“Days are expensive. When you spend a day you have one less day to spend. So make sure you spend each one wisely.” ~ Jim Rohn
I’m not sure I truly appreciated time until I had a child. I’ve always been ambitious and impatient to accomplish things quickly, but there’s nothing quite like waking up every 3-4 hours all night for months to help you realise you used to take things for granted…
When I look back at my pre-child life, I definitely took time for granted! I slept in on the weekends, I put chores off until they had to be done, and I didn’t enjoy the choices (aka freedom!) I had nearly as much as I should have. Isn’t hindsight 20/20!
But whether or not you have kids, chances are you could do with a bit more time. And given I can’t actually give you more time, I thought I’d share my very best time management and productivity secrets with you!
These fall into five broad time management categories:
- Slow It Down
- Carve Some Out
- Fit More In
- Use It Wisely
- Do Less
Slow it down…
“If you slow things down, you notice things you hadn’t seen before.” ~ Robert Wilson
“What on earth is she talking about?” I hear you say!
I’ve actually written about this before – there are two fabulous things you can do that change the way you perceive time. Effectively meaning that time will slow down for you.
I have been meditating every day for nearly two years, and there’s something remarkable that happens when you do this.
It isn’t actually during your meditation practice that the wonder happens (although it can be pretty neat), instead, it’s your ability to live in the moment during your regular day. This means instead of your life racing past you, you notice more. You see more. And consequently, your brain perceives that time is passing more slowly.
In addition, you are less likely to be stressed when your workload gets high. Stress can make time seem to pass faster.
Try new things
There’s a well-respected theory about why time seems to speed up as you age: it’s because you are experiencing fewer new things, and therefore creating fewer new memories. Your brain is spending more and more time in routines that are very well-worn. In other words, your brain is on auto-pilot.
Chip and Dan Heath have just released a new book all about The Power of Moments. In it, they explain why the art of moment-making is so important, including to the perception of time and the creation of new memories.
It doesn’t have to be as extreme as jumping from an aeroplane (although if that floats your boat…). It could be as simple as staying at a fairly nondescript motel with a popsicle hotline beside the pool!
Carve some out…
“Who you become today will determine what you are capable of creating tomorrow.” ~ Hal Elrod
Unless you really are burning the candle at both ends, you can probably afford to get up a bit earlier. Not just for the sake of getting up, but for the sake of investing some time in yourself.
For me, this takes about an hour. I get up, brush my teeth, splash some water on my face, drink a glass of water, drink a cup of coffee, meditate for 10 minutes, exercise for 10 minutes (or 20 if I’m listening to a podcast) and then I write for 30 minutes. I’m not sure how, but I usually write about 1,000 words in this magical time.
Then the rest of the household starts to wake…
Do I do it everyday? No. Should I? Absolutely. It sets up the entire day in an ultra accomplished, kicking-butt, frame of mind.
Fit more in…
“Each minute is a little thing, and yet, with respect to our personal productivity, to manage the minute is the secret of success.” ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin
For me this consists of two discrete things: matching the type of work to the energy I have at that time of day and creating bursts of focus with time for rest and reward in between.
Then the only thing that can stand in your way is procrastination…
I’m better at thinking and planning in the morning. By mid afternoon, I struggle to focus in long bursts, but I can think aloud in conversation with others. Needless to say, I tend to keep mornings meeting-free wherever possible, and get some deep work done. Then I’m really well-placed to have engaging purposeful meetings in the afternoon.
It doesn’t always work out that way, of course, but that’s what I aim for.
Pomodoro means ‘tomato’ in Italian, and the technique is named for a tomato-shaped timer that the method’s developer, Francesco Cirillo, used to break work down into 25 minute intervals, separated by short breaks.
You can choose the length of time that works for you, but keep it regular. For example, if you decide you want to work in 15 minute bursts, then a one hour piece of work will take 4 pomodoros – each separated by a brief break.
Use it wisely…
“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money but you cannot get more time.” ~ Jim Rohn
This is probably the aspect of time management that people think of more naturally. Making lists, prioritising, planning.
I use a bullet journal (I have a large one for my day job, and a smaller format one for my ‘non-work’ life) and I use them for planning and prioritising what I should be doing, and also for recording what I did do.
I’m one of those people that if I relied on to-do-lists alone for this, I’d spend as much time adding things I’ve already done to it (so I can cross them off) as I would actually work on the things that were on the list in the first place. To keep track of what I do accomplish, I simply add the achievement to the bottom of my day’s journal entry with an ‘x’ next to it (signifying that it’s complete).
Bullet journalling is great because it’s incredibly flexible. It works for annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily planning. It works for reminders (like birthdays, shopping lists and chores), for brainstorming, and for regular journalling (like keeping a diary).
To make the most of this technique, you do need to schedule time every week to plan ahead, and at the larger time intervals too. This is something I do on Friday afternoons for work, and Sunday afternoons for ‘non-work’.
At work, I also theme my days. This helps my assistant figure out what to schedule where, it helps me decide what to do next, and it helps me be in the right ‘mode’ for the day. As an introvert, for example, I know I have to push myself a bit harder on my “External Stakeholders” themed day.
“Less is more.” ~ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
This is possibly the most important of all.
You can’t do everything. So explicitly decide what you won’t do, rather than leaving it to chance.
Say ‘no’ a bit more often.
By the way, experience has taught me that there are a whole bunch of things that actually don’t need to be done. They get overtaken by events. Trust your gut, if you think about a piece of work and your mind says ‘wait and see’… go with that. Put it aside. You’d be surprised how often this happens to me.
What are your favourite time-management techniques and tips? Share below!
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