When training young professionals to manage their time more efficiently, I first ask them to tell me what time management means. Most of them refer to the ability to accomplish all the items in their to-do lists.
Time management is about being efficient and productive independent of items on a To Do list. And this translates into living well. If I manage my time well, I am able to see the big picture, get things done, make space for creativity, and reach results within the set timeframe.
Becoming excellent at managing time can be done using a few strategies on a daily basis. From a macro standpoint, it comes down to eliminating distractions, focusing on tasks, and maximizing results. The magnitude of this topic is large, so I will separate it into a few different articles. This article is about being productive – check back in the coming months for others!
Spoiler alert! I will not be providing a list of different techniques to do planning, to optimize your organizational skills or to learn to prioritize tasks. The web is an infinite source of such examples.
What Is Time Management?
Time management consists of planning and organizing in order to make the best use of your day. It is a means to monitor the time you spend on certain tasks to optimize your work. Personally, I love to be productive! And this entails having control over my time every single day. If I have control of my time, I can accomplish lots of things, including making better decisions and giving the correct weight to every situation. How? First of all, establishing priorities and clear goals! This helps me identify the activities and tasks that eat away at my time and need to be eliminated. Also, with the adoption of a few simple strategies, I can concentrate on the road to my goal and monitor how my time is spent.
Productivity is a question of training, motivation, and circumstances. Some of us are quite natural at it while others use techniques or have great habits. Richard Branson, a famous entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, uses exercise as a way to increase his productivity. He claims that working out every day allows him to be twice as productive as he would without exercising.
Also, we are more productive when dedicating time to a project that holds a strong meaning to us. That is one circumstance in which we naturally become more present and alert.
Productivity can be cultivated through focusing on specific elements of a larger goal which provides a sense of control over time and the tasks performed.
How can I increase my productivity?
Start by making a list of your priorities to understand what needs your immediate attention. Take care of those items that are most important and build your schedule around them. That will help you see the big picture clearly. If the task is massive, break it down into smaller pieces; do one step at a time, this will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and stress about it.
Here is a list of my top 10 tips to become very productive:
1. Focus on the tasks you master. Each one of us excels in something. If there is something you do very well and efficiently, concentrate on it, it will produce great results with little effort.
2. Learn to say No. It is important to stay on track and do not get distracted. Sometimes it helps to say No even to yourself in order to avoid getting stuck and keep moving forward.
3. Take breaks. When you realize that you are losing steam, stop and take a break. Go for a quick walk, call a friend to chit chat, do something completely different. This will shake things up for you, and most of all it will free you from the mental heaviness.
4. Turn the distractions off. If necessary, turn the phone off. If you are beginning a new task, put the phone and the social media away. You can always make time during the day for those activities.
5. Keep track of your ideas. Take notes about articles you read or interviews you listen to so you have quick access when needed. Get into the habit to write down all of the ideas you generate, open your Notes and jot down a sentence, or just a couple of words. When the time is right you will be able to go back to those notes and elaborate on them.
6. Keep it simple. Use simple strategies to find ideal solutions to problems. You can be creative without complicating things! Do what you can with what you have; if things are getting complicated you risk to get lost and productivity will suffer. We’ve all been there!
7. Put things in order. Keep the environment where you work in order. By doing so, you will predispose your mind to being productive. Also, maintain an order and you will have a pleasant feeling of lightweight and ease.
8. Feed your creativity. Take time to do something creative. Learn to dance, sign up for a cooking class, read a book, go to the theater. Create a space in which you get out of your routine and totally unplug. This will help you detach from the crazyness of every day and will slow things down for you, allowing you to get a clearer picture of everything.
9. Stay in silence for 10 minutes. Whether it’s a walk, a run, or simply being alone, make room for a window of isolation. Silence is a way to listen to yourself, to your body, and to your emotions. Stop and listen to yourself, it is a great way to understand how you are doing and how to proceed.
10. Cultivate relationships. Friendships are good for us! Studies show that having face-to-face relationships helps us release pressure and gives us a chance to recharge emotionally and mentally. Make the time to go out for a coffee, a walk, dinner with friends.
Learn from the experts!
Elon Musk is an example of a successful entrepreneur that owes a great deal of his fortune to effective and tailored-made time management. He is considered one of the most productive entrepreneurs today. As chief in command at Tesla Motors and SpaceX, he has a lot to manage on a daily basis. He keeps a rigorous schedule yet constantly works on self-improvement with the aim to enhance his productivity. About a year ago, he sent out an email to all of his employees with a set of “rules” he asked his employees to follow in the workplace. I’ve picked those related to productivity, simplified his message, and interweaved his actual words.
1. Large-format meetings are not good.
Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get [rid] of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.
2. Less meetings unless a matter is urgent.
Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved.
3. Don’t go to a meeting unless it is necessary.
Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.
4. No confusing jargon.
Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software, or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.
5. Linear communication.
Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the ‘chain of command’. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.
6. In case of need, go direct.
A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels.
If, in order to get something done between departments, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.
7.Use common sense.
In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a ‘company rule’ is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.
We manage a multitude of activities and tasks every day both at work and at home. We have technology to make our lives easy and get things done rapidly. We have high-speed tools, apps of all kinds, computers, watches… all we could dream of… yet, our biggest challenge today is managing time in order to get our work done. In this article I offered suggestions on how to manage your time effectively to become more productive. In the end though, it is up to you to take the responsibility to adopt strategies to become great at managing your time.