When it comes to these buzzwords of “time management” and “productivity”, you may think they’re just myths that make for good blog posts. In fact, most people assume that it’s not only hard to effectively manage their time, but also adds another step into their already busy day. Isn’t the idea to reduce – not add – steps from your daily routines to maximize your productivity?
If you’re one of those people, you’re not alone. There’s a reason so many people are searching for time management solutions – and with so many people looking for answers, there are a ton of resources out there with their own ideas on how to effectively manage time. I’ve hand selected (and tested) 5 of the top strategies for maximizing productivity through time management. Keep reading for the simple techniques that will help you take control of your day. Click Here to Download an Excel Spreadsheet that you can use to plan your time more effectively.
1. Think of Time as Money (Time Assets/Debts)
Although you can’t save time and use it when you need it, you can save time in the future by altering what you do now. I’m talking about time assets. Time assets are actions you take now that will save you time in the future. An example would be to set up clear standard operating procedures today, so that in the future you’re not always being asked how to do something. While the correct procedure may be clearly defined in your head, by writing it down you give your employees a first-stop before coming to you with questions. In turn, that reduces the number of times you’re asked the same questions, pulling you away from your important tasks.
Conversely, time debts are the actions you take today that will cost you time in the future. What happens when you rush to finish an important project and skip a step? Well, you’ll have to go back and do it properly. By not doing the project fully the first time, you create a time debt for yourself. If you think of time assets as your bank account and time debts as your bills, it’s never a good place to be when your debts outweigh your assets. Think of everything you’re doing today. What is a time asset you can work on and what are some time debts you can eliminate?
2. I’ll Pencil You In (Scheduling Your Day)
How much of your day is committed to and how much just occurs? People tend to utilize a mixture of a mental calendar and a physical (or digital) calendar. In other words, some of the day is visibly mapped out and the rest is mentally mapped out. Make sure you commit your entire day in writing so that not only are you aware of your commitments, but so is your team. It proactively tells your team that during a certain timeframe, you are unavailable. In doing so, you will also be less tempted to respond immediately.
3. To-Do or Not To-Do (Eisenhour Box)
Having a to-do list is great – when you use it properly. How many times have you checked your to-do list only to find that the list keeps growing and you never catch up? Sometimes it’s easy to put everything down on a to-do list without considering if it’s really that important to land itself on your list. When it comes to making (and using) your to-do list, there are two main points to do it right: the 2-Minute Rule and the Eisenhour Box.
The 2-Minute Rule is simple; if you can do it in 2 minutes, do it now. If not, schedule it for later. Having things such as “email bookkeeper” and “print P&L” shouldn’t be on your to-do list since you can easily do them within 2 minutes. Rather, put things down such as “write the weekly newsletter” and “update SOP”.
To maximize your productivity during the day by using the to-do list, use the Eisenhour Box method. The Eisenhour Box method is a way of sorting out the urgent & important things from your to-do list to prioritize your day. The box has four sides: Important, Not Important, Urgent, and Not Urgent. After you have your to-do list together, sort the items into one of the four boxes. You’ll be surprised at how much should be delegated or deleted.
4. “Eat the Frog” (Do the Hard Stuff First)
Mark Twain once said “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Luckily, you won’t have to actually eat a frog. However; now that you have your to-do list organized, you’re probably going for the easiest project first to get it out of the way. It makes sense, right? If you knock out all the easy tasks, you’ll make room for that difficult task you’ve been meaning to do. As you start to chip away at those easy tasks, you’ll notice something strange happening – more tasks start making it onto your list and pushing that difficult task to the bottom, yet again. In a couple weeks, you’ll be wondering why you haven’t started that hard project yet.
While tempting to start doing the easy tasks, you should always start on the hardest task, first thing in the day. The reason behind it is that a) you’re at your most focused early in the morning, early in the week and b) all the simple projects will be easy to coast through as you wind down your day and hit those late afternoon lulls.
5.Have You Eaten the Frog Yet? (Just Do it Already)
Although likely the most obvious thing (and way easier said than done) the best way to get things done, be productive, and manage your time is to simply do what needs to be done. Have you ever sat down to work on a project only to find yourself doing everything but that project? The hardest part of doing anything is to start doing it. Once you start doing the task, you’ll gain momentum and keep going through the end of the task – or at least until lunch. There are a couple of things to help you get going when beginning a new project.
First, make a “trigger”, or an action related to starting your project that is so easy that you can’t say no to it. An example would be if you want to start running, put your running shoes on. It’s so simple, you can’t make excuses why you’re not able to put your running shoes on. Now that your running shoes are on, you’re more likely to run. If you repeat that trigger every time you’ll have a far easier time getting started.
Second, starting doesn’t necessarily mean diving right in. The best way to get started is to get organized. If you were updating an SOP, starting could be writing down an outline of what that SOP should look like. Once you have the outline, you’ll be able to start editing the SOP because you’ve already laid out the hard part.
Finally, break big projects into smaller tasks so they feel less daunting. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start on a large project. If you pull out key deliverables on the project and make those your tasks, it will be easier to get started. For example, having a to-do of “define our company culture” can feel like a hefty task. You could break it up by having multiple milestones, such as “survey the team to see what they feel our culture is/should be”, “research and pick team/culture building exercises”, and “plan a culture meeting”.