Harness the Clock: Proven Time Management Techniques

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Could you use an extra hour or two in your day? Sadly, the clock just doesn’t cooperate, well and of course there’s the science and astronomy which is the basis of our day consisting of 24-hours. At Productivity Training Academy (PTA), we have been busy putting the finishing touching on our newest productivity training course, which we will be launching soon.  We’re so excited about the work we are doing, but without practicing what we preach and utilizing some effective time-management techniques, we could not have accomplished what we have thus far. And we felt it important to share several of these time-management techniques, which are crucial to personal productivity. We encourage you to try a few!

Utilize a To-Do List

It may sound simple but using a to-do list packs a powerful punch.  The key is to capture all the things you seek to accomplish in one place. This frees up your mind and allows you to focus on the task at hand. You won’t be trying to not forget something you need to do. Maintaining one list for home and one list for work can create conflict, so we don’t recommend this practice. Keeping only one up-to-date list allows you to see all the items you intend to accomplish in one place. It allows you recognize and group similar activities together for effective execution. And it provides you the opportunity to cross completed items off your list and realize your success in the moment.

To-Do Execution

Creating one to-do list sets the stage for greater productivity. Next comes execution. Carving out defined periods of time to work on projects and tasks ensures you have the necessary time to complete the work. This is called time-blocking and yes, we’re talking about actually blocking time on your calendar to focus on a specific task, so that your calendar doesn’t fill up with something else.

Weekly Time-Blocking Approach

We recommend taking a weekly approach to time-blocking. As you review the items on your to-do list, also look at your calendar for the week. Block time during the week to focus on your to-dos. Be thoughtful with your time allotments. In fact, a slightly generous time block is prudent because, should you finish the scheduled task before the allotted time is up, you’ll have some bonus time to work on something else.

Blocking time to complete your important tasks, will reduce the number of times you’ve found yourself in a deadline crunch. Which can lead to burn out or lead to careless mistakes. Having an appointment scheduled with you and the task can discourage procrastination.  Importantly, the very act of blocking time needed for a pressing task will tamp down anxiety you might have regarding the work itself. You’ll know you’ve put a thoughtful plan in place and have committed to the execution of the work at a specific time in the future.

Meetings = Time-Blocking

Meetings are a type of time-blocking. They can be an effective way to cut down on back-and-forth, time-wasting emails and texts. The real-time interaction meetings afford, can boost collaboration, and facilitate team building. Key components of productive meetings; a written agenda, shared prior to the meeting, a hard start and end time, and thoughtfully chosen attendees. Virtual meetings can typically be just as effective as in-person meetings and eliminate commute time.

Self-Awareness is Paramount

Just becoming aware of what tends to distract you is valuable. For example, when you pick up your phone to make a call, are you pulled off course by the text or email badges? If this scenario resonates with you, this is the first step to self-awareness, and you can begin to guide yourself away from this distracting behavior. The next time you grab your phone, you will recognize the distracting behavior sooner and be able to refocus on why you picked up your phone in the first place, to make a phone call. If you do get sucked in and read the text or email messages, jot the task down on your to-do list and quickly return to the task on hand.

Silence Notifications

In addition to the badges on each app indicating how many new messages we have, most of us also allow our apps to make a noise when new messages arrive. And our conditioned response is, we must look, it might be important. So, we recommend turning off notifications, the sounds and app icon badges. Getting sidetracked by email or other notifications, not only pulls valuable time away from the task at hand, it also highjacks your mind.

Now that you’ve reduced the visual and audible distraction, you might be asking, when do I review and act on new messages? This is another opportunity to utilize time-blocking to help you stay focused. We both counsel our clients on the importance of blocking time to process email, treat social media like email. Block time on your calendar for perusing Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You’ll enjoy it more, when you aren’t feeling guilty about a task you should be completing. We understand that silencing all notifications might not be possible depending on your position or job, but we recommend minimally suppressing the social media alerts.

Workplace Hacks

With more people working from home during the uncertainty around the world. There is no shortage of distractions. From other family members to household chores to struggling to focus. So, we thought we would share a few hacks to help you navigate this potentially new environment.

First, remove yourself from distraction or interruptions. If you can, close the door, you might find it helpful to put a do not disturb sign on the door. Second, set regular work hours. And share these boundaries with others in the house. Third, it’s ok to include routine household chores in your day. But schedule these tasks on your calendar like any other task. And lastly, consider setting a timer to keep you focused and time aware.

Ready to Harness the Clock?

We encourage you to try a few of these time-management techniques this week. Consider creating one to-do list to work from. Experiment with time-blocking on your calendar for tasks, email, social media; to keep you focused on completing tasks and projects. Pay attention to your behaviors and external distractions; what modifications can you make? By incorporating any of these time-management techniques into your daily routine, you should start seeing your productivity tick up and you might also gain a little peace of mind in the process. With purposeful time management, you can harness the clock.

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Sara Genrich & Nancy Kruschke, founders of Productivity Training Academy, came together with the vision of creating practical, results-driven online on-demand courses for time management, productivity and technology training.  With over 50 years of combined productivity experience, Sara and Nancy’s knowledge, skills and talents illuminate valuable paths to business gain, serving as an effective catalyst for positive change.