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8 Ways to Be Ruthless With Your Time

8 Ways to Be Ruthless With Your Time
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    There are a million and one demands on your time and, whether or not those demands are legitimate, it’s hard to carve out the time necessary to take care of your responsibilities. You have to be ruthless with your time — you have to take care of important tasks before handling issues that just aren’t crucial. You have to set up your own rules for deciding how to spend your time, and those rules may not make everyone around you happy. But you are the only one who can decide what you’ll do today — decide ruthlessly and get your work done.

    1. Say no. Expand beyond what you were told and say ‘no’ to any requests on your time that don’t actually move your work along. You can be nice about it, but avoid taking on new projects. I know that you’re thinking that you can’t just going around telling everyone that you aren’t going to help them, and, sure, if you have some time to spare, there isn’t anything wrong with lending a helping hand. But your work must come before helping others.
    2. Stop hitting snooze. I will struggle with my alarm clock until the day I die. But giving in to the temptation of the snooze button will only lose both you and I precious time. It’s a bad habit to start, and a hard one to stop. As long as you are getting enough sleep, though, you need to get up when the buzzer goes off. If you need another hour in the day, why would you spend an hour dozing in bed after your alarm’s gone off?
    3. Procrastinate. In fact, I suggest that you procrastinate shamelessly. As a freelance writer, I make a point to work on projects in the order of their due dates. This means that I’m often finishing up projects hours or even minutes before they’re actually due. It also means that I don’t have to worry about incorporating last minute changes — because I can do it the first time around. I’ve had plenty of projects canceled midway through, as well. If I procrastinate, I can avoid wasting my time on work that I might not get paid for.
    4. Put big tasks first. Get your biggest task or project done first thing in the morning. You’ll need the most time in your day for the big projects. Small tasks (even if they’re important) can be done in the fifteen minutes between meetings or waiting for the bus. Develop your ability to estimate how long a task will take you: do you need to sit down and spend some time to get it done? Or can you do it on your way to your next stop?
    5. Leave early. If you can get somewhere even a few minutes early, you’ll probably have to wait — which is a waste of time, right? Wrong! Remember those small tasks you want to get done today, but haven’t gotten to yet? Make use of those few valuable minutes to return a phone call, write a memo or plan out tomorrow. You may need to drag along a few office supplies — I keep a notebook and pen with me at all times, personally — but you’d be surprised what you can get done. If it’s a nice day, consider just sitting in your car with the windows down. You’ll even get the benefit of a little extra fresh air.
    6. Ignore irrelevancies. As painful as it is to turn off your email for even a few minutes, it’s probably not relevant to the project you need to be working on right now. Be ruthless with yourself and turn off your email and other distractions (instant messenger, phone and anything else). You can always respond later — and if it’s a real emergency, like the building is burning down around your ears, somebody will probably come in to your office to let you know.
    7. Stay aware. At about two o’clock each afternoon, I feel like the only thing I want to do is take a nap. But I know that I can make myself more aware — enough, at least, to concentrate on my work — by taking a walk out in the fresh air and downing a soda. Keeping yourself focused is key to getting a project done and over with: if you’re less than aware of what you’re working on, you not only run the risk of making a mistake, you’re also likely to take much longer to finish your project. And the more time, you spend on a particular task, the less time you have for every other thing you want to do today.
    8. Plan your day. While you may need to have a flexible plan for your day, you still need an outline of the day. List what you absolutely must get done today, what meetings you have planned and any other notes you’ll need for the day. While you don’t have to be strict to the point of refusing to do anything not on your plan, having an actual schedule for your day can help you to be ruthless with others’ requests on your time: “I’d love to help you out, Jane, but I’m completely scheduled today.”

    Just as you have to be ruthless in how you handle how much responsibility, you have to be ruthless in making sure that you get your own work done. You can’t tell yourself that you’ll only slack off this one time, because one time becomes two, then three, then enough that you’ll be wondering where all that free time you used to have went.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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