One of the most effective ways to become more productive is to get control of your time. Unfortunately, time is something you cannot manage. Time is fixed. We all get twenty-four hours each day, and we cannot change that. You cannot borrow a couple of hours from tomorrow and use them today.
This means that rather than trying to manage time itself, we need to manage our activity. That’s the only thing we can manage. So, the question to ask is: what will you do in the twenty-four hours you have each day?
Starting from that place gives you a massive advantage because you put yourself in control. You control what you do in the time you have available. There are many ways you can manage your activity that focuses on what’s important.
Here are 7 methods of time management that will help you.
1. The Ivy Lee Method
This is possibly the most effective method of time management and productivity you could use. The Ivy Lee method was developed by Ivy Lee who, in 1918, was asked by Charles M. Schwab, Chairman and CEO of Bethlehem Steel, to create a way to improve the productivity of his senior managers.
Ivy Lee told each manager to write the six most important tasks they must do the next day in order of priority on a piece of paper and leave it on their desk ready for the following day. When they arrived the next morning, they began work on the first task and, once completed, crossed it off and started on the next one.
If you cannot complete all six, the tasks you do not complete should be carried forward to the next day, and you repeat the process with another set of six tasks. What the Ivy Lee Method does is make you focus on what’s important. With only six available tasks, you will not put low-value tasks on your list.
Today, with all the digital tools available, this is a simple way to stay focused on critical things. For example, you can use a calendar, a notes app, or a dedicated task manager to write out your list of six.
2. Time Blocking
Time blocking is a method of time management where you block out time on your calendar to do focused work. It is another very effective way of managing the activities you perform each day.
Let me give you an example from my system. I write a blog post, a podcast script, and plan, and record two to three YouTube videos each week. I can only make sure I have time for these tasks if I block time out on my calendar for doing them. So, I have a two-hour time block on my calendar for writing my blog post on a Monday morning. I also have a two-hour block on a Tuesday morning for writing my podcast script and a three-hour block on a Friday morning for recording my YouTube videos.
These time blocks are fixed, recurring events on my calendar. This way, if anyone tries to make an appointment with me at these times, they will see I am busy.
What time blocking does is show you exactly how much time you have available to do the work that matters. The only way you will be able to do the work that matters is if you have time to do it. That’s why it works so well.
To make sure time blocking works, you must treat each time block as a confirmed appointment. If you do not, then you will not respect the time you have set aside, and the process of blocking time out becomes meaningless.
3. Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is where you set a timer for 25 minutes and work focused and undisturbed for those twenty-five minutes. Then, once the alarm goes off, you take a five-minute break and set your alarm for another twenty-five minutes of focused work.
The Pomodoro Technique is an excellent method for people who struggle to focus on one thing at a time and are easily distracted. At the end of twenty-five minutes, you know you can look at something else for five minutes, which gives you the motivation to push through until the end of the twenty-five minutes.
There is an array of applications for your mobile devices and desktop that will set the timers for you and help you stay focused on whatever it is you want to focus on.
4. 2+8 Prioritization Method
Similar to the Ivy Lee Method, the 2+8 Prioritization Method has you to select two must-do tasks and eight other tasks you would like to complete the next day. The two must-do tasks must be done no matter what. For the eight remaining tasks, you will do whatever you can to complete the tasks, but it would not be the end of the world if you cannot complete them.
The purpose of the 2+8 Prioritisation Method is to focus your attention on what is important. This is why you decide what needs to be added to your list the day before. This way, when you begin the day, you know exactly what needs doing, and you do not waste any time trying to decide what to do.
All you need is ten minutes before you close out the day to look at your list of things to do and choose your priorities for the next day based on what appointments you have and where you will be.
5. Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix has been associated with the former US president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. This method of time management is less about managing time and more about prioritizing your work.
The matrix is made up of four quadrants:
- Quadrant 1 – Important and urgent
- Quadrant 2 – Important and not urgent
- Quadrant 3 – Not important and urgent
- Quadrant 4 – Not important and not urgent
The idea is you keep away from Quadrants 3 and 4 as much as possible and try to spend as much time as you can in Quadrant 2. It is quadrant 2 that will help you manage your time better and reduce tasks falling into quadrant 1.
Quadrant 2 tasks are related to taking care of your health, anticipating future problems, and planning. Quadrant 1 tasks are the tasks that are happening right now and need your attention.
You cannot avoid tasks from all four quadrants. For instance, many things that will fall into quadrant 4 will be related to rest and relaxation time, but too much of that and you will not be moving anything important forward.
6. Pareto Principle
This is not so much a method of time management but more an observation that can help you to work on the things that give you the most significant positive results:
The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes (the “vital few”).
When applied to time management and productivity, this means you first identify which tasks will give you 80% of your results. For instance, if you are a writer, sitting down in front of your computer and spending time writing will proportionately contribute more to the finished article or book than researching writing applications and tools.
Similarly, in business, being in front of your customer (or prospect) will have a much bigger impact on your sales performance than planning out a sales strategy or creating lists of potential prospects.
While the tasks that contribute 20% of your outcomes have their place, they should not be allowed to become where you spend most of your time. Examples of this would be Salespeople in staff meetings, teachers writing attendance reports, and business owners doing basic administration.
The Pareto Principle is essentially what the 2+8 Prioritisation Method (see above) is built on.
7. NET (No Extra Time)
NET is a bit of a wild card. But Tony Robbins, one of the world’s top business coaches, advocates this. NET works because a lot of our time is wasted each day waiting in queues or for something to happen. It encourages you to take advantage of this time to do work.
For instance, if you are waiting for a meeting to start, you can respond to your email or process your inbox. You could reply to some of your Slack or Microsoft Teams messages or research ideas that need researching. Our mobile phones have given us the ability to do a lot of the work we previously needed to be in a fixed place to do.
I use NET when I am waiting for a Zoom call to start. I’m already at my computer, and as I wait for the meeting to begin, I will work on my emails or messages or basic admin that requires doing. It’s surprising how much of this work you can get done in a spare five minutes.
All of these methods are simple and easy to adopt. You don’t need any fancy software or tools. For example, your calendar or a notes app will work perfectly well. They are also tried and tested to work.
If you are looking for a simple way to boost your productivity and time management skills, then any of these seven methods of time management will give you tremendous results.
More Time Management Tips
- 10 Smart Time Management Techniques to End Busyness
- 5 Techniques to Tackle a Busy Schedule (And Create More Time)
Featured photo credit: Andrea Natali via unsplash.com
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