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22 Time Management Lessons You Need To Learn Now

22 Time Management Lessons You Need To Learn Now

Can’t get it together? Projects not on schedule? Life moving at a snail’s pace?

You may just need to get your mind around managing your time. Following just a few of the time management lessons below can make a huge impact on your projects and your life.

1. Labor over the important parts of your project. 

Avoid fussing over the details until you’ve got the main points and parts down. Most of us don’t complete projects because we get bogged down in the weeds.

2. Say no.

Most things coming your way (via your inbox, for example) are other people’s requests to meet their agendas. You don’t have to say yes. You don’t even have to answer.

3. Stay true to your vision.

Get present to your Why. This may involve a visual display you see every day or a daily meeting with your colleagues or teammates.

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4. Ask people to hold you accountable.

Some people adopt accountability buddies. Others hire coaches. It’s been proven having other humans remind you of what you said you’d do is the key to getting things done.

5. Notice if you are keeping yourself busy or doing things that move your commitments forward.

If you take a look at each of the things you do throughout the day, are they time-consuming activities or actions that make a difference for your projects? Keep your eye on the actions, not on busywork. Course-correct throughout the day.

6. Get up early.

You’ll feel like you got a head start on the day. Early-morning hours are dim and quiet, perfect for clearing your mind, getting present to your priorities, and taking care of yourself before you start work or take care of the kids.

7. Write down your top priorities for the next day.

Keep it to a consistent number, like the top 3 things or top 5 things. Doing so demands that you look into the future. You’ll be at ease because you’ll know what you need to get done when you wake up.

8. Tackle small and large things in a day.

By getting through the smaller tasks, you’ll feel like you accomplished something. That will give you the momentum to do the complicated or time-intensive things.

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9. Work on one thing at a time.

Multi-tasking is overrated. Studies by experts like Clifford Nass at Stanford University show that we are way less productive when we’re jumping between our smartphones and the work before us.

10. Get the “hard” work done as early in the day as you can.

Then you can fool around and “procrastinate” as much as you want.

11. Practice clearing your mind before you work.

Write down the sad stuff. The angry stuff. The happy stuff. All of it.

12. Take naps.

Just under 30 minutes will refresh you, without sending you into deep sleep mode. Any more than that and you may be at risk for an early death, according to a recent study.

13. Plan breaks (or vacations).

And have them be actual breaks, instead of answering business calls or emails. You may have to unplug from those devices if you’re addicted.

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14. Keep the distractions you love out of your sight.

That means placing your phone somewhere other than your workspace and logging out of all social-media accounts before working on your projects.

15. Practice Hours of Power.

Do this with a buddy. Start at the beginning of the hour sharing declarations with your buddy. Work to create those results and get back on the phone to report what you created.

16. Work on a team.

In doing so, you can delegate priorities to people you trust to keep your time focused on things only you can do.

17. Keep travel to a minimum.

Work from home. The effort put into moving around, driving, packing, unpacking, checking into hotels and so on leeches energy.

18. Keep the number of choices you make each day to a minimum.

Take a cue from President Barack Obama, who was quoted in a Vanity Fair interview: “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”

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19. Keep the same morning routine, even on weekends.

Do you get up at 5 a.m. on Fridays? Do the same on Saturdays and Sundays. It’ll make waking up again on Monday morning easier.

20. Think of time like money.

You have a budget for money: Money comes in. Money goes out. And you have money left over. Consider creating a “time budget.” How much for working on things that make move your commitments forward (or make money)? How much time for things that don’t move your commitments forward?

21. Be self-centered like Benjamin Franklin.

Create a daily routine that focuses on you, so you get your work done. Be unwilling to give away those chunks of time (like Ben Franklin), so you can be flexible to handle emergencies and interruptions (like Ben Franklin). Read this LifeHack article to learn more about his schedule.

22. Create artificial urgency.

Most of us set deadlines for when the project needs to be done. When we get too close to the date or don’t meet the deadline, we can get desperate and finish off a product in poor quality. Or we quit. Practice creating deadlines that are way ahead of the time the projects are needed to prevent the last-minute rush.

Featured photo credit: Creative Commons/Dennis Hamilton via flickr.com

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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