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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 21, 2021

How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

You sit at your desk, ready to finally get some work done. “Okay, lets do this,” you think to yourself. You scroll over to Word (or Excel, or Office, etc.) and open up a fresh document. You have some idea of what needs to be done, but what happens next?

You write a few words down but just can’t stay focused. Then you say “Maybe I should wake myself up with something fun.” You go to Facebook, 20 minutes gone. Then comes Youtube, 60 minutes gone. Before you know it, lunchtime has come and half the day is gone.

Does this seem familiar? Do you ever find yourself wasting your day?

Well it doesn’t have to be this way, all you need to do is focus on finishing this article to find out how to not get distracted easily.

But before we move on to the tips, here’re some important notes you need to know:

  • Avoiding distraction is tough. You’re not alone when it comes to distractions. It’s not easy staying on task when you need to work for hours at a time, but some people are able to do it. The question is: why them and not you?
  • You were never taught how to focus. It’s funny how all throughout our school days we were never taught HOW to learn and be focused, even though that’s all we did. It was just assumed, and ultimately it was hit or miss on whether or not you ended up knowing how to do those things at all.
  • The tools to help master your ability to focus. Since everyone’s left to their own devices, it’s up to you to find ways to master your focus ability. That’s what these tips are for, so you can finally stay focused and on track with what we want to accomplish for ourselves.

So without further ado, let’s get started. 

1. Keep Your Vision and Goals in Mind

First things first, why do you even need to focus? Do you want to become a skilled guitar player? Do you want to write a novel? Do you want to start working from home?

Think about it.

Knowing why we need to stay focused can help us push through the tough and tedious parts of accomplishing our goals. That’s when our ability to focus is really tested and when it’s most needed.

2. Reduce the Chaos of Your Day by Focusing on 2 to 3 Important Tasks

If you have 20 tasks you need done everyday how effective do you think your focus ability will be? Terrible, right?

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You can’t expect to do those things with sophistication if you’re too scatterbrained to focus. You need to break it down to the essentials.

Focus on only doing 2-3 important tasks a day (even one is okay), but no more than that. It’s all you need to take steps towards accomplishing your goals. Slower is much better than giving up early because you took on too much, too early.

3. Do Those Tasks as Soon as Possible

In order to make sure you get those 2 to 3 tasks done, you need to do them early. This means as soon as you wake up, you’re already plotting how to do them.

So get up, use the bathroom, eat breakfast, and do it (Yes, BEFORE work is the best time to do it).

It’s tough, but waiting to do them only invites distraction to take over. Those distractions WILL come, and they will drain your willpower. This makes working on your goals harder to do, so don’t wait do work on your goals, do them as early as possible.

4. Focus on Only the Smallest Part of Your Work at a Time

An easy way to kill your focus is to see a goal for the big giant accomplishment that it is. Most goals will at least take a few weeks to months to accomplish, and knowing that can make it feel like it’ll take FOREVER to do.

This will cause you to do one of two things:

  • You become discouraged because the goal is too big; or
  • You fantasize about what it’ll feel like to achieve the goal

Either way is terrible for your focus and always a potential problem when focusing on the big picture or using visualization.

So what should you do? Focus on doing a very small, minimum amount of work instead.

For example, which seems easier:

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Writing 200 words per day or writing a minimum of 2 sentences per day?

20 pushups per day or a minimum of 1 pushup per day?

The key here is to use minimums. Chances are you’ll push past them.

Eventually your minimum will increase, and you’ll slowly improve your ability to stay focused on the bigger tasks.

5. Visualize Yourself Working

I briefly mentioned in tip #4 that visualization techniques can hurt you more than help you sometimes. But there is a proper way of using visualization, and it’s by visualizing yourself actually WORKING (not as if you’ve succeeded already).

Champion runners use this technique to great effect, usually by working backwards. They imagine themselves winning at first, then they act out the whole process in reverse, feeling and visualizing each step all the way to the beginning.

A quicker and more relevant way to apply this would be to imagine yourself doing a small part of the task at hand.

For instance, if you need to practice your guitar but it’s all the way across the room (let’s assume maximum laziness for the sake of this example), what should you do?

First, imagine standing up (really, think of the sensation of getting up and then do it). If you really imagined it, visualized and felt the act of standing up, then acting on that feeling will be easy.

Then repeat the visualization process with each step till you have that guitar in hand and you’re playing it. The process of focusing so intently on each step distracts you from how much you don’t want to do something, and the visualizations “ready your body” for each step you need done.

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All you need to do is apply this process to whatever it is you need to focus on, just start with the smallest motion you need to do.

6. Control Your Internal Distractions

Internal distractions are one of those problems you can’t really run away from. You need to find ways to prepare your mind for work, and find simple ways to keep it from straying to non-essential thoughts as well.

A good way to prime your mind for work is to have a dedicated work station. If you always work in a specific area, then your mind will associate that area with work related thoughts.

Simple enough, right? When you take breaks make sure to leave your work station, that way you’ll know when you’re “allowed” to let your thoughts roam free as well.

Deadlines are useful here also (use Pomodoro method for example, see tip #9). This method helps keep your mind from wandering around since you’ve got that looming deadline coming along.

Ultimately though, silencing those unwanted thoughts is all about getting some traction going. So instead of focusing on what’s happening internally, focus getting something done (anything!). Once you do that, you’ll see that all your thoughts will be about finishing your task.

7. Remove External Distractions

This tip is straightforward, just get away from things that distract you.

Is the television a distraction? Work in another room. Are the kids distracting you? Get up earlier and work before they wake up. Is the Internet distracting? Turn off the modem.

It’s usually obvious what you should do, but you still shouldn’t overlook this piece of advice.

8. Skip What You Don’t Know

This is a tip I don’t see often enough, if you hit a snag in your work then come back to it later. Focus your attention on what you CAN do, keep working “mindlessly” at all costs. All this means is that you should focus on the easy parts first.

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Eventually you can come back to the more difficult parts, and hopefully by then it’ll have come to you or you’ll have built up enough momentum that it won’t break your focus if you work on it.

9. Improve Your Discipline With Focus Practice

There’s a few focus exercises you can do to improve your overall discipline.

The first one is meditation, which is basically the definition of focus in practice. Think about it, you’re literally just sitting there doing nothing. It’s a great method for building focus ability, de-stressing, and giving you greater control over your emotions. You should definitely give meditation a shot.

The second exercise is the Pomodoro method. These are basically “focus sprints,” and each one is followed by a solid break. Like real sprints, you’ll get better and better at doing them over time. Each interval improves your ability to stay focused when it matters, so it’s more than worth your time to try this out.

10. Manage Your Momentum

Momentum is like a discipline lubricant‒it helps ease the process of sticking with goals. That’s why I think it’s important that we never take true breaks from our goals; we end up losing momentum and relying on discipline to get back on track (not an easy thing to do).

This means each and everyday we need to do something significant to further our goals (yes, even weekends and holidays). And when I say “significant,” I don’t necessarily mean a big task‒but rather, any task that brings us closer to our goals.

For instance, if your goal is to be a freelance writer, then write one single pitch on a weekend. If your goal is get healthy, then go for a short 5 minute walk even on Christmas day.

Nothing big, nothing crazy, only stuff that is significant enough to contribute to the success of your overall goal.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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