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Published on December 10, 2020

10 Powerful Tips To Manage Time And Get Result

10 Powerful Tips To Manage Time And Get Result

Twenty-four hours. You have the same hours in a day as you always have. But when life is more chaotic and stressful than it’s ever been, it might not always feel like it. Time—and along with it, the ability to be productive and effective at your job—is at a premium, now more than ever.

Since you can’t add more hours to your day, that means it’s important to find ways to make the most of your limited capacity.

Wish you had more than 24 hours? Here are 10 powerful tips to manage time and get results at work.

1. Define Your Mission

The first tip to manage time is to first define your mission. Before you learn to manage your time effectively, you need to set goals. And before you can set goals that make sense, you need a big-picture understanding of your mission—to nail down the “why” that motivates your “what.”

Begin by defining a personal mission statement that lays out not only what you want to do but why you want to do it. For example, let’s say you want to start selling tacos. That’s a great (and delicious) goal. But what’s your mission? To make people happy? To bring them together? To celebrate your heritage?

Defining your mission keeps you on track to create smarter goals, which in turn will help you be more productive. If it doesn’t serve your mission, it’s not worth your time.

2. Practice Saying “No”

When I first started in my career, I never wanted to miss an opportunity—to network, to take on a project, to learn something new. That “fear of missing out” mindset can be helpful when you’re getting the hang of a new industry, but it won’t serve you when it comes to time management.

The more you take on—even in the name of growth and development—the less time you’ll have to accomplish what really matters. Another way to say it: When you say “yes” to one thing, you’re always saying “no” to something else.

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If your goal is to better manage your time, start viewing it as a limited resource and spend it wisely—and not on people or projects that don’t serve your overall mission and goals. It’s hard to say “no” at first, but if you filter your decisions through your overall mission, you’re also protecting your time.

3. Pinpoint How You Currently Use Your Time

How productive do you feel you are? What’s the quality of the work you’re producing? Those are vague questions until you quantify them with actual data. To identify what needs to change in your routine (and, ultimately, how to become more effective), you first need a clear picture of where your time is going now.

Start by planning a week-long period to “audit” your time down to the hour, using a notebook or a spreadsheet.[1]

For example, you may find you’re spending a lot more time on social media than you thought or that you’re wasting too many minutes a day mulling over what to write in an email. Once you measure how well things are going against how you currently make use of your time, you can make the necessary adjustments.

4. Ration Your Energy

Another important tip to manage your time is to ration your energy. There’s a common myth in hustle culture that the most effective workers are up at the crack of dawn, already in a deep flow by sunrise. But for every startup CEO who gets up at 4 am to work, there’s one who’s still sound asleep (and who actually needs the shuteye to do their job well).

The key to time management isn’t to sacrifice your sleep in the name of productivity. It’s to identify the times of day (or evening!) where you have the most motivation to get things done, and then plan your work accordingly. So, think through when you’re most energetic, of course—but keep in mind that getting results doesn’t just require energy. When are you the most creative and inspired? When are you the most focused?

For example, if you’re most alert in the late morning hours right after your breakfast and coffee, schedule your most important, demanding work for that window. On the flip side, when do you feel the most drained? Save mindless, admin tasks for that period. You’ll not only make better use of your time, but you’ll also produce better work.

5. Plan Ahead

Fail to plan, and plan to fail. That principle is why I use every Sunday afternoon to plan my workweek. I grab my favorite notebook and pen, set up at my dining room table or in my home office, and write down everything I need to finish in a given week. Then, I break each goal down into specific, time-oriented tasks.

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Macro-level planning keeps me keep my goals at the forefront so I can stay on task with a greater purpose in mind. Micro-level planning for specific tasks is also important because it prevents you from wasting time on the projects and tasks that serve your goal.

Before you head into a meeting, for instance, write up a list of talking points and goals you want to accomplish. The direction will help you stay focused on the bigger picture and save you the minutes or hours you need to get things done.

6. Minimize Distractions

Distractions get in the way of productivity and time management. But the answer isn’t just to set up your laptop in a quiet place. It’s about eliminating distractions of the mind—the “work” that takes up mental space but doesn’t actually contribute to your overall productivity. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, calls these attention-suckers “half work.”

For example, let’s say you’re working on a presentation, but you stop every few minutes to check your inbox. Reading and answering emails is part of your job, so it feels like work.

But according to Clear, it’s also a major drain on your time:[2]

“Regardless of where and how you fall into the trap of half-work, the result is always the same: you’re never fully engaged in the task at hand, you rarely commit to a task for extended periods of time, and it takes you twice as long to accomplish half as much.”

Next time your time is at a premium, focus on focusing. Eliminate the tiny distractions that punctuate your state of flow and keep your mind fully present on what actually needs your attention.

7. Avoid Multitasking

Whether you’re responding to an email while you’re on a call or you’re switching back and forth between projects, you might feel like you’re making the most of your time when you’re juggling multiple tasks at once. But if you’re anything like me, the more mental “tabs” you have open, the less you’re actually able to focus on each one.

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Why is multitasking the enemy of time management? According to experts, toggling between several tasks at once expends energy on the act of switching gears rather than the actual tasks at hand. Worse, when you’re stretched thin between duties, you’re not focused—which means you’ll never get into a state of “flow” that’s essential for productivity.

Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears—plus, you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity.[3]

8. Consider “Future You”

Our decisions today affect how tomorrow plays out, and that includes time management. How you spend your minutes and hours has a long-term impact because it also drains the time that’s available to you in the future—to get other things done and, just as importantly, to take breaks and rest.

So, if you’re struggling with managing your time, shift your focus ahead to your future self.[4] Thinking about how what you’re doing right now will help or hinder you in the future will tighten your focus and broaden your awareness of how your decisions affect you down the road. The future you would probably want the present you to learn about tips to manage time.

9. Don’t Confuse Urgency and Importance

There are a lot of important things to get done each day. But that doesn’t necessarily mean those things are urgent or time-sensitive. Conflating the two is a quick way to drain your time and miss deadlines.

Here’s a primer: Urgent items on your to-do list need immediate attention and action, while merely important tasks have more significant consequences, but might not need immediate completion.

To make the best use of your time, always focus on tasks that are both urgent and important. Once those are checked off the list, move your focus to urgent tasks, then the important but non-urgent ones.

9. Take Breaks

It might seem counterproductive to stop working when the end goal is to get things done. But for optimal productivity, your brain needs the occasional pause.

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While some studies suggest a formula for a work/break rhythm—such as working for 52 minutes, then breaking for 17—there’s no black-and-white rule for effective break-taking.[5]

Since everyone’s mental capacity varies, your optimal period for a break will vary, too. The idea is that we all lose mental steam after a period of using our brains at a higher capacity. Breaks help set the “reset” button.

Ideally, plan your breaks ahead of time and use them to do something totally unrelated to work. Go for a walk. Run up and down the stairs. Call a friend or loved one.

You’ll not only return with a fresh perspective on the task at hand but also with the feeling that you have more time in your day than when you started.

Final Thoughts

Time management is an essential life skill, but not everyone is good at it. Managing your time is difficult, but you’re not alone. So, start with these 10 powerful tips to manage time that will help you get the results you want.

More Tips to Manage Time

Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aytekin Tank

Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media

How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media

Between a cell phone that’s always ringing, a plethora of social media apps vying for your attention, and a steady stream of text messages, it probably feels like you can never get a moment of peace.

Think about how many times you’ve been working when a notification pops up on your screen. The message might be important, but more often than not, it’s just spam that pulls your focus away from your project.

Imagine all the times you’ve been in a meeting and felt the distinctive buzzing of your cell phone. Putting a smartphone on vibrate doesn’t make it any less disruptive for its owner. You instantly divert your attention from the other human beings in the room to the device in your pocket.

Distractions make you work harder

Studies suggest that the average American worker is interrupted every three minutes and five seconds.[1] An estimated 6 hours of productivity are lost every day to distraction. When someone is interrupted, they not only have to deal with the disruption, but then they have to use even more time and energy to get back into their work.[2]

It’s not only annoying to feel like you can never situate your mind on one task, but it also keeps you from doing your best work. The greatest ideas require time for mental processing. You have to do research and dig deep to come up with exciting ideas. If your focus is shallow, your ideas will never be able to develop to their fullest potential.

Our concentration naturally fluctuates

It would be nice if you could simply disconnect from the internet and have a consistent ability to concentrate, but that’s not how your brain works.

If you were to visualize your concentration throughout an 8-hour work day, it might look like this graph.

Throughout the day, you will experience peaks and valleys in your energy levels. You might feel a jolt of productivity after you go for a walk or have a cup of coffee, but there will also be points in the day–like right after lunch–where you’ll feel sluggish. You create your best work during periods of high energy and focus.

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Protecting those peak periods ensures that you can maximize your work time. When you constantly shift your focus back and forth between your work and distractions, your brain has to work extra hard to get back on track. Opening your Facebook page or replying to your friend’s What’s App message is almost never worth the productivity cost.

You will still have peak moments of productivity when you face interruptions, but the peaks will not be as high. This is because jumping between items wears you out. You lower your potential productivity every time you give in to distraction.

To be successful, you have to root out anything that stands in your way. The inability to concentrate will affect your work performance, but you can take control of the situation.

How to maintain focus in a sea of disruptions

Being able to give your best at work doesn’t mean that you have to disconnect from the world entirely. You can still enjoy the connections you have through technology, but there are a few ways that you can keep them from having a negative impact on your work.

One of the first things that you can do to minimize your distractions is set aside a time for them. Give yourself windows of time when it’s acceptable to look at Facebook or respond to messages.

Start by listing out the things that most commonly distract you. Maybe you get sucked into the rabbit hole of Facebook if you get a notification. Perhaps you find that your friends texting you throughout the day pulls you from work. Whatever it may be, write it down.

Then, set aside a time slot in which you are free to use the apps as you please.

Plan to use your distracting apps during times when you need to restore energy. As you can see from the graph, times when you need to restore your energy are also times when you may not be as productive.

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Instead of giving up peak energy times, sacrifice the time when you aren’t working well to engage with technology. When your recovery time has ended, jump right back into your work.

It might seem counter-intuitive to make time for these distractions during your day, but if you create a schedule that protects periods of peak energy, you will actually boost your productivity. Instead of being inundated with notifications or thinking about the next time when you are allowed to check your messages, you’ll have designated times for that.

Rather than shift your attention at random, you can focus fully on the task at hand until it’s your time to play on social media or check messages. Using this approach can help you regain a lot of your brain power because you won’t have to waste it on refocusing. You’ll simply do less important tasks during natural breaks in your day.

Set up a system to limit distractions

Just because you vow to check your messages and look at social media during certain times doesn’t keep distractions from happening. You’ll need to set up a system to keep disruptions at bay.

You can’t always control when someone is going to send you a message or when you’ll get a notification. You can start by adjusting your settings. Most apps allow you to opt out of notifications. Stop push notifications from non-essential apps.

For everything else, you need a different plan. We may be able to avoid opening social media tabs, but sometimes the messages still pop up on our phones. At the same time, most of us want to continue to use social media to stay connected and receive important information.

Try planting some trees with your concentration

The Forest app helps you train your brain to avoid distractions during work time. You can use Forest on your desktop or smartphone. The app works by enabling you to establish an amount of time during which you do not wish to be interrupted. You can adjust the amount of time from 10 minutes up to several hours.

Refer back to the list of distractions that you made earlier. You can take the websites and apps that drain your time and add them to the Forest’s blacklist.

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    The amount of time that you wish to stay off of distracting websites and apps is called a “planting session.” When you decide that you want to “plant a tree,” the countdown timer starts. If you access a blacklisted website during the time when you are supposed to be working, the app will remind you that your tree is still growing. You will have to decide whether or not you want to kill your tree, which is harder than you might think.

      When you can successfully stay off of distracting sites for the allotted time, your tree grows, and you get coins. The coins will allow you to unlock other types of trees.

        As you continue with your work session, you can see a countdown timer and an animation of a tree growing from a seed to its full splendor. Usually Forest also includes an inspirational saying to keep you on track if your focus starts to drift.

          To make the impact of your efforts even greater, success in Forest also gives you the option to plant a tree in real life.

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          This simple visualization can help you break the bad habit of checking your phone or accessing websites that disrupt your thought processes. When Forest asks you if you would like to “give up” and kill your tree, most often you will realize that the reason you were heading to the blacklisted website wasn’t that important anyway.

          Sometimes you just need a small reminder to stay on task. Use Forest during your peak productivity times so that you don’t waste the most valuable parts of your day.

          You have to identify the distractions before you can stop them

          You may be wondering how much of your peak productivity time you are losing to mindless distractions. The only way to find out is to take a closer look at your habits. Notice the times when you seem to do your best work. Name the sources of notifications and interruptions that decrease your attention. After you have done this, use an app like Forest to cut out the distractions.

          Using Forest will not prevent you from being tired, and it won’t keep you from staring off into space, but it will make you think twice about wasting time on sites that distract you.

          When you are able to experience a distraction-free work environment, you’ll recognize how much more you are able to accomplish. You’ll be able to do your work more efficiently, and you won’t feel the fatigue of constantly re-centering yourself. Soon, your desire to stay focused will be stronger than the temptation to click on your notifications.

          Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek/ Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

          Reference

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