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10 Effective Time Management Techniques for Busy People

10 Effective Time Management Techniques for Busy People

When was the last time you’ve heard someone mention that they were too busy to do something?

It wasn’t long ago when I’d wake only with enough time to get ready for work and had little time to do anything when I’d get out. Today, I write 1000 words, read at least one hour, listen to Podcasts, go to the gym, while managing a full-time job. This isn’t to brag because there are people who do much more than I do.

That’s what’s possible when you use the most effective time management techniques.

Time management isn’t complicated. It comes down to having the discipline to execute what’s required each day–when no one is looking. It means being productive on days when you’re not in the mood. Time management is challenging, but having control of your day is worth the sacrifice.

Here are some effective time management techniques you can use to take back control of your days.

1. Let Your Burning Desire Fuel You

Have you ever wondered how some people are able to go to the gym 5 to 7 days per week for years? Or how some entrepreneurs are able to sacrifice their weekends to be successful?

They’re able to achieve so much because they’re committed, avoiding distractions daily.

Take Kobe Bryant, for example, who woke up hours before training to practice his shooting.

Some call it finding your passion, others finding your life meaning. Don’t overthink it – just picture how your ideal life would be.

What type of work would you be doing? What type of lifestyle would you have? Odds are that there’s some gap between your current life and where you want to be.

Use these answers to set meaningful goals towards living your ideal life. You’ll be able to push through tough times and be laser-focused on managing your time.

This article will help you find the fuel: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

2. Track How You’re Using Your Time

If you don’t know how you’re spending your days, you’re wasting your time.

Don’t believe me?

Data shows that the average person spends 3 hours on their phone daily.[1] And this is only time on your smartphone, not including your “breaks” and other parts of your day. That’s why tracking your time is key to understanding how you’re spending your time and how to optimize it.

A great app to help you track time is Atracker. When you first use this app to track your time, you’ll feel “weird.” Imagine logging in your time during and after your break, when you’re reading and watching TV.

The truth is tracking your time isn’t sexy and can make you feel like a robot. At least this was the case for me after tracking my time for close to a year.

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Instead, focus only on tracking your most important tasks. For example, if your goal for the day is to write 1000 words, track this. Tracking all your tasks for an entire day can cause you to burn out. A good rule of thumb to follow is making 2–5 hours available for your productive tasks each day.

It’s better to complete 4 tasks feeling motivated than 8, feeling stressed.

3. Master Adjusting to Unexpected Events

Imagine setting your goals for the next day:

You write what you’ll do and estimate how long it would take you to complete each task. Because it’s a Monday, you know how your day will play out. Then, out of nowhere, your boss asks you to complete a demanding task that pushes to work until 7 pm. You come tired but your kids and wife are demanding attention – so you spend time with them. Before you know it, it’s 10 pm and time for you to go to bed.

The scenario above is different for everyone, but the outcome is the same – nothing gets done.

Many times, I’ve experienced days like this and remained disappointed going to bed. But, the reality is you need to get great at adapting to the unexpected.

How?

By securing as much time during your day as possible. This means waking up 2 to 3 hours earlier to complete your most important tasks. It also means evaluating your current environment to take full advantage of it.

In your commute to and from work, listen to an educational Podcast instead of music, carry a book with you at all times so you can read during your idle time.

Now, think about which areas in your day you’re not taking full advantage of.

4. Use This Word for Effective Time Management

“One can’t have something for nothing. Happiness has got to be paid for…” –Aldous Huxley,

I get it, you hate saying “no.” I don’t like to say this word either. But, the reality is you’ve been saying “no” without knowing. For each time you’ve said “yes” to something, you’ve said “no” somewhere else.

There’s no such thing as getting something for nothing. When a friend asks you out to go for drinks and say “yes”, you’ve said “no” to writing 500 words, or you’ve said “no” to spending time with your family.

Throughout your day, you’ll get bombarded with different requests — from taking out the trash to spending time with friends. It’s up to you to focus on what’s important and how you’ll spend your time.

Saying “no” isn’t always the answer but learning when to do so will help you free up more time throughout your day. Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No with Leo Babauta.

5. Add Important Tasks to Your Schedule

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” –Abraham Lincoln

You can spend 5 hours being productive each day and still be wasting your time.

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How?

By working on the wrong tasks.

This is something I’ve struggled with in the past and something you need to avoid if you want to maximize your time.

Spend a good amount of time planning for how you’ll reach your goals. For example, if you hope to build a successful business study those who’re already where you want to be. Then, set one or two goals that you believe will help you get there. Make your goals SMART.

SMART goals are specific and relevant. This way you can track them and ensure that they’re attainable. Setting SMART goals guarantees that you’ll be productive, working on your important tasks.

A few years back, I’d wanted to create an SEO (search engine optimization) business. The problem was that I didn’t know any better and spent months building my website.

The result?

After finishing my website, I’d realized that I wasn’t as interested in SEO as I’d thought before. So, I started from scratch–wasting dozens of hours building a website I’d never used.

Having SMART goals would’ve avoided me this fate.

6. Only Complete What’s Important

Filling your calendar with productive tasks isn’t the only goal with time management. It’s about accomplishing only your most important tasks. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a race to the bottom–having unfinished to-do items each day.

First, figure out what you’re trying to do — Are you looking to get a new promotion? Are you wanting to start earning money through freelance writing?

Once you’ve set your SMART goals, break them down into daily actionable goals. Focus on your most important tasks and complete them first. Spend no more than 3 to 4 hours daily completing these goals. This is assuming you have a full-time job, or else you’ll burn out.

Many successful entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk work an enormous amount of hours daily. But, this isn’t sustainable for most people.

Not too long ago, I’d filled my schedule with over 5 hours of work on top of my full-time job. When I focused only on being productive, my relationships suffered. I also wasn’t getting the results I’d wanted.

However, having less time forced me to find shortcuts and focus only on my most productive tasks.

7. Limit Your Time on Each Task

Parkinson’s law states that work will expand until it fills the time available.[2] So give yourself 4 hours to complete something and you’ll spend that amount of time to do so.

Think back when you were in school and had a paper to write, if you were like most, you’d procrastinate until the last moment – and somehow complete the paper in a few hours.

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That’s Parkinson’s law in motion.

To be efficient with your time, you’ll need to set a cap for every task you work on. It’ll be challenging in the beginning but you’ll soon learn to maximize your time.

For example, if you have to write a 1500 post give yourself 4 hours to complete it. This factors in 2 hours to write 1500 words, and 2 hours to edit. If you find yourself short in time, add an extra hour next time.

This is a never-ending process. But, you’ll become more efficient the more you practice it.

8. Recharge Your Mind Daily

You can have all the drive int he world; but without a clear mind, you’ll burn out.

Meditating isn’t hype, it works. Despite the research backing up its positive claims, meditating helps you be present.[3]

If you’ve come home, tired from work, wondering where your day went, you know what not being present is like. Imagine showing up to class half asleep. Then, imagine feeling energized in class and asking questions.

The second example is how being present can affect the quality of your work. Instead of completing your tasks half engaged, your work quality will improve.

So, how do you meditate?

By starting.

When I first started meditating, I had no idea what I was doing. Eventually, I’d started using a guided meditating app and have enjoyed meditation since.

Learn from the many great resources who expound on this topic and experience the life-changing benefits:

9. Use This Strategy to Stay Laser-Focused

Are you a great multi-tasker?

If you’d answered yes, then you’re sacrificing efficiency.

In today’s time, most people pride themselves with being a great “multitaskers.” Even managers at big corporations pride themselves on juggling many tasks.

Despite corporate America’s pressure to do more, multitasking isn’t the solution.

Why?

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Because you’ll take longer to complete tasks and make more errors. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Instead, focus on completing one task with efficiency. Doing so will help you avoid burning out and make fewer mistakes. But, focusing on one task is easier said than done.

As a previous multitasker, I needed to look at my phone while I was writing, and watch TV while I was reading. Despite me wanting to focus, it was one of the most challenging things to do and for a good reason. In today’s Western society there are thousands of distractions daily.

Research shows that an average person sees 5000+ ads per day.[4] Factor in work commitments, family obligations and it’s clear on why we have a hard time focusing.

A solution that’s worked for me has been meditating and working in Pomodoro sprints. The Pomodoro technique involves working in 20 to 45 minute intervals– with a 5 to 10 minute break in-between. For example, you’d work non-stop for 25 minutes, have a 5-minute break, then repeat.

Using the Pomodoro technique will help you stay focused without burning out.

10. Constantly Seek to Improve

Time management isn’t a skill you practice once and slap into your resume. It’s a skill that requires a huge time investment and patience. You’re not going to be an expert at managing your time only by reading this article.

You also don’t need to learn a dozen strategies. Chances are you know some techniques on how to better manage your time but aren’t applying them. Your solution is to create a productive environment.

Follow productive people, and listen to experts who share tips on productivity. Soon their good habits will begin to stick for you.

As you track your time, journal your progress; so that you can keep track of how well you’re managing your time and where you’re falling short.

As you become better, you’ll know how long a certain task will take you to complete and be able to plan ahead.

The Bottom Line

Imagine setting a goal and feeling confident that you’d achieve it.

Even if you didn’t achieve it, you’d know that you’d at least make significant progress. All because you became a master at managing your time.

Managing my time better has allowed me to be in control of my days. It has given me the strength to say “no” and improve the quality of my work. You too can achieve great things if you’re willing to put in the work!

Now that you know some of some the most effective time management techniques, choose one to work on. Once you’ve mastered one move on to the next one.

Soon you’ll be a productivity machine–accomplishing more by 10 am than most of the world does in their entire day.

More Time Management Tips

Featured photo credit: Jens Kreuter via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] comscore: Mobile Matures as the Cross-Platform Era Emerges
[2] Harvard Business Review: Why We Procrastinate When We Have Long Deadlines
[3] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Meditation: In Depth
[4] SJ Insights: Part Art or Part Science?

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Christopher Alarcon

Finance Analyst and Founder of the Financially Well Off Blog & Podcast

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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