How we schedule our days and manage our time is key to figuring out how to produce at a very high level. How to get a whole lot of stuff done in a short period of time.
High performers are not born productive. Rather, they’ve learned and practiced the time management skills needed to get more done in less time. Productivity is not a talent. It’s a learned skill that every writer will need to develop.
Let’s take a look at 5 time management tips that I’ve tried and have proven successful.
Batching Your Tasks
Incorporating batching into your schedule is one key method to better managing your time. For some things in life, batching comes naturally to us. We run the dishwasher once it’s fully loaded. We do a load of laundry when the hamper is full.
Can you imagine how unproductive life would be if we broke these tasks up into hundreds of smaller parts? Take the laundry for example. Imagine washing each shirt one at a time as you wear them? Crazy, right? Well, that’s exactly what we are doing with many other areas of our lives.
When it comes to writing and content creation, batching is a force multiplier. A force multiplier is a tool that allows you to amplify your efforts and have an edge over others. Batching does just that. I typically block out 2 hours a day for social media management and batch all my social media tasks into that 2-hour window.
Once I’ve completed those tasks I’ll switch to research which may take another 2 hours depending on the topic. Finally, I will dedicate 2 to 3 hours to writing my content. In order to make this all work, you have to resist the temptation of task switching during the time slot for the allotted tasks.
By planning ahead you can save time, prevent constant task switching, and focus on the top tasks that need to get done.
Create a Daily Plan and To-Do List
My go-to daily to-do list is an app called TeuxDeux. It is amazingly simple to use and presents you with a very clean interface to see each day of the week.
This productivity app is free for 30 days, but after that, it’s about $2 a month when you pay annually. For simplicity and ease of use, TeuxDeux punches way above its price point.
Another to-do list tip is to write them out in the form of an action.
This is a minor mental hack, but it works. So instead of having a task that just says something like “time management tips,” try saying “research and write time management tips article.” When written more specifically, it will help to motivate you to take that action.
Try to limit your to-do list to only the 3 to 5 most important things that need to be done. Any more than that, and you’ll start to lose focus and time will get away from you.
Get Up Early
In the Marine Corps, we had a saying that went something like “we accomplish more by 0900 than most people accomplish in an entire day.” The trick to doing that is getting up before everyone else, assuming you get adequate rest the night before. The Marine Corps didn’t really care if we got good sleep or not. We were still expected to perform at higher than normal levels. But that’s beside the point.
What constitutes “early?” That’s going to be different for each of us, but I choose to get up at 0500. Let’s say the average person wakes up at 7 am every day. By waking up at 5 am, you get 2 hours extra each day, 14 extra hours a week, and 728 extra hours per year, which translates to 30 days. That extra 2 hours each workday allows me to have some time to myself and get a head start on the critical tasks that I need to accomplish that day. They say you cannot buy time, but if you manage it correctly it feels like you did.
Schedule Mandatory Breaks Between Tasks | 90/20 Rule
Throughout the day, try implementing the 90/20 rule. Spend 90 minutes focused on a specific task, and then take a 20-minute break.
By taking the 20-minute break to get a snack, take a walk, or something less mentally taxing, your brain can rebuild its stores of glucose, preparing you for another 90 minutes of focused work. This is extremely helpful for me working from home and remaining at peak mental performance for the duration of the workday.
Minimize Open Windows
I’m really bad about this. Out of everything I’ve talked about in this article, this has got to be the biggest challenge for me.
Try keeping only those tabs open that are relevant to your task. If you want to take it a step further, try using only 1 monitor! Along with minimizing the number of tabs you have open, you can try ‘going dark’ by closing your email tab. This may be more difficult to do if your team uses Gmail and Google Hangouts as a primary means of communication.
I’ve done this and it does have a huge impact on productivity and time management. I just give my team a heads up that I’m going dark for a specified period of time to finish a task. After the task is completed, I log back in to respond to any missed emails and messages.
Bonus Time Management Tips
Time is the most precious commodity we have and it’s something that we can never get back. And although we cannot make more time, there are things we can do to maximize the time we do have. Here are 2 simple tasks I do each evening before going to bed.
Prep the coffee maker. Prior to going up to bed, I ensure that my coffee maker has a full reservoir of water, the carafe is cleaned out, the basket has 3 scoops of fresh coffee grounds, and the timer is set to automatically start brewing at 5:00 am.
Once the coffee pot is set to start brewing at 5:00 am, I head upstairs and lay out the clothing I’m going to be wearing the next day. I then stage that clothing in the bathroom. In the morning when I awake, my clothes are ready and I’m ready for that magical first cup of coffee. There is no fumbling around trying to figure out what I’m going to wear for the day and the coffee is already made. Pretty damn good start to the day if you ask me.
Good time management skills require a daily practice of prioritizing tasks and organizing them in a way that can save time while achieving more.
Use the above time management tips for a few weeks and see if they help you. You may be surprised just how much more time you seem to have.