Chances are at some point in your career, likely a number of times; you’ve felt like there just weren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all the work on your desk. It happens to everyone. The clock moves faster than we had hoped and we’re stuck in a situation where we’re frantically putting the final pieces together.
With busy lifestyles becoming the norm and professionals often pushing the limits when it comes to work ethic, the notion of time management has become a hot topic on everyone’s blogroll and newsfeed.
Over the last couple years, I’ve realized that these ongoing discussions about time management have led us to believe that time is something we can control. Which forces me to ask, what does time management even mean? Seriously.
You see, time cannot be managed – it’s a constant. Thus, the entire concept of time management is backwards and leads people to suggest that they need more time in a day. When in reality, each of us have the same amount of time in a day as everyone else. We have the same amount of hours as Bill Gates, Marrisa Mayer, Elon Musk and Richard Branson. The only thing that differentiates us is what we’ve decided to do with our time and what we’ll do with it moving forward.
So instead of calling it time management, let’s start calling it self-management. We can manage our own actions and where we allocate our attention. Once we admit that, we can start getting more things done in a day and take the appropriate steps to achieving what we want and being more productive.
Here are some ways to improve productivity by managing yourself instead of attempting to manage your time:
Control Your Thoughts
Managing your brain is the most challenging but most important part of self-management. That voice in your head that encourages procrastination needs an off button. “I’ll do that tomorrow” or “I’ll get to that later” are thoughts that need to be ignored. Focus on the tasks at hand and turn off the WiFi so you’re not distracted by the flashing inbox or skype message.
Prioritize Your Work
Planning your workday and prioritizing your projects provides structure and gives you a visual reminder of the tasks that need to be completed. Prioritizing involves listing what you need to do and tagging them on a scale of importance. For example, you can label your items as ‘important and urgent’, ‘important but not urgent’ or ‘not important and not urgent’.
Allot time increments to each item on your priority list. For instance, from 9-10 respond to emails, 10-11 execute task x, 11-11:15 coffee break, 11:15-12:30 build proposal, the cycle continues. Keep yourself accountable by attaching time to action items and cross them off your list as you complete them. Your work should be managed just as you manage your meetings.
Get off email
Email can be the biggest distraction from accomplishing project work. Schedule your email time into your day and close your email while you focus on other tasks. Go the extra step and turn off your email notifications to help prevent distraction.
Use Your Calendar
Populating a calendar and using it are two different things. In addition to your scheduled meetings, add your project deadlines and personal commitments. Use your calendar to control your day, track your output and keep you on target with respect to your productivity. Start each day by looking at your calendar to get a sense of what your day (and the rest of your week) looks like. Visit your calendar every day and edit it as new projects come in and tasks are completed.
What are some other ways that you practice self-management to improve productivity?