Managing my time from day to day is a constant work in progress. I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert at it. In fact – we all know that time doesn’t really exist, so then what it comes down to is managing oneself. On my quest for learning how to manage time – or rather myself, I’ve done copious amounts of research on the subject. I’ve compiled data and made curated lists of time management and productivity tools, focus boosters, habit apps and more. In fact I’ve even made this topic part of a course I teach regularly at Camp Tech – here in Toronto. In this post I’m going to share with you a snippet from a larger segment of my course and also the best practices that I seem to find help me daily. That is IF I adhere to these smart habits. Sticking to the habits are key!
1. When are you most productive?
My first tip is: find your peak times when you are most productive. Is it in the morning? Is it during the day? Is it at night? That’s really important because you want to be doing the activities that bring you closest to the money during your most productive time. You don’t want to be doing wasteful things during your most productive time. Working on income-generating tasks needs to be done during your most productive time of day – full stop.
If you’re not quite exactly sure when you’re most productive, there are quizzes online that you can take to double check. I myself am most productive in the morning, but that only began once I had my son. Before that, I think I was much more productive later in the day. But over the past 12 years, I’ve transformed into a morning person and that is when I get things done best.
2. Schedule it!
Adhere to a schedule as best that you can. Set dates and times in your calendar or project manager. I mean, it seems like common sense, but if it’s not scheduled, it’s not going to get done. Be sure to be marking things in your calendar, writing your to do list, and putting dates to them.
Next we’re going to talk about prioritizing. It’s a great idea to prioritize first thing each morning, and some people use the M.I.T approach, which is your most important three. I do like to do a bit of a brain dump every morning and just write everything down that’s in my head, as soon as I get up. And then I take a look and find what the most important projects are and number the top 3. Telling myself to do more than the top 3 will just contribute to overwhelm and then less will get accomplished. Also – making sure that I’m going to be doing the things that are making money for my business first must be the priority.
The other option could be to use the Priority Matrix. Now, if you look at the little diagram – you’ll see we have 2 vertical columns which are urgent and not urgent, and then we have 2 horizontal rows, important and not important.
Basically, the goal is to be working in the green quadrant, which is important stuff but not urgent, and that’s where you’re going to be doing preparing, planning, prevention, relationship building, and some personal development or professional development. That area is usually where you are working closest to the money. Keep this in mind when you ask yourself: ‘What am I doing right now? Am I working in the green quadrant?’. Btw, there are apps for the Priority Matrix and they integrate with your calendar!
4. Block out all distractions.
Okay. This is totally common sense. I mean, I don’t know why that one seems to be so hard for people – it’s a no brainer to me – but it shocks me every time I teach a class to find out that many people don’t have their NOTIFICATIONS TURNED OFF. What I’m referring to is social media, email or any other things that are going to take your focus away from the task at hand.
I actually challenge you to try and maybe get rid of your data plan on your phone for a month or if that’s too much – how about a week? Or see if you can go without using your data plan while you’re out and about. Personally I certainly feel that it’s a much easier way to stay unplugged. I say if you’re not plugged in when you’re out of your home or office, and you can only get WiFi access, say, when you go to into a café or into someone else’s home, that this is definitely one step in the right direction for building new habits.
And if you didn’t already know this – multi-tasking does not work! I’ve got a collection and use tools to block out distractions that support me to remain focused. The research has shown that jumping around from one thing to the other and trying to do several tasks at once is counterproductive and it just worsens the ability of being able to focus on things very well. We need to give our ‘focus muscle’ a good workout everyday to build this habit and in doing so, we can avoid the ever-annoying bright shiny object syndrome. Take a look a my top time management and focus boosting tools here.
To focus and have better ‘self management’ it’s all about building new habits. Once you’ve started, you’re on your way to improvement which will foster your productivity peace of mind!