Six Time saving techniques that have helped me become more efficient
As a product manager, I often find myself struggling with the large number of threads I am expected to take care of. There are product bugs, urgent requests from “management” and daily meetings to take care of. Besides, you have to ensure that none of your stakeholders — engineering, design, marketing, QA etc is blocked on you. Then there is the “high level stuff” around customer interviewing, market research and strategy formulation.
Trying to handle all this feels like being thrown into an ocean without knowing how to swim.
With time, most of us develop our different working styles and best practices to cope up with the constant onslaught of work.
As a lifelong practitioner of productivity and efficiency, I have learned a few tactics to get more done in the same time.
In this article, I would like to take you through them.
Following are the key tactics I have deployed to become better at managing my time.
This technique involves grouping a set of similar tasks together and completing them in one go.
How I use it
- I go through all my unread emails or slack messages in a single sitting rather than opening these every few minutes. These frees me up from the constant interruption that is usually associated with messaging tools.
In this technique, you specify the amount of time you will devote to a particular task and finish it off within that time period. This acts like a “forcing function” and helps you finish a task instead of letting it linger on.
How I use it
- If my first meeting starts at 10:30 in the morning and I am starting my day at 10, I will set aside those 30 minutes as a deadline to complete some high priority task that was lingering on.
- Another example is my process for publishing this post. I created a rough draft few days back. Now, while revising this draft, I set myself a specific time limit by when I have to submit the final version of this article.
3. Commit through Deadlines
This technique involves setting up a time limit by when you must finish something.
It works best when you have to share your work with another stakeholder once the deadline is passed.
If you have prepared for school/college exams, you would notice how you are magically able to cover the entire syllabus within a few days. Otherwise, even the entire semester seems insufficient for completing the syllabus. This is the power of deadlines.
Parkinson’s law which states that the amount of work expands to fill the time available for its completion beautifully captures the need for setting deadlines.
How I use it —
- Say, I have to submit the roadmap to my boss. I will schedule a meeting two days from now with them for reviewing the roadmap. Now this “external deadline” pushes me to complete the roadmap planning before the scheduled meeting.
- For any feature under development, I fix the meeting time & date for demoing the feature with the rest of the team. This is done based on mutual consent with the engineering team and helps keep everyone on their toes.
4. Using Templates to automate work
In practical terms, a template is a structure or generic form of something — Joe Russo
Templates make it easier for you to get started, improve quality through standardization, save time & energy and help develop consistency of communication throughout the organization.
How I use it
- I use templates for i) creating documents such as PRDs, roadmaps ii) reaching out to customers for feedback via email iii) crafting presentations
To know more about using templates, you can refer to this article.
5. Add Breaks into your work schedule
Sitting in front of your computer screen for long is exhausting — both physically and mentally.
Sitting for long hours on your desk leads to lethargy, fatigue and can cause long-term damage to our health. Your productivity also nosedives. I have personally observed myself aimlessly scrolling on some random website after every 30–40 minutes of work.
This clearly indicates the mind’s need to relax after short intervals of focused work.
Taking short breaks also helps you maintain performance throughout the day and reduces the need for a long recovery at the end of the day. — Source
How I use it
- I take multiple 5–10 minute micro breaks during the day. This could be for having a quick snack, getting some fresh air or simply just pacing up and down in the room.
- Late afternoon, I try to take longish break of 40–50 minutes to go for a run.
Pomdoro technique which involves breaking your workday into 25 minute chunks, separated by 5 minute breaks is a good tactic for adding breaks to your schedule.
6. 10 minute daily planning ritual
An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing — Dale Carnegie
Lack of planning is the perfect recipe for an unproductive and inefficient day. Without planning for things, you often end up reacting to other people’s priorities rather than focusing on your own priorities.
How I use daily planning
- Before starting my work, list down the important tasks for the day. These tasks can range from the small to the big.
- Identify the “most important task” from a medium or long term perspective and block time for it on the calendar.
- From the remaining tasks, identify the ones that are urgent and must be completed by today or tomorrow. For these tasks, block focused time on the calendar. (If there are a bunch of smaller tasks that will take 5–10 minutes each for completion, you can finish them off together in one sitting)
- The remaining tasks will be the ones which are not urgent. If there is still time left on your calendar, block time for these. Otherwise, ignore these tasks and revisit them during the next day’s planning.
- Rinse and repeat next day.
An extra minute of time saved at work means an extra minute of free time for you. The 5–10 minutes saved every hour compounds to more than an hour of free time everyday. Besides, making you a better time manager it also leads to less frustration and more output.
So, if you are feeling overworked or inefficient, its time to do an audit of your day. Identify the black holes of time and see what you can do to overcome them.