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Published on January 7, 2020

10 Best Time Management Tips for Professionals

10 Best Time Management Tips for Professionals

We all have the same 24 hours in a day to work with, but how do you squeeze the most out of that time to get real time-saving results?

It’s not about working harder as that will only get so far, it’s how you plan and structure your time and then how you maximize the time you have planned.

The key for these time management tips is not to do them once, but repeat them over and over until they become habits. This is when those around will think you do have more than 24 hours in a day.

1. Plan Your Week When You’re at Your Most Organized

One of the most important time management tips is planning your week.

Doing this task at the same time each week, not only creates a time-saving habit but can have a positive impact on your mindset and wellbeing.

Let me explain.

By planning your week, you’re making a number of small positive promises to yourself. Each time you deliver and keep these promises your confidence grows, and you’ll feel better about yourself as you’re getting more done.

This approach saves you time as you’re doing the planning when you’re in a focused state of mind as you plan what’s important for you. During the week, you’re then less tempted to do something else during one of those pre-planned slots, as you can remind yourself I planned this for a reason.

So plan your week and keep those promises you made to yourself to see real time-saving results.

2. Plan the Following Workday for a Relaxed Evening

If you struggle with closure after the working day, this approach helps relax your mind and lets you enjoy your evening without the worry of work.

All you need is 5-10 minutes each day and a note pad. It’s quick and has considerable benefits for how you manage your time.

At the end of each day, write down around ten tasks you want to complete the next day.

Next, select one of those tasks you have to complete no matter what and mark it with an H for high.

Then add M’s for medium to five or so tasks. These are the tasks you need to complete, but if you can’t finish them all, it will be manageable.

The remaining tasks mark with an ‘L’ for low. These are nice to have, plus they should be easy tasks.

With your next day tasks planned out, you can leave work with all those nagging tasks in your head written down and ready for you to tackle the next day.

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3. Control Your Day so It Doesn’t Control You

Planning your day is the most impactful time management tip you can do. It allows you to control your day rather than let the day control you.

This approach is straightforward, plus it has the flexibility for when your working day doesn’t go as planned.

Grab a pencil and notepad!

In your notepad, break the day down into 30-minute segments, 09:30, 10:00 etc. Add them line by line with a line or two in between each one.

Now look at your work diary and add in anything that’s fixed like meetings.

Next, take your high priority end tasks and add these into your 30-minute segments.

If you still have free time slots, don’t leave them empty.

If you’re struggling for motivation one morning, try this:

Pick some easy, quick tasks and get them done first, don’t worry if you’re putting off harder tasks. Doing easy tasks first will give you the momentum and the right mindset to then tackle the hard stuff.

4. Manage Distracting Work Colleagues Wisely

It doesn’t matter how well you plan your week, day or even the next hour if you’re continually distracted. Distractions result in loss of focus and are the doorway to procrastination.

This time management tip is all about creating the right working environment, so you can maximise the time you have to be as productive as possible.

Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable explains that if you want to become genuinely productive, you must become indistractable. One of the biggest distractions in the workplace is often our work colleagues.

For the colleagues that distract you the most, simply ask them at the start of each day, is there anything they need from you? By doing this, you’re making them plan without them realizing it, but it’s on your terms. This reduces the chances of a random request later in the day.

5. Deal with Emails on Your Terms

At times, managing your inbox can feel like a full-time job. You can also fall into the trap of feeling like you’ve got a lot done because you sent loads of emails, or got to the mystical inbox zero!

Although sending a few emails can be satisfying, the problem is emails are also used as a form of procrastination, as they’re an easy fallback task when you don’t fancy working on something hard.

So what do you do to stop these distractions and reduce the stress caused by email?

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You plan when you want to read and respond to your emails, so you’re in control.

A study at the University of British Columbia revealed that you should only check your emails three times a day and by doing so reduces stress.[1]

So at the start of each day, plan for when you’ll check your email. How often you check your email depends on your job, but less is more and ideally no more than three.

This approach still keeps you in control of your inbox, but you’re doing it at a time that works for you.

6. Remove Electronic Distractions and Become Present

How many times at work do you see someone distracted by a notification on their mobile or laptop?

Mobile and laptop notifications distract us every day, but they have also become an acceptable distraction.

In the majority of jobs, you don’t have to react immediately to a notification even when we feel we need to. It’s a habit that has been created by technology.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Go through all your notification settings on your mobile and laptop and only leave the critical ones on. In most cases, this should be phone calls only.

By turning off these notifications, you then check emails, messenger etc. at the times that work for you, not when they arrive.

You can also turn off the number count that appears on mobile and desktop apps. You don’t need to know how many emails you have in your inbox at any one time, especially if you’ve planned out when you’ll check your emails.

If you leave this badge feature on, it creates a nagging distraction that will take you away from your work and impact your time.

Try it for a few days and see the positive impact it will have on your time management. Those around will also see the change as you’ll be much more present at home and work.

7. Hit the Timer and Go Deep with Your Focus

Stopping a task usually happens when you’ve either finished it, lost interest or you’ve been distracted. It takes on average 23 minutes to refocus when you’ve been distracted so you need to do everything you can to remain in that focused state.[2]

Unfortunately, loss of interest and distraction are the most likely results of time management struggles, so that’s why setting a timer can make all the difference.

By setting a timer, you make a promise to yourself that you will not be distracted or work on anything else until that timer ends. This small promise can have a considerable impact on your time management.

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You can try different lengths of time to see what works for you, for example, 25 minutes if you use the Pomodoro Technique. 25 minutes might not sound long, but by remaining fully focused for 25 minutes, you’ll be amazed how much you can get done. [3]

8. Find out What You Should Not Be Spending Your Time On

Every day, we spend time on things that remove us from doing what we should be doing — whether that’s distractions like social media, email or tasks that we would rather not be doing, like the weekly shop or the ironing.

All of these time-consuming activities may seem trivial, but they all add up when it comes to time management.

You may be thinking, I have to do these, but there is a technique called the Not-To-Do list that can help.

It’s not just about stopping non-impactful tasks completely. It can also be about automating or delegating the task.

So how do you create a Not-To-Do List?

First, spend 10 minutes writing down all the things that don’t really serve you or help get you to where you really want to be (e.g. watching TV, social media, food shopping, cleaning the house)

Next, place each one under the heading of either automate, delegate or eliminate.

Automate could be for your weekly shop, you now use a company that delivers the ingredients and recipes to your door.

Delegate could be getting a cleaner for your house every week.

Eliminate could be stopping putting the TV on as soon as you come back from work.

Once you’ve created your No-To-Do list, make sure you repeat the process once a month.

Each month you’ll gain hours back you didn’t realise you had.

9. Declutter Your Brain to Maximize Your Concentration

Our brain is processing thousands of thoughts every day; frustratingly, many of them are actions we can’t complete at that moment.

Having a cluttered mind impacts our time management as we can’t focus with these outstanding actions in our heads.

Here is a straightforward way to declutter your mind:

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Carry a small notepad and pen around with you everywhere you go. It needs to be small enough to fit into your pocket or bag and has to be easily accessible. Every time a thought or action pops into your head when you’re out and about, write it down.

This could be an idea, something inspiring, an action for when you get home, anything.

Then all you need to do is schedule in time to make sure you action all of those notes. Every few days is enough.

By capturing tasks on paper rather than let them build up in your brain, you’re then free to work on what’s important at the time in a focused state.

10. Make Promises to Others

If you were to make a promise to yourself or to a friend, which one do you think you’re most likely to keep?

In most cases, it’s going to be that promise made to the friend.

You can use this to your advantage by sharing a commitment you have to complete a task or project with a friend.

Tell your friend what you want to achieve, why and by when. Then ask them to check in with you at various points up until you said you would complete the project.

While working on the project, you’ll have that promise you’ve made to your friend in the back of your mind. That promise you made will be the driver to focus and make the most of the time you have to get that project completed.

The Bottom Line

All of these tips require nothing more than a little of your time each day, but the time you save when using these approaches will be significant.

Put reminders in your diary to keep these tips front of mind, as once you start to practice them regularly, they’ll then become habits.

They can be used independently, but are much more powerful when used together.

Over time, those around you will be asking how do you find the time to achieve so much in a day!

More Time Management Tips

Featured photo credit: Valentin Antonucci via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ben Willmott

Productivity and Project Management blogger for at work and at home

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.

Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.

Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.

Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.

Effective vs Efficient

Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”[1]

A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.

Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.

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The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.

Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.

When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.

Effectiveness in Success and Productivity

Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect[2]. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.

The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.

If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.

When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:

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  • Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
  • What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
  • Does the cost balance out with the benefit?

Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.

Efficiency in Success and Productivity

Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.

When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways[3]. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.

Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.

The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.

If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.

Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.

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The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.

Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity

Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.

If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.

It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.

Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.

Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.

Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.

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By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.

It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.

Bottom Line

Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:

  • Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
  • Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
  • Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.

And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.

More on How to Improve Productivity

Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: effective and efficient
[2] Mind Tools: Being Effective at Work
[3] Inc.: 8 Things Really Efficient People Do

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