Advertising
Advertising

Published on February 11, 2019

Most Effective Time Management Techniques to Succeed in 2019

Most Effective Time Management Techniques to Succeed in 2019

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.

Advertising

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.

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.

Advertising

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.

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.

Advertising

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.

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.

Advertising

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

Why?

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 Resources About Time Management

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?

More by this author

Christopher Alarcon

Content Marketer and Finance Analyst

The Savvy Employees Guide to Asking for a Raise How to Use Debt Snowball to Get out from a Financial Avalanche How to Ask for a Promotion and Move up the Career Ladder Most Effective Time Management Techniques to Succeed in 2019 Should You Quit Your Job Without Another Job?

Trending in Smartcut

1 How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated 2 10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career 3 How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible (And Meaningful) 4 How to Write a Career Change Resume (With Examples) 5 The Savvy Employees Guide to Asking for a Raise

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

Advertising

In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

Advertising

2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

Advertising

When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

Advertising

One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

Read Next