Answering emails, preparing for an important presentation, running the household, scrolling through Instagram and leaving a few likes, doing exercise, putting in a spot of meditation, cooking food in advance for the next day, giving your friend a ring … oh yes, and getting eight hours sleep. It’s no wonder that 24 hours often feel way too short to fit everything in. Unless you manage your time efficiently, that is. We reveal five ingenious life hacks that can help. Read about the biggest productivity killers and how to eliminate them.
Time management is one of the major buzzwords of our age. In an increasingly digitalized world, we are constantly being distracted from the essentials and flooded with information, plus we need to be reachable anytime, anywhere. Imagine sitting at your desk and giving your full concentration to the task at hand for eight hours straight. Pretty hard to picture, isn’t it? Not least because messages are constantly flashing up on your smartphone, demanding your attention. And if you work from home, you’ll have the laundry and dishes there in the background, waiting. Most of us are only too familiar with these demands on our time. Do you often find that there’s so much on your to-do list that you don’t ever end up getting any of it done? Then our strategies for staying productive on a daily basis are just what you need.
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#1 Make a not-to-do list
Are you constantly being torn away from your work or finding yourself going to bed at 2 o’clock in the morning yet again, instead of 10 o’clock in the evening? Social media is one of the main culprits. When you find yourself watching the tenth dog video in a row, it’s time to recognize that your habit’s robbing you of a whole lot of time, and you might need to cut back.
When it comes to optimal time management, it helps to be aware of the risk of frittering time away like this. Ask yourself what’s keeping you from doing what you really need to do. Make a list of all the distractions that come up in everyday life and display this not-to-do list in a place where you can’t miss it. It will serve as a clear reminder of what’s stealing your time and how you can avoid it.
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#2 Break tasks down into little steps
Do you have a big task hanging over you – your tax return, say – and simply don’t know where to start? It just seems like too big a challenge. Instead of making a start, you get bogged down in pointless activities and start procrastinating – chatting with your co-workers, going for a coffee or online shopping. Sounds familiar? Join the club!
The good news is that you don’t need to make it so hard for yourself. One golden rule of time management splitting big tasks into lots of little ones that are perfectly manageable on their own. You can then work through them step by step. For a tax return, for instance, you could first gather all of your personal data together, then obtain proof of income, and finally sort out all your invoices and receipts. Each of these steps brings you a little closer to your goal, and you’re using your time efficiently, rather than putting things off.
For more on this, read: Overcoming procrastination – the causes and how to combat them
#3 Set sensible priorities
Your to-do list is growing ever longer and you already know that you won’t manage to get through everything on it today. But do you actually need to do? Ask yourself honestly which tasks must be completed today, and which can wait until tomorrow or next week. To help you prioritize, apply the Eisenhower matrix, one of the best-known time management methods out there. The matrix consists of four boxes:
- Important and urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Important but not urgent
- Neither important nor urgent
Assign each new task to one of these categories. Everything that is both important and urgent should take priority. You can delegate other urgent but less important things, or do them yourself later, along with important tasks that aren’t pressing. Anything that is neither important nor urgent shouldn’t be on your to-do list at all. Using the matrix gives you a good overview of what’s going on and allows you to set priorities so that you can manage your time efficiently.
#4 Take regular breaks
As you’re no doubt aware, principles of exercise. Your body can only build muscle and boost performance if it gets a chance to recover. The same applies if you want to be more productive: breaks are an important part of your work. There’s not much point trying to plow through eight hours at a stretch. Sooner or later, your concentration will falter and you’ll be more prone to making mistakes, which in turn results in even more work.
According to the Pomodoro principle – a popular time management technique – frequent breaks increase productivity. Divide your day up into 30-minute units, during which you focus for 25 minutes and take a break for the remaining five minutes. Sounds doable, right?
#5 Write down your thoughts
Your work is finally done for the day and it’s time to put your feet up. If only it weren’t for all those thoughts buzzing round your head: unfinished tasks, new ideas, conversations with colleagues, something you need to tell your boss… All these thoughts generate stress, and could well rob you of valuable sleep and undo any good you may have achieved with time management.
It’s a good idea to write down everything that’s going through your head: it takes the pressure off for the moment, because it means you won’t overlook anything important. The next day, you’ll have an overview of your to-dos and be able to assign a priority to each.
Read more about journaling and how writing can help you organize your thoughts.
More things to know from foodspring:
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