“I can make money, but I can’t make time.” I’m sure someone else said it first, but I hear this phrase most often from my husband when he talks about using time management tips to manage our free time and stay productive.
This infamous phrase highlights the importance of our most finite resource. In his compelling speech “Focus on One Thing”, Jim Rohn emphasized taking your work seriously and using your time wisely because you are “trading a piece of your life” for that moment or project.
Here are seven time management tips to be more productive:
1. Focus on One Thing at a Time
Although multitasking used to be glamorized as a superhero “do it all” ability, this Stanford study and numerous others have shown that efficiency and quality are compromised when individuals try to complete several tasks at once. Because they attempt to do multiple things at the same time, they don’t do any of them well. Instead, concentrate on the assignment at hand with laser focus.
2. Touch Things Only Once
When possible, complete projects in whole or in large chunks before moving on to the next. In my husband’s line of work, they call this concept “no go-backs”. Switching between projects requires one to reestablish focus for each project, and it takes a few minutes to enter back into a flow state each time. This drains mental energy, which is also a limited resource.
When dealing with simple tasks, use the two-minute rule. If it can be done in two minutes or less, do the task right away. If you’re in the middle of a big project, write it down and complete it in between meetings or projects. This will also free up your mental capacity because you’re not keeping your to-do list in the back of your mind while you work.
3. Plan Your Time and Block it Out
Successful people manage their time proactively, not reactively. Instead of wandering through the day and reacting to things as they come up, they plan their days around their goals. For example, I view my eight-hour work day as the opportunity to complete one large project, two three-hour projects, and one two-hour project, or four two-hour projects, etc. View your time in projects rather than as time to complete your long list of miscellaneous to-dos.
Entrepreneurs especially benefit from project-based time management because they don’t have the structure of showing up to work at the same time every day. Create a structure where there is none by setting a regular schedule, planning ahead, and blocking out your time in chunks.
4. View Your Time as Money
Just as successful people budget their money and spend it intentionally, use time management tips to budget your time and use it purposefully. Similar to calculating return on investment, assess which areas you spend time on provide you with the biggest return by bringing you closer to your goals. Wasting time is like rolling a car window down and throwing hundred-dollar bills out the window.
This Harvard Business Review study tracked how 27 CEOs of multi-billion-dollar companies spent their time for three months. Their executive assistants were asked to schedule and report on their time in 15-minute increments. One of the key findings from the study was that CEOs set strong agendas based on their priorities.
A great resource for visualizing how you spend your time is the Wheel of Productivity. Completing this chart was very eye-opening for me and helped me ensure that I’m optimizing all my 24 hours. Allocate time for sleep, exercise, reading, working, and family. Try to include activities that move you toward your long-term goals every day, in addition to your necessary day-to-day activities.
5. Focus Your Priorities and Say No
In this episode of MarieTV, renowned business and life coach Marie Forleo says the key to doing it all is to not. She encourages people to get crystal clear on their priorities and then say no to any distractions outside of them. This is the key to ensuring that what you really want to accomplish will actually get done. Match every opportunity or activity against your goals and see if they truly add value. Turn down the ones that don’t.
6. Automate Mundane Tasks
Research suggests that up to 40% of our daily activities are based on habits. Build strong habits that move you toward your goals into your daily routine. Automate the mundane to free up time and mental energy to focus on the important things. Everyone has a limited daily supply of mental energy, so spending part of it on mundane tasks will make less of it available for more important items.
7. Be Productive, Not Busy
“Be productive, not busy” is a taken from a great BossBabe quote I have often used for motivation. Productivity is key. Many people like the superficial feeling of being busy because it makes them feel important. However, focusing on being productive will better lead to sustained satisfaction because you’ll have tangible results as a reward for your efforts.
Build productive habits (start with these ones suggested by a fellow BossBabe) and optimize your time by implementing these time management tips. Doing so will help you accomplish your goals more efficiently and with better quality. After a while, you will appreciate time as your most valuable resource.