Monitoring the time you spend on tasks can give you an overview of areas that need improving. It allows you to learn from experience and is a simple and straightforward time management technique.
By simply setting a timer when you begin a new task, and then switching it off once you’re done, you can gain insight into how long you spend on a certain task. This enables you to compare your expectations to reality and make improvements based on your findings.
1. Eat the Frog
Eating the frog is a term put forward by Brian Tracy, which refers to completing your biggest task first. It derives from a Mark Twain quote where he said,
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
There’s no greater feeling than accomplishing a big task and getting it out of the way.
The concept suggests that if you complete your biggest task first, the feeling of accomplishment will be so great that completing the rest of your tasks in comparison will seem like a piece of cake.
2. Apply the 80 20 Rule
Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80 20 rule suggests that 80 percent of effective results come from 20 percent of your tasks. This basically means that for every 10 tasks you have, only two would produce quality results, so of course, they’re the ones you want to focus on.
Write down a list of 10 tasks you have to do in prioritized order. Look at the first two things on the list and put your focus on them throughout the day. Even if you don’t complete your list by the end of the day, at least you’d complete the most important ones.
3. Block Your Time
Scheduling time blocks is a time management technique that can help you get rid of distractions. The idea is that you block out chunks of time throughout the day for a specific task, and during that time, you concentrate on that task only.
An obvious way to do it is based on your deadlines. If you have an urgent task to hand in the afternoon, then it makes sense to block a couple of hours in the morning to work on it.
However, another way to effectively block your time is to schedule tasks according to when you’re most productive. For example, if you find that you’re less productive right after your lunch break, then schedule routine tasks that don’t require too much creative thinking, such as checking your emails.
Use the 2-Minute Rule
A huge barrier to effective time management is procrastination, and applying the 2-minute rule can help overcome it. Most menial tasks are usually things you’re already capable of doing, it’s just getting started that’s the hard part.
The first part of the rule, which stems from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, states that if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, then just do it. Finish it and complete it then and there.
The second part of the rule advises that if you’ve started a new habit, then make sure it takes you less than two minutes to complete because it follows the idea that every goal can get started in two minutes or less.
4. Avoid Multitasking
While it may seem like you’re doing more in less time, multitasking can actually have the opposite effect. Known to actually lower your productivity, it can diminish your focus and take you longer to complete your tasks.
To help fight the urge of multitasking, get rid of anything that has the potential to divert your attention away from the task at hand. For example, only keep one tab open when working on a computer or make your browser bigger so you don’t see anything else.
5. Say “No” More Often
Learning to say no may not seem like one of the most obvious time management techniques, but once you start doing it, you’ll realize how much time you’ve saved for tackling your tasks.
Saying no to things doesn’t mean saying no to everything. Instead, it encourages you to re-think and re-prioritize the things that matter. Once you know which tasks are important, you’ll find that you’ll no longer waste your time sitting in meetings that you don’t need to be in or doing a task that isn’t really relevant to your job.
6 . Establish a Morning Routine
Daily routines have the power to help you recover wasted time and revitalize yourself. As it provides structure to your day, it can also make you more productive and set the momentum for the rest of the day.
An effective morning routine doesn’t mean you have to run 20 miles before the sun comes up and drink a glass of raw eggs. All you have to do is plan a few tasks that can help you feel re-energized in the morning and repeat it until it becomes a habit.
7. Create a Nighttime Routine Too
Just like a morning routine, a nighttime routine can provide structure for your day.
Winding down during the last couple of hours before bedtime can also give you a better night’s sleep, which is always useful for time management.
Once again, you don’t have to do anything drastic but think about tasks that could help you the next day. Your nighttime routine could include packing your gym bag or getting your breakfast and lunch ready.
8. TAKE Breaks
Although it may seem like a counter-productive time management technique, taking regular breaks at work is important for your mental health and maintaining efficiency.
It’s important to take your breaks because working straight through them can make you more susceptible to decision fatigue and a decrease in creativity. Your body and mind require rest and sustenance, so take advantage of your breaks at work and go out and grab a healthy lunch or stretch your legs. You will get back to your desk feeling refreshed and more motivated to keep working.
The Bottom Line
Busyness isn’t the equivalent to being productive at work. If anything, it could be a sign of bad time management skills. But trying out these time management techniques is just the first step.
If you find that you’ve yet to see effective results, then you have a talk to your manager. Your busyness could be down to simply having too much on your plate and the need for a restructure.
Remember, being honest about your workload is better than constantly stressing and risking a burn out.