Money and manpower are important resources, but time is invaluable. It’s the only resource you can’t create, the only resource that’s perpetually scarce. While cloud-based apps, smartphones, and other technological innovation have lead us to save hours, they’ve also stripped us of attention better directed towards more important matters.
Below we’ll describe a few time management hacks you can use to become more productive at work.
Break work down into 25-minute intervals
Some tasks and projects can take significant time and effort. It may feel overwhelming just to start them. Try The Pomodoro Technique. The premise is simple- break down tasks into 25-minute intervals called “Pomodoros” (which means “tomato” in Italian, named after the creator’s use of a kitchen tomato timer).
Once the Pomodoro expires, write a check mark on a piece of paper, then take a short break. You can read, go for a walk, or meditate for about five minutes before starting a new pomodoro. After four Pomodoros, take a longer break, from 20-30 minutes.
Eventually, the task will be completed through bite-sized timeboxes, instead of slogging through the monotony.
Use the 80/20 rule
The Pareto Principle states that 80% of effects are from 20% of the causes. This connection was first noted by Vilfredo Pareto as it related to wealth distribution- noting that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population.
But The Pareto Principle these days can be applied to almost everything, most frequently time management. In the case of a business, 80% of a business’s results or work-related output can be traced to 20% of activities. In sales, 80% of sales could come from 20% of customers. And in time management, 80% of your output comes from 20% of your activities.
So how does this help? Instead of worrying about the smallest tasks, focus on the most important ones that drive the most change and results. These are the tasks we often procrastinate, even though they have the potential to be the most impactful.
Schedule your tasks
To-do lists can help people collect all important tasks in one area. But when it comes to time management, to-do lists aren’t much use. To-do lists answer the question of “what?” but not the question of when. That’s why calendars are unbeatable as productivity tools.
There’s no need to ditch your to-do list altogether. It can feel motivational to strike out a completed item. But instead of working on tasks one by one, schedule them as events on your calendar, whether it’s Google Calendar, iCal, or some other app. Seeing the task as an event forces you to spend your time on that particular task, at that given time.
“If it’s not in my calendar, it won’t get done.” says Dave Kerpen, co-founder of two successful startups and New York Times bestselling author. “But if it is in my calendar, it will get done. I schedule out every 15 minutes of every day to conduct meetings, review materials, write, and do any activities I need to get done.”
Stay Focused and Motivated
If you really want to be strict about time spent on a task, it all boils down to how well you can concentrate. There are so many distractions available- from social media to smartphone apps, that it can be hard to focus on a single task. But when you reduce your multitasking and focus on finishing tasks rather than starting them, time management becomes less of a challenge.
Check out the StayFocusd Chrome extension to help you focus on the websites you need to and limit your time on distractions. Be sure to check out our blog post on boosting motivation in the workplace.
No one can ever really feel on top of managing their time, but through these hacks, getting work done can seem less like a chore and more like a challenging game.
Check out these inspiring TED talks on time management.
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