To begin (and to conclude) this text was one of the most rigorous tests of productivity I’ve ever gone through. My mission was clear: gather in a post brief and pleasant to read the best of all techniques to manage our time. I mean, our lack of time. However, before so many already invented and studied, how to decide for the most efficient ones? Because of my delay, I had to question myself: when writing this guide, did I know actually to manage my time? I can tell you that probably not, but I learned I lot, since the first line. Now it’s up to you! Tell us on the comments if you already have practiced some of the techniques below, and be welcome to the most complete guide to plan, prioritize, perform and finally evaluate your work:
Step 1. How to plan
The first 30 minutes (awake) of your day are holy. And whether there’s a power you certainly underestimate is the one of that half hour. If at this time you’re taking shower, eating or dressing up, make you diary plan:
1) Use a notebook or your smartphone and list what you have to do.
2) Estimate a time to accomplish each one, within your working hours.
3) Categorize your tasks by type, e.g.: Production, Analysis and Fixing.
Technique recommended: Getting Things Done (GTD)
To plan your day may be fascinating. David Allen, GTD’s creator, proposes to understand the different goals of our day to day as the different heights reached during a flight:
• 50,000 feet: My life (long term)
• 40,000 feet: 3 to 5 years vision (medium term)
• 30,000 feet: Goals for up to 2 years (short term)
• 20,000 feet: Areas of responsibility
• 10,000 feet: Ongoing projects
• On the floor: Ongoing activities
The goal makes you organize your tasks, projects and all your goals from the bottom to the top. By working on what it’s meant to be done today, and having on the horizon what you desire in the next days, months and years, you are going to be prepared to accomplish what you expect from life.
Worth trying: The 3T Agenda, during a week
Note in what section you have been wasting each part of your time: thoughts, talks or tasks. Tasks, talks and thoughts that are not worth to be noted are properly the ones that steal your time, your productivity.
PS.: Don’t avoid yourself from relaxing and having small talks some moments. The problem is when recreation becomes a rule…
Step 2. How to prioritize
We are on the first half of the day, while you are going to work. And if we are going to talk about priority, you need to keep in mind you plan for today. Before your to-do list, it’s important to think about 2 points:
1) Indicate an order of priority to them,
2) Gather the resources to accomplish them. Get to work!
Technique recommended: ABC
Write a letter in front of each task, according to its nature:
• A: important and urgente
• B: important, but not urgent
• C: not important, but urgent
Now, you can solve it this way:
• Tasks A must be done by you and delivered today.
• Tasks B will be delivered this week.
• Tasks C, you delegate.
After that, you choose: either you keep your list in the agenda or transcribe post-its – remember “if it fits into a post-it, fits into your day.” The more important tasks you deliver, the less urgent ones will appear.
Worth trying: The 2 minutes Rule
Don’t postpone what could be done in 2 minutes. It’s too tiny to leave for later. Therefore, if a task demands only 2 minutes, do it now. The best part is that this principle tends to become a habit and you will be able to make the decisions that until now you deferred:
Want to write better? Write only 1 paragraph and at some point you’ll get carried away and write for an hour or two. Want to eat better? Just eat a piece of fruit and you will whet your appetite to eat a salad too. Want to read more? Read only the first page of a new book, and before you notice, three chapters will have already passed. Want to start a sport? Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, just put on your running shoes and go outside.
Step 3. How to perform
Follow your list of priorities. You can check your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever, but NOT immediately when the notifications come. By the way, the 1st step: set your phone in silent mode and shut the windows of these networks. Unless you work in social media, take just 30 minutes out of your day accessing them. Don’t interrupt your journey in favor of the alerts. Likewise, use 1h of your day to answer and write emails. This task can be divided: 30min once you get to work and 30min by midafternoon.
Technique recommended: Pomodoro
1) Work for 25 minutes and take a break for 5.
2) Then work another 25 minutes and rest for 5.
3) In the third stage, the same thing.
4) In the fourth stage, work 25 and rest 15.
Use part of some stage to proofread your work. When finished, go back to the beginning.
The concept behind this consecrated technique is that breaks can refresh and streamline our reasoning and make space to review the work with renewed attention. Being more productive is not synonymous by working more.
Worth trying: 20-20-20 Technique
You can choose it instead of the Pomodoro technique. It’s very simple: work for 20 minutes and rest for 20 seconds, at a distance of 20 feet (about 6 meters) from your desk.
Step 4. How to evaluate
Planned. Prioritized. Realized. Perfect, huh? Not yet. It’s very healthy that you have targets to hit. For example, before the company’s goal to grow X times in a year, how can I, collaborator, innovate in my work and help fulfill this mission? What’s in my power of the day to day? After my managers have set a goal, how to measure if I reached it?
Technique recommended: 5 minutes of Socrates
5minutes before starting a task, define the outcome you hope to achieve. 5 minutes later, check if it was. If not, what was missing? Or, what exceeded? Do I already know how to solve it next time? Without stopping to review and fix, we err and err to evolve. The unexamined life, according to Socrates, is not worth living. Also, talk to senior professionals; learn from their mistakes instead of making the same. Do you have any good stories to tell? Make a comment!
Worth trying: Schedule appointments with yourself.
Mark your calendar for a moment to think about the next high priority tasks. Assign a start and an end time. Look at your entire task list at the end of the day, and ask yourself: Which tasks I’ve performed? Were the objectives met? Have I done everything according to my plan?
(Bonus) The reward
“Today I did everything I needed to do – and a little more.” Is there a better than to say it at the end of our workday? Nevertheless, is this enough to keep our productivity high and heal our lack of time?
Technique recommended: Minimum Balance
• Feeding: Have a light meal every 3 hours. Don’t use coffee as an amulet, use fruits instead.
• Sports: Practice at least 1h 3x a week. Stretch before and after.
• Sleep: Try to sleep during 8h. If you sleep less, use the weekend to compensate.
• Posture: Watch your back and adjust your chair. Use a support to lift your legs up to your waistline. Remember to stretch out and get up to make easier the blood circulation.
Worth trying: reread this guide whenever you forget some technique or principle.
Apart from this, the last of the recommended techniques is: have fun at work!
Imagine how wonderful spreading to your entire team the principles that rule this guide. Not only makes you more productive, but everyone who works with you. With Runrun.it, you don’t need to imagine. Runrun.it is the team management software that uses the stack of tasks method for people to work in order of priority, without having to fill out time sheets, which are automated. With a few clicks, managers can generate any report. Try it for free: http://runrun.it