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Contxto – If you’re on your way to becoming a CEO or even if you’re already one, you probably already think you know how to manage time, but just wish for days with more than 24 hours.
But I’ll tell you a hard truth:
You do have enough time in your day for all your tasks and still have some to spare for a good quality of life. Yeah, take a moment. I didn’t think so either. Before I wrote this article, I investigated and tested these practices for an entire month.
What I found is that it is doable, but it is not easy. Proper time management doesn’t come without sweat and boredom.
You do your chores and so you get mentally tired, but a lot of the time, you will struggle to do chores when they become repetitive. You have to answer 17 employee request emails. You are the only one who can do it. It gets boring.
The following is a list of the top 10 tips I used while improving my time-management. These principles will allow you to do more in less time and are applicable to all areas of life.
- Focus on your highest priorities
- Plan ahead and schedule your time in advance
- Be flexible
- Avoid distractions like the plague
- Don’t multitask
- Start with the difficult tasks
- Create a to-do list
- Get rid of unnecessary meetings and paperwork
- Delegate whenever possible
- Have someone to lean on
1. Focus on your highest priorities
The first step to better manage your time is to understand that you shouldn’t do everything. Prioritizing the most important tasks will ensure that your medium and long-term goals are met without surprises.
You may be the type who sees every task as important and I feel you. I used to think the same. “How will I prioritize something when I have to do everything?” As important as our tasks are, placing a degree of importance will calm your restless mind and make you get things done.
I know you start reading this article expecting to have a pleasant time and to learn something new. But I need to destroy some truths you might have in this CEO Head of yours:
Where there’s a will, there’s not necessarily a way.
Do you remember that new section you want to implement on your Company’s Blog? Well… you’ll have to let it slide for a couple of months, if not forever
A new product while your first one is still being built? Not today. To do more, first get the work you have at hand done.
Before you do anything, you need to clearly define the difference between the “want-to-dos” and a “have-to-dos” in your life.
2. Plan ahead and schedule your time in advance
Many people plan their day as they go along throughout the day. This leads to inconsistency and procrastination because there is no overall plan in place for what needs to be accomplished in time.
You always need an overall plan for how you are going to spend your time each day or week. That way you know exactly what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, without any surprises.
“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” Peter Drucker, “The Effective Executive” (1966)
Best way to plan ahead? Plan to spend 5 minutes planning so you can find your priority tasks
Think about your current project. You may have to design a marketing plan with your team. Or or maybe to write a blog post.
It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you are able to make a list of all activities necessary to complete your week’s or month’s work. I do it weekly and my task today is to finish this article—in case you were wondering.
With your list in hand, think: If you could choose only one task to do per day, what would it be?
Find the task that will create the most positive outcomes for you and the people connected to your project on completion. Done?
OK, so now, what if you finish this task and only have room for one more task? Which one would it be? And so on and so forth.
With this prioritized plan ready, you can get on with the most important tasks for days.
Our day is not something linear and without external influence.
Calculate at least 25 free minutes after each big task is completed. The objective here is for you to make planning easy and realistic with your day to day. Do not put more tasks than you think you will be able to finish.
3. Be flexible
Be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances as they arise throughout the day or week. But stick to your overall plan and schedule!
Plans change all the time.
It is essential that we remain flexible and adaptable, allowing us not to stick to our original plans entirely if something happens that requires us to change our arrangements for a while.
However, we still need a schedule that we can deviate from without straying too far from our original intention. We can’t delay all our commitments indefinitely!
Knowing how to set up your day with a few tasks will be the difference between micromanaging everything and skillfully performing activities.
Some people panic when they need to do something last-minute and are prevented from completing their meticulous planning. This happens when we base our deadlines on the slim chance of everything going according to plan.
It never happens like that.
Be prepared for everyday surprises.
4. Avoid distractions like the plague
It’s not just YouTube and Twitter; don’t get distracted by all the unimportant things that seem like they’re important, but aren’t. Stay focused on your big picture goals!
As I write this article—my main task at the moment—I made the decision to close all my browser tabs. This took me about 40 minutes to complete. A clear example of how small tasks can rob you of all of your time, leaving you with the feeling of inproductivity at the end of the day.
Avoid that frustration.
One thing that helps me get back on track when I have my tasks behind schedule is to set alarms on my cell phone so that I am always being reminded that I must continue as planned.
Another technique to avoid distraction is to create a gap between tasks. Offer yourself small rewards and for completing small goals. That’s dopamine, baby.
The most accessible version of this reward system is the Pomodoro technique.
If you have not yet heard about this term, send me your address so I can send a telegram to the cave you’ve been living in. And if your cave has WiFi, you could read this excellent article that teaches you how to hack productivity and better achieve your daily focus.
5. Do not multitask
Needless to say that doing more than one thing at the same time compromises the quality of all of them. Some things can be done simultaneously, but they are the exception, not the rule.
To make it clear to your brain that the next task cannot be interrupted, leave your co-workers a warning that, for the next X minutes, you will be unavailable.
And you’d better be.
Take advantage of this rare moment of planned disconnect. Turn off your phone or put it in airplane mode; use page blockers and just leave the page you are using open.
6. Start with the most difficult tasks
For you to understand the logic behind this topic, try to imagine your willpower as a battery that works best when closer to full charge.
When you start the day, you have 100 percent power. As soon as you start your day, the battery unplugged from the charger. Each task performed consumes some of this willpower battery.
This is why, beyond some false sense of superiority, it is important to start with your hardest task.
Researchers at Emory University found that, after analyzing 83 doctors performing 230,000 tasks, those who were fatigued tended to choose easier tasks.
But, if willpower is like a battery, simple tasks will still consume much energy as the hard ones.
When you spend your battery life beginning with the more pleasant tasks, your brain will not have the willpower to perform the less pleasant tasks, which are still essential for our day-to-day activities.
7. Create a to-do list
The more I try to learn about time management, the more I come to the conclusion that the key to this is self-monitoring.
Making a daily to-do list can work very well for you or be the shining light that proves that you are actually quite disorganized.
Great productivity masters or coaches will often claim that a to-do list must always be squeaky clean by the end of the day. BS.
This is not to say that you will not really try to keep your to-do list clear at the end of the day, but consistency is also a habit. If you convince yourself that you’re a failure after not clearing your first few to-do lists, you’ll most likely quit. But, remember:
Being a productivity master is a painful process, but it is one that you will develop once you start to follow these tips.
I like to use Tic Tic for my to-do lists. You can set an alarm, sync with your calendar and create groups to define whether a task is an important one. And, to define how important a task is on my daily list, I usually use the Eisenhower Matrix which helps me choose when something is not an obvious priority in my mind.
Let me show you:
8. Get rid of unnecessary meetings and paperwork
I bet you heard this a gazillion times:
“Another meeting that could have been an email.”
So, if you must, go with a brief meeting. Preferably at the beginning of the week, with teams that have reason to know what the others are doing and with a clear understanding of whether or not they need tons of detail.
This applies to paperwork as well. If you don’t really need a report; if you don’t intend to use it for anything, do not write it. Invest your energy into useful procedures for your day-to-day.
Disclaimer: Think carefully about leaving some procedures. Some reports and documents must be produced, no matter how boring they are. This article about how to go from hating to loving investor reports seems particularly pertinent.
If none of this is up to you. Well, my dear, I hear you. And I am sorry.
9. Delegate whenever possible
Many leaders feel insecure about delegating because they don’t want anyone to think that they can’t handle all the tasks. Then, they end up getting lost in a mountain of activities that:
- Either they shouldn’t be performing at the moment, or
- Add little value to the achievement of an objective.
Learn to delegate tasks. Even with a low budget and a small team, it is possible to set goals for a project and execute it as it should be done.
Surround yourself with people you trust and let them do the tasks without so much micro-administration.
If you hired someone you think is capable, why get in their way?
As Steve Jobs once said:
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
10. Have someone to lean on
Okay, this tests all the limits of introverts, like myself. But don’t close up to the idea just yet.
Accountability Groups are one of the best things around when you’re aiming to better manage your time. And the explanation is simple:
Human beings are social animals. Yes. Even you who claim to be antisocial. We like to share and we go further when we are accompanied.
If your goal is to produce more during your day, sharing milestones with friends can help you achieve your goals. Quora, Twitter, and Facebook are fantastic places to join a group, in case you don’t know anybody.
So, how to manage time? Manage it like the finite resource it is
After reading this article carefully you should now know:
- The difference between a “want-to-do” and a “have-to-do”
- How to set your priorities
- How to monitor yourself
- And, how to receive monitoring from third parties
But, what do you think?
Which of these tips seems most essential to your day to day routine? Is there a ninja trick that we missed? Send us an email, can we update this post or maybe do a part two?