10 Time Management Tips to Help You Organize Your Time Better
1. Plan! Plan! Plan!
The first and most important tip in our list of time management tips is about planning.
Surely, by now you already know that planning is important. But did you know that researchers have shown that writing things down stimulates cells at the base of our brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS)?
The RAS works as a filter for all things going through our brain. It gives priority to those things that are currently active – or said in other words – we seem to do the things we have written down before anything else.
Since we were kids we haved learned the value and purpose of writing things down – in order to remember and learn. That’s probably also why most succesful people still carry a notebook with them.
The digital era has transformed our notebooks into digital organizers – and our calendars into shared calendars on the web. All topped up with a large range of apps with the same purpose: to plan and remember things. Simply because we need it – no matter if it is a digital or paper based.
Planning is the single most important item when it comes to time management – and for optimizing and focusing on what truly matters in our lives. So Write it Down and Make it Happen.
2. Stop multi-tasking
We often fool ourselves by thinking that when we multi-task we are able to do a lot of work in less time. However, the reality is different. When we try to multi-task we actually stress ourselves. And most of the time we leave tasks unfinished, since we don’t engage ourselves completely in finalizing the task at hand.
There is clearly a correlation between productivity and multi-tasking. Research reveals that only 2% of people are good at multi-tasking. If you feel like being among the lucky 2%, we secretly envy you for that.
For the rest of us, a staggering 98% (!), multi-tasking is in fact stealing our time. So if you want to step up your productivity game, you better stop joggling. Do one thing at a time only – and you will soon realize that you feel more content with your results and that time will be on your side.
3. Prioritize tasks
Since multi-tasking is not the solution we have to understand that some things are more important than others. You need to prioritize your tasks. As Cary J. Green says: Everything is not important. There are a lot of techniques that can help you prioritize your tasks. Below, we have picked two of the important ones for you.
4. Eat the frog – aka. “ Do the hard things first”
We often tend to avoid the difficult and complicated tasks – because they require more of us: more time, energy and motivation to complete. However, if you start the day by completing these tasks, you will feel more satisfied and even more motivated to do the rest.
You may think of the things that you do not want to do as “frogs”. And it’s exactly those you have to eat first.
“If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day. “
— Mark Twain
5. Complete quick tasks immediately
We have the tendency to convince ourselves that small things can wait – and that we have more important stuff to do right now. Focusing on the important thing right now gives us the comfort that we are more productive because we work on the more time consuming things.
However, we may suddenly end up with a big pile of small things which are just waiting to be completed. We’re not saying that completing small quick tasks is the key to scale productivity. But by getting the small and quick wins in the beginning of the day, our day just got easier.
There is an ongoing discussion of the pros and cons of focusing on the quick tasks vs. eating the frog. Some authors support the fact that our brains get more motivated and raises attention, since achieving goals release dopamine.
Bottom line: finishing quick tasks almost instantly when they appear, is a great method for saving time and increasing productivity. It’s also supported by the Getting Things Done methodology. They advocate that you should complete the task right away if it takes less than 2 minutes.
6. Clean your desk
Try to have minimalistic setup, when it comes to your desk. Keep your desk tidy, and stick to the few things you actually use.
Limit the distractions that are in front of our eyes. It may be a small effort – take the pile of sticky notes, old printed documents from last year and the bunch of old magazines and archive them somehow. They are anyway going to the trash sooner or later.
And stop collecting things, souvenirs or pictures. It’s old-school and it only distracts your focus and results in time wasted on day dreaming.
7. Remove distractions
Your desk is now clean and tidy. Now it’s about time to remove all other distractions. You may switch off the data on your phone, while you are working on the computer (you are already online!). With no push notifications craving your attention, you will be able to focus 100% on what you are doing – and not suddenly finding yourself scrolling down to find the bottom of Instagram.
Clear up your browser is the next step. There’s so much content on the internet – and we’d like to keep being informed about everything all the time. That’s why we quickly end up with more than 10 tabs open – convincing ourselves that we will get back and read them in more detail later. What in fact happens is that we switch between tabs and work on 1 to 2 of them maximum. Charlie Gilkey has written a great article about the “Two-tab rule” and why we should work on 2 tabs only in order to stay focused.
8. Limit your mail-checking to 3 times per day
Don’t keep your inbox open all day long. Check it when you arrive at the office in the morning. A second time after lunch. And eventually 10 minutes before you leave the office.
If you can reduce checking your mail to 3 times per day, you won’t miss any information. Instead you will end up saving time from unnecessary peaks in your inbox from time to time. If you feel like your inbox is getting flooded by subscriptions, why not unsubscribe from the irrelevant ones? You can use Unroll.me which is a great way to bundle the not-so-important emails to a daily round-up – as well as unsubscribe to all those diet blogs and newsletters from the local shopping mall, where you filled in your email to win a vacation to Hawaii three years ago.
9. Use the Pomodoro technique
Let’s loudly applause Francesco Cirillo for his contribution to time management with the Pomodoro technique. Basically you use a timer to break down work in intervals of 25 minutes, where you focus on a single task. You then give yourself a short break and do another 25 minutes of work. There are few authors talking about the benefits and weaknesses of the pomodoro technique, but one thing is for sure: it’s worth giving a try.
10. Sleep properly
The recommended 8 hours of sleep may be a myth, but researchers have proved that our brain is more efficient after a good night rest. So in order to be more productive, focused and creative we need our brain to rest.
Other researchers advocate that 8 hours of sleep is not necessarily the right thing for everyone. However, they do suggest to stay away from artificial light at least an hour before you get to sleep, keep your bedroom dark and silent, and get some fresh air. With these surroundings, your body will soon provide the right signals on how much sleep it actually needs.
We hope you found some of these time management tips and techniques useful. Try to stick with a few of them for a week or two and they will intuitively become habits.
And who knows!? You may even find time for a new hobby then 😊
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