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5 Common Time Management Truths That Can Make You Unproductive

5 Common Time Management Truths That Can Make You Unproductive


    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.

    SEE ALSO: Boost Your Time Management Skills With These 9 Techniques

    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.

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    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

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    • 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).

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    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.

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    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.

    In Closing…

    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)

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

    How about a unique spin on things?

    These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

    1. Empty your mind.

    It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

    Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

    Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

    Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

    How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

    2. Keep certain days clear.

    Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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    This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

    3. Prioritize your work.

    Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

    Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

    Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    4. Chop up your time.

    Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

    5. Have a thinking position.

    Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

    What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

    6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

    To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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    Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

    7. Don’t try to do too much.

    OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

    8. Have a daily action plan.

    Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

    Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

    9. Do your most dreaded project first.

    Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

    10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

    The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

    11. Have a place devoted to work.

    If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

    But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

    Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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    Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

    12. Find your golden hour.

    You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

    Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

    Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

    Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

    13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

    It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

    By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

    Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

    14. Never stop.

    Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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    Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

    There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

    15. Be in tune with your body.

    Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

    16. Try different methods.

    Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

    It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

    Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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