The level of your productivity largely depends on how well you utilize time. It means that becoming efficient and getting things done on schedule is impossible without effective time management.
But what is time management?
Simply put, it’s the process of distributing your time across a variety of tasks and activities so that the achievement of goals and positive results come with no significant trouble. This process includes:
- Work organization,
- Focus promotion,
- And better control over the use of time.
In this article, we’ll list the ten best time management techniques that will help you plan your tasks, concentrate on everything that matters most and keep track of your progress. Be sure to try them out to attain the desired productivity boost and achieve more in less time.
1. The Ivy Lee Method
To-do lists are one of the most popular techniques we utilize to plan tasks. But having an endless list of objectives is often overwhelming and rather pointless. Like in the case of any effective time management technique, there must be a well-functioning system behind the making of to-do lists, and the Ivy Lee Method is here to provide it to you.
The technique comprises five simple steps:
- At the end of the workday, create a list of the six most important tasks you want to complete tomorrow. Six is the maximum. However, you can write down three or four things if you wish.
- Prioritize all the items on your list. Task 1 will be the most crucial of them, and Task 6 — the least significant.
- At the beginning of the next workday, focus on Task 1 and jump on Task 2 only after it’s done.
- Move throughout the list in the same manner. If some items are left on the list by the evening, include them in your to-do list for the next day.
- Repeat the process throughout the week.
The Ivy Lee Method has been in use for over a hundred years, and during this period, it proved to be very useful. This simple technique not only keeps you organized but also promotes productivity and reduces decision fatigue.
2. Priority Pyramid
To make use of the technique, draw a pyramid and divide it into three blocks: Priority 1 (P1), Priority 2 (P2) and Priority 3 (P3), like in the picture below. Then, write the names of all your tasks on sticky notes and distribute them across the different sections of the pyramid. Less important and urgent tasks should be placed at the bottom, and your main priorities — at the top.
This way, the Priority Pyramid helps you identify all the tasks you need to focus on first as you’re working (the P1 items). Once completed, these tasks move out of the pyramid and are marked as done. Meanwhile, the P2 and P3 tasks gradually go upwards and take their place at the top.
This workload visualization principle makes the Priority Pyramid an excellent tool for planning and organizing the work process. Moreover, it assists in staying focused on the essentials.
3. To-Don’t Lists
Tired of never-ending to-do lists? Try creating a short but helpful to-don’t list then. The idea behind this technique is simple — instead of writing down all the things you need to accomplish, crossing them off and continually repopulating your list with new items, just identify several activities, tasks or habits that you could strike out your life once and for all.
The goal here is to focus on things that make you utilize time ineffectively: playing online games while at the office, working on weekends and neglecting family needs, checking on new emails every fifteen minutes, etc. Paying attention to stuff that eats up the time you could spend more productively, you have a greater chance to modify your behaviors in a positive way, improve your work-life balance and show more progress at work.
4. The Eisenhower Matrix
Many of us tend to prioritize tasks based on urgency alone. However, according to Stephen Covey, the creator of the Eisenhower Matrix, such an approach is counterproductive and only makes us spend less time on crucial things.
To get out of the urgency trap, analyze your tasks in terms of both urgency (the need to take immediate action) and importance (the extent of a task’s contribution to your long-term goals). Then, identify which part of the Eisenhower Matrix these tasks fall under:
- Do First — Urgent and important tasks that have well-defined deadlines. The consequences of failing to complete them on time are usually quite severe and unpleasant. Example: handling a software engineering project for a client.
- Schedule — Important but not urgent things with no or overly long deadlines. Everything that’s easy to procrastinate on but helps you fulfill your objectives and goals. Example: professional development activities.
- Delegate — Not essential but urgent tasks that have to be completed but can be done well by somebody else. In other words, a routine type of work. Example: emailing, blog post scheduling.
- Eliminate — Neither essential nor urgent activities that only distract you from actual work and slow down the progress. Example: mindless screen time, video games.
The Eisenhower Matrix is particularly useful in case you have intense workloads. It helps understand which responsibilities are worth your full attention and which can be postponed without much harm. In other words, it fosters a better work-life balance, reduces stress and makes you more organized.
5. Eat the Frog
To ensure you advance towards your goals and don’t spend all your time on insignificant matters, you may want to Eat the Frog. Even if you’re a vegan, there’s no reason to worry — despite the name, this time management technique is absolutely friendly to your kind. It serves to help you identify the most demanding and vital task for the following day and then commit to it first thing in the morning. That’s it.
By repeating this two-step process every day throughout the week, you’ll be less prone to postpone the job you’re reluctant to do, procrastinate and show fake productivity. Besides, setting just one priority and focusing on it during your productivity peak hours, you’ll eliminate distractions and increase your performance multifold.
6. Time Blocking
Time blocking is all about dividing the whole of your working time for a day into several blocks of uninterrupted focus and allocating each of these blocks to either one task or a series of similar activities:
- Create a work plan for a day.
- Prioritize tasks and estimate how much time it will take you to complete them.
- Develop a schedule: define time blocks for each piece of work and place the ones created for the priority tasks at the beginning of your day.
A schedule designed following this principle promotes single-tasking and reduces the periods of “open-ended reactivity” that make us distracted and kill focus. Thereby, time blocking produces immense benefits, including better work organization, higher efficacy and a significant productivity boost.
7. The Pomodoro Technique
Naturally, people cannot stay 100% focused for an extended period. Thus, repeatedly working shorter intervals with small breaks in between usually leads to better performance results than staying on a task for three or four hours in a row.
That’s why the Pomodoro Technique is so effective. Plus, it is reasonably easy to implement:
- Choose a task and set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Concentrate on that task until the time is up.
- Give yourself a 5-minute break.
- Work in the same rhythm for three more intervals.
- After the fourth interval, take a longer 20-minute break.
You may utilize a simple kitchen timer or a smartphone timer to operate the Pomodoro Technique. But using a specialized Pomodoro app is an excellent option as well. Along with timer functionality, this type of software often includes the features for smart scheduling, distraction blocking and task management that foster an extra productivity boost.
8. The Seinfeld Method
Need to develop a good habit or accomplish a long-term goal? Then, the Seinfeld Method is worth your consideration.
“Practice makes perfect” is the major idea behind the technique, and it encourages you to create an unbroken chain of productive behaviors by engaging in a purposeful practice consistently — every day over several months or a year.
Here’s what you have to do to make use of the Seinfeld Method:
- Get a visual calendar.
- Put it in a place where it’s easy to review and access.
- Every day, practice the skill you want to develop or work on the task that brings you closer to your goal (even if you’re unmotivated or demonstrate poor results). Note that your daily practice objective must have measurable criteria. For instance, you may want to read 30 pages a day or learn biology for an hour a day.
- Mark each date you practiced on in your calendar. Use a simple marker for paper calendars or an in-build color code system in a digital app.
- The aim of the technique is to build a chain of completed daily objectives. Thus, you have to persist in practicing for as long as you can.
Seeing an unbroken chain of fulfilled objectives on the calendar is highly motivating. It makes you feel more accomplished and encourages you to keep going and progress. With the Seinfeld Method, you won’t waste time in vain. Instead, you’ll use it up on the stuff that matters to you.
9. The 10-Minute Rule
Let’s be honest, most of us don’t glow with motivation at all times, especially if we have to work on something boring and challenging. As a result, we put off many useful and goal-oriented activities for later, and in many cases, they remain unfulfilled — forever. However, this disappointing tendency to procrastinate has a cure, and it’s called the 10-minute rule.
If you experience a sense of dread or any other unpleasant emotions when faced with a demanding job, when you just can’t find the inner strength to commit to it for an extended period, talk yourself into dedicating merely 10 minutes to working on it.
10 minutes is a tiny fraction of time. You can do almost anything for 10 minutes. Therefore, the 10-minute rule helps you fight laziness, apathy and aversion towards some tasks. Plus, whenever you start working, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, you increase your chances to continue doing so for more time and complete that dreadful chore faster.
10. Time Tracking
To utilize time effectively, you need to know how much of it you spend on different tasks and activities, and the easiest way to stay in the know of this matter is by adopting a smart time tracker.
actiTIME, for example, assists in collecting all the data you need to analyze your productivity trends, identify any time wasters and make corrections to your behaviors and workflows if needed. Moreover, it enables users to monitor their performance progress and comply with original estimates without a hitch. Overall, the rich functionality of this timesheet tool makes it an indispensable helper in following your work plans, to-do lists and schedules infallibly.
Originally published at actitime.com