In time management, there is certain advice that is repeated over and over again. These lessons have become a “de-facto” standard in the time management industry.
Although I think that this advice is important to understand and implement in your everyday life, at times I don’t necessarily agree with all these lessons.
1. Take massive action
I can’t remember how many times I have heard this advice and why you should take massive action – yet this lesson can be easily misunderstood and implemented the wrong way.
Rather than taking blindly massive action, understand your goal, pick an important task (or tasks) related to your goal and take massive action on that instead.
Taking massive action for its own sake is just silly. You can waste time and energy if you focus your efforts to the wrong tasks.
Take smart and focused massive action instead of just massive action.
2. Improve your productivity with The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a very popular productivity system and it is based on working in short bursts of time (25 minutes which equals one Pomodoro).
The basic premise is that you can improve your productivity, because those time blocks are very focused and condensed. Also, having breaks between sessions gives a good rhythm to your work and most likely you won’t lose your attention span.
I’m not into Pomodoro – at least not in every situation.
For instance, my ideal working block is 45 minutes (sometimes it is even longer). By using that amount of time I’m
- Able to get a lot of work done
- I’m still able to focus to my task at hand (I’m not losing my attention span)
- I’m not violently stopping my work mode after 25 minutes
This is just to say that even if the Pomodoro technique may work for some, it’s not my ideal way of working.
Although you should improve your own working routines by using a solid system, it is also worth testing the system first and then decide if it’s for you or not.
Whatever the system is that you are learning about (whether it is Pomodoro, GTD …), you still need to apply it to your own personal conditions and tweak it to your needs.
3. Focus on your strengths, not weaknesses
In an ideal world you would be able to only focus on your strengths and forget your weaknesses. But believe me – it is useful to focus on your weaknesses too!
For example, if you are a shy person and lack of social skills, do you think you should just forget of overcoming your shyness and improving yourself? Of course not!
In fact, there are examples of people (like those shy ones), who have turned their weaknesses into their strengths and now they teaching how you can do the same (like Kent Sayre, author of the book Unstoppable Confidence).
If your weakness is making your life harder, it is worth figuring out if you can do something about it. And although you should focus on improving your strengths, you shouldn’t completely ignore your weaknesses either.
4. “Work smart, not hard”
The promise of this common phrase is that when you work smart, you make the right decisions, reduce your stress levels and get the right things done. However, sometimes I feel that it is an excuse for not working at all.
Even if it is okay to work smart it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work hard at all. In fact, you are still required to work hard – but instead on the things that make the most difference!
Working smart doesn’t give you excuses to slack off. It is only giving you the right area to focus on and direct where you should put all your efforts (which generates the great results).
5. Do not multitask
Multitasking is the root of all evil – especially when it comes to your productivity.
This is a very common lesson in time management circles and I agree with this advice. Yet, multitasking serves its purpose if done properly.
I understand that writing an e-book while checking your Facebook page is not going to help you to get that e-book done. But in some other scenarios, multitasking might come very handy.
I learned about taking advantage of multitasking by reading a book called Find Your Focus Zone (by Lucy Jo Palladino). There she introduced the concept that she calls mindful multitasking.
The basic idea behind the term is that when you multitask, you are aware that you productivity level is going to decrease. Yet, you multitask, because it helps you to put yourself back to your focus zone.
For instance, I have used this technique when I have been working on mundane data entry tasks. I need some stimulus to get the work done and one way to do it is to do something other than your main task at hand. So, if checking my Facebook page can help me to get the data entry work done (and get me back to my focus zone), so then be it!
Also, you can seamlessly multitask in other occasions – like rehearsing your presentation you are giving the next day while you are exercising or thinking about new blog post ideas when in the shower. So multitasking – when used mindfully and intelligently – can maximize your time usage.
Although it is important to understand the basic time management theories, it is also crucial to take a critical look at them. Don’t always take things for granted. Put those theories to the test and see if they are beneficial in your particular situation.
(Photo credit: Crossed Fingers Behind Back via Shutterstock)