One of the most common requests I get from clients is for useful time management tips. While not everyone feels the pull to succeed more (and play video games, etc, less), most have at least an inkling of desire to get more out of each day.
The Most Effective Time Management Tips I’ve Used:
I’m not going to give out any gifts like a top 10 list of productivity tools you can download and use to turn your life around. I call these things “gifts” because there’s really no shortcut to effective time management. What I mean is that you need to make the sacrifices. You need to force yourself to focus and get your butt outta bed earlier, if you hope to become better at managing your time.
Search Google for “Time Management Apps” or “Time Management Tools” and you’ll find more software — smartphone apps, browser extensions and native desktop downloads than you could ever reasonably expect to try in this life. This post is about getting your mindset on track and doing the things that have a measurable impact, to get the outcomes you want most out of your life and work.
1. “No” is the most powerful time management tool you have.
Above all else, start each day off with the confidence to say “no” when something — anything — is thrown in front of you that will distract you from ticking goals off your big list. This is advice that’s often uttered and repeated, yet rarely followed.
There’s a lot of worry that comes along with refusing people’s requests. It’s also hard to pass up on an opportunity to have fun or indulge in anything other than the dreaded work monster that lays before us. Not to mention, it’s easy to persist onward on a failing project that is going nowhere because you refuse to be a “quitter.”
How to say “no” effectively (to yourself and others) to boost productivity:
- Be blunt rather than offering creative excuses to requests that you don’t have time for.
- Be honest with others and yourself when you simply don’t have the time or inclination.
- Say no, but don’t close doors — reassure those you reject that you might be able to help in the future.
- If you don’t have time to watch a television program or go chill with friends, simply do not do it.
- Stop wasting time on things that aren’t going the way expect them to — trust your gut rather than your ego!
Saying no can hurt the first few times you do it. Some people will get angry, that’s life. It gets easier and you’ll gradually learn how to soften the blow when rejecting others. Doing something for others or yourself when it doesn’t move things forward will just make you miserable in the end.
Honesty gets more respect than bull crap — nuff’ said!
2. Prioritise and delegate.
I’m assuming the majority of you weren’t raised with the need/desire to be productive. Had you been taught how to be busy, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. I don’t blame you; I was a real productivity putz when I started working from home as a content creator and editor back in 2009.
It’s tough to line up those ducks in the proper order each and every day. However, you need to nail down a prioritised to-do list every day. If you don’t, you’ll always feel disappointed with the results you achieve when that day ends.
How to prioritise and delegate effectively:
- Read First Things First by Stephen Covey, to learn how to craft the most effective to-do list every day.
- I always do the things that must get done that day first — regardless if those tasks are the easiest/least stressful.
- Start working in the morning before distractions start to work their way into your consciousness.
- Never check your phone, emails, click intriguing click-bait ads, or organise your Netflix queue while working!
- Use paid services like Fiverr for online freelancers, and apps like TaskRabbit or the litany of shopping and labor apps out there, to get the menial time-sinks out of the way.
It goes without saying that time is money. If you’re not an electrician, you shouldn’t be wiring in a new circuit breaker in your basement! The time it takes you to do things that it takes a professional years to learn does nothing to increase productivity.
Being “cheap” actually just robs you of time you can never get back and this goes for the crappy soul-sucking work you can easily delegate.
3. Watch the clock dammit!
One of the best ways to be more productive is to start watching the clock. People who work in a factory or other kind of job that tends to be soul-crushing hate watching the clock count down. Choose to do this when you’re stuck doing things you don’t like and agony always sets in. However, when you’re geared toward success in your business and life endeavours, you need to be hyper-vigilant about racing against the clock.
This device can be a powerful motivator once you’ve watched 6:00 am turn to 6:00 pm and nothing has been done, day after day, month after month. Some experts recommend setting a time for each task when you’re writing out your to-do list. I personally don’t find this very effective.
As a quality content creator, putting time limits on the work I do generally leads to poor quality results. I recommend to work as fast as you can and, if the type of tasks you’re doing can have a reasonable completion time attached to them, go ahead and get out your stopwatch. Make a game of it, but remember that it’s anything but at the end of the day.
How to make the clock your friend instead of your foe:
- Set an end time for the day before starting to work (“all good things…”)
- Time trackers can be helpful, but don’t get too reliant on using time management apps and expecting auto-pilot-like results.
- Focus on the task at hand; nothing else matters.
- Laser focus on everything that needs to be done, and use the clock as a motivator when concentration wanes.
- Congratulate yourself whenever things get done ahead of schedule.
4. White noise is productivity’s best friend.
We all know distractions are a time management killer. Productivity goes way down when we can hear voices talking or singing around us. Jackhammers hammering away outside your office don’t help you get things done more efficiently, right?
I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of a wide array of musical genres. My favorites are heavy metal, classic soft rock, modern country and perhaps my #1 fave is vocal trance — the kind you’ll hear in an ASOT episode. However, none of these are particularly great for increasing productivity. Nor are any of the many wonderful podcasts available on the Interwebs currently good for time management.
The only thing you should be listening to is music or “white noise” without the vocals. It’s a well studied and widely proven fact that vocals mess with concentration levels. I’m going to go against my earlier promise and recommend a few helpful sources you can use to get music and background noise that’s free of vocals:
- Noisly: This app runs in your browser, so it does use some bandwidth.
- White Noise: A best seller with lots of free tracks and available on all platforms.
- SoundCloud: Tons of background noise and music to listen to for free on this browser-based app.
5. Sleep enough — but not too much!
I could link to a bunch of studies and try telling you that 6 hours isn’t enough. To try and convince you that 8 hours is way too much and that science insists you need to cut that number by 30 minutes to get the optimum amount of sleep. Truth is, sometimes human beings just have to listen to what our brain and body is telling us.
Do you feel cloudy-headed in the morning when you wake up? Do you feel refreshed after your morning coffee and danish, yet crash before 11-bells hit? We can feel groggy and unproductive for several reasons including anxiety, diet, and lifestyle choices.
You could be eating too much sugar, drinking too much booze or caffeine, smoking too much tobacco or taking in God-level doses of varied narcotics. You could be getting too little, or too much sleep (for your individual needs). How can a blog on the Internet possibly tell you what’s got you dragging your heels?
If all the normal factors align, you’re tired and unfocused and you’re a hard working person who’s willing to put in a grind every day, you’re likely not getting enough sleep. If the sun’s up well before you are every day, chances are good that you’re wasting your unlimited promise by laying in bed, while the sun’s rays are burning up the minutes of your life.
How to get the right amount of sleep to boost productivity:
- Go to bed earlier, and try to go to bed looking forward to the work that lays ahead tomorrow morning.
- Don’t use the snooze — set the alarm for the time you need to get up and then get up.
- Consider wearing foam earplugs if you’re easily awoken — they’re reusable and you can clean them with alcohol pads, too.
- Don’t drink booze — even a little disrupts R.E.M. sleep patterns, which kills next-day concentration levels.
- Avoid all stimulants before bed including nicotine, caffeine, sugar — and all the illegal stuff!
That’s all I have for you guys today.
Thanks for stopping in!
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You’re the best,