“I am definitely going to take a course on time management… just as soon as I can work it into my schedule.” — Louis E. Boone
I don’t know about you, but I’ve said something pretty close to that before. And as a Coach, who helps others be more productive, I’ve had it said to me more times than I can count. I think time management is something with which we all struggle. So, knowing that you don’t have a lot of time, let’s get straight to the point. I’ve got five tips for you on getting the most out of your day. I call them my 5 “S’s.”
A system is a set of principle and procedures by which something gets done. In other words, it’s the methods we use to get things done. A Time Management System provides structure, increases efficiency, and builds habits. Without a good system, we tend to procrastinate, waste time, and work too hard.
There are many time management systems out there, far too many for me to list here. We can generally group them into the following general categories:
- Organizers – these are systems that help you organize all of your physical and electronic stuff. Most work on the premise of touch it only once.
- Lists – these are task lists and generally have some type of prioritization system.
- Calendars – these are systems that incorporate your stuff and your tasks into your schedule. These can be print or electronic.
Here are the keys to finding a system that helps you get the most out of your day:
- The system should be easy to figure out and implement.
- It should help you to declutter and do things only once.
- It should be customizable to fit your needs.
- It should be a system that works for you and one you can stick with!
For me, I use a combination of several systems: David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” Stephen Covey’s Quadrant System, and ActiveInbox for Gmail.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started my day intent on working my way down my to-do list only to get to the end of the day wondering “where did the day go?” Why does that happen? Because we’re more concerned with getting things done than we are with getting the most out of our day. In short, staying busy consumes us.
John C. Maxwell says it this way: “If you don’t give regular attention to how you are using your time, pretty soon, it will be abusing you.”
That’s why you should schedule what’s important to you as a weekly plan. This is called Time Blocking.
The idea of Time Blocking is to prioritize your to-do list, convert your list to times on your schedule, then work by your schedule, not your to-do list. Review the schedule daily before you get started—then focus. Take time at the end of your day to evaluate your results—then start fresh the next day. Give more time to direction than perfection.
Another important part of Time Blocking is auditing your calendar once a week. This allows you to see where you spent your time and make adjustments for the next week.
Another important part of getting the most out of your day is taking advantage of your body’s energy swings. Researchers have discovered that our bodies have a natural ebb and flow of energy throughout the day. They call it our “Ultradian Rhythm.” Think about it, aren’t there times during your day when you’re more energetic and alert and other times when you struggle to have the energy to get anything done?
The problem is that most of us try to fight against our body’s energy cycles and “push through.” In reality, the more we push and struggle, the less productive we become. The real challenge here is to learn to work with our body’s natural energy cycles. This uncovers hidden reserves of energy and productivity.
The best way to learn your body’s ultradian rhythms is to track your focus, enthusiasm, energy, and moods throughout your day for a week. Then look for patterns. Then work to schedule your most difficult work during high energy times.
To get the most out of your day, work in short sprints with rest periods in between. Don’t try to “push through.” Instead, build work sprints into your daily schedule. They should be during your high energy times. Start the sprint with fifteen minutes of planning. Then shut off all distractions and focus. Sprint for thirty minutes to an hour. Finish with a fifteen-minute wrap-up where you assess what you accomplished and plan for the next sprint. Then take 10 – 15 minutes of rest.
You should work up to the “thirty minutes to an hour.” Start with a 10-minute sprint. Then increase it as you go. You should also make a plan for how you will deal with both external and internal distractions. External distractions are things like cell phones, email, and people at the door. Internal distractions are thoughts like, “Oh! I forgot to…” or “I wonder…” I deal with internal distractions by creating a “Distraction List” where I write down whatever distractions come to mind. Writing them down, lets me release them and move on with what I’m doing. After a while, the internal distractions stop.
“Busy is the new stupid.” – Warren Buffett
Most of us try to cram way too much into our days and stay far too busy. Successful people know they need time to recharge and think. Build space into your schedule to think, meditate, read, rest, and recharge. You’ll get far more done in the time that you are working.
I know, bosses don’t like to see “rest and recharge” on your calendar. This is where the 5 S’s work together. If you work the rest of the S’s, you’ll get so much done during your sprints that the boss will never notice the space.
In conclusion, the 5 S’s will help you get more out of your day. However, as busy as you are, you may need some help putting them into action. That’s where my “Time Audit Challenge” comes in! Here’s the challenge: Download this Time Audit Worksheet and complete it for a week. Then schedule a FREE 60-minute “Time Audit Review Coaching Session.” During your coaching session, I’ll help you gain a clear picture of where your time is going and what you can do to make the most of your day. It’s a no brainer! Why not do this?