How to Manage Time and Sustain Energy
Today’s world is more complex, ambiguous and demanding than ever before. And at the same time our working days have only so many hours. Fortunately!
And still people add hours at the end of their days wrongly assuming this will increase output. I am surprised, considering how many researching have been conducted that brains can only concentrate in 30 minutes intervals and we can only work on a specific number of projects parallel before we are losing to much time. The brain hasn’t been develop to switch between several projects throughout the day and it can lead to losing 40% of productivity when switching between tasks back and forth. Does this sound efficient to you ? One of the biggest problems companies are facing today is the productivity of their workforce. If you think about it — human being are still a young species — and thousands of years ago our ancestors mainly focused on gathering and now we need to think of a few more projects and demand is increasing which has also an impact on our stress levels — you can start to appreciate that we are asking more from ourself than we we have done. And as we know — evolution takes time.
Instead, let’s ponder about how to work more effectively and efficiently. And again, there are plenty articles out there explain the top 5, 6, 7, 8 best ways to increase personal productivity. Today, I would like to share with you my most powerful strategies. As it is not just about how we do it but also how we take care of ourselves in the process.
I am certainly one that has strived for perfection in the past and I wasn’t alone with that feeling of “it must be perfect”. Many people strive for the ‘perfect’ outcome. And there is a fine line and let me break the news to you:
Perfectionism does not exist in an imperfect world.
So no need to over-analyse and to reflect too much. Of course, think before you act. However, in case of doubt get started, learn on the go, and constantly improve. Only if you move you can improve and perform. As Richard Branson says “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes — then learn how to do it later.” Einstein didn’t know immediately the relativity rule and fell across it after his 100 attempts and the 99 attempts before obviously weren’t perfect. The thing is, we learn, we adopt, we change and we try again till we get the result that we were aiming for.
Tackle Difficult Tasks First
There is a lot of research stating that our brain has the highest decision power first thing in the morning. In order to maintain it, certain things need to be automated — as Steve Jobs has done when he was still among us. Every day, he wore the same turtle neck and jeans to avoid losing valuable capacity on non-crucial decisions such as “what do I wear today”. And thus gave procrastination no chance. If you start putting off tasks, it leads to complications, as it leads to a downward spiral: You feel guilty, you let negative thoughts appear, which occupies valuable mental space which you could use for valuable other tasks. So tackle the most demanding duties with a fresh mind first thing every morning. Try this for a week and see how it goes — good news ! It is getting easier when you have the most demanding duty out of the way and climbed the steepest hill on that day — and it feels so rewarding. :)
Do not allow interruptions and say ‘no’
I know people who jump at every mail, call or question by a colleague, etc. some even wait for an email to arrive in their inbox like a hawk with the aim immediately responding to the poor soul on the other end. Those people are run by their inbox. They let others determine their agenda and get controlled by others. I also have met people who directly or indirectly tell people that they do not want to be interrupted at certain times and circumstances. They are the ones who get things done. Organise yourself (e.g. book a meeting or quiet room only for yourself; inform people about not distributing you at specific times etc.) and pro-actively protect your agenda. Do not be afraid of saying ‘no’ to colleagues, peers and even your line manager if necessary. Do it tactfully by giving background information and agreeing on next steps. Working from home is another highly effective strategy for time-sensitive and complex project work when you just need to get your head stuck into that and want to avoid any disruptions.
Be a Proactive Planner
Regardless of which personality type you are in order to become more productive you need to plan ahead your tasks and set up a schedule. Already plan your next day the evening before. Often it is as easy as just writing a quick to do list before leaving the office or going to bed. Others draft a mind map to organise their thoughts and ideas for the next day. Either way, taking notes of ideas, worries etc before going to bed helps to calm your mind and to make you feel more relaxed. During your work day I recommend setting aside enough time (as a minimum 20–30% of total time) for unforeseen tasks, for responding to mails, phone calls, etc however all of those tasks may not determine your schedule in the end. Your own daily plan must set the tone most of times. Also turn off outlook notifications, etc Instead have 3–4 daily slots of about 15–20 minutes each when you check and answer mails, phone calls, etc This will allow you to not get disrupted by unimportant emails and ‘wanna-be’ urgent requests, you get through your list and you have it on a piece of paper to have your accountability — and at the end of the day, it feels good to have completed the tasks within the time you set yourself out to do.
Handle Emails smartly
Some key techniques
- As previously mentioned set 3–4 fixed times during the day to check your email
- Turn off the desktop alerts that ping every time a new message comes in
- Use the two-minute rule) i.e. if you can deal with an email within two minutes then do so. But if more time is needed move the message to your pending folder to action later.
- Set up rules that will be automatically applied to an email when it arrives (e.g. ensure that all in-coming messages are grouped together automatically and associated with the project they are linked to.
Use A Planner and Tracker To Ensure Working on the Right things
To manage various tasks and / or projects you can use e.g with Microsoft either Outlook Tasks or OneNote. As a daily overview it is pretty efficient, since you get due dates, tasks descriptions, priorities at a glance etc If you and your team want to bring your time and project management skills to a new level you might want to try keep work e.g. by using a more sophisticated Tool like Toggl. Another good tool healing you to ensure that you track what you do — and as such assisting you in ensuring you focus on the right things is — Rescue Time which lets you know exactly how much time you spend on which daily tasks. Get a fell how your time and energy is allocated and if it is used in the best possible way.
Manage your meetings and don’t get managed by them
This is one of the biggest pain points in any job I have had so far. People LOVE setting up meetings and talk for hours. Even if it is one simple question, they send a 30-minute invite to discuss this question — and there your brain capacity goes filled with stuff that could have answered by a quick phone call, email or IM message. And meetings are one of the biggest time-sucks around. Nevertheless, and although we love complaining about having too many useless meetings, we still continue to unquestioningly book and attend them. I am not a fan of standing meetings instead I try to follow these rules:
- No meetings with more than 8 participants
- No meetings without an agenda and minutes
- No meeting without any actions
- No meetings with more than 5 topics
- No meetings if I am not fully aware how I can add value to the discussion
What is the point of a meeting, carving out this time and not having a follow-up or action at the end of it ? Exactly! It is a waste of time and energy — and I am not being hired to have chit-chats with my fellow colleagues to then have further discussions over emails as no one put the effort in in the first place to capture the minutes and agree on actions after the meeting.
True, in a perfect world (which by now we know does not exist) we would love to do one task after another. Latest neuroscience studies suggest that multi-tasking within a limited frame is tolerable whereas working on too many tasks at the same time often causes stress and can even damage the brain. And even woman cannot multi-task. Even though our brain is cross-wired into any possible direction while the men brain apparently boxes everything neatly away — women might be more efficient at times but are human being is not capable of allocating the same amount of brain-power to one task than to another. And this is being outlined above in the “Switch explanation”
However, all these tactics to help you manage your time and energy — as productivity is all down to allocate your time and energy and be able to distinguish between important vs urgent — it is also important how you treat yourself in the process.
I am conscious that this article is already fairly long — so I will add one of the wellness points and how to look after yourself to sustain the energy to complete your tasks.
Respect your Rhythm
We humans are designed to sleep and wake in cycles (circadian rhythm). Various studies have shown that we function best physiologically and psychologically when our internal cycles are well-synchronised with those of the external work. If, for example, we mess up our sleep and wake patterns, we would feel out of sorts. Most importantly, you should
I will write about it in more detail in my next blog post…so keep your eyes peeled :)
I hope you find this helpful. I wanted to put a different spin on the ‘how to articles’ which I find a bit — mmh, pointless..it is not outlining how this all links together and it is — unfortunately — not as simple as — if you do A, you get B — it is a lot about self-discipline, self-esteem, and elf-care.
As always, I am here to help and if you like to explore Coaching, please feel free to schedule a Coaching Call and click here :)
I look forward to hearing from you !
Bye for now
Editor & Owner of NayaGlow.com
Originally published at nayaglow.com.