Issue #423

19 Time Management Tactics That Are Stupidly Powerful

Most of us perceive a lack of time in our own lives. Never seems like we have enough time to get things done.

It’s a bit of an illusion, really. You’ve probably heard this before… but the most successful people you can possibly think of have the same amount of time that we do every day. So, obviously, it isn’t about time quantity. It is about our mindset and what we do with the 86,400 seconds we have every day.

A lot of our approach to time comes from within, so time management tips are usually ways to outsmart ourselves into getting more done despite our self-imposed limitations of how much we can get done.

So, prefaced with my strongly-held belief that it ultimately comes down to mindset, I’ve compiled a list of 19 tips to help you with your efficiency and – perhaps – get more done during your day.

  1. Don’t check email first thing in the morning. Instead, get at least ONE concrete item done first thing that moves one of your projects forward. Focus mode. Don’t let the distraction of email enter your world right away. Trust me, those people can wait. They won’t even notice.
  2. Control Your Phone. Phone interruptions are the worst. It robs you of your focus, and you’re putting others in control of your entire attention span. So, silence that slab of distraction. Put it into “do not disturb” mode for blocks of time during the day so you can get things done. You do not need that text message or social media update right away.
  3. Set up a digital memory and a queue. A lot of mental energy is spent trying not to forget things. Or you get an idea for something and have nowhere to put it. So, set up a vault for that kind of thing. I personally use Dynalist as an outline tool and I capture things in there. I also use Evernote. And for sites I come across that might spark something for me later, I can either drop it into Dynalist with a note of why I cared, or I bookmark it into a “Queue” folder in my bookmarks on my browser. Point is… I won’t lose it, but I also won’t let it distract me from what I’m supposed to be doing.
  4. Practice Inbox Zero. Your email inbox should be just that – an INbox. Not a big collective storage place for forgotten BS. Learn to handle, delegate or move emails and get them out of your inbox.
  5. Practice TRAF. This is trash, refer, act, file. These are the 4 choices you have when dealing with any incoming communication or action item. If an email gets opened, you never punt on it so that you end up opening it later in an indecisive state. That just doubles or triples your work. Instead, you make a decision right then and there how to handle that email. You file it for later, you act upon it immediately (if it can be done in a short time period), you refer (to another, or to yourself when you’re in another work mode), or you delete it and never look at it again.
  6. Close your email when you’re done. You won’t be getting much actual work done if the act of email goes on all day long and never stops. Instead, make it a point to check email only 2-3 times per day. Treat email like a cycle of action, with a beginning and an END. Handle new incoming emails… then CLOSE your email program and go produce some things. Only keep email open when you’re actively processing emails in your inbox.
  7. Assign Times To Tasks. When adding a task to your todo list, assign a time estimate to it on how long it will take. Then schedule it in accordingly.
  8. Give yourself a “top 3” task list. Instead of your task list being so long you’ll never actually do it, boil your daily task list to just 3 things. Those 3 things come straight out of your project planning and you KNOW they will each move the ball forward for you in some way. Then, those 3 tasks become your focus tasks. Those are the ones you finish and do at a bare minimum. It doesn’t mean you don’t do other things, but those “top 3” are your mininum.
  9. Reward Efficiency With Downtime. Your daily todo list shouldn’t be a list of things you HOPE to get done (if the stars align just right). It should be a realistic list of things you WILL get done. And if you get them all done with time to spare, take time off. Reward yourself for good work ethic.
  10. Work in Focused Batches. You’re not working when you sit at your computer and move your hands. 🙂 Instead of this long-winded work-day, break it up into focused batches. Work in 1-hour batches, with full focus on a single task at a time. At the end of that hour, go take a break. Then, repeat.
  11. Turn OFF auto-notifications by email. There is no reason why you need email notifications when somebody follows you on social media, comments on your blog, etc. Turn off all such email notifications. If you absolutely MUST have them sent to you, then at least filter them out of your inbox automatically so they are hidden from view and don’t take up any time unless you WANT them to.
  12. Work with a timer. Assign yourself a certain time block to get a task done, then use an actual timer. Have it count down to zero from the time you set aside for that task. Visually seeing that timer tick down makes a game out of getting things done faster and not screwing around.
  13. Use A White Board For Your Active Task. In combination with the timer above, use a small white board at your desk. Write down the task you’re working on then start the timer. Any time you start feeling distracted, that white board will remind you what you’re supposed to be working on.
  14. Think About Leverage. Any task that you do, how can you utilize the time spent working on that task to either accomplish another thing or alleviate the need to do that task again? For example, create a procedure list for a task while you do it. Might take a bit longer, but it is then outsourcable. Or, if you get the same question via email a lot, create a video with your answer, send it to the requester, then use the video as blog content.
  15. Vary Your Workspace. Instead of always working in your office, consider taking a laptop down to a local coffee shop instead. Often, just that change of environment can positively affect your efficiency.
  16. Schedule Fun. Life isn’t all about work. Actually scheduling in things you enjoy will have a positive effect for you. It will also lead you to being more efficient with the time you ARE working.
  17. Don’t Watch The News. It is pure negativity designed specifically to rob you of your life and instead keep you glued to THEM, to their ads, to their propaganda. You are absolutely making your life worse to watch the news. Period. Turn it off, take back your happiness and create the life you want rather than having those asshats remind you of other people’s problems. You’ll be happier and get more done.
  18. Dismiss Negativity. Doing anything positive for your life and your goals is always going to make other people try to suppress you. Perhaps it is fear on their part, or just outright animosity. It doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, for it could just be reactive on their part. But, learn to control it. If a family member is chastising you about your efforts to build up an online business, then confront them about it and get their agreement to knock it off. You have the right to control what enters your space via others.
  19. Treat Yourself Right. It is a challenge for all of us, but treating your body right is integral to having a balanced and efficient life. Your mind won’t be all there when you’re coasting on coffee and Red Bulls. Instead, drink lots of water. Start your day off with some stretches or light exercise to get your heart rate up a bit. Take walks. Eat well. The time spent doing those things will come back in the form of lighter mind and increased focus.

So, would you like to add any advice of your own to this list?

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