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Last Updated on February 3, 2020

How Top Performers Never Let a Second Go to Waste

How Top Performers Never Let a Second Go to Waste

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 February 25, 2020

How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

It’s 6:00 am. You have just woken up and are ready to take a shower. After the showering, it’s time to eat breakfast, catch the news by reading the morning paper, and then start your work.

You are feeling wonderful, relaxed, and happy. You have very high expectations for the day and you want to be as productive as possible.

Fast forward to 2 pm the same day. You are working in a rush and you barely had a chance to take a lunch break.

You start to feel a bit stressed and tired because of the busy schedule. Besides, it seems that you have to go back to certain tasks and fix them, because you didn’t have time to focus on them properly.

The day which started so fine has turned into a stressful one. You just jump from one task to another – as quickly as possible – without doing anything properly.

You wish you’d find a reset button, so that you could start your day from all over – with a different strategy.

What you probably experienced was this: you planned your day the night before and you felt you were on top of your tasks.

However, things started to go wrong when you kept adding tasks after each other to your list and finally your task list was many miles long. Your to do list also contained tasks which were pretty much impossible to get done in one day.

The other point which contributed to your hectic and stressful day was not understanding how much time completing a particular task would take and when to execute the task. If you had this information, it would have been easier to figure out the right timing for executing the task.

Finally, there really wasn’t any flexibility in your plans. You forgot to add a buffer between tasks and understand that certain tasks are much larger than what they seem outside.

But you know what – these reasons alone weren’t the main reason for your stress and busyness …

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What People Are Wrong About a To-Do List

Do you really know what you are supposed to do?

How much time did you actually spent on planning your day – was it just 5 minutes while the television set was distracting you?

If so, then this was probably the biggest reason why your day became so stressful.

When you plan your days, you should truly understand the tasks you are about to do – and what it takes to accomplish them. This is necessary especially with important tasks, because you are able to make progress with the tasks that matter the most.

The lack of time spent on planning will also be shown as too many big tasks stuffed to your daily list. If you haven’t broken down the task into smaller pieces, it’s probable that you are not going to get them done during the day. This in turn makes you to beat yourself for not completing your task list.

Finally, don’t treat creating a task list just like some secondary thing that you try to do as quickly as possible. In fact, when you pay more attention to your next day’s task list, the more likely is the list going to be realistic and less stressful for you.

Components of a Good To-Do List

When I talk about a good task list, I consider these characteristics to be part of it:

Balanced

The task list contains both important and less important tasks. Let’s face it: although we all would like to work on just important tasks ( e.g. goal related ones), we have to take care of the less important tasks as well (like running errands, taking care of your household or other everyday stuff).

Enough Flexibility

What happens when you have planned a task, but you are unable to take care of it? Do you have a plan B in place? If not, try to figure out the alternative action you can take in these scenarios.

Time for Transitions

Understand that transition times also eat your time. Make sure that when you plan your task list, this time is also included in your plans. Adding some extra buffer between tasks will make your list more flexible and realistic.

Not Too Many Tasks for One Day

Giving you an exact figure on how many tasks you should have on your daily list is difficult. It depends on your situation. But I’m willing to say that anything between 5-10 tasks should be enough for a day.

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Understand that certain tasks are very quick to take care of, so it’s easier to include more tasks on certain days. Just make sure that there are also important tasks on the list so that you are able to move on with your bigger projects.

Shield of Protection

Build a shield of protection around your task list, so that as few tasks as possible can land to your list and that the number of items on your list won’t increase during the day.

In the first case, try to eliminate the sources for your tasks. This is done by reducing your commitments and limiting the projects you have. The fact is that the more commitments (or projects) you have, the more likely they are going to end up as tasks for your daily list.

In the second case, make your list a closed one. I learned this concept by reading Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management by Mark Forster. In order to create a closed task list, all you have to do is to draw a line under the last task on the list. When you have done this, you are not allowed to add any new tasks to your list during the day. This ensures that the number of tasks is actually decreasing as the day goes on.

How to Create a To-Do List That Boosts Your Productivity

To make a list that you can actually accomplish the next day, do the following:

1. Eliminate the Tasks

Go through your commitments and decide if you really need each one.

For instance, I was an active member of our local computer club in my hometown, but then I realized that I don’t have enough time for that activity anymore. Although I’m still a member of the club, I don’t participate in its activities anymore. This has eliminated the tasks related to that commitment.

2. Take Your Time to Plan the List

Don’t rush creating your task list – spend some time on the planning phase. If required, “isolate yourself” for the planning part by going to a separate room in your home (or even going outside your home). This way, you can actually think the tasks thorough before you enter them onto your list.

Try to spend at least 15 minutes with your list when you plan it.

3. Move Important Tasks to the Beginning

When planning your day, make sure that the important tasks are at the beginning of your list. This ensures that you get those tasks done as quickly as possible.

For instance, as a blogger, I make sure I have the content creation tasks at the beginning of my list. As soon as I wake up, I attack those tasks immediately and they get done before I go to work.

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4. Track the Recurring Tasks

You might have recurring tasks on your list, but do you know how much time they take to accomplish?

If you don’t, make sure you do some time tracking to figure it out. This helps you to plan your day better, as you know how much time a task takes and if there is a certain time slot in your daily schedule, when the task could be executed.

5. Batch Similar Tasks

Look at your list and find out if there are similar tasks that you can batch-process. This way, you can get certain tasks off your list faster and easier.

6. Define the Tasks in More Detail

Don’t just include a task like “build a website” on your list; make sure you have broken the task to smaller pieces. The smaller the tasks are, the easier it is to take accomplish them.

7. Do Some Prep Work in Advance

Make sure that you prepare for certain tasks in advance.

For instance, I write the outlines for my guests post on Sundays, so that it’s easier (and faster) for me to start writing the actual posts when I wake up. With a little bit of prep work, I speed things up and make sure tasks get done when the right day comes.

8. Automate the Maintenance

Naturally, you could use a pen and paper approach to your task list, but try to take advantage of technology too. In fact, try to find a tool that takes care of the maintenance of your task list for you. My preferred tool is Nozbe, but there are other task management applications that you can try too.

9. Know Your Task Types and Your Schedule

Finally, when you plan your day, ask yourself these questions:

What else do I have on the schedule?

This question refers to your personal schedule. For instance, if you are traveling, make sure that your list reflects to this fact. Don’t try to “overstuff” your list with too many tasks, since it’s more likely you get only a fraction of them done.

Is the task a gatekeeper?

This question asks if the task is blocking other tasks to be executed.

Every once in a while, we might have a task, which has to be taken care of first. After you have done that, only then you can take care of the sequential tasks.

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When you focus on creating your task list in a focused manner, you’ll be able to spot the gatekeepers easily.

Do I have icebergs on my list?

This question asks if your task is actually much bigger than what it seems. Sometimes when you start working on a task, you’ll soon realize that it’s much bigger than what you initially thought (compare them to icebergs, where only the tip of the iceberg is above the sea level, but the majority of the ice is below the water).

Once again, when you focus enough on your task list during the creation phase, it’s easier to spot these “icebergs” and split the tasks into smaller, much more manageable chunks.

Is the task distraction-proof?

This final question asks if the task is distraction-proof. Not all the tasks are created equal: some tolerate more distraction, while others require your full attention.

For instance, I can check my Twitter stream or do simple blog maintenance even when I’m around my family. These tasks are distraction-proof and I can take care of them – even if I don’t have my full attention on them.

The Bottom Line

If you still have a hard time of achieving your daily tasks, make sure that you analyze the reasons why this happened. If anything, do not beat yourself up for not finishing your task list.

No one is perfect and we can learn from our mistakes.

It takes a bit practice to create a “smiling” task list. However, once you learn to put all the pieces together, things are going to look much better!

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Featured photo credit: Jacqueline Kelly via unsplash.com

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