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How Top Performers Never Let a Second Go to Waste

How Top Performers Never Let a Second Go to Waste
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Every person on the planet is allotted the same 1440 minutes each day; it’s how we choose to use them that makes all the difference. Unfortunately, efficient time management can sometimes be a challenge. To help you make the most of the time you’ve been given, check out these 14 simple yet effective time management tips.

1. Tackle the Most Important Tasks First

This is calling Eating That Frog! Start every day by tackling your largest, scariest task first. When you do that, everything else will be simple.

I outline a system for prioritizing tasks called the ABCDE Method. In this method, A tasks always come before B tasks and B tasks before C tasks. D tasks are delegated and E tasks are eliminated entirely. By sticking to this method, you can ensure that you are always tackling the most important things first and using your time as wisely as possible.

2. Make a To-Do List

To-do lists have a way of helping people organize their tasks. They also create a physical embodiment of the tasks’ existence, reminding you that they need to be done and providing you incentive to start checking items off. Be sure to use multiple lists to stay organized. I wrote an article about the 4 types of to-do lists to demonstrate the range of lists that can be useful for achieving all your goals.

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3. Divide and Conquer

If you have a major task to get done, try to divide it up into a bunch of smaller tasks. This collection of smaller tasks will seem much less intimidating than the task seems when viewed as the whole.

4. Get the Momentum Going

Once you’ve divided your large task up into a bunch of smaller tasks, choose the smallest one in the bunch and knock it out. Getting started is often the hardest part of accomplishing something. Once you’ve got the ball rolling by finishing just one, small task, though, pushing forward will be much easier.

5. Start with the Unpleasant

If you’re staring down the barrel of an especially unpleasant task, it’s best to get it over with and get it done. Often times, worrying about your most difficult task will take up more energy than doing it. Avoid this waste of mental energy by getting your most unpleasant task out of the way first.

6. Focus on the Negative

Fear is an excellent motivator, and, if your tasks are important, not completing them is sure to come with some negative consequences. While you don’t want to focus on these consequences so much that you allow them to work you into a worried frenzy, a little bit concern can be great for crushing procrastination.

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7. Come Prepared

When you set about a task, make sure you come fully prepared with everything you need to complete it. Not only will coming prepared keep you from having to trace back and forth getting items, being prepared is a great motivator in and of itself.

8. Take Time to Relax

A little bit of relaxation is crucial for maintaining a positive, motivated mindset. If you work constantly without taking the time to rest and gather your thoughts, you’ll quickly burn out and be unable to efficiently accomplish your tasks no matter how hard you try. My personal recommendation for relaxation time is meditation, but do whatever you find the most refreshing and peaceful.

9. Adopt a Sense of Urgency

It’s not enough to work hard – you need to work fast. Working fast is the best way to make the most of your time and accomplish as much as you can in the time you have available. Find a speed at which the quality of your work is still high and develop the sense of urgency necessary for you to maintain that speed.

10. Reward Yourself

Each time you complete a task (or a significant portion of a task) reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything major; step outside and stretch, get a cookie from the cabinet, check your phone, or substitute any other short yet pleasant activity that you might enjoy. So long as your rewards don’t start taking up too much of your time, they can be a powerful way to motivate you to start checking items off your to-do list.

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11. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Before you dive into a task head first, take a step back and analyze the best way to go about it. Often times, a few minutes of advanced preparation will end up saving you hours of inefficient work.

12. Delegate

The best leaders know how to properly delegate tasks. If there is work that you can afford to outsource or delegate to someone else, do it. This way, you can ensure your efforts are always focused on the tasks that are most important for you yourself to handle.

13. Eliminate the Nonessential

Some tasks don’t really belong on your to-do list. If it’s not really important that they are done and you’re pressed for time, strike them out and don’t worry about them. They’ll only distract you from your other, more essential tasks.

14. Lock the Door

Distractions are the fuel of procrastination. Sometimes, the only way to completely defeat procrastination is to lock yourself in a room and avoid all distractions. Put your phone in another room, pull the shades, and get to work until the task is finished.

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Top Performers Make Every Second Count

Time is everyone’s most valuable resource and how you spend it determines how much you can accomplish in life. In order to spend your time most effectively, you must learn the right time management skills for your personality and responsibilities.

The proper amounts of focus, prioritization, preparation, delegation, relaxation, and strategy are essential to maintaining a balanced approach to a productive lifestyle. When it comes down to it, time management tips such as these are among the most valuable life hacks I have ever put to use.

Featured photo credit: Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

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Brian Tracy

CEO of Brian Tracy International

How Top Performers Never Let a Second Go to Waste

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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.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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