Let’s admit it right away – we would all love to be a bit more productive. Not even Elon Musk is an exception to this rule.
And granted, there are things we could certainly be doing better – i.e., more productively.
If we were to look at the cross-section of opportunities for improving productivity across a wide range of people working in various industries, time management would likely be the number one improvement all of them could implement.
Simply put, time is the only thing all of us have in the same quantities – both Elon Musk and yourself are given the same gift of 24 hours. What you choose to do with it is what makes all the difference.
With that said, here are four-time management hacks that will help you get the most of your day:
- Set no more than 3 tasks at a time
- Monitor your time and see where you are spending it
- Add breaks to your schedule
- Tune out the distractions
- Final thoughts
Set no more than 3 tasks at a time
The one very wrong thing with making huge to-do lists is their sheer size.
You may need to get 72 things done in a day, but looking at the entire thing will make you want to give up and crawl back to bed as soon as you roll out of it. To avoid that daunting and dreadful feeling, create smaller lists. It will definitely be a plus for a time management hack.
Have a separate list for separate parts of your life
Don’t put everything you need to get done on the same piece of paper, be it virtual or actual.
Have a to-do list for each work project, a shopping list, a list of things you need to get done at the house, and so on.
You can create one master list for each ‘compartment’ of your life.
Choose three tasks that can’t wait
Depending on what you want to start doing, select the three most important things on the appropriate list, and only focus on them. Pretend there is nothing else to do all day, and that these three tasks are it. You can also make them even smaller and create little milestones for each of the three tasks.
Once you are done with them, you will instantly feel better about your day – you have accomplished something already, and moving on to the next three tasks will no longer seem as challenging.
This way, you will start to accomplish much more in a day than you could previously have imagined.
Monitor your time and see where you are spending it
Think of time as a currency: you have so much of it, and every minute of it should be spent where you want it and where you feel it will return the most value.
Just like you wouldn’t keep spending your paycheck on low-quality clothes that fall apart in the first wash, or food that makes you sick, don’t spend your time where you don’t want and need it.
Knowing how to spot the activities that are making you sick and disintegrating in the washing machine can be the challenge, though.
Take a look at your calendar
Your calendar is the best place to start when trying to determine where your time is being spent. If you use an app like Google Calendar, most of your activities should be listed there already. The downside is that you can’t get a suitably comprehensive overview from the app itself, so it’s best to export all of your data to Excel, and group similar activities together.
That way, you will easily spot how much time is spent at work and on which tasks, and you’ll know what you need to reorganize and how. The same goes for shopping, spending time online, etc. Time management is also about knowing where the time has been spent.
Check your phone time
We’re all guilty of spending too much time on our phones, so to help you tackle this major productivity killer, it’s best to install an app that will monitor your phone use. Once you see that you’ve been spending more than 3 hours a day on YouTube, you will soon realize just why you’re having difficulty keeping up with the rest of your schedule.
Add breaks to your schedule
Productivity is all about getting things done well in as little time as possible. It’s not about rushing things or about taking extra time to get something done: the key is in optimizing both the input of time and the output of quality.
In order to produce quality, you will need to be rested and ready for each new task. And if you keep going from task to task with little or no planned breaks and reboots in between, you won’t be performing well.
Schedule a break like you would a meeting
If you add a break (be it for scrolling through Instagram, watching TV, listening to music, reading a book) to your schedule, and actually take time out of your day to reboot, several positive things will happen.
First, you will know at any given moment a break is coming, and you will be feeling much less stressed.
Also, you will no longer need to ‘break’ in your free time: meaning that each waking hour can now be spent where you want it to, and you can get everything done – including watching Netflix.
Tune out the distractions
Even though most of us believe we are excellent multitaskers, we are, in fact, not. Switching your focus from one task to another will only disrupt your focus, and you won’t actually be able to do two things at once with the same level of quality.
To avoid disruptions that demand your attention, turn off all of your notifications when working on something: phone, email, all apps, and messages. Put out a “do not disturb” online and offline if you need to, just so everyone will know you are focusing and deep in work.
Nothing bad will happen if you reply to an email 30 minutes later, or wait 45 minutes to return a call. On the contrary, you will get things done, and will consequently feel much better about the attention you now need to pay to something else.
Improving yourself will help you improve every aspect of your life – including your business. Instead of trying to do more in less time, focus on being more productive in the same amount of time. You’ll soon notice and appreciate the difference.