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

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 July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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