“How do you manage to fit so much into your day?”
It’s a common question in the productivity training world, and one that is going to have a different answer depending on who you talk to.
Of course I’d like to tell people that time management comes natural to me, that I don’t have any kind of time management system. I just do it without trying.
But… that’d be a huge lie.
You see I didn’t always use to be a productivity addict. There was a time in my life when I wasted a lot of time. Typical college stuff. Socializing, entertainment, fraternization – but we won’t get into all that.
There came a point in time where I needed to get things done. I was running a business of my own doing IT consulting, writing a golf instruction book (something I like to do on the side) and working on my MBA all at the time same. Between all of that, I had a lot of my plate, and goof off time was over.
That situation forced me to quickly develop systems that helped me get more done in less time. And you can do the same.
Here are a few elements of my system that you can use for yourself. Implement just one of these and you’ll find yourself getting a lot more done in your daily life.
Simple Strategies to Get More Done
Develop Ironclad Routines – Everyone has something that they do every day, and most likely multiple things. Your life is full of things that you do over and over. If you can recognize these things and develop standardized routines to follow to get them done, you’ll not only be able to get them done faster because you’ll be trained to do them on auto-pilot, but you’ll also do them more effectively, because you’ll be able to focus better on the task at hand.
Let’s use getting ready for work as an example. Here’s a typical scenario.
Alarm goes off. You hit the snooze button a few times. You finally wake up. You stumble through the dark house and grab a shower. You get dressed. You come out of the bathroom only to realize, “Shit, I have to leave in 7 minutes!”
So you skip your coffee, wolf down a bagel, forget to brush your teeth and drive to work feeling like a zombie.
Raise your hand if this happens to you more than once a week. Come on, don’t lie
A routine alone isn’t going to get you anywhere if it’s a crappy routine. This is where developing a well-thought-out time-efficient routine can be a great ally. Here’s a better scenario.
Alarm goes off. You pop out of bed fresh and clean because you grabbed a quick shower the night before. You start your coffee, then get dressed to the clothes you’ve already laid out. You make some instant oats, and by they’re ready your coffee is ready to go. You get some fuel in you, brush your teeth, and head out the door 10 minutes early, feeling awesome and ready to attack your day.
Compare the first routine vs. the second routine. Both are routines, but the second is packed full of ways to make getting ready in the morning much more efficient.
You can do this with all of your daily routines. By simply sitting down and thinking about the routines throughout your day and how you can make them more efficient, you can sometimes save yourself up to an hour each day.
Keep Organized Lists – Lists are a basic staple of any efficient time management system. By keeping a written record of things you need to do, you ensure you aren’t going to forget anything, but more so, you psychologically commit yourself to accomplishing your list.
Now, notice I said organized lists. By keeping a high level list of projects you are working on, then breaking those projects up into the smaller sub tasks of each project, you can easily consult your list and pick out a task to work on.
This eliminates the time you waste in the hustle and bustle of trying to figure out what you can get done, and also commits you to completing those items (inherently humans hate not getting to-do lists done).
That way you’re not sitting around thinking of things to do, and end up saying, well, the five words that kill your productivity.
TIP: Actually physically write down your projects and tasks and display them somewhere you can always see them. The act of writing things down coupled with the constant reminder of having them in plain sight will significantly enhance your drive to get things done.
Chunk Your Time – This goes along with the last strategy a bit. Chunking your time basically means focusing deeply on a task until you get it finished.
We all know that our attention spans start to fade after we focus on something for a certain amount of time, which is usually fairly short.
Some people can focus better than others, but the principle remains the same. Chunk your time into small enough increments where you can focus on something deeply, get it finished, take a break, then come back to your next task.
Chunk your time so you’re not stopping in the middle of a task. It will take you several minutes to hone back in on what you were doing. Try to organize your tasks and time so you’ll be able to get to a stopping point in a short enough amount of time where you’ll still be able to focus.
For most people, this starts to occur around an hour, but its different for everyone so figure out what your focus threshold is, and chunk your time and tasks around that.
Developing YOUR Systems
Everyone is different, so I can’t tell you exactly what your Routines, Lists, and Chunking will look like, but I can promise you that if you incorporate just these few simple time management strategies into your life, you’ll be significantly more productive, and have more free time to do the things you want to do.
By the way, I know it can sometimes be difficult to make a change like this in your life. Check out this post for a simple way to make change happen in your life.
To Your Success!