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Published on January 14, 2021

Why Is Time Management Important For Peak Productivity?

Why Is Time Management Important For Peak Productivity?

Imagine you inherit a million dollars. After you splurge on something special, what’s the first thing you would do with your money? Any good financial advisor would encourage you to make a plan for managing your inheritance. Maybe you’ll put the cash in savings. Maybe you’ll invest some of it in stocks. Either way, without a strategy in place, your money may not last too long.

The same is true with your time. Now, more than ever, learning how to effectively manage your time is crucial for setting yourself apart in the workplace. In a 2016 survey, executives reported that time management skills and the ability to prioritize tasks are some of the most desired skills among workers.[1]

But why is time management important?

Simply put, working harder doesn’t always equal productivity. You can work endless hours, but you won’t achieve much if you don’t manage that time well. In the words of Dr. Alexander Margulis, author of The Road to Success: A Career Manual – How to Advance to the Top, “Long hours are not a substitute for efficiency.”

Are you ready to work smarter so you can improve your productivity? Here are 5 reasons why time management is one of the most important skills to hone in the workplace.

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1. It Keeps You Focused on What Matters

Every Sunday night, I sit down in my office and plot out the course of my week. After determining what I need to accomplish in a week’s time, I plan the structure of each day according to my energy and creativity levels.

For example, I’m usually most productive right after breakfast, so I like to set aside a few hours then for head-down, focused work on timely tasks and projects.

I like to think of time management as creating a budget. Just as devising a plan for my finances keeps me from blowing my money, devising a strategy for my time prevents me from wasting the minutes and hours that make up my workday, which, in the long-haul, ultimately supports my productivity.

Here is another reason why it’s so important to budget your time. The typical workday is full of interruptions and potential distractions—from last-minute meeting requests to the personal demands that come with working from home. Failing to set priorities at the start of a day or week encourages you to move from task to task, reacting to whatever comes up instead of focusing on what actually needs to be done.[2]

When you set priorities and allot your time accordingly, you’ll ensure that you don’t fall behind on your “must-dos,” and you’ll have more time and mental capacity to face and resolve the interruptions along the way.

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2. It Reduces Stress

Like most of us, when I first began in my industry, I was just happy to have a job. To make sure I kept my job—and that I kept growing in my skills so I could get ahead—I often said “yes” to just about every request that came my way. Whether someone needed help with a personal project or wanted my opinion on an idea, I couldn’t miss out.

While this approach certainly helped me build relationships, it also compromised my ability to be productive. But that’s not the only negative effect that my career “FOMO” had. A lack of boundaries (in other words, an inability to say “no”) can increase your stress levels, which can take a toll on your mental and physical health.

So, while a lack of time management might initially give you the impression of productivity, over time, you will inevitably lose steam and burn out. On the other hand, approaching your work with strategy and clear goals enhances your ability to get things done and protects your well-being. Remember that the healthiest version of yourself is also the most valuable player in the workplace.[3]

3. It Helps You to Be Present

A few years ago, during a stressful season at work, a colleague approached me in the office to ask for help on figuring out a bug. I answered her in a rush—without looking up from my computer—because I was so crunched for time. To be honest, I still think about that interaction today. Not only did I miss an opportunity to contribute to a project in a meaningful way, but I also missed out on the opportunity to build trust and rapport in a workplace relationship.

Decisiveness is one of the most important components of getting things done in a timely way. A lack of time management skills can interfere with your ability to think clearly, which, unfortunately, can set you back in your work considerably. But in my experience, constantly being pressed for time also interferes with being present and engaged in work relationships, which is an important part of being productive at work.

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4. It Enhances Your Creativity

Another reason why time management is important is that it helps enhance your creativity. Productivity is, of course, a vital component of succeeding in your work. But crossing items off your to-do list isn’t the only part of the success equation.

Moving forward also requires innovation and creative thinking—both of which require brain space you simply won’t have if you’re wasting too much time on petty distractions.

Experts agree that multitasking or hopping between tasks isn’t an effective way to work because it compromises your ability to do one thing with excellence. For example, let’s say you’re on the phone with a client and you check your email at the same time. While you’re listening to someone talk, your visual cortex becomes less active, so your brain can’t process what they’re saying if you’re looking at something.[4] As minute as it sounds, you won’t be too productive if you’re trying to juggle different tasks at the same time.

If you manage your time effectively, you’ll be able to focus on what’s in front of you and get things done more efficiently. But you’ll also be able to take more breaks to replenish your mental reserves and, ultimately, give your best at work.[5]

5. It Also Helps You Grow in Other Areas

As with any positive growth, getting better at time management requires developing new skills, including self-awareness, strategy and planning, and adaptability.[6] These skills directly contribute to time management, but they can also cross over into other areas, which will ultimately enable you to be more productive in your work and life.

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For example, when you’re more self-aware about what you want to accomplish, you can set clearer goals—a skill that will ultimately help you avoid distractions. And when you grow and improve in your strategic thinking skills, you’ll also get better at creatively tackling problems that pop up at work.

The point is that by honing the skill of time management, you are not only adding structure to your day but you are also becoming a better worker for the long haul. In my opinion, that’s always a worthwhile investment.

Final Thoughts

Paradoxically, getting better at time management takes time. That’s why it isn’t second-nature for most of us to stay on track and focused. If you’re short on time as it is, using precious spare hours in your day to strategically plan your schedule might seem counterproductive. But the extra work to audit and adjust your time is almost always worthwhile.

By working hard to implement a routine that maximizes your effectiveness and productivity, you’ll see clear and immediate benefits in your career and, ultimately, in your mental and physical well-being. In my opinion, any growth that empowers you to be the person you want to be is always a worthwhile investment.

More Reasons Why Time Management Is Important

Featured photo credit: JanFillem 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 April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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