Advertising
Advertising

Take the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge

Take the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge

I have taught time management for over 14 years. I could argue my training is great. In earnest, it is probably just equal to other good trainers, the main difference being that I teach people to build their own system and to not use mine or the time-management gurus’, because we are all individuals. This led to a breakthrough for me on time management.

Making a Breakthrough in Time Management After Time-Management Training for 14 Years

Recently, I have stumbled on something that is a game changer in time management. It’s not mine. It’s not anyone’s. It feels a bit like how the internet grew: one piece at a time until it all came together.

This information just needed to be brought together. Most time-management tips, lessons and tricks, are about discipline, focus, or small pieces, like writing a daily to-do list, but at the heart of an effective time-management system are seven fundamental game-changing pieces. Get these right and the whole system just works, like the story of the internet.

If you can master these seven pieces, you will significantly upgrade your time-management system. Let’s be positive and call them hurdles, because when you start to jump them, the race to be a better time manager has begun. Find out more about each hurdle below.

Time Management Hurdles

    To Jump Each Hurdle Is Only One Exercise per Week for 30 Minutes

    Jumping these seven hurdles will significantly upgrade your time-management system.

    You can’t do part of it. You can’t do one hurdle. You can’t do a bit and come back to it. It’s take the challenge, do the race, or don’t.

    Advertising

    My advice? Decide why you are going to spend 30 minutes per week doing these exercises. This is because when you need to “choose left or right” (deciding to do this or do something else), you need a compelling reason why. The answer cannot be “to be a better time manager.” To achieve that goal, find one easy and simple time-management tip on the web, e.g. start each task on your to do list with a verb. Job done. We know from Edwin Locke’s work on goal setting that challenging and specific goals work best.

    This goal setting requires some reflection. Decide why. What problem will it solve? Will it help you get home one night on time? Is the goal to be more calm, more in control?

    Then the goal is to hear people in the office unprompted saying, “He’s more calm/She seems much more in control.” Write your reason, your goal, on a sheet of paper and keep this close to you. Remember goals need to pack the three Ps, as Muhammad Ali did — “I am the Greatest” — Present, Positive, and Personal. For example, “I am much more in control. People have said so unprompted,” or “I am working on my big projects and my boss has noticed and commented positively to me.”

    Now it’s time to take the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge.

    Week 1 — Jumping the Capturing Hurdle

    How much do you capture of what comes into your world, and into your head?

    Jumping the “Capturing” hurdle is about being able to grab any time demand that comes into your world. The more obvious is your email inbox. The less obvious is capturing stuff that you think of when you are driving.

    Advertising

    • Using a clean sheet of paper, write ALL the capture points (entry points) of your time-management system that you currently have. For example, email inbox, phone calls, and meetings.
    • If you have too many, delete one. For example, you have multiple notepads doing a similar job.
    • If you don’t have enough, for example, you are still relying on your memory in the car, in meetings, in corridor conversations, add one.

    Week 2 — Jumping the Listing Hurdle

    How well do you get things out of your head and onto a list?

    Jumping the “Listing” hurdle is about getting stuff out of your head and onto a list. “The most successful people are the ones with the emptiest heads.” Leaving room for thinking, decision making, and problem solving, not for remembering (storage).

    • Using a clean sheet of paper, write down ALL the lists that you currently have. For example a daily to-do list.
    • If you have too many lists remove one. Particularly the lists that you do not trust. For example, the Outlook reminders list.
    • If you don’t have all of the following lists, add one; particularly the daily to do list (not a stream of actions), or the call list, project list, waiting for list, weekly list, monthly list, or a some day maybe list.

    Week 3 — Jumping the Emptying Hurdle

    How good you are at emptying those capture points?

    Jumping the “Emptying” hurdle is a little like emptying the dishwasher. If you don’t, then it just builds up until you cannot see the dishes for the kitchen sink and then you have to load the dishwasher and wash-up what’s left. Emptying frequently and appropriately is key.

    • Using your list of “Capture Points” that you created in Week 1 decide when you will empty each one of your capture points. Add a column two. For example your email inbox will be assessed once an hour for 15 minutes, or after each major piece of work. Not continuously.
    • Add a column three and identify a trigger for each capture points that will help you to create the habit. The best way to form a habit is to “piggy back” another habit. For example, when I broke my foot, I had to do exercises everyday for 5 minutes. I piggybacked brushing my teeth. Your example might be emptying your in-tray once a day as you log off from work or with each cup of coffee.
    • Read this short post to help you, “Say Yes Wisely” because most people struggle to say ‘No’, which drains their time hugely. Use this learning to say, “No” to at least one task this week and each week from here on in.

    Week 4 — Jumping the Deleting Hurdle

    How much you ask yourself the right question: “What is the impact if I don’t do this?”

    Jumping the “Deleting” hurdle is about getting rid of more of the time demands that enter our world. Plus, it is about not accepting every time demand. Being clear on what we are here to achieve and eliminating more of what does not achieve that.

    Advertising

    • Understanding how to use advanced search is the key to finding emails quickly. Learn how to use advanced search.
    • Unsubscribe from a minimum of four external email lists that you are on and that you do not use. And unsubscribe from a minimum of three internal distribution lists that you are on.
    • Commit from this week to dealing with copied-in emails more quickly. Do this with the ABC tool: A. A CC email?, B. Briefly read it, and C. Clear it. Delete, unless you reply, but this must be by exception.

    Week 5 — Jumping the Storing Hurdle

    How effective you at storing the right information in the right places for later?

    Jumping the “Storing” hurdle is about having the right information where you need it, when you need it, and keeping it easily accessible, a little like the documents at home. For example, the house insurance: is it in a big pile of important stuff? Or the next business trip tickets — where are they kept?

    • Using a clean sheet of paper, write down ALL the storage points that you currently have. For example, the wall by your desk is a storage point and your “day notebook” and your desk.
    • If you have too many storage points remove one. Maybe you don’t use or rely on the reading pile storage point. Decide how you will manage now that this storage point has been removed (Combine with another storage point?). If you don’t have all of the following storage points, add one; especially for physical documents (e.g tickets), and then consider books to read, websites to refer back to, or papers to read, book shelf, reference folder, tickets, or tickler file.
    • Identify for each storage point the frequency and the trigger and add these in as columns to your list of storage points above.

    Week 6 — Jumping the Scheduling Hurdle

    How great do you schedule, beyond using your diary just for meetings?

    Jumping the “Scheduling” hurdle is about having one diary and using it for more than just booking meetings. Scheduling important work on big tasks that we shy away from because they are big frogs.

    This is the toughest hurdle. Maybe the highest. Some fail here.

    • Identify why you are on the payroll. This is your “Key Result Area (KRA).” Here’s some help — it is not the long list of stuff, from managing clients, to meetings, to presenting, dealing with queries, managing your team, etc. It is one to three things. In a commercial company, your reason for being on the payroll will be to increase sales and profit. For sales people, it is easier; they have a budget. This is their KRA. For others, it will take a little thought to identify a few measurable things that you do that proves that you are worth your salary. For example, for a waiter it might be the TripAdvisor scores.
    • Identify the three projects/large chunks of work that will have the biggest impact on the reason you are on the payroll/KRA’s.
    • Get “stealth mode.” Find a way to get away. Book a meeting room, work from home, or close the door. Whatever you can do to be in stealth. Schedule into your diary 90 minutes next week, and a recurring appointment where you will do only those projects in that time.

    Week 7 — Jumping the Acting Hurdle

    How awesome you are at choosing left or right?

    Advertising

    Jumping the “Acting” hurdle is the key one. It is why you are paid to do what you do. This is where decisions are made: choosing left or right a thousand times a day, knowing what you are worth. Divide your salary by 2,000. This is your hourly worth. Don’t do stuff that is worth less than this value per hour.

    • Decide on the length of your “short amount of time.” The “Do It Now!” piece of time. It might be 5 minutes, 4 minutes, or 3 minutes. The difference might not be much, but you decide what it is. For every time demand/task that comes into your system, do it now if it can be done in less than your short amount of time. Commit to this. Do not kid yourself that you can do a task in the short amount of time and still be doing it 20 minutes later. This is because your brain will soon know what you are doing and stop you doing it.
    • For longer amounts of “doing” time, learn the Pomodoro technique (2.2 minute video) to help you focus and use it once per week. Maybe during your scheduled project work.
    • Place the reason you decided that you are on the payroll (KRA/’s) in Week 6 in a place that will disrupt your behavior. For example, a post-it note on your laptop/screensaver/desktop image. Not on the wall because we go blind to what is on the wall — “Corporate wallpaper.”

    Pulling It All Together

    This is how the seven pieces of an effective time management system fit together:

    Time Management Hurdles Overview
      Finished the Race? Congratulations!

      Excellent news. You did it. You jumped all seven hurdles and nailed the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge.

      You now have a significantly upgraded time-management system. To download the whitepaper, “Take the 7 Week Time-Management Challenge,” with tables to complete and more advanced exercises, check out my bio.

      Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

      More by this author

      Darren A. Smith

      Founder of Making Business Matter - Training Provider to the UK Grocery Industry

      The Reason Why You File Emails is Not What You Think 3 Tips to Organise Your Dropbox Folders The Ultimate Guide to HBDI – Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument Infographic 14 Time Management Templates to Help You Get Organised Man about to run Take the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge

      Trending in Productivity

      1 How To Save Time And Achieve More Every Day 2 Why the Pomodoro Method Is the Best Productivity Timer 3 50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time 4 55 Inspiring Quotes from U.S. Presidents That Will Change Your Life 5 10 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on February 17, 2021

      50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

      50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

      If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

      No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

      Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

      1. Set a Timer

      Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

      In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

      2. Eliminate All Distractions

      Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. This free guide End Distractions And Find Your Focus is a good tool to help you. With this guide, you’ll learn how to get rid of distractions and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

      You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

      3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

      Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

      Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

      Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

      4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

      Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

      If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

      5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

      By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

      Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

      6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

      Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

      7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

      Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

      Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

      Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

      8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

      To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

      Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

      Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

      9. Don’t Multitask

      Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

      Advertising

      For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

      10. Step Away from the Computer

      The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

      I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

      11. Use Focus Tools

      Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

      Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

      Also, join the free Fast-Track Class – Overcoming Distraction, and you’ll learn the one simple method to work even when you’re surrounded by distractions. Join the free session now!

      12. Just Start

      Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

      Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

      13. Find out Your Productive Hours

      Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

      Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

      14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

      This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

      15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

      The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

      When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

      And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

      16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

      I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up. The Full Life Planner is a nice tool to help you organize your days and get things that matter done. Check out the planner here and start to plan your day ahead easily!

      Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

      17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

      The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

      Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

      18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

      As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

      “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

      This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

      19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

      I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

      Advertising

      Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

      20. Get Plenty of Sleep

      When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

      Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

      21. Exercise

      Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

      Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

      Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

      22. Outsource as Much as Possible

      If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

      Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

      23. Set Some Exciting Goals

      Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

      Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well. For example, The Dreamers’ Guide To Reaching Your Goal is a great guide to help you set and reach goals effectively. Grab your free guide and learn how to make your goals happen this year!

      24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

      When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

      25. Listen to Podcasts

      Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

      Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

      Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

      26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

      This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

      Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

      27. Learn to Speed Read

      When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

      You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

      28. Learn to Skip When You Read

      When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

      Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

      29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

      Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

      We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

      Advertising

      30. Take a Break

      You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

      31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

      What is polyphasic sleep?

      Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

      While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

      32. Learn to Say “No”.

      We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

      Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

      33. Go on an Information Diet

      Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

      Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

      The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

      34. Organize Your Office

      The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

      Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done and 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

      35. Find a Mentor

      By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

      A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

      36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

      With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

      When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

      Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

      Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

      37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

      Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

      You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

      38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

      If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

      Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

      How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

      Advertising

      39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

      Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

      Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

      40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

      Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

      Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

      41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

      When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

      Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

      42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

      The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

      Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

      43. Take Shorter Showers

      This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

      44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

      Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

      45. Auto Pay Your Bills

      How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

      Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

      46. Shop Online

      Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

      47. Speed up your Internet With a Broadband Connection

      Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

      If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

      48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

      If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

      Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

      49. Turn off the TV

      The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

      For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

      Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

      50. Use a Tivo or DVR

      This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

      So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

      More Time Management Tips

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

      [1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

      Read Next