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2 Simple Steps to Boost Productivity and Avoid Burning Daylight’

2 Simple Steps to Boost Productivity and Avoid Burning Daylight’

We all know what it feels like to slave away at work all day long and still have the feeling like we didn’t accomplish what we wanted.  Many hours spent, but feeling like there’s not much to show for it. Worse than that are those days and weeks where you feel like you are just constantly putting out fires and barely staying above water. Unfortunately, this describes a common day for many, where results are undermined and time and money is wasted.

I never took a time management class in school or learned key skills to help me manage my time better, and I am sure you didn’t either. Yet, without the right skills and proper tools, each day can feel like a constant struggle and it really doesn’t need to be this way.

The problem in fact, is not a lack of time, but rather a lack of skills and tools to manage time more effectively. Most people don’t even know how they spend their time; let alone, how to optimize it.  If you want to finally master your time, free up hours a week, and feel more in control of your results, it is easier than you think.

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Here are two simple and very effective steps you can take:

1. Face the hard truth (Seeing is believing)

Imagine what it would be like to have an extra half a day a week. Did you know that you can do this by making a small improvement of 10% in how you spend your time? That is an extra 6 minutes an hour which is an extra half a day per week!

The only way to create more time for yourself is to face up to the hard truth of how you’re currently spending it. The most effective way to do this is to track what you work on and see how your days fill up.

Spending a lot of time in an effort to optimize your time defeats the purpose. I’m a huge fan of using the time tracking tool Klok because I can quickly and easily see where I’ve spent my time. Klok takes the headache out of time management and instead makes it enjoyable.

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Using Klok’s simple work timer, capture the different tasks you work on as you go about your day and do this for at least a week. Include your coffee breaks, those office chats or social media distractions. Don’t leave anything out, otherwise at the end of the day, you’ll only be cheating yourself. You’ll begin to see your blind spots, your time thieves as well as opportunities to increase productivity and optimize your time.

I love this tool because the visual calendar and dashboard reports make it so easy to see the total time spent on different tasks and compare how I actually spent my time against how I intended to spend my time.

The next step is to put your thinking cap on and strategize the best ways to optimize your time now that you know where it is going.

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2. Strategize the best ways to avoid burning daylight

We all have 24 hours a day, what you decide to do with those 24 hours is going to be the difference between getting the results you want in the time you want or not.

Think about going to the gym, if you want to see results in a shorter time, you need to have an exercise regime that is designed specifically to get the results you want. You will never achieve the same results if you simply go the gym and just follow the motions without a clear program. The same is true for time management.

If you want more time, money, better results and higher productivity, start optimizing your time more.  Now that you know where your time is being spent, you can start to make decisions on how to better optimize your time and become more productive.

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To get you thinking more strategically, ask yourself the following key questions.

  • Where does most of your time go?
  • How productive are you overall?
  • Are you spending more time on certain tasks than you should?
  • What is one small change you can make to your time that will make the biggest difference for you right now?

Klok’s dashboard reports and visual calendar display provide information in a graphical format which make it easier to answer these questions and identify opportunities to optimize your time better. You can also gain valuable insights by comparing estimates against actual time spent and use the information to improve overall time management which will result in more free time for you.

Tracking, analyzing and strategically optimizing how you spend your time is an on-going exercise, but one which will undoubtedly add hours to your weeks, add days to your months and over time, add months to your years.

Nobody else is going to create the results you want in life, you decide every day by how you spend your time.

“You can’t make up for lost time. You can only do better in the future.” – Ashley Ormon

More by this author

Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

It takes being productive to get things done correctly and on time. So how do you know which tasks are essential and which can wait? The answer is in the Prioritization Matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix.

The matrix took its name after Dwight David Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was a general in the US army and the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. As a five-star general and a Supreme Commander in the US Army, he drafted the strategy for an Allied invasion of Europe.[1]

Eisenhower had to make tough decisions every time about which tasks to prioritize out of many he needed to focus on daily. So, he came up with the famous Eisenhower Matrix, or the Prioritization Matrix.

What Is the Prioritization Matrix?

The Prioritization Matrix is a tool for rating your tasks based on urgency. It helps you know the critical activities and those tasks that you should bypass and can be useful in project management, small businesses, or personal tasks.

Eisenhower famously said of the matrix:

“Most tasks that are urgent are not important, and most tasks that are important are not urgent.”

This quote became the maxim for Eisenhower in managing his time.

There are four quadrants in the Prioritization Matrix, which help in comparing choices of what to do first and last, allowing you to prioritize projects and create strategic plan[2].

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Eisenhower Matrix Template

    The quadrants are:

    • Do
    • Schedule
    • Delegate
    • Eliminate

    Do

    Do is the first quadrant in the Prioritization Matrix, and it incorporates important activities. That is, those tasks you need to carry out urgently — crises, deadlines, and issues that need your urgent attention and are highly relevant to your life mission.

    Hw do you know which task falls into this quadrant?

    Start by analyzing your priorities, and then establish if it falls within the ‘do it now’ criteria. If the task is achievable within a day, or within 24 to 48 hours, it’s urgent.

    Another approach you can adopt in prioritizing tasks in this category is to adopt the “eat the frog” principle by Mark Twain. This principle recommends that you do the most urgent activities as soon as you wake up.

    Here’s a practical example.

    Let’s say you need to draft a content strategy and submit a report to your manager. It’s Saturday, and the deadline for submission is Monday. Can we say the activity is urgent? Definitely!

    Schedule

    The second quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Schedule. The Prioritization Matrix classifies tasks in this category as important but not that urgent.

    They are long-term objectives and tasks with no immediate deadline. Those tasks could include meditation, journaling, studying, family time, and exercising.

    You can plan out activities in this quadrant for some other period. For instance, you should exercise for good health, but you can allocate time to do it.

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    Schedule these activities in such a way that they don’t transfer to the “Do” or “Urgent” quadrant. Ensure you have sufficient time to carry them out.

    Delegate

    The third quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Delegate.

    These tasks are not important to you but are quite urgent for others. This is where teamwork comes into play.

    You can technically perform tasks in this category, but it makes sense to delegate them. Delegating tasks will ensure you have more time to pursue activities in your first two quadrants.

    You should also monitor the tasks you have delegated. It will only amount to a sheer waste of time if you don’t have a tracking system for delegated tasks.

    Eliminate

    The last quadrant highlights your productivity killers. They are tasks that are not important to your goals and not urgent. The only way to boost your productivity is to eliminate them.

    Some examples are constantly checking your phone, watching movies, or playing video games.

    They could also be bad habits that you need to identify and delete from your daily and weekly schedule.

    Successful people have learned how to prioritize and stick to what’s important. They have learned to find a better person for a task or eliminate less significant tasks.

    Let’s consider two inspiring personalities that have designed their prioritization system.

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    Warren Buffet developed a two-list prioritization model to determine which task deserves his best attention. The bottom line is bypassing things that are important and useful but not top of the priorities.

    Mark Ford, a business advisor, marketer, self-made millionaire, and author devised his strategy:

    “Start work on the most crucial priority, take a break, work on the second most important task, take a break, then sort out the less important activities and any tasks he received from other individuals by afternoon.” [3]

    How to Use The Prioritization Matrix

    Using the Prioritization Matrix can be tricky if you’re new at it, but by following a few simple steps, you can learn to utilize it in the best way possible.

    1. List and Rank Your Priorities

    Highlight all the tasks you need to carry out in a day. Then, classify them with weighted criteria based on urgency and importance.

    Identify any activity that requires prompt action. I’m referring to a task that if you don’t complete that day, it could produce a grave consequence. For instance, if you don’t submit your content strategy, other content writers cannot work. It means you need to check for high-priority dependencies.

    2. Define the Value

    The next step is to examine the importance and assess which of them impacts your business or organization the most. As a rule of thumb, you can check which tasks possess higher priority over others. For instance, you need to attend to client’s requirements before you take care of any internal work.

    You can also estimate value by examining how the task impacts the people and customers in the organization. In a nutshell, the more impact a task has on people or the organization, the higher the priority.

    3. Take out the Most Challenging Task

    Procrastination is not a symptom of laziness, but avoidance is. The truth is that you will typically avoid tasks you don’t want to do. The former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, once said he would take out the most dreaded task first thing when he got to the office.

    Brian Tracy called these tasks the frogs you need to eat. That will remove the nagging dread, which mounts pressure on you when you postpone necessary tasks[4]. This is where the Prioritization Matrix can help; eat the “Do” frogs immediately.

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    If you need help overcoming procrastination, check out this article.

    4. Know What’s Important to You

    As long as you are in this cosmos, you will always encounter different choices that may be contradictory to your goals. For instance, a fantastic promotion that requires excessive travel will isolate you from important relationships. If you are not priority-conscious, you may accept it, even though your family is your priority.

    Therefore, it makes sense to identify what is important to you and to prepare yourself not to compromise those important things for immediate pleasure or gain.

    Yogi Berra captioned it this way:

    “If you do not know your destination, you might end up somewhere else.”

    5. Establish Regular “No Work” Time

    YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki established a rule not to check her emails between 6 pm and 9 pm. According to a CNN Business report, she was the first woman to request maternity leave when Google just got started. She prioritizes dinner time with her family despite being the CEO of YouTube[5].

    Is it possible to cut out time for our relationships and interests outside of work?

    Of course, and that’s why you need to set out your “no work” time. This approach will enable you to renew your energy levels for the next task. Also, you will be in the best position to introspect as you are not in your usual work zone.

    6. Know When to Stop

    You can achieve everything on your list sometimes. After you have prioritized your workload and assessed your estimates, remove the remaining tasks from your priority list and focus on your most urgent and important tasks.

    Conclusion

    It’s not enough to be successful at work. Ensure you make out time for your family and an important relationship in your life.

    Getting started and finding time may be tricky, but with some practice using the Prioritization Matrix, you’ll find that you are more productive and better able to divide your time between the things that are important to you.

    More Tips on Prioritizing

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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