Do you have a list of things you need to finish but somehow you can never complete it? No matter how hard you try procrastination creeps and you feel guilty later. Trust me, I know the feeling all too well.
Most of us search for a perfect fits-it-all solution to manage time efficiently. But a perfect time-management strategy that would suit everyone is a myth really. What works for me may not work for you. So based on your lifestyle you have to develop your own routine.
For example my productivity takes double-dip if I get up early. I have tried it too many times to know by now. It just hampers my natural sleep cycle and messes up my mood. But unlike me you may actually benefit from being an early riser.
I love to have a productive day, but I am bad at following things to a “T”, so instead of sticking to one method I mix different time-management techniques to complete my tasks. Here are 5 best time-management strategies I follow or at least try my best to adhere to.
Best Time-management Strategies Tried and Tested
Time-Blocking: Most time-management strategies include some sort of time-blocking. You may have heard about this concept, it’s pretty popular right now.
To put it simply, time blocking ensures you plan tasks and time spent on each task in advance. This allows you to have accountability as to how productive you are with your time and curtails scope for distractions.
Time-blocking is good for daily planning. Like when you make a daily to-do list, you can write each task and the estimated time to complete it. Below is just a rough outline for you to apply time-blocking in your daily planning.
Answering Mails — (3 – 4 PM) — (1 Hour)
Project Work — (8 – 10 AM) — (1 Hour)
Team Meeting — (11 AM – 12 noon) — (1 Hour)
Jogging — (7 – 7.45 AM) — (45 Minutes)
For office-goers time-blocking is an excellent way to improve productivity. Usually project works involve time-blocking. I personally used this when worked for client projects during my corporate stint.
Most people have a 40-hour work week or roughly 8 hours of office time. If you divide this 8-hour office into blocks you can easily identify how much time you waste and utilise.
Benefits of time-blocking:
Controls procrastination: The best benefit of time-blocking is curbing distractions. At the back of your mind you know you have committed your time to particular task and your focus will be on completing or atleast progressing with your to-do-list.
Makes realise you capabilities: Once you get into time-blocking, you will understand how much you can actually get done in a day. You may have a list of 10 things but you complete 3 in a day. This opens the scope for better task management. So instead of jam-packing your schedule you will focus on doing lesser number of things in one day.
Helps in developing a habit: Do you want to develop a habit like exercising regularly or eating on time, then you must try time-blocking. Once you know exactly when you have to begin your mind is more prepared. Do you want to develop a habit like exercising regularly or eating on time, then you must try time-blocking. Once you know exactly when you have to begin your mind is more prepared.
Drawbacks: One drawback I find with this method is fixed time for everything which reduces room for improvement especially with creative activities. I love to draw and my mind doesn’t work if I have a fixed time to practice drawing and then abandon it since time is up!
Maybe if I were a professional artist this would have been different. Also it’s very difficult for me to stick to exact time-frame with everything.
But I do use this method with my blog and freelance work. Six days a week I block two hours from my schedule for my blog writing, research and formatting posts and another 2 hours for my freelance work. So that’s roughly 24 hours in 6 days.
How much I have actually achieved with time-blocking?
I have to be honest here. There are times when I cannot complete the 24-hour target and then sometimes I actually work more than allotted time owing to a deadline.
Pomodoro Technique: With this technique you begin a task and continue it for 25 minutes at a stretch then take a 5-minute break, after which you continue with the task for another 25-minute stretch followed again by a 5-minute break. So this cycle continues until you have completed four such sessions.
The primary argument of Pomodoro technique is anyone can give full concentration to an activity for a stretch of 25 minutes. This technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in 1980s, named after a tomato-shaped timer used by him.
Advantages of Pomodoro Technique
1.This technique creates a sense of urgency and since the sessions are really short it makes you super focused.
2. It gives a buffer time of 5 minutes between sessions you can attend to any interruptions during this buffer time like attending a phone call which you couldn’t answer during the task.
3. It gives you an advantage of planning and breaking down longer tasks into short sessions. You can also instantly track your progress.
How I use Pomodoro Technique?
I just love this technique! It is super helpful in keeping distractions at bay mostly in form of social media which I love to waste my time on, well mostly without even realizing.
Strangely I use it most to schedule my social media updates like automating pins in Tailwind, tweets or FB updates for blog posts.
Pomodoro reduced my Pinterest Pins designing time
Here I have to mention I love how it has improved my productivity in designing Pinterest Pins. Being a blogger I know how crucial Pinterest is for traffic so I used to waste a colossal amount of time designing perfect pins. I actually keep a track now of how much time I am spending there. So now I can design about 3-4 pins in 30 minutes.
Drawbacks:Many may find it difficult to take a break after 25 minutes if they are in a good workflow, so in that case it may be counter-productive.
The Most Important Task (MITs): Like its name most important task involves prioritising your to-do list and attending most critical task on your list. The MITs strategy is a modified version of Stephen Covey’s time-quadrant concept in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People where he divides time into four quadrants
Urgent and important
Important but not urgent
Urgent but not important
Not urgent not important
How I use it?
I use this technique with mostly with my freelance work since those are deadline based. This strategy along with time-blocking keeps my work progress on track.
Secondly, I vouch for this strategy when running personal errands. I can easily slip into procrastination when it comes to grocery shopping and paying bills. So usually whenever there is personal work, which just cannot be put off I attend to it first thing in the morning. I use this method pretty much every day when making my to-do list.
How much I have achieved?
I can say I am pretty much on track with this strategy, particularly when attending personal work. Although there are few slips but overall I feel more organized than I felt two years ago.
Drawbacks: The only drawback here I can think of is having a huge list of tasks that may mentally drain someone. So in short keep your to-do list short. Maximum three tasks at the most.
The 2-minute rule: Have you read David Allen’s best-selling book on productivity Getting Things Done? If not you really should consider reading it. The 2-minute rule originally comes from Allen’s book where it advocates the idea that things that can be done in two minutes or under should be done immediately.
When you inevitability delay small tasks it leads to procrastination and laziness leading to things mounting up. These small tasks may be like clearing your desk, making your bed, taking out garbage, paying that bill and so on.
These small tasks unnecessarily burden your brain since you know you have to do it at some point. Getting those small tasks out of the way amps up your energy and makes you more productive.
Can you actually complete a task in 2-minutes? No, I don’t think so, some stuff requires more than 2-minutes to complete but the idea here is to get you started. You can’t complete but you can start a task in 2-minutes right?
How I use and how much I have achieved?
I think the 2-minute rule is not much about applying as it is with realizing how much we waste our time ignoring small tasks. Like for example I had this annoying habit of not making my bed, for some reason I delayed it as much as possible. But this book changed that so whenever I feel lazy making my bed I start doing it as fast as possible.
For my work-related stuff I have never really used this strategy, maybe since most of us are pretty serious regarding our work so it naturally becomes a priority whereas with personal stuff we can afford to be a bit lax.
Drawbacks: I honestly can’t think of any drawbacks with this one. The only observation here would be don’t let small tasks pile up, it’s overwhelming when you have countless of tasks to complete however small those may be.
Batching:The idea behind batching is categorizing similar tasks together and doing all those tasks at a go. This gives you the advantage finishing things at a stretch which helps your mind in focusing on one task at a time instead of switching between different tasks.
It also makes sense when you concentrate on one task your brain gets into a momentum and concentrates better. You can even finish your task faster than intended.
How I use it?
I love batching but unfortunately I don’t use it as much as I should. I really can’t finish things at a go. Like when writing blog posts I usually prefer writing long, in-depth content that takes usually takes me two days, including formatting of the post.
However, I do like to do all my social media scheduling at a go and I can say this is an area I may have been moderately successful, especially when combined with Pomodoro technique. But I really need to work more.
But I must mention here that when it comes to organising my personal stuff I love batching, like organising my wardrobe, shelves or cleaning my room. So if I need to declutter my personal space I can totally do it from start to finish.
Drawbacks: It may be difficult for some people (like me) to complete a range of similar tasks at a go. It requires practice to adapt to this system.
Apps For Time Management
These are 3 recommended apps for managing your time and these tools are the best when you are dealing with projects, multiple tasks and sub-tasks. All these app are popular and have free versions too!
Todoist: This wonderful app allows you to label your projects and tasks, you can use colour-code to give add the degree of prioritisation and track your progress. There is a paid version but for single use I guess the free version is enough.
Trello: Trello is very useful for project management teams where team members can brainstorm, give their comments, share ideas. It is basically a digital dashboard where you can see how you are progressing with work. Each task, project, idea is represented as a card on the dashboard.
MyLife Organised: I recently discovered this app and was hooked on to its user-friendly features. It is an amazing daily planner but goes beyond than that it lets you break down big tasks into smaller sub-tasks, making it easier for you organise, plan and complete.
What I learnt from Time Management Strategies?
Write the list: Your brain has all these nuggets of thoughts constantly nagging your mind. If you write down your tasks you free-up some of that space in your brain. Also don’t just write a to-do list, write the time you intend to start a particular task.
Keep your to-do list small: Your brain cannot handle more than 7 tasks in a day. There are some tasks which anyhow we have to do each day like eating, bathing, doing dishes or travelling to work. So don’t tax your brain unnecessarily, just keep your list small.
Like when I have to run personal errands I don’t do any blogging or freelancing work that day unless it is absolutely necessary and vice-versa.
Perfection is an illusion: You cannot be productive in a day, it takes practice and to be perfect and to achieve maximum productivity is not always possible. It’s okay if you couldn’t do as much as you hoped to.
You cannot control external factors: How productive you are is also subjective to external factors that come in form of distractions and interruptions like a particularly chatty colleague, angry boss, bad internet connections. You get the drift right! Sometimes these are unavoidable and will disturb your workflow, so in those situations don’t let your frustrations overwhelm you.
So this is the end of a very long post, and lastly I will only say that your progress depends on your efforts, you have to mold time as per your situation. I really hope you found this post useful. Would you like to share some additional productivity tips? Please do!