In this column, I focus on providing you with the most effective time management tools to keep you hyperfocused on completing tasks while keeping you determined to achieving your goals.
Jen Butler, MEd.
Many of these steps may seem like common sense, but when you deliberately focus on following them, you will find you may achieve more than you imagined.
The first step is to take control, which means saying no to anything that takes you away from your daily, weekly, or monthly goals.
Create white space as ideas, thoughts, or tasks pop into your head. Write them down in list format in a designated task notebook.
Use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize the above ideas at the end of each day. Just don't assume that a new idea is more important or urgent than the one you had yesterday.
The first administrative step I tell my clients is to put administrative tasks in your schedule in 10-minute intervals. Why 10 minutes? Because you are less likely to be able to finish due to interruptions with anything longer than that time period.
“Just don't assume that a new idea is more important or urgent than the one you had yesterday.”
Then I recommend that administrative duties are not done from home but always done in the office.
The next steps are related to scheduling and focus.
I recommend to my clients that they batch or group similar tasks together into concentrated work sessions. An example might be scheduling all your meetings into one time frame or all financial tasks into a single hour.
Batching your tasks together has a corollary: Never multitask. Multitasking is far less effective in accomplishing tasks than if you work on a single task to the end.
How do you focus on a single task? That's the next suggestion: Use the Pomodoro Technique. This technique calls for you set a timer for 25 minutes of uninterrupted focus. After that 25 minutes, you can take a five-minute break.
Another time-related tip is a technique called timeboxing. To use this tool, allocate a certain number of minutes or hours, called a "timebox," to each activity. You then use this time -- and only this time -- to complete the task.
When are you best?
Some people are morning people, and some are better in the late afternoon. Whichever you are, use your natural energy to your advantage. Schedule tasks requiring more concentration either in the morning or late afternoon when you have the highest energy levels. If you're not a morning person, keep the smaller, easier tasks for the morning and the heavier tasks in the afternoon.
Finally, most of us understand the 80/20 rule as it relates to business. The principle can also be applied to personal productivity when you think that 20% of your tasks are going to have 80% of the impact.
Consider taking the Eisenhower Matrix and change the column titles from "Urgent and Important" to "Impact and Effort." Those tasks you label as having a low effort with high impact are tasks you do immediately. Those that require a high effort with high impact are major projects that may require a timeline for completion.
This will also help you identify which tasks require low effort that have low impact (do these when everything else is done) and which require high effort that have low impact and shouldn't be done at all.
You now have the main concepts of your personal productivity blueprint. Being more productive is absolutely possible, and going through this process will get you there. When you're ready to drop the chaos, confusion, and frustration, this blueprint will help you discover clarity, preparedness, and focus -- that is if you had the time to read this blog series until the end.
Jen Butler, MEd, is the CEO and founder of JB Partners. For information on how to create your personal productivity blueprint, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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