Do you ever feel like there aren't enough hours in the day and everything seems a little bit too overwhelming?
Time is the one thing we can't make more of and productive time management is actually really simple but we tend to over complicate it.
There are a handful of simple habits that you can incorporate into your life right now that will just save you loads of time and if you can consistently do these simple habits you'll be amazed at how quickly they can stack up helping you to get more done and having time to enjoy life.
Okay let's start with the first simple yet practical habit that can supercharge our productivity.
The Punctuality Habit
For some reason, showing up early is not talked about enough, as it relates to increasing boosting our productivity and reducing our anxiety when it comes to managing our time. If you think about it, it just makes sense; if you start early, you give yourself the opportunity to make use of all the time that has been allocated to that task.
Sure, there are other things that could cut that time short including distractions and emergencies. But the bottomline still remains that if you start early, you afford yourself the luxury of time. And this applies whether or not you have to leave your house to work.
For people who work remotely, there’s the temptation to start the workday just a couple of minutes or even seconds before official work is supposed to start.
The problem with that is that there are other tasks aside from work that either get left undone or get pushed to a later time. And before you know it, you’re running behind on everything that you need to do.
I find that when I'm organized and I'm punctual for things like meetings, getting to the airport or whatever I'm way calmer since I'm not rushing or worrying about being late and so my brain will be calmer and I'm able to get more out of the time available.
So, if you want to improve your productivity, practicing being early is a good place to start.
And the way to do this is by preparing in advance for the day, whether early in the morning or the night before, and using reminders if you need to.
To help build a punctuality habit
The Calendar Habit
Speaking of things that could shorten the time you have for tasks, if you find that you always get derailed by distractions throughout the day, you might benefit from building the calendar habit.
The calendar habit is all about how we manage our time and it is a combination of reverse planning, time blocking and the Pomodoro technique.
This technique acknowledges that some people find it difficult to focus on tasks for long periods at a time and if we break down out time into manageable blocks surrounded by breaks we'll be more likely to get that work done.
So, instead of forcing yourself to focus for hours and hours, you can break your workday into thirty minute chunks in your calendar. Each chunk would then be broken down into 25 minutes of focused work and a 5 minute break or however you want to schedule things.
The idea is not just to break down your time, though, but to break down your tasks. So, if you have a huge task, you want to break it down into smaller tasks, and each small task should be something that can be completed in about 25 minutes.
The calendar habit for me is all about choosing a calendar app for me I'll use google calendar or iCal and then setting my month, week and day ahead of time. In my calendar I'll add in my daily non-negotiables which are things like going to the gym or relaxing in the evening and then I'll fill out the rest of the calendar with work tasks or things like self-study and learning.
This habit also forces me to think about how much time I'm spending on a task. If your tasks need more than four block of time, you need to divide those broken down tasks into even smaller ones. And if there are any tasks that would take less than one time block, you can put those tasks together into one.
Of course, you can customize this habit to best suit you. The point is just to have short bursts of focused work, while allowing yourself the opportunity to rest or even be distracted by something else along the way.
The idea is that if you allow yourself these controlled short periods of rest or distraction, you won’t be tempted to waste chunks of your time doing nothing, hence being more productive.
The Deep Work Habit
The concept of deep work was coined by Cal Newport, a computer science professor, and it speaks of getting rid of anything that could pose a distraction, especially communication tools, for long hours at a stretch.
So, for a couple of hours a day, typically the hours when you work, you want to log out of all your social media pages and even your email, or turn off the notifications for those platforms if logging out and then logging back in everyday would be too stressful.
In fact, you could switch off your internet access if you don’t need it for work. This takes care of all those distractions in one fell swoop, and a distraction-free environment should help you to focus on your tasks.
There's also some good evidence that moving your phone to a different room makes it harder for you to check messages or jump into mobile notifications.
Now, if you work in a shared space, you might need to do more than just turn off your social media notifications or switch off your internet access. You might need to be strong enough to say no to office gossip or random coffee breaks.
For me when I'm working from home I'll schedule in deep work first thing in the morning so that I go straight to my desk and I'm not tempted to procrastinate as my willpower is at it's maximum when I first wake up.
I'll then pop on some noise cancelling headphones with some focus music and get into deep work mode to avoid any distractions.
The Two-Minute Habit
The idea of the Two-Minute Rule is to tackle issues at their infancy before they grow into gigantic issues that would take more time to tackle.
The concept was popularized by productivity guru David Allen, and it suggests that if a task can be completed in two minutes or less, you should do it immediately and not postpone it till later.
Now, this strategy is a bit tricky because some tasks might seem simple enough initially but then you get into them and find out that they are really not.
However, for the most part, we are good at determining what tasks are simple, especially based on experience.
In fact, it is this very simplicity that deceives most people into postponing those tasks till they are a giant mess. For me I hate doing things like company accounts or signing documents or any kind of admin as I find it boring. In reality these task are often pretty quick but I just put them off because they're a bit boring.
If I leave them for too long however I'll get emails from people chasing me and more annoyance so what I'll tend to do with these tasks now is to get them done as soon as they come through or certainly within 24hours in order to get them out the way.
If you do those tasks that only take a couple of minutes without postponing, you’d save yourself a nice chunk of time down the line.
What’s more, completing these small tasks will often give you motivation and could push you to be even more productive through the rest of your day.
The Exercise Habit
One of the biggest benefits of incorporating physical activity into your daily routine is that you get fit while also getting a dopamine boost.
If I don't exercise I'll start to feel sluggish and I find I'm less likely to stay focused and finish work quickly.
Physical activity is a powerful tool for enhancing productivity; it’s the reason some experts have been recommending things like standing desks for those that work long hours in front of a monitor.
Studies indicate that productivity is directly linked to our physical conditioning especially when it comes to our performance at work.
Engaging in regular physical exercise would help to improve cognitive function, increase energy levels, and generally improve mood, which could be what you need to combat the afternoon slump that many of us seem susceptible to.
To make this habit work for you, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
This could be as simple as a brisk walk or a quick home workout during your lunch break, whatever you are able to fit into your day that gets your heart pumping.
For me I'll usually take my dog Basil for a 45-minute walk in the morning and then aim to do a HiiT class or heavy weights session around 11am after my first period of deep work. I'll then do 1 or 2 further walks in the afternoon and evening to help keep me focused and feeling good.
The Reflection Habit
I'm a big fan of journalling not just for planning out my day but also to reflect on what I'm grateful for and what I've achieved at the end of the day.
The idea of reflection is to go over our goals, review our accomplishments and see how we managed to achieve them, and also go over any losses and see what mistakes we made which we can learn from.
This way, you can craft more realistic goals and come up with more efficient strategies.
If you wait till the end of the year to do this, you’ll be missing out on better strategies and even more successes for most of the year.
Some experts recommend having a time of reflection after every work day, while others suggest having one after every work week is sufficient. At all of my companies we do a weekly reflection on a Friday where everyone journals in slack what went well, what could have been improved and what they learned. This creates a team reflection period that everyone can learn from.
Whichever works for you, the point is that you want to do it frequently because aside from helping you to better tailor your goals and strategies, you are also able to notice patterns in your life, and also come face-to-face with your strengths and weaknesses.
So, all around, reflection gives you the opportunity to improve yourself.
The Creativity Habit
Considering that some of our tasks might be something new or require us to combine concepts and ideas in a new way, our productivity can benefit from improved creativity.
Creativity involves thinking outside the box and finding innovative and interesting solutions to challenges. If we expose ourselves to activities outside of work that require creativity, we give ourselves the opportunity to pick up some relevant skills that can come in handy when we work.
I love reading and playing video games and my mind will often think about how I can short circuit a problem and find a solution with the fewest steps possible.
So, take the time to engage in some of your favorite hobbies, especially those ones like playing a musical instrument or a game, that need you to be creative.
You could also consider exposing yourself to knowledge from other areas outside of your area of expertise through reading or even just watching a YouTube video like this one; you might just pick up a thing or two that would help with your work.
By integrating these habits into your daily routine, you're not only enhancing your ability to focus and manage your time effectively but also nurturing your mental and physical well-being.
These habits empower you to take control of your work and personal life, enabling you to accomplish more in less time while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.