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Published on December 10, 2020

10 Powerful Tips To Manage Time And Get Result

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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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Published on October 22, 2021

The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

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The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

Today, there are countless productivity techniques that claim to help you work at peak efficiency. Among them, few are more widely known and widely used than the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management system that suggests that you break down your work tasks into 25-minute chunks and take breaks in between them.

The idea revolves around the notion that most people begin to lose focus after 25 minutes of continuous work and will need a reset to remain productive. But there’s a problem with that idea: no two tasks are the same. And for that matter, neither are any two people! That means a one-size-fits-all productivity system can’t possibly be the best fit for everyone.

But there’s an alternative that provides more flexibility and allows you to customize it for your specific use cases. It’s called the Flowtime Technique, and here’s everything you need to know to use it and start getting more done.

What Is the Flowtime Technique?

The Flowtime Technique, while not as well-known as the Pomodoro Technique, has been around for some time. In many ways, it’s a direct descendent of Pomodoro. It’s the brainchild of Zoe Read-Bivens, and she thought it up as a means of dealing with some of the shortcomings she experienced while using the Pomodoro technique.[1]

She found that sticking to 25-minute work segments often interrupted her flow—the feeling of being immersed in a particular task—and ended up harming her productivity rather than enhancing it. To fix the problem, she sought to create a system that retained the beneficial aspects of the Pomodoro Technique while allowing her to get into a positive flow and stay there.

The Basics of the Flowtime Technique

To start using the Flowtime Technique, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a timesheet to help you manage your daily activities. You can do this with a spreadsheet or by hand, whichever you find most convenient. At the heading of your timesheet, include the following column headings:

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  • Task Name
  • Start Time
  • End Time
  • Interruptions
  • Work Time
  • Break Time

Your timesheet will be the primary way you track your daily tasks and establish a flow that works best for you. Once you have it set up, here’s how to use it:

1. Choose a Task

To get started, choose a task you wish to get done. It should be specific, and something you can reasonably complete in the amount of time you have. In other words, don’t choose a task like “paint my house.” Choose something like “paint the front door of my house.” If you select a task that’s too broad, you’ll have difficulty sticking with the work. So, try and break down what you’re doing into the smallest manageable pieces.

2. Begin Working on Your Task

The next step is to start working on your task. Begin by listing the task you’re going to work on in the appropriate field of your timesheet. Then, list the time you’re starting work. Once you’ve gotten started on your task, the only rule you must observe is that there is no multitasking allowed. This will help you to focus on what you need to get done and minimize any self-imposed distractions.

3. Work Until You Need a Break

You may then keep working on your listed task for as long as you like. If you feel yourself getting fatigued after 15 minutes, take a break. If you get into a productive groove, lose track of the time, and end up working for an hour straight, that’s fine, too.

The idea is to get to know your own patterns and work in segments that fit you best. If you don’t focus well on certain tasks, work on them for shorter durations. If you get absorbed in other types of tasks, maximize your output by working for as long as you feel capable of staying focused.

You’ll likely find that the longest period you’ll be able to sustain is around 90 minutes or so. This corresponds to your Ultradian Rhythm, which are the alternating periods of alertness and rest that our brains experience throughout the day.[2]

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There are plenty of case studies that demonstrate how taking regular breaks improves productivity. It’s one of the reasons that mandatory breaks are a part of the Pomodoro Technique. But there’s evidence that the less-structured Flowtime approach to breaks works just as well. One technology company that recently directed its employees to take breaks every hour as they saw fit saw productivity levels rise by 23%—with no mandate required.[3]

4. Take an Appropriate-Length Break

When you decide you need to take a break, go ahead and do so. Just make sure to write down your stop time on your timesheet in the right place. You can take a break that’s as long or short as you like, but don’t abuse the privilege. Otherwise, it won’t be long until your breaks eat up the majority of your time.

As a general rule of thumb, try taking a five-minute break for each 25-minute work period, and increase your break time proportionally for longer work periods. You should use a timer to make sure you get back to your task in the right amount of time. And when your break ends, don’t forget to record the time you’ve resumed work and list the length of the break you took.

5. Record Distractions as They Happen

While you’re working, there are always going to be times when you’ll get distracted. It may come in the form of a phone call, an urgent email, or even the urge to use the bathroom. When these things happen, record the occurrence in the interruption column on your timesheet. Do your best to keep distractions short, but don’t try and block them out.

The reason is that you’re unlikely to succeed and sometimes, the things that distract you will be a higher priority than what you’re working on. So, it’s important to deal with distractions as you see fit instead of trying to simply work through them.

6. Repeat Until Your Work Is Complete

All you have to do next is to repeat the steps above until the tasks you’re working on are complete. As you complete each task, be sure to record your final stop time. If you wish, you can calculate your total work time (and fill it in) when you finish a task, or you can do all of the math at once at the end of the day.

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All that matters is that you don’t leave any gaps in your time tracking. Your timesheets, once complete, will become an asset that improves your ability to create a work schedule that maximizes your daily output.

What to Do With Your Timesheets

Although the act of recording your work periods and break times will help you remain on-task each day, there’s another important reason you’re doing it. It’s that your timesheets will gradually begin to reveal to you how to craft an ideal daily schedule for yourself.

So, at the end of each week, take some time to compare your timesheets. You may see that certain patterns begin to emerge. For example, you might notice that your longest work periods typically occur before lunch or that there are specific parts of your day that tend to be filled with distractions. You can use this information to plan subsequent days more effectively.

In general, you’ll want to cluster your most important tasks at your most productive times. So, if you are reviewing detailed property records, for example, you can set aside time to do it when you know you’ll be able to focus without interruption.

Conversely, you should schedule less critical work at the times when you’re most likely to be interrupted while working. So if you need time to respond to emails or return phone calls, you’ll know just when to do it. This will not only make you more productive but will also eliminate mistakes in your work.

Key Similarities Between Flowtime and Pomodoro

If you’re familiar with how the Pomodoro Technique works, you may have noticed some similarities with the Flowtime Technique. As we’ve discussed earlier, this is intentional. The Flowtime Technique is specifically designed to retain three critical features of the Pomodoro Technique, which are:

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1. Precise Time Tracking

One of the reasons that the Pomodoro Technique is so effective for many people is that it creates a rigid system to facilitate time tracking. By having to split your work tasks into 25-minute segments, you become acutely aware of the tasks you have in front of you and how you’re using your time. That alone helps you to avoid wasting precious work time because you have to account for every minute. The Flowtime Technique provides this benefit, too.

2. Eliminating Multitasking

With the Pomodoro Technique, you have to choose a task to work on and use a 25-minute timer to measure each work period. This does an excellent job of keeping you on-task because you know from the moment you set the timer what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’re therefore not likely to stray onto another task.

Even though you don’t need to use a timer with the Flowtime Technique, the very act of writing down your task accomplishes the same task. Because you know you’ll be tracking your time spent working on a particular thing, you’ll tend to stick with your task until it’s complete or time for a break.

3. Facilitating Breaks

One of the biggest killers of productivity is exhaustion, and there’s plenty of data to prove that taking breaks is essential to maintaining peak work performance. That’s the real secret to the Pomodoro Technique’s successful reputation—it makes breaks mandatory and unavoidable.

The Flowtime Technique, by comparison, also insists you take breaks. It just doesn’t force them upon you until you’re ready to take one. In that way, some additional self-discipline is required to succeed using the Flowtime Technique. But if you can obey a timer, there’s no reason you can’t learn to obey the signals your body sends you when it needs a time out.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, you may find success using the Pomodoro Technique. There’s a reason it’s so popular, after all. But if you’ve been using it for some time and find yourself straining against its rigid structures, you’re not alone. So, consider giving the Flowtime Technique a try for at least a week or two. You may find it’s a much better fit for your work style and that you get even more done than you ever have before.

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Featured photo credit: Fakurian Design via unsplash.com

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