Monday, October 28, 2013

8 Time Management Tips that Boost Productivity

I'm not going to talk about the basics of Time Management here.  We're not talking about creating to-do
lists, or filing, or prioritizing.  You should know that stuff by now or have access to numerous resources to help you understand the fundamentals.  What I do want to share with you are eight great insights into Time and your use of it, all aimed specifically at helping you be more productive.

We all have too much on our plates, and we all struggle with finding ways to get more done in our day. Although that tends to be a given, how we approach all of those tasks and how we manage them is not. Over my years of coaching and working with Managers and Executives from a variety of industries and in a variety of roles, I have had the opportunity to observe and learn from many of the best.  The list that follows are my distillation of their lesser known but absolutely key successful 'Time Management' habits.  I hope they help you to think of and look at time and productivity a little differently.

  1. There is no such thing as Time Management. This term is a misnomer preventing you from understanding that, in order to use your time effectively, you actually need to develop your skills in managing people, managing systems, managing technology, and managing you.  The better you are at managing these elements, the better use you will make of your time.
  2. All of your media has an off switch.  Use it.  Even shutting off from everything for one hour of completely uninterrupted time per day can give you a huge boost to your productivity.  
  3. Schedule time for interruptions.  Think of this as the equivalent of a professor's Office Hours.  The more you are able to create a set routine as to 'when' these times are, the more you, in essence, train others around you to respect them.  Conversely, use a Do Not Disturb sign for those times in which you absolutely will not welcome interruptions.  Fair warning to others around you!
  4. Know your energy cycles and schedule to them.  Plan to face your most difficult or challenging tasks during your Peaks, not when your energy and focus are crashing.  We all have our own unique rhythms.  Know when you are at your productive peak each day and use that time strategically.
  5. Timebox your activities.  This means that you assign a time limit to your activities.  Rather than going into a task with the thought that you will stick with it until it's done, assign an end time to it.  Typically you will find that it is easier to remain focused and you are able to get more done than if all tasks are left open-ended.  Urgency helps to drive focus.  
  6. Turn key tasks into habits. The more that you create automatic systems for your mind to latch onto, the faster you are able to get it in gear and slip into work mode.  I typically write better in the mornings.  When I have office days then, I have a set routine I follow when I first hit my desk that, essentially, tells my brain that it's writing time.  This allows me to slip into the mental space I need in order to write what needs to be written.  Without it, I flounder.  Create the habits you need to get your key tasks flowing faster and more effortlessly.
  7. Chunk and Batch.  Take large tasks and chunk them into smaller activities.  This creates manageable chunks of tasks that are easier to schedule and move through.  Batch similar chunks of activities together to take advantage of your brain grooves.  Different tasks require different types of thinking. Batching similar items together allows you to move through them more quickly because your brain is already in that mental groove.  Switching from one groove to another has a start-up time that you eliminate if you allow your brain to stay in a particular groove.   
  8. Take breaks.  I am a firm believer in the need to take regular, short breaks in order to refresh, recharge and refocus.  No muscle can operate at maximum capacity, without recovery periods, without crashing.  Your brain is no different.  Push it full out, then allow it a little recovery time, then push it again.  Adding in the breaks will make you more productive during the moments of focus, allowing you to get further with breaks than you ever did without.  
Try a couple of these ideas out for size.  In the end, it is really not about managing your time so much as it is about managing your productivity.  Try a couple of the ideas above out and let us know how they worked for you and feel free to also share a couple of your best productivity and time management ideas.

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