If you ask a group of middle-managers what skill they wish they were better at many of them will say it’s time management. It’s our scarcest resource, yet for some reason, we can’t help but engage in unproductive activities. How many tabs do you have open right now? Probably too many. Meanwhile, your to do list sits untouched and never ending.
At work, your time can be wasted with unnecessary emails and meetings. At home, you get distracted by television and the internet. You’re being pulled in every direction by everyone and you can’t seem to escape the time bandits infesting your day.
Yet, perhaps the guiltiest party in an unproductive day is yourself. You’re so busy finding relevant life hacks to get things done quicker that it’s doing the opposite for you. There isn’t a secret to time management, but here are some helpful tips to keep you on track.
Dedicate yourself to an intense sprint of productivity and then reward yourself with a break to ensure you replenish your energy. While the Pomodoro technique has proven to be effective, you can also work in a burst of 90 minutes before taking a short break. Just as our sleep patterns run from light to deep over the course of 90 minutes before resetting, so do our daily rhythms.
Once your 90-minute sprint is up you’re relying on cortisol for energy. This affects your ability to think clearly, thus encouraging people to turn for a sugary treat and caffeine fueled beverage for a pick me up. A rest period is a more effective way to manage your time effectively and ensure your productivity remains high.
Change Your Habits
There are certain pitfalls that affect us all, checking email far too often or simply forgetting to set and send out a meeting agenda. Both of these habits waste precious time and they become habits so automatic you have no idea you’re guilty of them. They are patterns and habits that we’ve slipped into and developed until they became the way we do things.
It isn’t about eliminating those bad habits, though; rather the key is in changing them and replacing that nasty habit with a new one. When you experience an urge, and give in your brain rewards you, thus repeating it provides the same reward. With each satisfaction of an urge, a neurological pathway in your brain grows thicker making it easier for signals to travel.
Therefore, when you attempt to eliminate that habit you’re attempting to destroy that pathway by force of will. Replace your habit. If your problem is checking your social media feed then replace the bookmark with an RSS feed that provides articles relevant to the industry you work in.
A Productivity Ritual
The most effective way to get things done is to make them such an automatic activity they require no energy. An efficient way to achieve this is through developing rituals. You should complete specific behaviors at particular times and over time, they will become automatic.
For example, when you check your emails decide how to handle each one immediately. If it requires a response, do it, if it’s unimportant delete it. Don’t move them to specific emails to revisit them later. It will sit in your brain and drain your energy when it could have been dealt with and forgotten. When you tell yourself, you’ll deal with something later you end up with hundreds of ideas floating around in your head impairing your productivity.
Developing your time management skills is a productivity ritual that will become automatic, thus allowing you to reserve your energy for something else. If you create a ritual, you will build a habit thus eliminating stress and increasing productivity and energy.
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