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Boost Your Time Management Skills With These 9 Techniques

Boost Your Time Management Skills With These 9 Techniques


    Having problems fitting it all in?

    Is a 24 hour day no longer enough?

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    If this is the case, here are 9 useful techniques that you can use to boost your time management skills:

    1. Be Clear about Goals and Objectives

    A sure way to delay in getting started or to make a job last longer than it needs to is being unsure about the objectives. You will often waste time doing work that doesn’t need to be done or spend too much time on other work. Before you set out get clarity on your goals and objectives.

    2. Schedule your Time

    If you want to have good time management skills, the first thing you will need is a calendar. Stuff has to get scheduled. If you don’t use a calendar then the dreaded jobs — like doing your taxes and cleaning the bathroom — will never get done. Start by scheduling the essential jobs, the appointments, meetings and any other responsibilities you are committed to. Then you will see how much time you have left over to populate.

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    3. Delegate When Possible

    If you find after doing up your schedule that there isn’t much time left over, then think about delegating work. If you work alone, get a virtual assistant. Remember what David Allen says:

    “Only do what only you can do.”

    4. Monitor How you Spend Your Time

    If getting a virtual assistant or anybody else to assist you isn’t an option, then you should start to monitor your time and see how you are spending it daily. You can use a monitoring program for this like Officemetrics or RescueTime. These programs can monitor all that you do on your computer and give you reports to show you how much time you spend on social media, email, Internet or any other work files. You may not like what you see…but it is always better to know.

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    5. Avoid Multitasking

    Human beings can’t multitask (no, not even women). Our brains have become good at task switching, but cannot actually focus on two things at once. If we try to do more than one thing at the same time we lose time refocusing on the new task. If at all possible, focus on one job at a time and complete it before moving on to something else.

    6. Do a Regular Mind Sweep

    Do a regular mind sweep where you get a piece of paper and write down everything you need to do. Don’t categorize it. Just dump it all onto a piece of paper. Don’t separate work and home; they don’t have different compartments in the brain. Once you have done this schedule, work on any jobs that need to get done and put the rest into your task management system.

    7. Exercise

    Remember if Branson thinks it’s important — you don’t argue. Branson reckons working out every day gives him 4 extra hours of productivity a day. Get regular exercise to give you energy, reduce your stress and help you to focus.

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    8. Eat Healthily

    Nutrition is also very important. During the day it is important to eat the right foods to keep you energized and focused. Regular small bites rather than a large meal will keep your brain more alert during the day. Don’t go large periods of time without eating. This will result in fatigue and poor mental abilities. Drinking water will also keep dehydration at bay and keep your body and mind happy.

    9. Slow down and breathe

    Lastly, don’t forget to slow down and breathe deeply as often as possible. Lack of oxygen will make you slow and sluggish, which will affect your performance. The more you rush about from task to task the less you will achieve.

    Take your time, focus on the right things, and your time management skills will be top of the class before you know it.

    (Photo credit: Farewell Atlantis via Shutterstock)

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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