Good time management can help you successfully reach almost any goal. Learning to manage your time well is not a mystery, nor is it particularly difficult (with a little bit of dedication, of course). Time management tactics generally boil down to only two things: 1) Fostering a mind that can focus and 2) Clearly defining tasks so you can more easily accomplish them. Once you get that all down, you’ll be unstoppable, and an unstoppable entrepreneur is an astonishing thing. Here are a few time management tips to help you start your training…
Allow More Time to Sleep
It may seem counter-intuitive to strive for more sleep, since more time asleep means less time to work. However, a good night’s sleep is the foundation of a productive day. Slogging through a day with red eyes and brain fog after three hours of sleep will not allow you to produce your best work. In fact, you will probably end up wasting more time later fixing mistakes you made while overtired–the loss of productivity from sleep deprivation has been widely studied and documented. Get enough sleep to keep your mind sharp. You’ll work faster and do more things right the first time.
Get Grounded in the Morning
When trying to be productive, you may feel the urge to jump right into your to-do list. Don’t. Taking time in the morning to not work, and instead get focused, will help you get more done later. Do whatever you need to do to get grounded and clear your head. This may mean a meditation or yoga session. It may mean staring out the window while you slowly sip your coffee, orange juice or maybe even your Soylent.
Another good idea for getting grounded in the morning is to journal. Many people find that writing down random thoughts, ideas and concerns bouncing around their head helps to clear space and keep calmer throughout the rest of the day. This will afford you more focus when you are trying to handle complex tasks on your to-do list and potentially stressful conversations.
Cut Out Internet Time
Almost everyone wastes time on the internet. One study from 2014 showed that 57% of people “waste” at least one hour every day during working hours and a sizable chunk of those people were wasting it on the internet. To get a scope of how much time you are throwing away on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube, set up a stopwatch on your desktop. That alone might be enough to scare you into disabling your online accounts.
Make it a rule to not have extra tabs open on while you are working on the computer. Turn your phone notifications off (for all things not relevant to work, of course). When you take a break, step away from the computer so you won’t get sucked into a two-hour recreational internet binge.
Multi-tasking is the enemy of productivity. Again, the challenges of multi-tasking have been well documented, and while most people think they are good at it, studies have shown that only about 2% of us are “super” multitaskers–it’s almost a genetic surprise. A critical component of time management is understanding that every task that needs to be accomplished requires some “buffer” time until you can get into a true flow-state of accomplishing that task.
When you multi-task, you are not accomplishing several tasks at once; you’re just switching between tasks at a fast pace. That means you are wasting more time on “buffer” time to refocus on each task you switch back to. Many people lose hours of productive time each day simply by switching too quickly between tasks instead of finishing one at a time with focus.
Work in Focused Bursts
What does work is dealing with individual tasks in focused bursts–if you haven’t heard of The Rule of 52 and 17, you should check it out. First, you must clearly define which task you intend to get done. Many people make the mistake of defining a task too broadly, which ends up being no different than multi-tasking. Breaking a big job down into smaller pieces will help you to concentrate on each addressable component. Once you understand what you need to do, eliminate all distractions, finish that chunk of work and then move onto the next one.
If you find yourself losing focus, take a break. Take advantage of the times when your mind is up to working quickly and efficiently. When your mind slows down, use that time to rest and do something less mentally strenuous (without drastically switching task context). Don’t try to do high-mental-energy tasks when your brain has turned to jelly; leave that stuff for your lunch breaks.