Time management is the way how we use our time in order to get more things done and produce the results that we want. But the truth is that we cannot really manage time, we can only manage ourselves.
We all have 24 hours a day. And it is what we do during those hours that count. And regardless of whether you like it or not, time will pass anyway. You can’t manage it, you can only manage yourself and choose what to do in those passing hours.
Thus, learn to develop good time management habits (productive habits) that help you get the right work done and produce the outcomes that you desire.
Time management is really about getting the right things done in the shortest amount of time. You want to be efficient and effective.
You want to get the most results in the shortest time frame. And it all starts with your habits.
You see, from the time you wake up to the time you eat your meals and to the time you work, a large part of what you do are habitual.
Thus, if you want to manage time, you must learn to manage yourself. And if you want to manage yourself, you need to learn to manage your habits.
Hence, a good time management starts with adopting good habits that make you productive.
Below are some of the best time management habits you should consider developing.
1. Have a clear purpose
One of the most important personal productivity I learned from Brian Tracy, the author of the best-selling time management book, Eat That Frog, is that if you want to be productive, you must understand your purpose.
Your purpose must be clear in order to be productive.
Here’s what Brian Tracy says in the book:
“The number one reason why some people get more work done faster is that they are absolutely clear about their goals and objectives, and they don’t deviate from them.
The greater clarity you have regarding what you want and the steps you will have to take to achieve it, the easier it will be for you to overcome procrastination, eat your frog, and complete the task before you.”
Tracy is absolutely right. There’s no point to talk about shooting the arrows without first identifying the target.
You must be crystal clear with your objective. What do you want to accomplish and what kind of results you are looking for?
When you are clear with your purpose and goals, you can then develop a plan to get there.
This is the fundamental principle of personal productivity. If you want to manage time, you must first find out your objectives.
Without knowing your destination, how can you get there?
I remember clearly that Tony Robbins says in one of his speeches, “Clarity if power”.
Therefore, if you want to get more the most result out of your day, first, be clear.
Productive people always keep their targets in their mind. They know exactly what kind of result they want and then they set out to achieve them. You must do the same.
Make it your habit to always keep your goals and objectives in your mind. Constantly remind yourself of what you want to accomplish so that you will never deviate from it. You can then fly like an arrow, straight to the bull’s eye.
2. Get rid of all possible distractions
Never underestimate the power of distractions. Many people thought that distractions are small issues and they don’t really learn to handle them.
According to this article on The Washington Post, Irvine, a researcher from the University of California found that a typical office worker is interrupted or switched tasks every 3 minutes and 5 seconds on average.
The more surprising discovery was that it can take up to 23 minutes of 15 seconds just to get back to where they left off.
When you develop the habit of eliminating distraction, it is really a double-win. This is because when you are not distracted, you are able to focus better.
It is like the push-and-pull effect. You can’t focus when you are distracted.
But when you are able to get rid of distractions, not only that you are able to work diligently, but you are also able to fully focus on the task.
Hence, never allow yourself to get distracted when you work, especially on tasks that are important.
Develop the habit of working without distractions or interruptions. Build a bunker for yourself. Lock yourself in your room or put up a headphone to stay away from the noise.
Never let people distract you while you are working. I don’t like to be distracted when I’m writing articles like this one.
According to an interview, Maya Angelou, one of the successful writers said that she kept a hotel room, paid for it by the month, and went there to do most of her writings. She clearly understood the power of focus and the need to get rid of all distractions. You should do the same.
3. Work one task at a time
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
This is easy to understand, but we often tend to overlook on the principle of focus on one task at a time.
I learned from the book, The One Thing, that multi-tasking is one of the most common killers of productivity.
When we try to get a few things done at the same time, what really happens in our mind is that we are switching from one task to another. Back and forth.
In other words, our brains are not wired to multitask. Our brains are wired to do just one thing at a time.
If you find this difficult to believe, just try to read a book and talk to someone at the same time. You will find that you can’t do both tasks (reading and talking) at the same time.
When you talk to someone, you will put down the book and stop reading. And when you read, you will stop talking to that person.
This is because our brains can only focus and process one information at a time.
Yes, you can sing while you bath. But you can’t FOCUS on doing both together.
The key word here is focus. When you fully focus on one thing, you will need to let go of other things.
This is what the article from Harvard Business Review said:
“Based on over a half-century of cognitive science and more recent studies on multitasking, we know that multitaskers do less and miss information. It takes time (an average of 15 minutes) to re-orient to a primary task after a distraction such as an email.
Efficiency can drop by as much as 40%. Long-term memory suffers and creativity — a skill associated with keeping in mind multiple, less common, associations — is reduced.”
So, don’t you think you should stop multi-tasking and start doing just one thing at a time now?
The next time you find it difficult to focus or that you want to be more productive and perform better, don’t multi-task. Choose to single-task. Do one thing at a time.
When you are writing an article, write. Don’t surf YouTube or try to look around and see what your colleagues or other people are doing.
In order to produce outstanding work, you must get in the flow, which requires your full attention. Hence, stick with doing just one item until completion. Don’t switch from task to task.
4. Do not put things off
Another powerful time management habit that I believe every one of us should adopt is the ability to NOT put things off.
In other words, don’t procrastinate.
Procrastination is one of the biggest killers of our dreams and goals. People roughly know what they want to achieve in their lives, but they just don’t do it.
Many people say that they want to build a successful online business, but all they do is talk about it. They don’t do anything about it.
After they get back home from work, all they do is watch TV and surf the internet for fun and entertainment. They do nothing to start or grow their business.
You have to understand that success is not about saying, it is about doing.
The same goes for time management. Don’t just say that you want to get things done. You need to do it to get the outcomes you want.
There are many reasons that cause people to procrastinate. Some people don’t want to take action because they are overwhelmed with information and they don’t know where to start. And some people procrastinate because they are afraid of failure.
So if you want to overcome procrastination, you must identify the root causes of it.
I suggest you read my previous article where Robin Sharma shares his 5 techniques to get rid of procrastination here.
Make it a habit to start and to begin. Don’t procrastinate and put things until a later time. Once you have decided to do it, just do it.
Here’s a good resource to help you:
5. Create schedules and set deadlines
Do you know that scheduling your work can greatly increase the chances of you getting it done?
People procrastinate because they are unclear of when and where their work should take place.
When you specifically schedule your task, such as, “I’m going to run for an hour from 7AM to 8AM, every Monday and Thursday”, you are giving your mind a crystal clear mission of what you need to do, where, and by when.
And when the time comes, you will follow through and do it.
People often fail to be productive when they leave their work to “whenever”. They wait for the right time to act and they wait for when they feel right only to work.
This is not going to work. Instead, you must be specific and set a schedule for what you want to get done.
In her best-selling book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin writes, “Scheduling makes us far more likely to convert an activity into a habit.”
When you schedule a task, first, you give a clear order to your mind of when and where you should do the task. Second, it helps remind you of the task when the time comes.
Having a schedule is like creating a cue to do the work you have planned.
A good time management habit is to schedule the work you want to get done. Be specific and write down when, where, and what you want to do.
This is why planning works. Turn every one of your important tasks into schedules. Make appointments with your tasks and so that you will never miss them out. I like this quote from Larry Winget:
“Nobody ever wrote down a plan to be broke, fat, lazy, or stupid. Those things are what happen when you don’t have a plan.”
6. Get the high-impact work done first
Want to be effective and get the most results? Well, stick to the principle of getting the high-impact work done first.
When it comes to time management, many people thought that being productive is about getting more things done, but it really is not.
It is about doing the high-impact work to get the more results.
Don’t mistake being busy for being productive. You can be busy the whole day, but at the end of the day, you don’t produce much results.
What you want is to work on the most important work that will give you the most results. Not just any work, but the high-impact work.
This is where you have to understand that not all works are created equal. And you have to under the Pareto’s 80/20 Rule.
Of all the things that you do, 20% of the work will account for 80% of your results. Thus, the key to becoming more productive is to focus your time and act on the 20% work.
Kevin Kruse, the SharkTank investor and a successful entrepreneur who wrote a great article on the Pareto’s Rule and how it can change your life on Forbes. Kruse shows many examples and I believe you should read the article to understand the concept better.
Remember, we all have 24 hours a day. There is just so much time we can use in a day. And the key is to get the most result-producing work done and not just any work.
Being busy doesn’t mean that you are being productive. You want to be busy getting the RIGHT things done.
Make the Pareto’s Principle your way of life. Identify the high-impact work that you can do and get them done the first thing in the morning before you switch to other less important tasks.
7. Write it down
Richard Branson credited his success to his to-do list. He is famously known for his habit of writing things down on his diary. He carried his diary everywhere he goes.
One of the ways to not let time slips us by is to remind ourselves of what we need to do. And you can do this by writing down your tasks, your ideas, or whatever that comes to you, as Branson did.
Here’s what Branson wrote in his blog post:
“I’ve often written about my love of writing lists – and this one shows I’ve been at it since the very beginning. Lists not only provide a great structure for getting things done, but they also help us to set goals and achieve our dreams.”
And he is absolutely right.
I write down everything that I want to get done on my diary as well. I use my diary as my journal for my to-do’s.
I discovered that when I put things down into paper, my chances of getting them done will be higher.
This is because I put my diary on my working desk. And I leave it opens. So every time I look at it, it reminds me of what I need to get done. It also reminds me of my goals and dreams.
Time management is about doing the right things and produces the right results that you want. And writing down what you need to do helps.
So make it your habit to write things down. Albert Einstein once said, “Paper is to write things down that we need to remember. Our brains are used to think.” So make it a habit to jot things done. It can boost your productivity.
If you want to make time management a bliss and boost your productivity to a higher level, perhaps, you should check out the Panda Planner Pro.
8. Maintain your overall wellbeing
You do understand that time management is about managing yourself, right? And to get the most out of your days, you must make sure that you have the energy to go through each day.
Therefore, make it a habit to maintain your overall wellbeing.
In fact, time management is really about energy management. You cannot produce great work if you are always tired and sleepy.
A lot of people have the wrong concept to think that the more they work they more they can get done. No, it doesn’t work this way.
You don’t want to produce just any work. You want to produce excellent work. And to achieve that, you need to be in a great state flowing with energy.
Every time when I don’t get enough sleep, I feel sleepy and tired. This makes me extremely difficult to focus on my creative work, such as writing articles.
However, when I’m fully rested and are beaming with energy, I found that I’m able to write faster because the ideas will just keep flowing to me.
In short, getting enough rest increases my productivity. On the contrary, when I’m not well rested, my productivity suffers.
Thus, make sure you maintain and keep your health and energy level high so that you can operate at the optimal level and get things done.
You don’t want to feel tired and exhausted that you can’t focus and are too tired to work.
Suggested reading: The Importance of Taking a Short Break According to Research
Here are a couple of tips of what you can do to maintain your overall wellbeing and so that you can perform at your most productive state:
- Get enough sleep
- Take short breaks during the day
- Commit to regular exercise
- Drink more water and keep your body hydrated
- Take a power nap if necessary
- Schedule plays into your calendar to refresh and recharge
9. Make use of the small blocks of time
Another good time management habit you should adopt is to make good use of the small blocks of time during the day.
A 5 minutes here and a 10 minutes there, when adding up, can give you tremendous results and get a big project done.
Each morning, I will spend about 15 to 20 minutes into reading. And after that, I will prepare breakfast while waiting for my wife to eat together.
During the wait, a few minutes here and there, I use those time to continue to read. And I found that I can finish an entire chapter by utilizing those small blocks of time.
I used to read about 2 books a month, but when I’m consciously utilizing those short and small blocks of time, I’m able to read up to 4 books a month.
Hence, never underestimate what you can accomplish in those short time. When you added all the time, you can complete a big project.
Leo Babauta, the zen blogger shares his idea on Lifehack.org about of how you can use your short, free time for productive things. Here are some examples:
- Read a file
- Make a phone call
- Clear out inbox and reply emails
- Review your goals
- Update finances
- Clear off your desk and organize your workplace
- Meditate and do a deep-breathing
- Log and write things down
Develop the habit and utilize those short and small chunks of your time. A few minutes and a couple of minutes there. Use these time to make yourself more productive.
If you want to learn to manage your time, start by learning these small blocks of your time. If you can’t manage the small and what seems insignificant, it will be more difficult for you to manage your day, week, or month.
10. Ride your motivation wave
If you want to manage your time better, you need to learn how to ride your motivation wave. The concept was introduced by BJ Fogg, a psychologist, and director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford.
According to Fogg, motivation has one role in our lives and that is to help us do the hard things.
Therefore, Fogg suggests that when your motivation is high, you want to put yourself to work on those high-impact and difficult things.
For instance, when you get back home and your motivation is high, you should get all the things done, such as wash the vegetables, chop them up, and keep them in clear containers in the refrigerator.
“Later, throughout the week as your motivation sags, your goal of eating more vegetables is easier to do,” said Fogg.
Watch the interview below where Ramit Sethi, the author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich asked Fogg on explaining the theory of motivation waves.
Therefore, leverage on your motivation wave. When you are driven, do more. When you are highly motivated, prepare yourself and do the things that will increase your capability to achieve your goal.
Just like if you are a morning person, then use your morning hours to work on your most important project.
And if you are an owl and are the most productive in the evening, choose to work more and still continue to work even when others have gone for a party.
Learn to understand yourself and leverage your motivation to get things done. Time management is also about managing yourself and choosing the right moment to work on the right tasks for optimum results.
If you want to develop good time management habits, you should seriously consider the 10 that I have shared with you above.
Remember, time management is really about how you manage yourself. And being productive means getting the most result-yielding tasks done in the shortest period of time.
Let me know which one works the best for you. Leave your comment below. Cheers.