January 28 2021
The key to productivity, the big secret, is effective time management. Time management is the conscious structuring of your time to help you get more done. Structure is so important to helping our brains feel secure and productive, leading to a more efficient and happier version of ourselves. It can seem daunting, but the best part of our technology-driven world is that there are tools and gear to maximize the time you do have, making time management easier.
The consequences of not knowing how to manage your time are, unfortunately, a bigger deal than they might seem. You may miss deadlines, feel rushed, churn out poor quality work, and experience a high level of stress. None of this is necessary. You just need a time management strategy and some tools to help you put out the kind of work you are capable of and also free up hours in your day you didn’t even know you had.
Knowing you have effective time management tools in your back pocket will guarantee you feel less stressed. You will be able to complete tasks easily and with confidence. Not only will you build a reputation for quick work, but you will become known for your stress-free, light, and easy attitude, making more people want to work with you. Sounds great, right? And it’s completely achievable.
The keys to a solid time management plan:
Time Management Plan
Understand how much time you realistically have
It’s important to be honest with yourself about how long things may take you, how much time you need for breaks (yes, you need breaks) and how much time, specifically, you really have. If you try to cram more into your day than you can realistically handle then you will flounder, fall behind, and spend more time and energy stressing than actually getting things done. Fortunately, there are tools that can help maximize the time you do have. For any work on a computer that means doubling your screens. A second monitor has been proven to increase productivity by 20-30%, saving you 8+ hours a week. It has been a lifesaver to me. I have spent so much time toggling between tabs and now - that’s all gone. Plus, with zoom in full swing, I can have Zoom on one screen and have documents open on another (though I try not to be the person who is always staring away from the camera). The flagship monitor from Sidetrak is also portable, saving even more time when you are on the go.
Prioritize your goals for the day
Make a to-do list of the things you need to accomplish and put that list in order of importance with the things that are the most important at the top. This sounds simple, but don’t just “do it in your head.” Write it down. Break the list into “must do”s and “might do”s, acknowledging that if you aren’t able to accomplish everything, it is okay. If you are having trouble prioritizing, try Mark Forster’s time management system, The Final Version. He recommends prioritizing by comparing each task’s importance. It makes prioritizing manageable and almost meditative.
If you are in a position where you can delegate some of the items on your to-do list to other people you should. Part of good management is clear communication about what help you need to accomplish your goals. Find out more about delegating here. If you don’t have anyone to assist you, you can similarly hand away part of your tasks to technology and tools built to help.
Use time management tools
Set yourself up with time management tools that make your tasks take less time and hold you accountable. A great list of time management software is reviewed here. The oldest, cheapest, tool in the box though, is a to-do list. It never fails.
Stay flexible and portable
We are constantly in motion and packing and shifting gears is an incredible time suck, knocking much-needed time off of your schedule. Keep yourself portable to be able to go with the flow. Second monitors are proven to boost productivity but are often only used in permanent desk spaces. With Sidetrak’s portable second monitor that attaches directly to your computer, you don’t have to pack up to make your next move. Your productivity follows wherever you go and your time management schedule stays intact even with last-minute changes and relocations.
Set time limits, deadlines, and goals
Once you understand how much time you have and what you need to accomplish, it’s time to set up your day. There’s no room for vagueries here; be specific. Break your day into chunks of time with a goal attached to each chunk. Deadlines are important for time management. Even if a task already has a final deadline, you also need smaller deadlines for yourself. For example, if you have a project that needs to be done by the end of the week, you will also need smaller deadlines for how much you should accomplish on it each day or each hour. Deadlines give you little success endorphins when you reach them. It’s important to know you’ve accomplished steps so you have the motivation to keep going. Reward yourself when you meet the deadlines you set for yourself and make sure you work time to decompress into your schedule and take breaks throughout the day. Ultimately, you are your own boss. Be a good one.
Track your time
It’s important to make sure you hold yourself accountable to the time limits and goals you set. You can use any of these apps to track your time. I use Toggl. It’s free for individuals and once I click to turn it on, I immediately am more focused. When a tracker is running I am less likely to click away to Twitter and start scrolling. I don’t understand exactly why, but it’s almost like if I do, I’m lying to the counter. It just works!
But the first step is just getting started… or clicking that tracker on. Procrastination is a huge barrier to productivity that I face constantly. When we procrastinate, we spend more time worrying about how to do a task than actually doing it. It’s a huge waste of time, but sometimes it feels impossible to overcome. Fortunately, there are a few tricks out there to help.
The “two-minute rule” is a recommendation gone viral from entrepreneur Steve Olenski. The idea is this: If you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately.
The Now Habit is a book by Neil Fiore that describes a process of “Unscheduling,” which means building your To-Do list with the fun stuff first. This method is a solution for those of us who never allow ourselves any leisure time because we have “too much work to do.” It allows people to have their fun first so they can come to the rest of work refreshed.
Stick to your plan with help from time management strategies
There are many techniques for how to break up your time, reward yourself, and focus. There isn’t a “right answer” here. Different approaches work better for each person so try whichever one immediately speaks to you, but if it doesn’t work, just move on and try a different one. There is no failure here, we all just operate differently.
Time Management Techniques
Batching is finding how multiple tasks overlap or are similar so that in completing one, you complete, or at least make progress on, many. Looking at your to-do lists, group similar items, and create a route through your day that requires the least bouncing around.
The chunking method breaks your time into chunks where you focus specifically on each group of tasks for a specific amount of time. It is a more general version of the Pomodoro Technique.
In the Pomodoro Technique, after you choose the task, you set a timer and work on that task for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off you put a check on a piece of paper and set the timer again. You take scheduled breaks based on the number of checks on your paper when the timer goes off each time.
Getting Things Done is a time management system built by David Allen that has become an empire of productivity. It is a process for getting everything out of your head and onto paper so it is easier to manage your tasks and time while having a clear head for focus.
Time Management Tips
Time management is harder for some people, especially those of us who are easily distracted. If you’re struggling with how to manage time try these tips.
- Stop Procrastinating
- Set limits for yourself. Start small and learn to say no to things that you cannot take on.
- I’ve said this one a couple of times, but breaks and rewards are important.
- Organize your workspace.
- Use tools like SideTrak’s portable second monitor to make you more efficient and keep you flexible.
- Don’t attempt to multitask. Focus on one item at a time.
- Remember the keys to your time management system: Prioritize, Schedule, and stick to it!
Time management can seem like a big task, but with some help from the SideTrak team and a little practice, effectively managing your time will become second nature. Soon you will have a lifelong healthy time management process, increased productivity, and a lower stress level. Set yourself up with tools for success like a portable second monitor. Just get started. You’ve got this.