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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 April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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