice that all experts could agree on and somehow build those into our software.
Before I get into this, I want to make something clear. I hate the term, ‘expert’, particularly the self-proclaimed types that are only expert in selling you a course or e-book on the subject of productivity or time-management. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with selling me a book on the subject, but the experts I sought out for my research, were the men and women just getting stuff accomplished in their jobs and businesses.
Let’s move on to the three time management hacks!
1. Stay clear of turds
Wow, this one makes me laugh, but what great advice from Chris McGoff’s post entitled, ‘The Time-Management Hack I Wish I Had Known When I Was 25’. The turd principle is relatively simple and based on the observation that your family, co-workers and peers are constantly asking for your help or your input, which can rob you of valuable time.
Your child bursts into the living room saying they can’t find their shoes, so what next? Chris would explain that your son has, “Just put a turd in your pocket”, as you now have to deal with this request. He goes on to say that,
“Some people keep the turd and jump to assist—but the “turd returners” say, “Oh yeah – how are you going to find them?” Turd back in their pocket.”
Of course, the take away here is being mindful of the turds coming your way—the constant requests that can rob you of time and focus, and…
Learn to say no.
Yes, our little turd analogy is just another way of being mindful of what is and isn’t important and learning to say no to the bullshit (deliberate turd reference!), so we can focus on what is important in our lives. Tony Robbins, explains that learning to say no is, ‘one of the biggest skills we all need to learn, but shouldn’t think of it as a negative.’
The Tameday angle
We can’t very well make people say ‘no’ using an online software solution, though that would be fun, but what we are doing is helping people get stuff out of their head and into one place, so that they can process it and judge what’s worthy of their time, what can be delegated and what is ripe for just saying no to.
Even in my early mockups, I took my to-do list in Basecamp, which has 86 to-dos right now, down to 14. Yip that’s right, from 86 to 14. Had I got 72 turds on my list? Well no, not really, but they weren’t all to-dos that I could manage and do in the present time. Some got delegated to other people, some got shifted to a ‘some day’ list (as per Getting Things Done (GTD) principles) and yes, some just got canned.
2. Focus and block things out
When you really have to get something done, focus is crucial to making progress. C’mon, we can all remember a time when a deadline was fast approaching and you simply had to get that task done. Never mind that you didn’t manage to get it done in the whole week before the deadline—now it needs to get done.
So what happened?
Boom! You got it done. Why did something that took you only an hour to complete take you over a week to getting around to? Well, distractions have a lot to do it with. There has never been an easier time to distract yourself with online channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and countless others, particularly if your core work relies on you using a computer.
When we do have a strong impetus to get things done, we simply block out those distractions, but wouldn’t we prefer to be able to do that without the pressure of deadlines and that ‘rushed last minute’ feeling?
That’s going to take a bit of practice but it’s something you can easily master. One of my favourite authors, Leo Babauta, reminds us of the magical power of focus, explaining that what we focus on really does determine our reality. So if you can master how to focus on the task at hand, and it’s important, you’ll move things forward at a much faster rate, both personally and at work.
A good way of practising focus is by working on tasks for short periods of time or in short bursts. The author Dave Logan is a great believer in this and describes it as, ‘The single best time management tip ever’. It’s effectively a twist on the Pomodoro Technique whereby you set a timer for 20-25 minutes and carry out your work during these shorts spells, taking breaks in between.
I personally used this as a student at university when revising for exams, and have to say, it’s a fantastic way to focus and move bigger projects forward in smaller more manageable chunks.
The Tameday angle
In Tameday, we’re integrating some great functionality that will help you and your colleagues focus more easily on the tasks at hand. We respect people’s time and focus—so we’ll allow users to set some pretty nifty notification settings that stops alerts and interruptions from occurring at the times they’re in focus mode.
We plan to integrate a twist on the Pomodoro Technique directly into your tasks, so that you can focus on the task in hand using a technique that’s proven to work.
3. Get organised
If you’ve found this article on the Internet, chances are you’re struggling to get things done or are overwhelmed at work with endless lists of to-dos. First off, you’re not alone. Everyone struggles from time to time with their workloads and personal commitments. Modern life is busy and it always feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but it just doesn’t have to be this way.
Valerie P. Jackson explains in her paper, ‘Time Management: A Realistic Approach’, that there are two basic components to organisation—organising your stuff and organising your time. When talking to my peers whom I would consider productive or successful in their own fields, it’s obvious they manage both of these aspects intuitively (or maybe they’ve practised a lot). That feeling many of us have of being overwhelmed isn’t present in those people. They’re in control of their day and are clearly realistic about what they can get done. In short, they’re organised.
Here’s the thing:
Most of your frustration and panic about how you’re going to get everything done comes from the fact that you’re disorganised. Sure, you could do that next task but you’re paralysed by the thought of all those other to-dos, so it’s really hard to focus on the here and now.
The only way to get organised is to have a system in place that can allow you to process everything that comes into your day and deal with it in one way or another. When you start your new day, you should either know in advance what you’re going to be tackling or have the first 15 minutes set aside to plan it out. Having that feeling of control and focus can allow you to get on with what you need to do, safe in the knowledge that you’ve chosen what’s important and discarded the stuff that isn’t.
The Tameday angle
We’re building some exciting features in Tameday that help you get organised and on with your day super fast. Your Inbox is a place you can forward in emails into, capture quick thoughts and notes, and then deal with them at a time that’s convenient to you. Delegation of tasks is a breeze and viewing your workload on a daily, weekly and monthly basis is simply beautiful, intuitive and helps you stay on top of things in a way that’s aligned with how you work.
Add up all the time you waste through distractions and interruptions (be honest) and throw in a greater focus on all your tasks. C’mon, you know that if you had a single solution that helped you avoid those distractions and helped you focus consistently, you would get a whole lot more done. We think that solution is going to be Tameday, for so many small businesses, freelancers and individuals.