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24 Hours Not Enough? 10 Tips Of Time Management To Make Every Day Count

24 Hours Not Enough? 10 Tips Of Time Management To Make Every Day Count

Time management. So elusive and marketable a skill that an entire industry has been built around selling it to every businessperson worth their salt.

It is, in effect, the art of mastering your waking – and sometimes even your unconscious hours – to make you as productive, bright-eyed, and at the top of your game as it is physically possible to be without the help of stimulants, time travel, or a miracle. Managing your time may seem like an easy concept, but who ever has enough hours in the day to get everything done you want to get done? Not many people, that’s for sure.

So, if you think you might be lagging behind when it comes to mastering your day-to-day, then check out this guide of useful tips of how to conquer the time-sucks of modern life and become the efficient, productive human being you known you can be…

1. Get A Solid Seven to Eight Hours of Sleep Every Night

This one is a simple, yet endlessly brilliant way of improving your time management skills: get more sleep. Simple, really. Studies have found that people who get an average of seven to nine hours sleep are more productive, happier,and work at a higher quality, than those who get less than seven hours sleep a night.

Getting plenty of sleep also ensures that you’ll be in a much more positive mood in the morning, meaning the chances of you getting more work done are increased. Making the most of your twenty four hours might not seem conducive to getting a full eight hours, but many famous prolific achievers such as Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Thomas Mann all had full and healthy sleep, suggesting that time management is something best conquered on a good night’s sleep.

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2. Rise Early In The Morning To Conquer The Day

One of the most effective ways to improve your time management is to start early in the morning. Rising early has numerous benefits, the most obvious of which is that getting up early allows you much more time to actually get stuff done. Making most of your twenty four hours works much better when you’re up earlier; studies have found that early risers are more productive and feel more accomplished at day’s end.

Working as the sun rises gives you a head start on people still in bed, as well as ensuring that your brain – which according to research is best functionally two and a half hours after we wake up – gets the treatment it does. There’s a reason the adage, ‘the early bird catches the worm’ has survived to this day.

3. Never Multitask

Multitasking is a word used the world over when it comes to productivity and time management. Everyone and their high-achieving mother believes that multitasking is the way forward.if you want to be a super-productive member of society, thanks to numerous articles and books on the subject. However, in recent years, multitasking has been increasingly disregarded as a method of productivity due to neurological research suggesting that multitasking itself is impossible

Studies have shown that breaking from one task to another and then back again in  a short space of time – i.e. multitasking – actually shortens attention span and affects the quality of the work. Instead, work on one task at a time and engage in the ‘flow’, a state of consciousness wherein you are totally absorbed and engaged in one activity. It’ll have the awesome side effect of improving your attention span and allowing you to get much more done and in a quicker time frame in your precious twenty four hours, vastly improving your time management.

4. Take A Twenty Minute Power Nap Regularly

One of the most enjoyable ways to boost your time management skills is to take a nap. Research has found that a ‘power nap’ taken after lunch, during one of the human body’s natural rhythms can help boost productivity, creativity, and even episodic memory. Studies have found that a short nap, one that falls within the first stage of sleep, and avoids the REM stage of sleep, can help ‘refresh’ the brain.

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The other good way to nap is to take a full nap in the 90-minute sleep cycle that dictates circadian rhythms, rather than waking up in the middle of REM sleep which is sure to make you groggy and irritable. Taking a short afternoon nap helps improve your work ethic and your productivity, ensuring that you do more and better work in the time you have, making it a time management essential.

5. Bunch Tasks Together Throughout the Day To Stay In The ‘Flow’

Bunching tasks together can be an extremely useful task when it comes to working on and improving your daily time management. Scheduling your day together so that groups of tasks are bunched together allows for your brain to stay entrenched in the same comfort zone for a longer period of time, rather than flitting from one disparate task to another.

Doing this encourages being in the ‘Flow’, a state of joyful productivity that encourages great work being done with an inherent sense of bliss and happiness, something that is easily desired and hard-won. Fortunately it is easier than ever to try and induce this ‘flow’ state, and bunching tasks together makes it easier to manage your day and to get everything you need to do done in those twenty four hours.

6. Schedule the Heck Out of Your Days

This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but properly scheduling your days is a must-have tool for top-quality time management. Proper scheduling can be a pain in the butt to go through but actually knowing exactly where you’re going and what you’re doing can help make the most out of your time. Scheduling is in effect forward thinking to a fine art – anticipating everything you need to get done in that day and making sure you have enough time to do it.

Planning your day ahead with a big diary or work planner can be extremely useful in terms of time management, as can ensuring that you check timetables of public transport, weather, every piece of potential information you need to take with you to work or to meetings. It might be associated with an extreme level of perfectionism, but the goal here is not perfection, but rather to give you the structure and time you need to deal with your day in the best way possible.

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7. Figure Out Exactly Where You Spend Your Time and Work On Improving It

We’re all guilty of wasting time. That isn’t a crime, per se, but it is an unfortunate area and habit to block if you want to be the most productive you can be, and embrace time management at its fullest. However, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t relax or unwind throughout your work day – we’re not supercharged, no-stop-taking machines, after all. So, as a compromise between your actual physical needs and your best psychological self, you need to figure out exactly where you spend your time on an average day and work on improving that.

For example, work on cutting out your commute time if possible, or utilizing that time to better effect, such as brainstorming ideas; work on fitting your physical workout time to a small amount every day instead of a marathon-long session at the end of a week that sucks up time. Streamlining your time makes you more efficient and easier to do everything you need to do and want to do in your day – that’s a key component of successful time management.

8. Use Your ‘Dead Time’ To Your Advantage

‘Dead time’ is a concept touted by books such as Tony Schwartz’s ‘Be Excellent At Anything’, is a way of making time management work to your purposes. ‘Dead time’ is the time spent when we’re just waiting or doing nothing without a real purpose; and that dead time can be useful in helping us to do little bits and pieces of big projects. If you need to review an album, take it on your mp3 player and listen to songs at a time when you’re stuck in the dentist’s office or at a quiet coffee break. Jot down ideas for your next big project when you’re waiting at the cinema to watch a movie.

The point of utilizing dead time is to use those random, useless moments to your advantage – that isn’t to say that free time itself is the enemy. Far from it; using your dead time will allow to engage fully in your well-deserved relaxation time, without fear of feeling guilty or ashamed, as if there is something more you should be working on. Make sure to make the most of your dead time, and you’ll have your time management skills on a whole new level.

9. Make Sure Never To Neglect Your Self Care and Your Mental Health.

Self-care is one of the most undervalued and yet important and central tenements of successful time management. It’s an expectation in the modern working world to always be working and be available – whether through work or through the many avenues of social media – but one of the most important things you can do every day, is to take care of your self and make sure you have a chunk of time carved out for you and you alone.

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Relaxation and self-indulgence alike both have restorative properties – meditation has proven to reduce stress levels, and a short ten-minute meditation session allows for greater productivity and overall happiness. Taking time out for yourself allows your body to rejuvenate and restore itself to the kind of mental, physical, and emotional state that allows for the best productivity and effective time management. In short, don’t feel guilty for taking time out to relax in the park with a book. You’re being your best self.

10. Learn How to Say ‘No’.

One of the most important and yet terrifying things you can ever do is say ‘no’. No to a project, no to a commitment, no to someone’s request.

It’s so easy to consider saying ‘no’ selfish – there’s always another demand, another request, another assignment or project you could pick up to your already overloaded plate. However, ‘burnout’ is a significant and terrifying psychological problem in which people become so overwrought with stress that they end up hating their work and even experience physical symptoms such as physical exhaustion. Burnout is a growing problem across the global workplace, and it has to be stopped.

Just say no. No one who actually cares will mind if you politely turn down their request, citing a too-busy schedule. Taking care of your mental health is top priority, so even if it feels awkward the first time, learn to say ‘no’ to the projects you don’t want to have in your life, and learn the art of keeping your work life simple. That’s the key to time management.

Featured photo credit: Limitless, Relativity Media via fitandstrongdads.com

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

The world has become a very distracting place, you don’t need me to tell you that. Where once we could walk out of our house or office and disappear into our own world with our own thoughts, we are now connected 24 hours a day to a network that’s sole purpose is to make us available to anyone and everyone at any time they choose to disturb us.

Of course, it is very easy to sit here and say all you have to do is turn off your electronic devices and just allow yourself several hours of quiet solitude; but the reality is far harder than that. There is an expectation that we are available for anyone whenever they want us.

However, if you do want to elevate yourself and perform at your best every day, to produce work of a higher quality than anyone expects and to regain control over what you do and when you will need to regain some control over your time, so you can focus on producing work that matters to you…

The good news: You do not have to become a recluse. All you need are a few simple strategies that will allow you enough flexibility in your day to stay focused to do the work that matters and still allow you to deal with other people’s crises and dramas.

Here are 7 ways you can stay focused and be less distracted.

1. Find out When You Are at Your Most Focused

According to research, brilliantly documented by Daniel Pink in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, our brains have a limited capacity to stay focused each day.[1]

From the moment we wake up to the time we turn in for the day, we are using up our brain’s limited energy resources and, depending on the time of day, we will be moving between strong concentration and low concentration.

This means that for most people, their optimum time for sustained concentration and focus will be soon after they wake up. For others, it could be later in the evening—a kind of second wind—but that is rare.

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Once you understand this, you can take time to learn when you are at your best and to protect that time on your calendar as much as possible. If you can, block it off and use that time for the work you need to do that requires the most concentration each day.

2. Get Comfortable Using ‘Do Not Disturb’ Mode

We have the ability to switch our electronic devices to do not disturb mode. Where all notifications are off and your phone or computer will not alert you to a new email or message.

Now after testing this function for a number of years, I can happily report that it does work.

When I sat down to write this article, I put all my electronic devices to do not disturb, closed down my email and began writing. I am safe in the knowledge that until this article is written, and I turn do not disturb off, there will be no interruptions or distractions.

Of course, it is not really about whether do not disturb works or not, it is whether you are willing to turn it on or not.

Most people believe they have to be constantly available for their boss or customers. This is not true at all. What has happened is because of your always available status, you have conditioned these people to turn to you first whenever they have a problem.

You are not actually helping them at all. You are preventing them from having to think for themselves and develop the skill of problem-solving. By not being so readily available, you help them a lot more.

What it comes down to is your boss and customers are going to be far more positive with you, if you deliver your work to the highest quality and on time than you being available 24/7. Trust me on that. I also tested that one.

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3. Schedule Focus Time Every Day

This technique is a lot easier than you may think.

First, you figure out when you are least likely to be disturbed. For me, that is between 6 and 9 am. for a lot of my clients, they find the first 90 minutes in the morning at their workplace is when they are not likely to be disturbed. This is important because you want to be building consistency.

Most people start their day by checking their email and other messages. While they are doing that, they are not going to be bothering you. Now there is no rule about when you should be checking your email. The chances are email is not going to be where you want to spend your most focused time, so you can decide to check your email at say 10:30 am.

Dedicate 30 minutes from 10:30 am to 11:00 am for email processing and use the first 90 minutes of your day for doing your most important work. You will surprise yourself by how much work you get done in that ninety minutes.

4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

One of the inevitabilities of life is there is always a plan for the day. The choice is whether the plan you have is a plan of your own making or not. If you don’t have a plan, then the day will take control of you. Other people’s priorities, urgencies and dramas will fill your day. As the late Jim Rohn said:

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

If you take control and make it a habit to plan out what you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, you will find yourself staying more focused on your work and be less likely disturbed.

Now when I say plan your day the night before, I do not mean you need to spend an hour or so planning and mapping out every minute of the day. Planning your day should only take you around 10 to 15 minutes and you only need to decide what 10 things you want to complete — 2 “must do” objective tasks and 8 “would like to do” tasks. What I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique:

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Do not be tempted to go beyond 10 tasks for the day. When you do that, you do not have enough flexibility in your day to handle crises and other unknown issues that will pop up throughout the day.

When you do not build in flexibility, you will soon stop planning your day. Only plan tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your work and projects.

5. Learn to Say “No”

I am sure you’ve been told this before. We are wired to please and this results in us wanting to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. The problem is we cannot do everything and every time you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to another opportunity. You cannot be in two places at the same time.

Jay Shetty shared an inspiring video on JOMO “Joy Of Missing Out”. Here’s the video:

Rather than allowing ourselves to be succumbed by FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), we should replace that ‘fear’ with the “joy” of missing out. Because of our need to please, we say yes to things we really don’t want to do; yet when we do that, we miss out on doing things that bring us joy—creating something special, spending time educating ourselves and just having some quiet alone time with ourselves.

Learn to say “no” every time you get a notification to your phone. Ignore it. Learn to say “no” to your colleagues when they want to gossip. Learn to say “no” to volunteering when the thing you are being asked to volunteer for does not excite you. Just learn to say “no”.

By saying “no” to opportunities, distractions and interruptions, you are saying yes to better and more meaningful things. Things you do want to focus your attention on.

6. Create a Distraction-Free Environment for Your Focused Time

This has been possibly the most powerful tip I learned when it comes to focusing on what is important. Have a place where you do only focused, high-concentration work.

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Now this place needs to be clean and only have the tools you need to do your work. If it is writing a report or preparing a presentation, then it needs a table and a computer, nothing more. Files, paper and other detritus that accumulates on and around people’s desks need to go. A clean, cool and well-lit environment is going to do a lot more for your focus and concentration than anything else.

The dining table in our home is where I go for undisturbed, focussed work. I take my laptop or iPad, and only have my writing app open. Everything is closed down and the computer is in “do not disturb” mode. There is nothing else on the dining table just my computer and my water tumbler.

Because that is my designated focus area, I only go there to work when I have something that needs total focus and concentration. I am there right now!

7. Be Intentional

The reality is, if you absolutely need to get something done then you need to be intentional. You have to have the intention of sitting down, focusing and doing the work.

There’s no magic tricks or apps that will miraculously do all your work for you. You need to intentionally set aside time for undisturbed focus work and do it. Without that intention, you can read as many of these articles as you like and you still will not get the work done.

It is only when you intentionally set yourself up to do the work, turn off all notifications and do whatever it takes to avoid distractions will the work get done.

The Bottom Line

The strategies and tips I shared in this post will go a long way to helping you become better at focusing on the important things in your life. No matter what they are, you are in control of your time and what you do with it and where you spend it, never give that control away to anyone else.

Protect it and it will be your servant. Give that control away and it will become your master and that is not a good place to be.

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Featured photo credit: Manny Pantoja via unsplash.com

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