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If You Want to be Productive on a Daily Basis, Learn How to Manage Your Time, Energy, And Attention

The quest for increased personal productivity -- for making the best possible use of your limited time -- can be overwhelming.

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

The quest for increased personal productivity — for making the best possible use of your limited time — can be overwhelming.

And sometimes the better you get at managing time, the less of it you feel that you have.

Here is a familiar story: You’re busy all day reacting to people’s requests, working non-stop and against the clock, multitasking in an attempt to get all your tasks done and checked off from your to-do list.

As the day comes to a close, you have little to show for all the time, effort and energy you have put into your day’s work.

You shouldn’t live and work like that. The good news is you can take control and start accomplishing almost everything you set out to do on any given day. Don’t allow these habits to deny you a great day at work!

How do you spend your time?

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” — Annie Dillard

Time. It is arguably your most valuable asset.

We often overlook certain routines, which leads to lost productivity.

You probably have no idea how much time you spend on a single task every day. It’s very easy to forget to track how you work.

You will be shocked by how much time you’re actually wasting on tasks that have little or no value to your life and work.

You can take complete control of your time if you can be mindful of what kind of time you’re taking and what you are spending it on.

It pays to single-task! Cut, outsource or delegate anything else that’s in the way. Stop trying to do everything!

When you’re focused on one thing at a time, accomplishing it, then moving on, you can easily track how much time you spend on your daily activities.

“The One Thing” by Gary Keller encourages us to use the “One Thing” approach to take control of our time. He writes:

“If everyone has the same number of hours in the day, why do some people seem to get so much more done than others? How do they do more, achieve more, earn more, have more? If time is the currency of achievement, then why are some able to cash in their allotment for more chips than others?

The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach. They go small. Going small is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do.

It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It’s a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.”

Be proactive about managing your inbox

Many people get into bad habits with email: They check their messages every few minutes, read them, and most of the time, the messages they read stress them out which impacts how they work.

What’s even worse is that they take little or no action, so they pile up into an even more stress-inducing heap.

Over-reliance on email to collaborate with your team is costing you precious time and money. Email is probably contributing to more task switching than you realise.

An inbox that is overflowing with actions, urgent calls for responses, stuff to read, etc. is chaos, stressful and overwhelming.

Here is a better way to handle your email:

When you open an email, make a quick decision: delete/archive, or act now.

Clarify the action each message requires — a reply, an entry on your to-do list or just filing it away.

If a reply will take less than a minute, go ahead and respond.

Otherwise schedule a time to clear your inbox.

Stop sending so many emails. The more emails you send, the more you’ll get. Use email as little as you possibly can. Use alternatives if possible. If you send an email that doesn’t require a response, say so.

Send shorter emails. They’re more likely to get read and acted on, and it’ll take less of your time to write them. Try sticking to four sentences or fewer.

Are your goals specific, attainable, measurable and time-bound?

“Write your goals down in detail and read your list of goals every day. Some goals may entail a list of shorter goals. Losing a lot of weight, for example, should include mini-goals, such as 10-pound milestones. This will keep your subconscious mind focused on what you want step by step.” — Jack Canfield

Goal-setting is one of the most fundamental rules of productivity. Goals set the direction and determine where you go. James Clear explains:

Research has shown that you are two to three times more likely to stick to your goals if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [day] at [time of day] at/in [place].”

Researchers found that people who filled out this sentence were two to three times more likely to actually exercise compared to a control group who did not make plans for their future behavior. Psychologists call these specific plans “implementation intentions” because they state when, where and how you intend to implement a particular behavior.

You need clarify of purpose to be productive!

The best approach for setting and achieving your goals is to not have too many goals at a time. Having too many goals makes things complicated and requires a more complicated system for keeping track of your goals.

Keep things as simple as possible if you can.

That has the added benefit of allowing you to focus your energies on a small number of goals, making you far more effective with them.

Set goals, especially for the most important areas of your life: career, relationships, finance, health and personal growth. Where do you see yourself in these areas in the next six months, or one, three and five years?

Your goals directly impact your actions, which impact your results!

Measure your inputs or results!

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.” — John Wooden

If you don’t take time to assess results and figure out how to do more of what’s working, you be wasting a lot of time on activities that have little impact on your productivity.

Examine your work constantly.

Meticulously analyze your inputs and outputs.

The overwhelming reality about life and living it is this: We live in a world where a lot of things are taking up your most time but given you the least results and a very few things are exceptionally valuable.

John Maxwell once said, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

Time your efforts, and document how you are investing your time.

Are you getting the results you expect?

This might seem like a waste of time at first, but once you see how valuable performance data is for getting doing better in life you’ll start measuring where the week has gone.

Find a system that works for you

Try out different ways to organize your to-do list. Use apps. Use sticky notes.

Larry Alton of The Muse recommends that you review your system constantly and revise where necessary. He writes:

To figure out if a new system’s working, keep a productivity journal where you track what time of the day you worked best, what helped you get your various tasks done and how you felt when you left the office. As time goes on, you can look back, find patterns and identify where improvements are needed. There are so many systems and apps out there that there just has to be one for you.

Actionable steps to measure how you spend time:

  1. Assess your schedule for the rest of the week and write down how much time you are spending on social media, checking work and personal email, writing blogs, meetings, web browsing, news reading, etc.
  2. Then, come up with a percentage of time spent on each activity given the number of hours you are “at work” per week.
  3. Put the analysis together and you will very clearly see your problem areas.
  4. You will then know exactly where you need to develop more efficient systems for yourself and areas to cut back so you can focus more on what contributes to your overall productivity.

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Originally published at medium.com

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