My business experience has taught me one true thing - that maximizing your productivity can best be accomplished if you clearly understand the 5 Rules of Time
1. Have Goals
Being more efficient with your time is irrelevant if you don’t know how you want to spend it. In managing time, the compass is more important than the clock. Know where you want to go and spend your time on the things that get you there.
Many people spend energy trying to be more efficient without first doing what’s important - setting goals. It’s like being lost on your way to a new city. Driving faster doesn’t help if you are going in the wrong direction. Figure out what direction to go in and head that way.
Once you’ve prepared it, your list of goals will reveal what is important to you.
2. Analyze how you Spend your Time
It is always good to know how you’re spending your time right now. You can track this by setting a timer to go off every 15 minutes. Whenever it sounds, write down exactly what you are doing. Alternatively, divide your day into 15-minute blocks and record each activity you do.
Once you have your time logs, examine them. How do they compare to your goals? Are you spending time where your priorities are?
3. Keep a To-Do List
This sounds too simple, but it really is the basis of all time-management systems. Your to-do list can be electronic, on fancy paper, bound in a notebook or loose-leaf. The key is to have everything you want to accomplish on one list. Your to-do list might have a one-line item on it, such as “write annual report,” which refers you to a number of smaller tasks which are required steps in completing the major task.
If your workload consists of mostly major tasks, you may want to consider using project management software where you can allocate all the minor tasks in the order they are to be completed and with relevant deadlines.
I use Google Calendar for all my general tasks for my business and Client Spot Project Management for all my client tasks.
4. Prioritize your To-Do List
Once you have the list, determine which are the important items. Mark these with a highlighter, a red pen, a deadline for completion or in any other way that makes them stand out.
I sometimes find my to-do list is too big. Every item on the list calls out “pay attention to me!”. In these cases, I identify only the three or four most important items and schedule them for today in my Google Calendar. I then schedule the remaining tasks in order of priority. Then I can focus on them in order of priority.
5. Control Procrastination
I use a number of tricks to break any lingering tendencies to procrastinate. For instance, my calendar and project management system are cloud based so I can access them from anywhere including my phone. There's no excuse not to add new tasks immediately and keep tabs of existing tasks. If I have a few spare minutes while away from the office, I look for the items that I’ve marked as high priority but which are just not getting done and move them back up the list.
It's not really about having great self-control. It's more about environment control. Control your environment to eliminate things that you might use to procrastinate. Take games off your computer, for example, set allocated times for social media and email interaction, and get rid of the busywork jobs that you use to avoid the important tasks.
I have developed one effective habit that has helped break me of procrastination - “Do the worst thing first.” At the beginning of every day, I do the one task that is causing me the most stress, and that I haven’t been getting done.
If you still can't keep on top of your "To-Do List", maybe it's time to chat with a Virtual Assistant about how they can help you.
How do you maximize your time?