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The Ultimate Secret to Better Time Management

The Ultimate Secret to Better Time Management
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We’ve all done it: promised ourselves we’ll be better at managing our time, only to follow through for a few weeks before eventually reverting to our old habits. Then, we resort to fighting fires again.

Our to-do list is so full that we scramble to finish whatever is at the top, while continuously adding items to the bottom. The list grows until one day, we decide it’s time for a change. We look for productivity apps to help us keep track of it all, decide on the one that we think will be best for us, and commit.

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For some reason, though, it seem to stick. Sound familiar?

Finding the Right Time Management Method for You

There are an abundance of time management strategies; finding the right one for you depends on a variety of criteria.

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If you are a chronic multi-tasker, you may benefit most from implementing the “touch it once” rule, which promotes working on only one task at a time, until the task is brought to completion. By using this method, you can train yourself to stop multi-tasking, which allows you to accomplish more in the day.

For those who have trouble deciding what to work on, the Eisenhower Matrix is a great option. This style of organization helps people prioritize, by sorting tasks into categories based on their Importance and Urgency. Once you have organized your to-dos in this manner, it’s obvious which ones you should attack first: those that are both important and urgent.

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People with too much work on their hands can benefit from implementing the 5 steps of the GTD Method. Following this methodology allows for quicker decision-making, so you spend less time getting organized and more time “getting things done”.

“So, which is the best?”

The fact of the matter is, there is no answer to this question. The “best” method of time management depend on the individual. However, no matter which you choose, the bottom line is this:

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The Secret to Better Time Management is Actually Discipline

And here’s why: once you find a method that really works for you, unless you stick to it, you’ll inevitably slip back into your old habits.

So, in order to become better at managing your time, you must work on increasing your discipline. Here are 6 tips to help you increase discipline, inspired by this article in Forbes:

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  1. Remove Temptation. If you’re following the touch-it-once rule, for example, leave your phone in the other room when you sit down to work on a task.
  2. Don’t Wait for it to “Feel Right”. Growth is not always comfortable, and sometimes it’s necessary for us to force ourselves out of our comfort zone to make a change. Don’t start next Monday. Start today.
  3. Schedule Breaks. Growth is also incremental. As you grow, give yourself time to breath. This will keep you refreshed and allow you to keep making forward progress.
  4. Forgive Yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Forgive yourself quickly for failures and get back in the game, rather than letting small obstacles deter you.
  5. Tell People About Your Goal. Telling others around you about your goal helps you hold yourself accountable; if you know your co-worker or classmate is aware of the change you’re trying to make, you’ll be more vigilant about monitoring yourself.
  6. Make it a Habit. Studies show that forming a new habit takes about two months. Challenge yourself to stick to your new time management routine for at least 60 days. Before you know it, you’ll be following it subconsciously.

Becoming more organized is a goal for many of us, and reaching this goal can help us accomplish more, while reducing stress and increasing our level of happiness. For each individual, the road to organization will look different, but for all of us, the secret to success is staying in the lanes.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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