It’s for good reason that the ‘time management’ industry is a multi-million dollar business. Apps, calendars, digital diaries and organisation tools abound – each one promising to help you gain greater control over the measly 24 hours in a day. Unfortunately, mastering time management isn’t as easy as downloading an app. Getting the most out of your work day – when you’re confronted by constant interruptions, an intimidating to-do list and running on six hours of sleep – requires some insight into your relationship with time.
Mastering your time – even if you have a fire drill, lock your keys in your car and have a surprise visit from your biggest client – is possible
While you might feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, there are ways to up your time management skill sand keep your sanity intact. Just like finding the right kind of eating plan – which for one person may be Paleo, and another, raw food only – the tools that work for you will differ from those that work for a colleague. We’ve compiled various time management methods that you can adopt – and then adapt – to suit your needs.
Use the 80/20 principle to work smarter, not harder
Merely rethinking the way you prioritise your to-do list can be enough to up your productivity and quality of work. By adhering to the 80/20 rule, you’ll be able to determine – at a glance – what to do, when. Making the most out of this principle requires separating the ‘important’ from the ‘valuable’. The 20% encompasses the latter – the projects, tasks and people that are of the most value and should therefore be prioritised. “The other tasks, projects, and relationships (the ‘80’) are not unimportant, but they are less important”,says time management maestro Dr Todd Dewett. The majority of time management issues arise purely because people spend most of their day on the 80%, instead of on the 20%. Dewett advises that no more than 50% of your time should be spent on the ‘important but not critical’ tasks; instead, delegate, automate or outsource these where possible.
Find your ‘Einstein window’ to get more done (better) in a fraction of the time
Coined by Dewett, your Einstein window is the time of day when you’re most alert, focused and inspired. In other words – and to paraphrase Oprah – “the best version of yourself”. For some, this is first thing in the morning – while the chaos of the day is still in dreamland. I know people who swear by their hour alone in the office first thing in the morning, citing these 60 minutes as their most productive out of the whole day. Finding your daily sweet spot may take some trial and error. Take some time to notice when you’re at your best in the next couple of days. This is the time you need to devote to the 20%.
Set boundaries – for yourself – and others – in order to get the most out of your Einstein window
If you take out insurance on a car, a family heirloom or your household contents, but fail to protect the time that’s your most productive, your thinking is flawed. Without setting up ways to protect your Einstein window, you’ll soon lose sight of it, and any semblance of time management will fly out of the window. Bear in mind that your colleagues will have their own list of priorities, which are probably (and should be) vastly different to yours. Respect these, and it will be reciprocated. As Jason Fried, founder of several collaboration-based companies noted in his TED talk: Why work doesn’t happen at work so wisely reminds us: “There are very, very few things that are that urgent, that need to happen, that need to be answered right this second.”; if your colleagues know that knocking on your door between the hours of 10 and 11 is not an option, you’ll have a far higher chance of being left in (relative) peace to squeeze every last drop out of your most productive time.
When these methods are combined with time management tools like daily planners or productivity apps, a more productive, less stressed work day is on the horizon.
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