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8 Time Management Secrets Only Successful People Master

8 Time Management Secrets Only Successful People Master

You work hard to provide for yourself and your family and please your boss. Is there any way you could be working harder? I have no idea, but I am sure there are many ways to work smarter. Successful people don’t necessarily work harder than you, but they do work smarter. Here are some of the techniques they’ve mastered.

1. Don’t just look busy

When the company manager walks down the hallway, everyone is on a call, in a meeting, or running errands. They look busy, but are they really busy? If you ask successful people, they will say “No.” All the above are strong signs of “mindless productivity.” This might get you lots of appreciation from your co-workers, but it definitely won’t get you a promotion — at least, not the promotion. To put it differently, working hard means you are on the track towards success, running 100 miles per hour… though not necessarily in the right direction.

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2. Work smarter, not harder

The key to becoming a successful person is working smart, not hard. Quit the “robot” state and find new ways to approach each task and each project. Employ strong time management rules and software, such as TimeDoctor, and stick to cutting down the time needed to do each task. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you need to find new ways to use it and look at it from a completely different perspective. In time, you will be thankful for your new routine.

3. Prioritize all your tasks

Prioritization is the key for successful people – they don’t just solve all the tasks they have, they solve the most important first! Take example and find the most important tasks of the day right after you reach the office and solve them. When the most important tasks are done, you can say your day was successful, even if you don’t get to solve all the other tasks of the day. Don’t let the details drag you down, don’t procrastinate! Perfectionists often get lost in details, as they try to make everything perfect – this is a mistake, as unpleasant as it might sound. Focus on getting the large projects done, then take a second look at them, tweaking bits and pieces.

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4. Gamify your work

Work gamification is a new concept, but it’s already emerging as one of the best ways to raise your engagement and change the way you work. As the name implies, gamification is the process of turning work into play, without skipping the actual work. Gamification increases your wellbeing and allows you to objectify your achievements. Just like a game, when you plan each task you can divide the work into small batches of 15-20 minutes. Then, award yourself with a treat when each task is finished. That treat can be anything you want, from a smoothie to a small walk in the park or checking your social media account. One of the benefits of gamification is you will learn how much can be done in a short time, like 15 minutes. Another benefit is the fact you are able to take some time to appreciate what you’ve just made, which is a great way to stay motivated and focused.

5. Group related tasks

The human brain is built to think of at one task at a time. When you have to do several different tasks, you need to use several parts of your brain, employing different types of thinking. If you group related tasks, your brain won’t be forced to switch from one type of thinking, such as analytic, to another, like creative, over and over again. Doing several tasks which require the same type of thinking consecutively boosts your productivity and speeds up your work. Grouping tasks is a great time management secret, as it can enhance and revolutionize the way you work. For example, if you are a writer and you have to document an ebook, document a report, then rewrite two articles and write an editorial, you’ll want to group the documentation work and the writing work. This way, you will be able to get them done quicker and easier.

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6. Organize, organize, organize some more

One of the best time management hacks is organization – being organized is crucial for cutting down on the “dead” time in your workflow. Come up with a system and implement it as soon as possible. You will notice the huge difference which comes from knowing where the last week’s sale reports are and not having to spend 30 minutes looking for them.

7. Learn to refuse projects

From time to time, you need to say “No.” Overworking yourself is not the way towards success, but the way towards fatigue and exhaustion. Successful people master the ability to refuse certain tasks in order to concentrate on more important ones. Be picky and only pick tasks which mean something for you and can really give you a boost. Dedicate all your time to these projects, erasing procrastination and distractions, establishing a personal deadline for the task at hand. For example, promise yourself to complete an article in one hour. When you finish the article on time or even before your self-imposed deadline, you will feel an amazing amount of self-accomplishment. This emotion can be overwhelming and highly motivational.

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8. Know when to call it a day

After all that time management, you will notice there is still a pile of work on your desk. This is the moment when you need to use the most important secret of successful people: quit it and go home. Yes, that’s right — after all the strategies to cut down the “dead” time, eliminate the excess tasks, and focus on getting the project done, you have to know when to call it a day and go home. As I’ve said, as long as you prioritize tasks and solve the most important ones, you are ready to go home. Don’t make the mistake of trying to solve everything. Instead, end your day when you are tired and you feel you’ve made a difference for someone. There will always be more work to do, but you have to live your life as well. Calling it a day is part of smart working — the most important secret of smart working, even, because it allows you to disconnect from work and enjoy life. This is exactly what makes you successful!

Featured photo credit: Flickr/Ben Smith via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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