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20 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known Before My 20s

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20 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known Before My 20s

Being able to manage your time most appropriately is something best done as early as possible. The earlier in life that you start, the better such skills will stick with you. Mastering these time management hacks in your 20s sets you up for success for the rest of your life. If you have not developed these skills just yet, don’t worry.

You can get started today! Choose one hack a day and you will make it through the list in less than a month.

1. Use a calendar app or calendar notebook every day

Keeping all of your appointments in your head is ineffective. That’s why successful people use calendar tools.

For example, I suggest using Google Calendar. It is free and you can set it up to send you email reminders for important activities. Receiving a reminder email about a trip a few days in advance is very useful.

2. Use a task management tool

Yes, keeping a to-do list is vital in successfully managing your time. At first, you may just use scraps of paper (I did that once as well).

It is much more effective to use a dedicated task management tool though. You could use a well made paper notebook such as a Moleskine, or even a digital tool (e.g. Remember the Milk, Microsoft Outlook or Nozbe).

3. Respect your need for sleep by getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day

Cutting out sleep to have more fun or get more work done is a short sighted strategy. While you can pull off this strategy in your 20s to a degree, it is a destructive habit to form.

Being tired all day means that you will be able to make effective use of your time, no matter how organized you are. So make it a habit of getting those legitimate seven to eight hours each night.

4. Do a weekly review of the past 7 days

Learning how to do a weekly review is one of the best time management habits for you to develop. The Weekly Review is a concept created by David Allen, author of the classic productivity book Getting Things Done.

To get started with a weekly review, go through the following steps:

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– First, review your calendar for the past week and the current week – look for loose ends, meetings and other matters that need further attention.

– Second, review your email inbox (personal and company email accounts) and achieve inbox zero.

– Third, review your goals for the year and make plans to work on them in the coming week.

This practice will help you to better plan your schedule and avoid nasty surprises.

5. Plan to achieve four hours of real work per day

Did you know that project managers often assume people will be less than 100% productive per day? It’s true! You may have a standard eight hour work day but the reality is that only half of that day is likely to be highly productive.

The rest of the day will be taken up with meetings, responding to email, browsing the Internet and related activities.

Tip: Schedule your most important, high value tasks in the morning, before you get tired.

6. Focus on a single task at a time (i.e. no multitasking!)

Multitasking is a wasteful way to work. Instead, you will achieve more if you choose one activity at a time. For example, allocate one hour in the morning to work on a proposal for a client, then give yourself a short break.

7. Separate strategic and “brain dead” tasks

High value strategic tasks are what companies and clients pay for – coming up with new product ideas, ways to reduce cost and other improvements. However, it is difficult to deliver creative insights all day long.

When the last hour of the day arrives and you’re tired, work through “brain dead” tasks like installing security updates or tossing out old papers.

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8. Accomplish large projects by breaking them down into smaller tasks

The ability to accomplish large projects is one of the most important time management hacks. For example, if you are assigned with organizing a corporate conference in six months, the effort may feel impossible.

Get started by writing a plan and asking for advice from people who have accomplished similar projects.

9. Set a maximum of three priority tasks per day

At the beginning of the day, it is easy to come up with a to-do list with dozens of items. Unfortunately, unplanned phone calls, requests from the boss and others quickly overturn the best plans.

Instead, simply choose three important tasks per day.

Resource: Want to build this activity into a habit? Use the Five Minute Journal to focus on what matters in your life.

10. Learn to delegate tasks effectively at work

Effective managers (and successful professionals) routinely delegate tasks so they can focus on their work better. The basic steps of effective delegation: describe the task and deadline, explain it to the person who will perform the task and ask to be kept informed.

11. Delegate household tasks as soon as you can afford it

During your 20s, you will have difficult years as you start your career. Once you have additional resources, look for domestic activities you can delegate.

For example, you may want to use a dry cleaning service to keep your professional clothes in good condition.

12. Review the past to become better, not assign blame

Repeating past mistakes is one of the worst ways to misuse your limited time. That’s why it makes sense to have review your projects, work deliverables and habits regularly.

For example, if your smart phone always runs out of power during the work day, buy a charging cable for the office. Putting that improvement in action will save you time and frustration in the future.

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13. Set deadlines for every task

Giving deadlines to yourself is one of the best ways to stay organized. A task without a deadline is likely to frustrate you after all.

If your boss gives you a deadline for Friday, you may want to get the work done on Thursday instead so that you have time to review it.

14. Schedule travel time on your calendar

Travel time is a reality that we need to learn to manage. For example, you may realize that it takes you 10 minutes to travel from your main office building to a nearby client building.

That means you cannot afford to schedule back-to-back meetings and still be on time.

Tip: Plan for travel time using a worst case scenario (e.g. heavy traffic) – that way, you are more likely to arrive early.

15. Put a proven productivity system like ‘Getting Things Done’ into action

You don’t have to come up with every aspect of time management all on your own. Instead, invest the time to read a great time management book like Getting Things Done by David Allen and put the ideas into action.

Tip: Set time aside every month to gain new knowledge and become more effective by reading good books: 11 Books To Make You Lead A Much More Productive Life.

16. Put personal rest and relaxation on your calendar

If you are driven to achieve results, it is easy to neglect yourself and work all the time. That’s why it you should always have time on your schedule for enjoyable activities.

For example, you may set aside Saturday afternoons to read a good book at home or play sports with friends.

17. Take breaks during the work day

Sitting in a chair at your desk all day is bad for your health according to Popular Science. To maintain your health and focus – key inputs for good time management – take breaks of 5-10 minutes every hour to walk around.

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Simply getting a glass of water and stretching for a few minutes will do wonders for your body.

Resource: 29 Exercises You Can Do At (Or Near) Your Desk.

18. Learn to say no effectively

Saying yes to new responsibilities is a great way to grow your career when you first get started. Yet, this is a habit that you can take too far. If you are a people pleaser and struggle with saying no, then read The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness by James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher.

19. Use your values to make decisions about your time

Understanding yourself is essential to managing your time. For example, if your top value is family then you will have to manage your work requirements according to that value.

Discovering your values is challenging if you have never given thought to this area before.

20. Admit mistakes quickly and move on

Covering up mistakes wastes everyone’s time including your own. You can achieve much more in life if you admit your mistakes, solve the problem and move on.

Most managers are willing to forgive mistakes, especially if you are honest and work hard at preventing the mistake from occuring again.

Featured photo credit: Clock/alvarouribe via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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