I’ve always been fascinated by how some people seem to get so much done in a day whilst others struggle to make progress. We’ve all got the same number of hours to play with, yet for highly productive people, the ability to manage work, exercise, time with the kids and family, and a bit of light reading seems to be almost effortless.
So what’s the deal?
The nice thing for all of us, is that highly productive people all have the same time constraints as the rest of us. They’ve realised that conquering time management offers huge benefits to both their working lives and personal lives. By observing what these people have in common, in how they construct their daily lives and routines, we can learn to work smarter, be in control and ultimately get more out of life—both at work and at play.
These 9 powerful time management tips are things you can readily apply to your day right now. They’ll help you create space for thoughts, plans and tasks that you choose to do, and cut out the stuff that robs you of time.
9 Time Management Tips
This list of 9 tips should hopefully provide a springboard to a more productive day. Remember, everyone is different and what works for one, doesn’t always work for another. The trick here is to find those time management hacks that work for your life, and with a little bit of trial and error, you’re sure to hit the sweet spot where you feel in control of work and personal life, regardless of what is thrown at you.
1. Recognise when you’re most productive.
My wife and I keep moving the main laptop around at home, depending upon who needs to get some work done. Her ideal setting during the day (she works at home), is to have the computer in the living room, where she can look out to the garden and enjoy the sunlight when it’s there. She needs to have the television on in the background as silence just doesn’t help her work. Me on the other hand—well I prefer to work in the kitchen in the evenings (when I’m writing), which is brightly lit and close to the kettle for making a coffee regularly (I’m purely an instant coffee man!).
The point here, is to recognise where you do your best work, at what time, in what environment, with what noises around, with what lighting etc. Try to recreate or be in that setting on a regular basis, and plan your work around those times that you can be in that setting. Even if you’re in a work environment that you can’t exactly control, recognise those times and conditions when you get your best work done, and aim to do more of it under those circumstances.
2. Start your day with a clear agenda.
If you don’t have a plan for your day, trust me, someone else will! Before you hit the computer, you should already know what your major focus is going to be that day. I find it easier to plan for tomorrow just before finishing work for the day, as I have an up-to-date context for making decisions and moving tasks around.
3. Complete your major tasks first.
There will always be one or two major tasks that you’ve identified as being the most important. These could be things you’ve put off or tasks that require a major block of your time, uninterrupted. Before other things at work potentially distract you or require your attention, it’s vital to get your major tasks done and out of the way. Make this your major goal and habit—whatever a day throws at you, you’ll always make progress on the big stuff.
4. Learn to focus.
For me, this is perhaps the biggest observation I’ve made of highly productive people. When they’re doing work, they’re completely focused on the task at hand.
Kill the browser tabs!
As a counter observation, I have noticed that those who complain the most about not having enough hours in the day, are the ones who are easily distracted, or who ‘invent’ things to do, to avoid focusing on the work at hand. They’ll have a million browser windows open, flicking from one to the next in between trying to get work done (I’m guilty too!).
You can only do one thing at a time, so give the task at hand your 100% focus and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll get it finished.
If you needed any evidence of this, remember back to your college days, when you left an assignment to the last minute, but when you realised it simply needed to get done, you just zoned out other things and got it done super quick. The trick here is to create that same discipline of focus, without the pressure of a deadline.
5. Get the regular stuff into a routine.
I don’t know about you, but I believe at least 30-40% of my time is taken up with regular tasks that I need to perform, either on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. This simple fact offers a huge opportunity to save so much time in our lives. By creating routines for our most regular tasks, we can learn to do certain tasks on auto-pilot, as part of a routine, which is proven to make us perform better over time.
This is one reason we plan to bring a strong focus on setting up routines in Tameday, our new project management app for small businesses—by helping companies and individual employees identify regular tasks, productivity can be increased with better planning and improvements can be made over time.
6. Group similar tasks together.
Working on new advertising concepts may be a task in your calendar, but it’s not the same as having to check web stats or make two phone calls to clients, which again, may be marked as tasks in your calendar. By taking the famously popular Getting Things Done (GTD) approach from Dave Allen, you should group tasks according to context or category.
By grouping similar tasks together and doing them at the same time, you can get much more done.
7. Do less.
This might seem counter-intuitive but think about this for a moment. Your best work is quality work—it requires thought, focus and time. Try to take a step back and see where your time should be spent to move your job or business forward. All too often, we allow to-do lists to grow and grow without ever considering what’s really necessary, and what isn’t.
Remember, highly productive and successful people have the same number of hours in a day as you—they are simply better at identifying which tasks are important and which are not. They respect and value their time and treat it as precious. Learn to say ‘no’ more often, to take time to consider what’s important and what tasks need your attention to make real progress in your projects, your life, your work.
8. Choose a system to organise your day.
Whether you’re a pen and paper kind of person or a computer hog, it’s important to have some sort of system in place that will allow you to get stuff out of your head and into a single trusted resource. From there, you can process what needs to be done and move it forward. With Tameday, we feel it’s important to have a Universal Inbox where you can send any email, type any task quickly and from there, plan when to do it or delegate it. With everyone working differently, it’s important that a system at work is flexible enough for individuals, yet powerful enough to allow a business to set out how things get done.
9. Switch off.
Life is for living! By all means, work hard, but remember that sleep, rest and recovery are key components of a healthy, productive person. Look at world-class athletes and you’ll see how rest is as important to their performance as training. If you want to be highly productive and in control of your time, switch off when work is over and go have some fun.
These powerful time management tips should give you food for thought if you’re struggling to get stuff done at work. Maybe you’re taking on too many unimportant tasks, maybe you’re not working on the important stuff at the right time, or maybe you just haven’t got a system going for coping with anything and everything that comes your way. Whatever your challenges are, we’re pretty sure Tameday could really help you and your team get more done.