Time Management is the most overused term and there are so many books coming out on the same topic. Having read quite a few of them I have come up with a summary of the best ideas that work for me and I believe these can help us really thrive in an interconnected global environment. These are the simple keys we need to really thrive in the 21st Century.
As Peter Drucker said the key to time management is managing yourself. I encourage you to really think long about this because we all have 24 hours but how to schedule it is up to us. Of course some of the time is not entirely our own as we are responsible for the companies employing us and our family responsibilities.
Here are my top 10 time management hacks which can help us thrive in the 21st century. We already know most of them but a reminder doesn’t hurt.
Define your activities – The first step is to be absolutely clear on what is on your plate. Having written to do lists is not a bad idea. Even when we go shopping we write down what we have to buy. Of course a lot of people have started scheduling the activities directly into the calendar or outlook. I think this makes sense as it ensures you will be reminded and you won’t forget. I also use the reminders app in my iPhone to record what needs to be done. Basically you want your mind to be free so write down every single thing to be done including personal things like call a dentist, exercise or pay that bill.
Assign Priorities – Once you have everything written down the next step is to assign priorities to each of the activities identified. We all do the first step but it is the second step which is the key. You can’t do everything on your plate but you can do the most important. Identifying the most important tasks to be done any given day is your job number one. So go ahead and identify the top priorities from that list and work only on those. Another good productivity hack is to just have the tasks to be done on that particular day in your view. This makes sure your focus is clear and there are no distractions in thinking too much about your pending tasks.
Follow the 4 D’s – Further to the second step go through your daily list and then do the following
Do it – Decide whether the items need to be done. If yes go ahead.
Delegate it – Decide if it can be done by someone else in which case you delegate it.
Defer it – If it is not to be done immediately then defer it to another time.
Dump it – Obviously this is the key step which can be often overlooked. Once you decide something is not important or useful just dump it so that it is not in your radar.
Have a Stop Doing List – This can be something like never log into a social media app during office hours. This tactic about a stop doing list was initially suggested by Peter Drucker and now a lot of authors are saying the same thing. Another great strategy to adopt is called Creative abandonment where you ask the question “Knowing what I now know will I get into this now.” Basically this is the question that led Jack Welch to declare that “We will only stay in businesses where we can be number one or number two in that market.” This can also help us in our personal lives by determining based on current information will we get into this relationship, into this investment and so on.
Plan the previous night – Basically ensure that you plan your tasks for tomorrow today. As one of the books is titled “Organize Tomorrow Today” which basically means when you have everything planned you can better handle the things that throw us off our plan. Following to this is to plan the week at the beginning or on Sunday. Of course things never happen as we plan but still it is the planning process which is the key. Dwight Eisenhower said “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
Avoid Multitasking – This is the key to managing yourself as we have so many distractions but the key is to concentrate on one task at a time. So if you are working on something important make sure all notifications are off and you can get the job done. On a side note I have not downloaded any apps for Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter on my iPhone and if I want to check I have to log in through the browser. This makes sure that I don’t check that often and once I check it I log out in which case I make sure it is more difficult to log in again. This gives me a sense of control.
Do fewer tasks – The key is to work only on the most important tasks. It is not the number of tasks that you can check off but the importance of the tasks which is the key to managing your time.
Say No – No is the best word in your dictionary if you want to get the most out of yourself. I think when we look at superstars across professions we might assume that they have it all. I don’t think that maybe the case. The only thing they have going for them is their focus on the few things they are excellent at and say no to everything else. For example Roger Federer is great at tennis but I am sure he doesn’t care about his piano skills. The key is you shouldn’t succumb to pressure from your peers and just focus on what you are good at. You can’t master everything even if you try but if you assess your strengths and focus only on that you will get greater joy out of life.
Reflect and Renew – Peter Drucker said it beautifully “Follow effective action with quiet reflection and from that quiet reflection will follow even more effective action.” Take time to journal how your week or day went. This really helps in evaluating yourself honestly and it can also help you get better at whatever you do. Renewal is another key and this can be achieved by carving out specific times in the day or weekend to exercise, read or engage in any hobby that makes you happy.
Get enough Sleep and Exercise – We are all sleep starved but it has been well proven that only when you get 7-8 hours of sleep you can function at your best. Of course there are times when we really need to burn the midnight oil but this should be the exception rather than the rule. Now there are books like “The Sleep Revolution” which has numerous case studies to show that we need sleep. This is the same advice our parents and grandparents gave us which is “Sleep early, get up early and you can be happy, healthy and wise.” I would also add exercise to this list because most of us have jobs which require a lot of sitting. Sitting for long periods of time is detrimental to health. We need to engage in a fitness program that suits us and there is a lot of scientific evidence that when you exercise it makes you sharper, relaxed, and more productive.
If we follow these 10 suggestions we can get more out of ourselves and more importantly get the maximum joy out of the 24 hours we are blessed with every single day. I hope you enjoyed reading this. Thanks
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.
The best book on personal management is Getting Things Done by David Allen and The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. Everything on time management is covered in these two books.