Before we talk about time management, I want to ask you a question. Does this sound like you?
You’re constantly drowning in your task list; no matter how hard you work, you finish the day with more tasks on your list than you started with?
If you said yes, then these 5 time-management hacks can help you to get more done in less time.
Over the last few years, I’ve become obsessed with productivity. I want to accomplish things with my work and to make a difference in the world around me. And, I want to be able to shut it off at the right time so I can take time to refuel.
Then, I can spend good, quality time with the people in my life I care about, and not feel guilt about neglecting them or not ticking off my to-do list. So, here are my time management hacks to help you do the same.
1. Hold a power hour at the start of your day
Have a power hour as the first hour of every working day, and don’t do any reactionary work until it’s done. This is one hour of focused time where you’re in the zone without interruptions.
Use it to concentrate on the most important things that need to be done today. During the hour, avoid your phone, email and social media. The moment you pick up your phone or open an app, you’re slipping into reactionary mode.
Remember, you’re also following someone else’s agenda and looking at things that will pull you off-task. You’re reacting to other people’s urgent things instead of your own.
This doesn’t mean that you ignore people all day, but wait until you’ve done your power hour. There are ways to set or pause your email so it only comes through a couple of times a day.
You can also turn off all the notifications and noises on your phone so you’re not getting bombarded. This helps you avoid reactionary mode.
2. Block your time, batch your projects for better time management
This means separating your personal, professional and philanthropy times from each other. You only do those projects during set times. Multi-tasking and hopping back and forth between tasks never works.
I have a daily FMH, or Family Maintenance Hour. During that hour, I bundle and batch all the things I’m doing for my family. It includes calling the doctor’s office, making appointments, or paying bills.
You’d be shocked at how much you can get done if you bundle related tasks together. When it comes to your projects, batch across all three areas. For me, I batch my content creation, the family food prep, and philanthropic donor calls, among many other things.
Batch all the things you do on a regular basis and move away from stop/start with tasks. You’ll be able to move much quicker through your lists and time management will be easier.
3. Smarter time management: make appointments with yourself
If I’m going to do work today, I don’t just block out three hours a day and have a list of 10 things to get done in that time. It’s highly ineffective, and it’s depressing how few things I’ll get done.
I recommend that you think through each of your 10 tasks, and guesstimate how long each task will take. Then, block out an appointment in your calendar for that amount of time.
If it won’t fit in theory in your calendar, it won’t fit in real life. Projects always take longer than we expect, and things pop up to interrupt us. Block out the time and hold yourself accountable to it, and you’ll prevent project creep as well.
The projects and the tasks will always take the amount of time we give them, and unfortunately, they rarely take less time. If you start setting alarms for the start and end of each time block, you’ll be able to stay on track.
You’ll become stronger at guesstimating your time and dealing honestly with yourself about your tasks. And in the long run, that will help you scope and block out your time better.
4. End with a buffer hour
Schedule a buffer hour as your last working hour of each day. I’ve been doing this for the past year or so, and it’s made a huge difference to my life. In this hour, you have no meetings, only quiet working time.
Set a timer so you know you have only one hour left. Let’s say you finish work at 6pm every day. Set an alarm for 5pm to remind you to move into your buffer zone. Check your task list and refocus on your most important task to finish off.
5. Conduct an evening review
I recommend you block out about 20 minutes for this at the end of every day. Do it after your buffer zone before you shut down for the night, or later on before you go to bed.
During the review, you’ll look at what got done and what didn’t. What went well and what didn’t go so well? You’re aiming for task list zero. That doesn’t mean you necessarily finished everything, but you’ll move anything left on the list to elsewhere on your schedule.
Don’t automatically move it to tomorrow’s list. That will only set you up for failure and frustration before you even start the day. Take a look at the rest of your week and see if any leftover tasks will fit in anywhere.
If it will, slot it in, and if not, add it back to your master task list. You can then review it at the end of the week as you’re planning for next week.
Finish the evening review with nothing left on your task list. Everything left on it should be sorted and repositioned for success. Then, quickly take a quick glance at tomorrow’s list, because the subconscious mind works to complete a list and looks for solutions.
This will actually help your subconscious mind work to prepare you for your day tomorrow – while you’re sleeping! When you wake up the next morning, your brain has been working overnight on getting ready to tick things off the list.
In the morning, you’ll be more productive. Plus, you’ll start the new day free, clear and not buried under a burden of things that didn’t get done. How great is that?