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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

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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