There are only 24 hours in a day. This is an undeniable fact. It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do, you will never stop the sun from setting at the end of each day.
So if you feel like you’re constantly racing against the setting sun, it might be time to take a look at your time management skills.
Feel like you can’t cope with an insane workload? You’re not alone. Most busy professionals, freelancers and consultants face an onslaught of emails, meetings and phone calls throughout the day, distracting them from the task at hand. So, how do you get through it all without losing your mind?
Here are 5 simple strategies to help you keep calm, carry on and get work done.
1) Manage your emails; don’t let emails manage you
One of the biggest tests of our time management skills is tackling the out of control inbox. A bottomless pit of emails is one of the biggest time sucks of your day.
We have a love-hate relationship with emails. We get a rush of dopamine when a new mail notification pops up, which is quickly followed by a low as we realise the email simply contains more work or another problem! But there are ways to get those emails under control
- Don’t react immediately. If you respond to an email as soon as it arrives, you are working to someone else’s agenda, not your own.
- Stay focused. Research has shown that it can take up to 16 minutes to refocus after handling an incoming email. That’s valuable time you could be better using on your own work.
- Only read and respond to emails at set times throughout the day. Block out time in your calendar to deal with the inbox. Keep your email switched off at all other times.
- Try the O.H.I.O technique. The ‘Only Handle It Once’ principle suggests that when you read an email, you should either respond to it immediately or discard it.
For the ultimate in email efficiency, check out Inbox Zero. The zero refers to the amount of time a worker’s attention is on the inbox. So, rather than making your inbox your to-do list, focus your time and attention on your own work instead.
2) Stay in the zone
Being productive is not about how many physical hours you spend at the desk. In fact, working overtime and multitasking can make you less productive. Most time management experts believe that multi-tasking should be called ‘task switching’. Switching between tasks is an inefficient way to work and can lower your performance as well as drain your mental and physical reserves.
So, what’s the answer?
Work in batches. That way, when you get in the zone, you stay in the zone without getting disrupted. Keep each task challenging but not so much that it becomes boring. The efficiency sweet spot is ensuring that each task is challenging but not too difficult but not so easy that it becomes boring.
If you have to track your time throughout the day and don’t want the interruptions that come with filling out a timesheet, it’s worth looking into automated time tracking software that runs on your mobile device.
3) A focused mind
The founder of the Getting Things Done (GTD) method, David Allen, designed his time management system to help workers organise their calendars, create to-do lists and schedule their weeks. But the most important aspect of the GTD method is its ability to create freedom. Allen believed that an ability to create clear headspace by not allowing day-to-day tasks to clutter up our brain creates time for creativity and spontaneity.
If you can achieve a focused, quiet mind, then you can ultimately create the freedom to turn your attention to where you want it to go.
4) Take a break
Too busy to break? Thing again.
Working non-stop could have the exact opposite effect to what you were hoping to achieve. There have been many studies done on the optimum length of time to work. Our body’s natural rhythms indicate that our brains have an attention span that lasts around 90 minutes and needs a 20-minute rest. Cognitive function is depleted when the brain is fatigued.
Stop saying yes to tasks that bring little result or little reward. You know what they are, yet you keep dong them. As Warren Buffet says:
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.”
Want to work smarter, not harder? MicroManager is automated time tracking software that helps busy professionals keep track of every billable minute. You minimise the distraction of filling out timesheets or call logs. MicroManager does it all for you, automatically. Sign up for MicroManager today.