All posts by John Rampton

How to Squeeze More Time Out of Your Busy Schedule

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How to Squeeze More Time Out of Your Busy Schedule

Entrepreneurs have it hard. Not only do they have to operate a business, but they also have to ensure that they can manage their day-to-day tasks on top of it.

Staying busy isn’t a bad thing, but many entrepreneurs find themselves trying to fit too many things into their schedules. 

If you’re an entrepreneur who is feeling overwhelmed, or the days just keep getting busier, here are a few ways you can free up your time for the most important things on your calendar:

1. Get Rid of Pointless Meetings.

Your time is valuable and deserves your respect. It might not always feel like it, but you have control of your own calendar. In order to free up your time, it’s critical to take a closer look at some of your meeting schedule.

Stop letting people put unnecessary appointments on your calendar.

Make clear to employees, clients, and vendors what constitutes a meeting and what the expectations are for that meeting. A meeting should have a defined purpose, an approximate start and end time, and a detailed agenda. 

Implement a policy that you won’t take a meeting that does not include these items. If someone feels they can’t include these items when scheduling a meeting, perhaps a phone call or email might be a better use of your time. 

Evaluate your current schedule and make changes as needed.

As a leader, it’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of your current schedule so you can make the most of your time. Are you meeting deadlines? Is your meeting schedule working each week? Do you feel the pressure of the clock? 

Answering these questions and making changes where you see fit will help clean up your calendar and free up more time in the day.

Learn to say “no.”

Although the word “no” has an inherently negative connotation, go ahead and get comfortable with it. Others will understand if you need to decline the occasional meeting. Offer to reschedule it or suggest an alternative solution. 

Leverage an online scheduling tool.

Appointment scheduling software like Calendar are incredibly helpful for calendar management. Use them to minimize email back-and-forth, avoid overbooking yourself, and getting a quick glimpse of your day’s appointments.

Go ahead and block off one day a week for deep work. A popular method is to implement a one-day-a-week no-meetings policy. Use that time to prevent or solve complex business problems. 

2. Reduce the Amount of Time Spent at Your Desk.

Entrepreneurs often feel like they are “too busy to take a break.” But that simply isn’t true.

Breaks are good for the brain, and spending 8 hours at your desk doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve had a productive day. When you find the luxury of a free, 15-minute time period, try filling it by doing something for yourself, rather than trying to cram in another task.

Options include:

  • Meditating: If you feel anxious or overly stressed during the workday, use your free time to meditate. It could significantly reduce your stress level and give you the boost you need to continue on with a productive day. Even something as simple as going into a quiet room, focusing on your breathing, and clearing every thought in your mind can make a huge difference in your day.
  • Listening to a short podcast: Podcasts can be a way to unwind, and a great learning tool. Thousands of podcasts are uploaded every day on topics like business, money, news, politics, comedy and more. Listening to a podcast that aligns with your line of work can offer inspiration on a slow day. 
  • Reading a book: A short, 15-minute break is plenty of time to catch up on a chapter of your favorite book. Whether you’re reading for business or pleasure, reading is relaxing and can heighten brain function.

Don’t be afraid to take that little bit of time for yourself. You’ll be less stressed and more productive.

3. Cut Out Busy Work.

While it’s important to fill up your free time with non-work tasks, you’ll also find that much of your schedule is filled with busy work. Identify these tasks and limit the time you spend on them. To assist with busy work, appoint your top employees to managerial roles, and don’t be afraid to delegate these tasks as you see fit. 

Cutting out busy work will free up time for business development. For example, you can focus on managing your business’ social media pages. As an entrepreneur, people want to hear what you have to say, and find your experience and opinions very valuable. By putting out thought leadership pieces or video content, you can gain your following, and next thing you know, you’re viral—and so is your business. 

You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you pare down your calendar. Be proactive, and don’t try to take on too much. And if you have already, make changes so you can be your best self. 

How Do You Prioritize Your Time? 25 Tips for Optimal Time Prioritization

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Smartwatch showing the time.

You came here for one reason. To get some killer tips on how to prioritize your time. So, let’s get right into it so that you’re not wasting any more time then you have to. Here is how to prioritize your time with 25 tips for optimal time prioritization.

1. Set goals and stick to them.

Goals are like a map. They provide us with a starting point and step-by-directions on how to reach our destination. But, they also keep us focused. If you’ve ever driven in an unfamiliar territory your eyes are fixed sharply on the road so that you don’t miss a turn.

Before doing anything else, get clear on your goals and follow through with them. Not only will this give you purpose, but it will also guide you in determining how you want to spend your time.

If you’re struggling with reaching your goals, here are four strategies that you should try:

  • SMART goal formula. Always make sure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
  • RPM. Developed by Tony Robbins, this involves three-steps to achieving your goals: writing them down, chunking your time, and blocks that contain a plan for reaching your goal.
  • Start with your action steps first. Instead of setting a goal first, begin in the middle of the goal process. Taking this approach actually gives you a better understanding of how much time and effort it will take.
  • Run a SWOT analysis. Short for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, this is where you identify the challenges in these four areas. Knowing this, you can then look for ways to overcomes these obstacles.

2. Create a master list.

Those goals you just came-up with? Add them to a list, along with anything else that needs to get done like administrative tasks, meetings, and household chores. Right now, the order doesn’t matter. You just need to get these items out of your head and place them in a notebook or sheet of paper. You could also use digital tools like Evernote, Google Keep, or Todoist.

For some of you, you may end up having a lengthy and daunting list here. Don’t sweat it. Go through your list and begin trimming the fat by arranging your list by date-specific responsibilities. Examples would include deadlines, due dates, and events already booked in your calendar. Also, only focus on important actions that need your attention right now.

As for the rest of your list? If there is something that you need to do, but it’s not urgent, schedule it for later. If there are items that could be delegated or outsourced, then assign them to someone else. And, if there’s anything that isn’t a good use of your time, delete them from your list.

3. Get to Like Ike.

Even if your list isn’t as overwhelming, it’s still challenging to prioritize your list. One way strategy to employ here would be using a priority matrix, such as the popular Eisenhower Matrix.

If history isn’t your thing, here’s what you need to know. The Eisenhower Matrix was named after Dwight Eisenhower, also known as Ike. He was the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and the 34th President of the United States. So, yeah, he had to be productive with his time. And, he accomplished this by dividing all tasks into four quadrants:

  • Important and Urgent – essential items that must get done.
  • Not urgent and important – activities that still require your attention, but not right at this moment.
  • Not important and urgent – responsibilities that can handed-off to someone else so that they don’t distract you.
  • Not important and not urgent – time-wasters that should be scrapped from your list entirely.

4. Enroll at MIT.

Not literally. But, if you have applied and been accepted to the Massachusets Institute of Technology, then congratulations.

The MIT I’m talking about here is your most important task. It’s the one thing that you want or needs to get done today — without question. It should always be aligned with the goals that you’ve set.

5. It’s as easy as A, B, C.

Another way to prioritize your time is to use a system where you list everything as A, B, and C. According to Steve Tobak, here’s how it works:

    • A = critical things. These are the things that need to get done right away or there will be repercussions.
    • B = business as usual. Everything that you need to focus on in order to achieve your short- and long-term goals.
    • C = everything else. These are items like busy work things that would be nice to get to, or just goofing off.

The beauty of this system, explains Tobak, is that you’ll “actually never get to the Priority C tasks. In fact, this system forces you to be very clear on your goals because anything that doesn’t play a significant role in helping you achieve them gets pushed to the C list.”

6. Kondo your to-do-lists.

I’m sure that you’re aware of Marie Kondo’s decluttering philosophy: does this spark joy? If not, it not then throw it away or donate it. But, how does this apply to prioritize your time?

Well, between FOMO and being afraid to say “no,” we often over-commit ourselves. We also feel pressured to squeeze in as much as possible in a day so that you give off the impression that we’re productive. In reality, the more we add to our plate, the less progress we’ll make. The reason? We’re focused on how much we’ve accomplished per day instead of spending time on the right things.

Decluttering your life can help with this. It relieves stress, allows you to make fewer decisions, and encourages you to spend more time on the things that truly matter.

Amy Jen Su suggests on HBR that you can do this by filtering your priorities. “Select a couple of areas to set priorities in; this can help the brain to manage information overload,” explains Amy.

“Researchers have found that it’s the overload of options that paralyze us or lead to decisions that go against our best interests,” she adds. “Two criteria I use with clients to filter for priorities include contribution and passion.” Your highest contribution would be things your purpose, strengths, and experience. Your passion would be the things that motivate and excite you.

7. Follow the 1-3-5 scheduling rule.

Remember that master you created? Go back and use that to shape your day using the 1-3-5 scheduling rule.

  • Identify today’s top priority from the list. Nothing else matters here. This is your primary focus for the day.
  • Determine three medium priorities. Ideally, these should be subtasks related to your main priority.
  • And, schedule no more than five small must-to-do- priorities, such as meetings. While these are important and deserve your time, we call these smaller to-dos since they don’t require as much energy.

8. Use the scales method.

The scales method was developed by Leon Ho, founder, and CEO of Lifehack. It’s similar to a priority matrix in that you’re organizing your to-do-list by importance and the benefits you’ll receive.

Here, however, you would determine the priority of each of your tasks by:

  • Low Cost + High Benefit. These are easy tasks to complete, but will also get you one step closer to your goals.
  • High Cost + High Benefit. Here you would break large tasks into smaller and more manageable ones.
  • Low Cost + Low Benefit. These would be your lowest priority tasks, like checking your inbox.
  • High Cost + Low Benefit. Here would time wasters that could be automated or delegated.

9. Find your 20%.

The 80/20 rule was developed by the Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto — hence why it’s also known as the Pareto Principle. As Choncé Maddox explains for Calendar, this rule “clearly states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.”

How does this help you prioritize your work? Well, according to Choncé, “If you’ve found that 20% of your effort is resulting in 80% of your results, you’ll want to prioritize and improve that 20% margin.”

With that in mind, you should always take care of your 20% first. If you find this to be tricky, ask questions like, “Are there any tasks that would make you feel relieved by accomplishing them, no matter what else happened during the day?”

10. Take the 18-minute approach.

Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, is responsible for this technique. In reality, though, it’s actually a daily ritual that will help you remain focused on your priorities throughout the day.

  • Step 1. Before doing anything, start your day by spending five minutes mapping out your day.
  • Step 2. Check-in every hour for just a minute to help put your back-on-track.
  • Step 3. At the end of the day, take five minutes to review what worked, as well as when you get distracted. Don’t forget to take note of when you had the most focus.

11. Listen to the oracle.

I’m talking about the Oracle of Omaha, aka Warren Buffett. And, no, it’s not about how to invest your money. Instead, it’s how you should invest your time.

Start by writing down your top 25 goals. Next, draw a circle around the five that you would consider being the most important. What about the other 20 goals you listed? Avoid those at all cost so that you can dedicate 100% to your top 5.

12. Respect dates and deadlines.

Is this obvious? Absolutely. But, a lot of people have a tendency to bite off more then they can chew. For example, you may have had a conference call scheduled for months for Tuesday at 4 p.m. In your eagerness to stay ahead of your work, you squeeze in one last job before the call. Next thing you know, it’s 4:05. Not cool.

Another example would not be adding buffers between tasks and events. Let’s say that you have two meetings planned for the afternoon. The first is at 2 and the second at 3. The first meeting, which is across town, ends at 2:50. There’s no way that you’re going to make it to the other meeting on time. That’s why you should have but a buffer between these events to account for the commute.

In short, when you have something already in your calendar, whether if it’s a deadline or appointment, your day needs to be based around that entry. It was there first. And, it’s just downright disrespectful.

13. Honesty is all the best policy.

I know. That adage is cliche as peanut butter and jelly. But, it still rings true. That’s because if you aren’t honest with yourself, then you won’t be able to prioritize your time. I mean it would be wonderful if you could complete your entire to-do-list in one day. But, that’s just not possible.

Be honest with how much you can realistically get done in a day. And, do your best to block the appropriate time needed for everything that you need to do.

14. Weigh the consequences.

Whenever you’re at a crossroads, or just planning out your day, think about the consequences. For example, if you made a left it may be the more scenic route. But, there’s also no gas station in that direction. In this case, you’re better off turning right so that you don’t run of gas in the middle of nowhere.

15. Make every day count.

Not to get too new agey with you. But, personally, that should be a top priority for everyone. Of course, that doesn’t mean living recklessly. It’s all about spending your time wisely. If that means leaving work early to spend time with your fam, then so be it. If that’s preparing to meet with investors in order to secure a much-need loan for your business, then it’s all good.

If you want to know how this is done, I recommend you check out Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule. It’s simple while providing structure. And, most importantly, it forces you to answer, “What good shall I do this day?”

16. Do what you dread first.

At some point, you’ve probably had to move. Even if you haven’t, you’ve at least helped a friend or family member. That is, unless, you’ve always hired someone to do this for you. And, if this is the case, then I’m incredibly jealous.

Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush here. Moving sucks. It’s stressful and physical tolling. But, whenever I have to make the dreaded move, I always start with the heavy items first. The reason is two-fold.

For one, do you really want to move a bedroom dresser after spending all day moving? Of course not. You’re exhausted and just want the day to be over. Secondly, if you knock out the heavier and bulkier items, everything else seems to run more smoothly. I guess it’s because with the big stuff out of the way you only have to worry about the remaining smaller items.

Apply the same concept to your time. As Mark Twain famously said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.” In other words, focus on completing your most challenging or dreaded task bright and early. Besides just getting it done and over with, this is usually when we have the most energy.

17. Alternate between a maker and manager schedule.

Back in 2009, Paul Graham wrote that there were two types of schedules; a maker’s and a manager’s. A maker’s schedule is where you have to spend hours working independently on the important stuff. A manger’s schedule is the one leader’s run-on that’s full of meetings and checking-in with others.

The concept is cool. But, most of us are like Malcolm and somewhere in the middle. That means there were times when we need to focus on tasks without being disturbed. But, there also times when we must do things like attending a meeting.

Each is important in their own way. But, if not managed proplet, it can be disastrous. Let’s say you’re in the zone and a calendar reminder goes off letting you know it’s time to head into the conference room. It’s frustrating and disruptive.

One way around this is to alternate days. For instance, reserve Mondays as a maker’s day. Tuesdays, however, would be spent as a manager day since that’s when all of your meetings are scheduled.

18. Deal with constant interruptions.

Interruptions, like Thanos, are inevitable. Thankfully, there are ways for you to be victorious against this intergalactic threat against productivity.

The most obvious place to start would be to turn off your smartphone notifications. You can either turn off your phone, put it on ‘Do Not Disturb’ or block apps from a specific amount of time. To avoid FOMO, check your these notifications at scheduled intervals.

Another option is to work in a quiet place. If this isn’t possible, invest in noise-canceling headphones and shut your office door. I’d also suggest placing a sign-up sheet or share your calendar with others so that people just won’t pop-in on you.

And, only accept time requests that serve a purpose. For example, instead of a status meeting with your team, use project management software so that you can see where everyone is at.

19. Assemble your tool kit.

Regardless if you own a home or rent, everyone needs a basic tool kit, such as screwdrivers, pliers, tape measures, and hammers. The same goes for prioritizing your time. A planner and calendar are your essential productivity toolkit. You need these to organize and manage your time.

However, you also will need tools to meet your exact needs. Let’s say you’re building a room in your basement for a home office. You’ll need tools like sawhorses, circular saws, putty knives, and straight edges for this job.

If you find yourself working with others, as an example, then grab tools like project management software and scheduling apps like Calendar that rely on AI and machine learning. You’ll need them to reduce the time spent on tedious tasks like planning a meeting so that you have more time on the important things.

20. Use a gamification system.

Pritoization is all about staying motivated. And, that can be trying when you’re just not in the right mindset. A simple way around this would be to tap into your intrinsic motivation through gamification. For example, break down your goals into micro-goals and reward yourself when you’ve completed each stage. So, let’s say you give yourself an hour to finish writing a report. If you do, then treat yourself to buying those new hiking boots you’ve been eyeing up.

21. Don’t plug leaky boats.

Let’s say that you own a small fishing boat. Over time, it begins to leak. That means whenever you go out, you have to either patch it up or constantly bail out water. Not only is this a waste of time, but it’s also stressful. Instead of dealing with your battered boat, just invest in a new one so that you can spend more time doing something that you enjoy — which would be fishing.

The point here isn’t to spend money. It’s that when something is broken, it’s not always worth fixing.

22. Plan in reverse.

“Although extensive research has shown the benefits of planning, little attention has been paid to the ways people construct plans and their impacts on subsequent goal pursuit,” said Jooyoung Park, assistant professor in the Department of Management at Peking University HSBC Business School and first author of a paper published in Psychological Science.

His study found that when it comes to more complex tasks, it more effective to plan backward. The reason? It forces you to anticipate the necessary step, stick to the original plan, and feel less pressured.

23. Keep a log of your work.

When you keep a log of your work, you’ll discover how long each task you do takes to complete. As such, you’ll be better suited to plan your time more accurately and realistically. You can also use this as a reference to see which recurring tasks can be scheduled or delegated.

24. Find a muse.

Think about your favorite musicians. They were inspired by someone else to write and perform music. It’s the same thing with prioritization. Pick the brains of people who you consider to be successful and productive like a mentor, family member, or renowned business leader. Whether you’re peaking them in person or reading a book they’ve authored, scout out optimal time prioritization from others that you respect.

25. Build your own prioritization system.

Finally, do what works best for you. Even if you’ve been inspired by someone else, make your own adjustments that meet your specific needs. Again, it’s like a musician. A guitar could have picked up the instrument because of the blues. But, over time, he developed his own signature style that was a better fit for his band.

25 Brilliant Calendar and Schedule Management Tips

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Between all of your work-related tasks, the endless barrage of meetings, personal commitments, and those pesky to-do-lists items, how can you possibly get everything done? Do you even have the chance to catch your breath or do the things that you actually enjoy?

While scheduling may be a struggle for some, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The light begins to shin when you follow your calendar with exactness and start to see the benefits. You begin to see how Calendar and schedule management frees you.

That may sound like an impossible feat. But, it’s within reach if you try out the following 25 brilliant tips.

1. Put first things first.

“Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities,” Stephen Covey famously wrote. “It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.”

If you don’t book your priorities, you can be certain that something of less importance will occupy that time slot. That’s why in order to protect what’s more important in your life, then take control of your schedule in advance. How far in advance? Well, some people prefer to create an annual plan.

Again, this will vary from person to person. But, an annual plan is where you simply block out time in your calendar for what’s most important to you. Examples would be business goals, industry events, doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences, or your best friend’s wedding.

Creating your annual Calendar (that you add to) won’t just shield your priorities, it will also keep you focused. It will also make managing your calendar much easier since there are fewer blocks to fill.

2. Schedule the best week ever.

Wait. Didn’t you just draft an annual plan? Yes. But, schedules change and new priorities pop-up throughout the year. That doesn’t mean that they’re any less important. It’s just that you don’t have a crystal ball and see that far into the future.

Either every Friday afternoon or Sunday evening, map out your ideal week. You can start by listing all of your tasks for the week and then prioritizing the list. From there, add your priorities into your calendar.

Just make sure that you schedule the right tasks at the right time. For instance, base your schedule around your energy levels and deadlines. If a deadline is for Thursday morning, then it wouldn’t make sense to work on this task at ten o’clock on Wednesday night.

3. Seize the day!

You’ve got an idea of how you’re going to spend the next week and even year to an extent. But, what would your dest day ever look like? I doubt it would be sleeping-in, rushing to work, and working until the wee hours of the night.

Or, would you rather wake-up and start the day on the right foot? You know, squeeze in an exercise, catch-up on the news, and enjoy a healthy breakfast. How about knowing exactly what to work on and when so that you’re working smarter, not harder. And, wouldn’t you want to end the day by doing something that you enjoy like relaxing or spending quality time with your nearest and dearest?

Determine what would make your day the best day ever. Afterward, schedule accordingly so that you can control and seize the day.

4. Always think before you act.

We’ve all fallen into this trap. You set down at your desk and then open-up your inbox. Next thing you know, you’ve just spent 30-minutes going through your emails. Another example would be you start looking for a misplaced item and then decide that it’s a good time to declutter and organize your office.

These are both activities that need to get done. But, do they need to be addressed at this very second? Probably not. In fact, getting distracted by these less important tasks can throw off the schedule that you’ve already planned.

Before diving into an activity, ask yourself if it’s worth doing right now. If not, schedule it for when you have the availability.

5. Have a well-equipped toolbox.

If you’re a homeowner, then you should know the importance of having a well-equipped toolbox. It’s essential for basic tasks like hanging a picture or doing a little home repair. Even if you rent an apartment, you should still have a basic toolbox handy.

The same idea applies to your calendar and schedule management. Instead of relying on a wall or desktop-sized calendar, download a calendar app. It’s more accessible and portable than the old paper calendar. And, it can easily be shared with others.

On top of a calendar app, also look into tools like scheduling software. Calendar, for example, uses machine learning to make smart suggestions on how to schedule events. It’s much more convenient than going playing phone or email tag when planning a meeting.

6. Your kiss is on my list.

Unlike Hall & Oates, I don’t mean this literally. I’m actually talking about the KISS Principle.

Short for “keep it simple stupid.” The idea comes from a Navy design principle from the 60s. It’s great advice for all aspects of your life. But, it’s particularly useful when it comes to your calendar.

As a computer scientist and author of “The Laws of Simplicity,” John Maeda explains, “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.” For example, you wouldn’t want to create a complicated calendar system just to keep track of habitual actions like brushing your teeth. Instead, you would add entries like deep work.

7. Pick-up timeboxing.

Ditch your to-do-lists and embrace a simple productivity hack known as timeboxing. As explained in another Calendar article, this is where you open your calendar and block off an exact amount of time to a specific task.

According to Marc Zao-Sanders over on HBR, timeboxing encourages you to get the right thing done at the right time. Additionally, it “enables you to communicate and collaborate more effectively.” Timeboxing also creates a “comprehensive record of what you’ve done, makes you feel more in control, and fights back against Parkinson’s Law.

8. Become a microscheduler.

You wouldn’t think that Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Wahlberg, and internet celebrities like Elaine Lui, and Casey Neistat would have much in common. But, they all share a scheduling habit where they break their days into five to seven-minute blocks.

Also known as microscheduling, this is a rigid schedule that doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. However, it ensures that you maximize and protect your time. And, according to Insider, “Microschedulers feel calmer when they have their plan, prioritized to-do list, and an organized structure to their day.”

9. Work in batches.

Batching is one of my favorite time management techniques. Besides being easy to implement, it’s also effective. Simply block out time in your schedule to focus on a group of similar tasks. Examples would be running all of your errands at the same time, cooking all of your meals on Sunday, or checking your inbox at predetermined times.

The reason why batching works is because it prevents multitasking. It also reduces the time spent switching between tasks.

10. Aim to be early.

Let’s say that the due date for a project is on the twentieth of the month. Bump that deadline up by a couple of days. No matter how organized you are, Murphy’s Law is always lurking in the shadows. So, it’s better to have met this deadline in advance just to be safe.

You can also use this technique for meetings. If a meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m., then plan to be there at 1:50 so that you don’t run late. Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to prepare and review the agenda.

11. Put a “P” on your calendar.

She may have a song that emphasizes how much she works. But, in reality, Rihanna prioritizes downtime.

“I never used to be this way,” RiRi told Interview Magazine. “It’s only the last couple of years that I started to realize that you need to make time for yourself because your mental health depends on it.”

“If you’re not happy, you’re not going to be happy even doing things that you love doing,” she added. “It’d feel like a chore. I never want to work to feel like a chore.”

To make time for herself, Rihanna places “the infamous ‘P,’ which means personal days” onto her calendar. That’s it. She just puts a “P,” which is a different color, on her calendar to protect her personal time.

12. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.

I’m not actually a fan of Kit Kat bars. But, that jingle. It’s timeless. And, so is the advice it shares, “Give me a break.”

Make sure that you schedule breaks in your calendar. It gives you the chance to recharge and refocus. After all, we can only focus on one task for so long. Track your energy patterns to see when you’re most productive and when your energy begins to lag. It’s different for everyone. But, usually, we can work for around an hour before taking a break. After that, take a 10-20 minute break before getting back to work.

13. Schedule BBTs.

Back burner tasks are those things that you never get around to. Usually, this is because they’re not all that important and you just don’t want to do. Examples would be calling your insurance company or cleaning the bathroom.

Despite not being a top priority, they’re usually things that you eventually have to get around to doing before they pile-up. Don’t forget to schedule these responsibilities when you have spare time. Saturday mornings as an example, are perfect for scrubbing your bathroom.

14. Use reminders strategically.

Perhaps one of the most underutilized features of a calendar is reminders. Most of us just stick with the default. But, when used correctly and sparingly it can differently be an asset.

Let’s say that you have a meeting scheduled for next week. Set a reminder a week in advance so that you can send the agenda out to attendees. Set another reminder a day prior to giving you enough time to prepare. And, set a final reminder an hour before just in case you get in the zone and lose track of time.

15. Strike while the iron’s hot.

Earlier in my career, I was terrible at following-up with professional contacts. I’d meet people at an event and promise to keep in touch. But, because I didn’t schedule a meeting, I never did. Now, when I meet a contact, I share my schedule with them on the spot and schedule a follow-up with them.

The same is true of any event that you plan on attending. Whether if it’s meeting with clients, a dentist appointment, or conference, once booked add it immediately to your calendar. If not, you may accidentally schedule something else during the same date and time.

16. Stop playing the victim.

Growing up there was this older kid who got a kick out of being a bully. One day I finally had enough and stood up to him. Guess what? He never bothered me again.

I’m not suggesting physical violence here. I’m saying that you need to stop making excuses and stand up for yourself — especially when it comes to your time. If you can’t focus because your phone is constantly going off, then turn the thing off. If you feel like you’re stretched for time, then start saying “no” to time requests.

Heck, even if you do say “yes” you can always reclaim your time if the request seems like a waste. Just make sure to give adequate notice.

17. Change your view.

Did you know that online calendars offer multiple views? These include daily, weekly, or monthly. There are also more specific views like your work schedule or every two days. Find a view that works best for you.

Personally, I enjoy the one that displays every two days. It keeps me focused on today and helps plan for tomorrow. It also events me from getting distracted on what I need to do a week or so from now.

18. Set time limits on your tasks.

If you know that you only have an hour to clean out your inbox, update your social channels, and return a phone call, then you’ll be motivated to do all of these within that timeframe. If you give yourself too much time, then you’ll just goof around since you have too much time on your hands. It’s all thanks to that darn Parkinson’s Law.

I would track your time for more important tasks though. You certainly don’t want to under-or-overestimate how long these items take.

19. Eliminate back-to-back appointments.

Just because it’s acceptable in the business world to schedule back-to-back meetings doesn’t mean you have to. I would even go as far as to say that you should never book back-to-back appointments. The reason? It’s just going to end badly.

You need time in-between meetings to travel, prepare, or just decompress for five minutes. If you have any back-to-back appointments currently in your calendar, reschedule one of them immediately. And, going forward, always give yourself a buffer.

20. Revise your approach to meetings.

Speaking of meetings, you’re probably going about them all wrong. In most cases, meetings are unproductive. Even worse, they’re a blight on your schedule.

Only accept meetings that serve a purpose. If they don’t, find an alternative like a quick phone call or Slack message. If you must plan a meeting, keeping them short, invite-only key stakeholders, and stick to your agenda.

21. Keep your calendar or schedule visible.

We’re visual creates. So, it wouldn’t hurt to place your calendar where you can see it. It could be a giant wall-sized calendar or placed on your desktop. Now you’ll always have a visual reminder on what needs to get done today, tomorrow, or even next month.

22. Create titles that catch the eye.

Spice up your calendar by creating more helpful titles. Instead of ‘Meeting’ go with something like ‘Sales Pitch.” Also use color-coding, boldface, or different fonts for each title. It will make these important entries to stand out and will help you plan more accordingly.

23. Let AI do the hard work.

Artificial intelligence is here. And, it’s changing the world for the better.

Case in point, smart calendars. These calendars can track how you spend your time and analyze your activity in order to make recommendations on how you can better spend your time. These tools can then automatically add recurring events to your calendar.

24. Step back and take a big-picture view of your calendar.

Periodically, review your calendar. Make sure that it’s a current reflection of your priorities and is helping you achieve work-life balance. If not, then find out what items on your calendar can be delegated or dropped.

25. You do you.

Finally, in the immortal words of Jon Bon Jovi, “It’s my life. It’s now or never.”’

When it comes to your calendar and schedule, find the methods and tools that work best for you. It might take some trial and error. But, when you find a management system that suits you, stick with it.

How Time Management Software Can Help Your Company’s Productivity

By | Time Management | No Comments

I’m sure we can all agree that time is money when it comes to running your business and it’s daily operations. Unfortunately, in a busy office setting, it’s all too easy for time to be mismanaged or miscalculated. If you’re trying to create a better work environment where everyone can be more productive, using time-management tools and software can be the key.

Keep reading to learn how office time management software can help your company to be more productive.

Manage Paychecks with Less Hassle

Keeping track of employee paychecks is a huge undertaking for most businesses. Taking time to keep track of and record the work of every employee manually can be a tedious task. Regardless of whether you’ve got a couple of workers or a big team, office time management software will allow you to automatically track their attendance, making sure they get an accurate paycheck every time, including deducted time for missed hours or bonus pay for overtime.

Programs like Hubstaff and Gusto are perfect for automatically tracking your team member’s time and distributing timely payments. I like how users can ‘clock in’ with Hubstaff and specify which task they’re working on.

The system will take several screenshots while someone works and you can even connect your business account or debit card to pay team members automatically on designated days.

Generate Reliable Data

In addition to simplifying paychecks, conflicts concerning overtime hours or missed attendance are almost eliminated with office time management software, since there are reliable hard data to analyze against any claims.

This system safeguards both staff and employers’ interests. Having access to accurate, real-time data helps to remove the possibility of personal bias or fraudulent payroll tampering.

Time Tracking Tools For Accountability

The best way to figure out if you’re being productive or not is to track your time. Time-tracking tools and programs like Clockify make this super easy to do and provide you with extra accountability.

Sometimes, I set productivity goals or time-block my schedule and I use Clockify to help me stay on track so I’m not wasting too much time on one thing.

Tracking your time is also a good thing to do when you are just starting a project and not sure how long it will take. The more you know about how long it takes you to complete certain tasks, the better you’ll get at creating an efficient schedule.

Fill Your Team’s Calendar More Efficiently

It’s no secret that most employees aren’t 100% productive during their entire shift. This means if someone works 40 hours a week, they spend less than 40 hours actually doing productive work.

While you should encourage some breaks and downtime to ensure a better balance, time tracking and time management software can help you will everyone’s calendar more efficiently.

After a while, you can use the data you collect to how long certain tasks take and which ones are quicker to complete. When you outsource work to your team members you can fill their calendar with reasonable tasks and responsibilities.

For example, say you have an assistant who works for your business 15 hours per week. You may want to use the data you get from time management software programs overtime to help fill the assistant’s schedule with enough productive work to help you get the most for the compensation that you’re paying.

Doing this will also help ensure that team members are being challenged well enough and aren’t just sitting around bored throughout the day.

Flexibility to Use It Wherever You Are

Office time management software lets you view employee attendance, absence, productivity, and pay records, no matter where you are. Just boot up your laptop, phone, or tablet, and you’re good to go. If you’re a busy business owner who’s always on the move, this can be a real advantage over having to spend your time digging through records and sending emails back and forth.

It also ensures greater employee confidence, since they’re not wondering if you’re being left out of the loop, or if their paychecks will be late when you’re away from the office.

Boost Your Bottom Line

Wasted employee time can significantly affect your bottom line. In-house use of office time management software has been shown to increase employee productivity dramatically. Ensuring that your team gets started with work on time and has a productive day can help you get that additional little bit of efficiency every day.

A couple of minutes every now and then may not seem like a big deal. However, with time, those wasted minutes really add up to less productivity, which will have an impact on your company.

Don’t waste any of your company’s precious time. Implement it for yourself, and see how much more productive office time management software will make your business.

Do you use any time management software or time-tracking tools for your team? Why or why not?

50 Calendar and Productivity Hacks for Entrepreneurs

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Don’t watch your time melt away. Many different factors can make or break you as an entrepreneur, but nothing is as important as being able to keep your time in check. If you feel that this is an area that needs improvement in your life, then you need to give the following 50 calendar, and productivity hacks a spin.

1. It’s all about prioritization.

Prioritization is the secret to both time and calendar management, as well as productivity. After all, if you don’t focus on your priorities, then you’ll end up spending the majority of your time on meaningless activities. Also, it provides structure to your days and keeps you organized.

As a general rule, your priorities are essential tasks that help you reach a goal. If you need help determining what these are, consider employing proven techniques like the 80/20 Rule, Eisenhower Matrix, or rocks, pebbles, and sand.

2. Conduct a time audit.

You can work a million different calendar and productivity hacks and still expect to fail if you don’t know how you’re truly spending your time. Keep a time log or use tools like RescueTime or Toggl to see how long it takes you to complete tasks or empty your inbox.

It’s only after this that you can adequately manage your calendar. As an example, if you realize that email and social media eats up two hours of your day, then you can take steps to rectify this problem, such as batching these tasks together, so you’re not checking them throughout the day.

More importantly, this will prevent you from over-or-underestimating how much time to set aside for specific. Before I did this, I would only leave myself an hour to write a blog post. In reality, I needed two. Because I underestimated this time, it threw a monkey wrench into the rest of my day.

3. Paper, electronic, or both?

Despite the amount of fabulous electronic calendars on the market, you may prefer to use a paper one. There’s nothing wrong with that. You shouldn’t be forced to use calendar software if it’s a hassle for you. Instead, use the type of calendar that you’re most comfortable with and learn how to get the most out of it.

Personally, I prefer combining both paper and electronic. I keep a paper calendar on my desk so that it’s visible at all times. But, I use a calendar app to add and manage my schedule — I can also easily access and share it with others.

4. Plan your schedule around energy levels.

Determine when you’re most focused and alert. Then go ahead and schedule more important responsibilities around those times. Save less essential items for productivity lulls. So, if you are most productive between 10 A.M. and noon, then that’s when you should put your most crucial tasks in your calendar.

5. Optimize notifications.

I personally feel that one of the best features regarding electronic calendars is the ability to receive notifications, such as deadlines or meetings. But, to get the most out of these, you need to go beyond the default settings.

For example, you wouldn’t want to receive a reminder at 2 P.M. when that’s the start time. Instead, a 24-hour notice, along with a 30-minute, would give you more than enough time to prepare for the event. What’s more, you can add notes and even a map so that everything you need is right there in your calendar.

6. Use color-coding for various schedules.

Color-coding is a simple and effective way to quickly view and manage all of these responsibilities you put in your calendar. I’m a fan of the chakra system. The chakra system is where each color aligns with a different energy point. So, since red represents security and safety, you would use it for any work-related task.

7. Schedule the time you actually need.

Scheduling the time your need isn’t about tracking your time. It’s about taking into consideration things like travel time. In other words, if you’re meeting with a client or investor for lunch at noon, and it takes you half an hour to get there, you’ll mark travel time as an event so that you don’t schedule anything else in that block.

8. Implement the Arrow Method.

The Arrow Method was developed by Nicholas Sonnenberg, Co-founder of Leverage, with the goal “to make your weekly calendar look like an arrowhead.” The arrowhead means that you essentially front-load your week with a lot of items on the calendar and then taper “out to a fine point at the end,” he explains on Inc.com.

For example, you could schedule all of your weekly meetings on Monday or Tuesday. Scheduling your Calendar this way leaves some leeway. When Friday rolls around, you don’t have as much in your calendar.

9. Pencil in time to do nothing.

Nothing may sound like a pipe dream — and it is. But, this is a practice that Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, has done for years. The reason? Blocking out 30- to 90-minutes in his calendar allows him to “process what was going on” around him and “just think.”

“At first, these buffers felt like indulgences. I could have been using the time to catch up on meetings I had pushed out or said “no” to,” Weiner wrote in a LinkedIn post. “But over time, I realized not only were these breaks important, but they were also absolutely necessary for me to do my job.”

“Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk,” Weiner added. “The buffer is the best investment you can make in yourself and the single most important productivity tool I use.”

10. Plan “themed” days.

How do entrepreneurs like Jack Dorsey manage their jam-packed calendars? They organize their schedules by creating different theme days.

“All my days are themed,” Dorsey told Fast Company. “Monday is management. At Square, we have a directional meeting; at Twitter, we have our opcomm [operating committee] meeting. Tuesday is the product, engineering, and design. Wednesday is marketing, growth, and communications. Thursday is partnership and developers. Friday is a company and culture. It works in 24-hour blocks.”

“On days beginning with T, I start at Twitter in the morning, then go to Square in the afternoon. Sundays are for strategy, and I do a lot of job interviews. Saturday is a day off.”

11. Harness the power of technology.

Thanks to technology, how we use our calendars have become much more efficient. Pretty much every schedule allows you to add and manage calendar entries using your voice. It’s so much more convenient than continually typing this information out.

Additionally, intelligent calendars like Calendar are using artificial intelligence. As a result, it can analyze previous data to make smart suggestions on how to schedule your days. There are also powerful tools that allow you to automate mundane and repetitive tasks.

12. Design a zero-based calendar.

A zero-based calendar is where you schedule everything into your calendar. Scheduling everything sounds excessive. If you account for every second of the day — there aren’t any blank spaces in your calendar. Even if you plan that time to do nothing but think, this prevents other, pointless activities from creeping into that timeframe.

13. Convert to-do-lists into a to-do-schedule.

“A list is designed to be added to, so it can make it hard to feel satisfied if you’re adding as much as your checking off,” Pete Sveen writes on Think Entrepreneurship. “To remedy this, try turning your to-do list into a to-do schedule.”

One way to do this is by writing your to-do’s next to your scheduled appointments. “If I assign an actual time to a task, I am far more likely to actually get that task done,” adds Sveen. Even better, this can encourage you to be “more realistic about how much I can get done in a given time.”

14. Maker’s schedule, manager’s schedule.

The legendary Paul Graham shared this piece of wisdom all the back in 2009. But, it’s still just as valid today.

The gist is this, entrepreneurs should construct two different schedules, or plans, for each day of the week. The first would be a maker’s schedule. The marker is where you would spend either a half or full day on activities like building a product or solving a problem.

The second is the manager’s schedule. This schedule would include time blocks for meetings, marketing, and sales.

“When you use your time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone,” wrote Graham. “Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.”

15. Define dedicated hours for the critical things in your life.

This all about setting boundaries. Determine when it’s time to work and to play. Establish “business hours,” as well as when you’re not available. It’s the only way that you’ll achieve a healthy balance between your startup and life outside of your business.

16. Find your ideal view.

If you’re using a calendar app, you have the option to chose between daily, weekly, or monthly views. You can even customize these views by different periods or schedules, such as two-week views or work schedule.

Select the view that you prefer. Personally, I’m a “less is more” type of guy. So, I’ve set my view so that it only lists what’s in my calendar today. If I go beyond that, I tend to get distracted by what I need to get done in the future.

17. Create and share a master calendar.

A master calendar is your go-to since it contains your most important responsibilities at work and in life. That may sound like a cluttered mess. But, you don’t need to fill the calendar with minute entries like brushing your teeth. It should just include the biggies.

The benefit of this is that it prevents any scheduling conflicts since you can consult the calendar before committing to a time request. After creating your master calendar, share it with people like your family and assistant so that they can keep up with your busy schedule.

18. You can have then one calendar.

At the same time, you can still have several different calendars that capture the various aspects of your life. For example, a family calendar doesn’t need to be shared with your team. But, it can help keep your home life organized. You may also want to subscribe to different calendars like a holidays calendar. Working with a remote team overseas, this lets me know when they won’t be available.

You could also have an optional calendar. An optional calendar is where you add events you’re interested in if you have availability. For instance, there’s a networking event this Wednesday night. You didn’t plan on attending because you had a conference call with a client. But, they had to reschedule so now you can attend.

Having this optional calendar ensures that you always have a back-up plan. It may not sound significant. But, it provides a way so that you’re spending your time productively.

19. Get a head start on your year.

“If it doesn’t exist on my calendar, it’s not real,” Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec told Entrepreneur in 2016. That’s sound advice. But, how can you stay on top of your calendar, both personally and professionally, when you’re continually inputting new events and tasks?

“Plan as much as you can a year in advance and stick to it,” he said. For instance, he never missed any of his children’s school events. Not missing the critical events was possible because he met with his assistant and kid’s school counselor every September to go through and coordinate calendars.

20. Review your calendar for this week and next.

“Every Friday, review your calendar and ask yourself how you spent your time during the previous seven days,” suggests Bryan Collins in a piece for Forbes. “Then, look at the coming week and consider how you want to spend your time.”

“Make appointments if you need to and cancel irrelevant meetings if you can,” Bryan continues. “Consider how close the reality of the previous week’s calendar matches up with what you want next week’s calendar to look like.”

“You might lack full control over your working week, but you can probably find weeds you can pull or activities requiring two mornings of focused work instead of one.”

21. Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain.”

Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity hack to motivate him to write daily has been embraced for years. It was also highlighted in Cal Newport’s Deep Work and the Netflix movie Jerry Before Seinfeld.

It works like this. Get a calendar and place an X on it if he’s accomplished his goal of writing for the day. “After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it, and the chain will grow longer every day,” he told software developer Brad Issac. “You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

22. Plan for interruptions.

No matter how much you plan, interruptions are inevitable. One way around this is to leave some time blocks blank in your schedule so that you can shuffle things around if need be. Another option is to track these distractions so that you can identify when they’re most likely to occur.

23. Pump up the jams.

Music and white noise can help you focus — particularly if there’s distracting background noise when working. The catch is to listen to the right tunes. Ideally, this would be music without lyrics, such as classical music.

If you feel like you’re showcasing your vocal talents — singing while taking a shower is a great way to do this. Singing can boost your immune system, lower cortisol levels, and release endorphins.

24. The “2-minute rule.”

Populated by David Allen, the man behind Getting Things Done, this simply means that if a task takes under two minutes, you should just do it. “Just do it” (just like Nike), prevents you from getting log-jammed with a series of menial tasks. Zipping through a ton of jobs may give you the nudge to get in the zone.

25. Pressure pushing down on me.

You don’t want to stress yourself out too much. It’s not good for your health or productivity to lot yourself with pressure until you crack. Scheduling in self-care is essential for mass-productivity. If you feel like you’re procrastinating, a little pressure can motivate you to buckle down. For example, if you have two hours to complete a task, cut that back to one hour so that you’ll be forced to tackle it right now. It will also help you remain focused.

26. Focus on just-time-learning.

“As an entrepreneur, you have to learn many new things to get a clear understanding of all your business operations and dynamics,” explain the folks over at Week Plan.

“It requires a specific time to get all these critical data, and you have to search for different platforms for it like searching on blogs, watching videos, and more.” To address, try out Just-Time-Learning.

This concept “originated from the manufacturing industry and more specifically by Toyota.” This approach calls for working on a task and only researching when it’s required. The work with no research plan helps “to ensure that you don’t waste your time on unnecessary research. Rather, you’ll focus your efforts only on essential research.”

27. Master the art of delegation and outsourcing.

No surprise here. Learning what and how to delegate and outsource frees up your schedule so that you can spend more time on what really matters.

28. Use site blockers.

When you’re plugged in all day, like so many of us are, you’re bound to get distracted by the endless amount of content online. To counter this, consider installing a website blocker. These are simply tools, such as StayFocused and Freedom, that prevent you from getting distracted by your favorite sites.

29. Ease into your mornings.

How do you wake-up each morning? Many of us hear the alarm and instinctively grab our phones. Next thing you know, you’re wasting mental energy responding to emails. Worse, you may lie in bed for an extended time watching YouTube videos.

For most of us, we’re most productive in the morning. So, instead of getting sucked into your phones, spend time building up your energy for the day by jotting down your goals, exercising, and taking a quick, tepid shower.

30. Closeout tasks.

“Even if a task doesn’t have a deadline (but you need to get it done), tackle it in one or two sessions rather than returning repeatedly,” Andrew Fayad from eLearning Mind told Inc.com. “Jumping tasks and returning to something multiple times requires a repeated mental ramp.”

31. Create and use templates.

Templates are mostly “fill-in-the-blank” documents. You can either create them from scratch or download one online. Whatever you chose, these will save you time since you aren’t always creating calendars, invoices, or email/social media updates.

32. Filter ideas.

“Steve Jobs was known for being somewhat brutal in his approach to management and leadership, intolerant of bad ideas and demanding of his employees — but he got results,” writes Jayson DeMers in a previous Entrepreneur article. “One of his most important productivity hacks was filtering out everything that wasn’t a top-notch idea; on corporate retreats, Jobs was known to collect a list of 100 ideas from his top executives on how Apple could improve in the next year.”

Jobs would immediately cross “out anything he thought was dumb, then kept crossing things out until he had a ‘top 10’ list.” He then whittled these down to three “and used those three as the focus for the company for the next year. Only three percent of ideas were worth spending time on, from his perspective.”

33. Learn keyboard shortcuts.

Whether you’re using Calendar, Google Calendar, Apple, or Outlook, every primary calendar has keyboard shortcuts that allow you to edit and manage your Calendar quickly. Each platform has different shortcuts. You’ll want to learn the shortcuts for your calendar before making the most out of this very productive hack.

34. Stop compromising.

“When we work in teams, especially among co-founding team members, we occasionally compromise to keep things going smoothly,” explains Praveen Chandran on Startup Grind. “We accept tasks without analyzing the ‘why’ and the ‘when?’ Accepting a task or scheduling meetings just because a co-founding team member said so, results in wasted time and effort.”

“Even if a co-founder gives a suggestion, it never hurts to have a discussion on the purpose or the timing of the task in a respectful way,” recommends Chandran. “Such discussions set a nice rhythm with your co-founding team in prioritizing things in the future.”

35. Reserve brainpower.

Ever wonder why entrepreneurs, like Mark Zuckerberg, always wore the same outfits. A part of it was to build their brand. But, it’s also to save time and prevent decision fatigue.

Preparing the night before, like laying out your clothes and packing your lunch, is one way around this. Another tactic is to make decisions on less important matters, like where to order lunch, by going with the first thing that pops in your head.

36. Work from home.

While there are distractions you most overcome when working from home, there are also some perks. The most obvious is that you eliminate the time spent on your daily commute. However, Brittany Hodak from ZinePak tells Business.com that this is “a great opportunity to disengage from the day-to-day tasks at the office and spend time thinking strategically about big-picture opportunities without the regular interruptions that come from working in an office with a larger team. It’s made a huge difference in my productivity.”

37. Upgrade your work environment.

You can try as many hacks as you want. If your workspace isn’t optimized, it’s going to be almost impossible for you to get into a state of flow. Make sure that your space is comfortable and free of clutter. Also, consider factors like the temperature, lighting, and the colors of your walls.

38. Give yourself a break.

You can’t bulldog through all of your calendar entries. Everyone needs frequent breaks throughout the day to clear their heads and unwind. Using the Pomodoro Technique is a popular way to encourage you to take a breather. And, you may also want to think about going on a much-needed vacation if you feel burned out.

39. Come on and get happy.

When you’re in a better mood, you tend to be more productive. One study shows that happy employees are 20 percent more productive than their unhappy colleagues. Ask yourself, “how can you turn that frown upside down?” Surround yourself with more optimistic people — those who watch for opportunities to do something nice for each other. or watch a funny YouTube clip.

40. Stop neglecting your health.

How alert, focused, and energetic do you think you’ll be if you eat like crap, don’t exercise, or hardly get enough sleep? The same is true if you always feel stressed and anxious. Stop putting your mental and physical health on the back burner and start making it a priority today.

41. Turn off electronic notifications.

It’s hard to maintain your attention on something important when it seems like your phone is going to explode. When in deep work, either turn your phone off or silence notification like email, social media, and text message.

42. Batch smartphone notifications.

But, what if there’s an emergency or you’re missing out on something important? Those thoughts are probably running through your head as you try to work. Researchers have found that the solution is batching smartphone notifications three times a day — when you arrive at work, during lunch, and when heading home.

43. Unsubscribe and unfollow.

Go through your social accounts and emails and see which ones no longer serve a purpose. Then, unsubscribe and unfollow them — tools like Unroll.me can do this for you. It’s one of the simplest ways to clean up your feeds and inbox and regain some of your time.

44. Focus on progress, not perfection.

Stop spending time on developing the perfect solution. It doesn’t exist. Besides, the longer you spend on making something different, it will already be obsolete. Do your best and make the appropriate adjustments as you go along.

45. Keep messages short and concise.

Whether if it’s an email, phone call, Slack message, or meeting agenda, don’t waste everyone’s time on lengthy messages. Keep them short and concise so that everyone can move on. You can go into more detail either at another time or through a different medium like a Word document.

46. Stop being passive.

You just sent an email to your partner asking if they can meet for lunch next week. You don’t hear back from them after a couple of days. Even though you don’t want to be a nag, you can’t sit there and wait for them to respond. Reach out again so that you don’t leave this slot open.

Remember, your time is your most valuable resource. You need to protect it so that there aren’t too many white spaces in your calendar.

47. Don’t use complicated project trackers.

Over the years, I’ve tried several different tools that tracked the progress my team was making on a project. Some of these were so complex and detailed that I spent more time inputting data than actually working on my part of the project. Sometimes all you need is a notepad or spreadsheet to keep tabs on what you and your team are working on.

48. Rethink your approach to meetings.

While essential, meetings are one of the biggest time wasters within your organization. Before scheduling a meeting, ask if the session is necessary. You may find that an alternative, like email, collaboration apps, online chats, or Wikis, is more effective.

If a meeting is needed, only invite key stakeholders and keep it as short as possible — 20 to 45 minutes should suffice. Don’t forget to prepare and send an agenda in advance so that invitees can prepare. And, don’t let participants get distracted. Ask them to their phones at their desks and only discuss the topics that are on the agenda.

49. Raise the bar.

Set an example for your team by continuing to seek opportunities for growth and development. Work with coaches and mentors. And, encourage habits like being respectful of other people’s time off — this means not contacting them at all hours of the night. Keeping office hours lets your team know that this is a culture where time management is encouraged.

50. Build your village.

If you’re at least somewhat familiar with Batman, then you know that he prides himself on being a loner. However, there are times when he needs the assistance of Alfred, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, and the Justice League. In other words, Mr. Wayne has a team around him when needed.

For you to get everything done and maintain your sanity, you also need to surround yourself with your allies. Your allies mean everyone from partners and employees who will pick up the slack when needed, as well as those outsides of work that you can depend on, such as cleaners, babysitters, accountants, attorneys, etc. It’s much easier to have these people in your circle, as opposed to frantically finding them when needed.

The Science Behind Procrastination and How You’ll Beat It

By | Scheduling, Time Management | No Comments

I had every intention to crank this article out immediately following my morning routine. Already had the material put together in an outline, and I’d put it in my calendar to-do-list. I kept dragging my feet on writing the piece all morning. Even worse, while I’m usually a pro at blocking out distractions, I was more than willing to get a fantastic amount of work done quickly. This action is my favorite procrastination mojo — catch up and fix problematic back issues that are driving my team or me crazy. What’s the science behind procrastination and how you’ll beat it?

What’s going on here? Obviously — this is my go-to for procrastinating — something that everyone struggles with at some point. But you’ll want to figure out and know yourself well enough to answer this question precisely, “what is my procrastination mojo.”

Joseph Ferrari is a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago. Ferrari is the author of Still Procrastinating: The No Regret Guide to Getting It Done. Dr. Ferrari claims that “roughly 20 percent of U.S. adults are chronic procrastinators.” But, the statement by Ferrari begs the question, Why do we procrastinate, and what can we do to topple it?

What exactly is procrastination?

Before answering the questions above, let’s quickly define procrastination. And, let’s go over why what it’s such a big deal. If you conducted a search inquiry for “procrastination definition,” the first result is probably this: the action of delaying or postponing something. As pointed out by Piers Steel Ph.D. in a Psychology Today article, “if procrastination means simply delay — then we should be comfortable placing it along with the similar concepts of scheduling or prioritizing.”

However, being comfortable with placing procrastination in blocks alongside related issues is generally not the case. For example, your flight is delayed due to inclement weather. A delayed flight — and the weather are both issues entirely out of your control.  These matters occur and cannot be interpreted as you being “lazy” or “unmotivated” in any way. Timothy Pychyl says that “all procrastination is a delay, but not all delay is procrastination.”

If all procrastination is a delay — to me, that makes procrastination a unique type of postponement — since we often recognize the negative consequences. A better definition might be the one found in UPMC HealthBeat. The site describes procrastination as “the avoidance of work or necessary tasks by focusing on more satisfying activities that are due to a chemical in the brain.

Procrastination boils down to a battle between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex,” further explains UPMC HealthBeat. “The limbic system is a set of brain structures containing the pleasure center, while the prefrontal cortex controls planning and decision making.” Since the prefrontal cortex isn’t as “developed and thus weaker, so often the limbic system wins out, leading to procrastination.”

The effects of procrastination.

Sometimes the argument going on between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes you may choose to delay doing something because it’s the best idea at the time. For example, I wasn’t going to write this article until I was more focused — I didn’t want to write a half-hearted piece.

Others who have embraced procrastination have claimed that they make better decisions, provides insights, and sparks creativity. Sometimes structured procrastination can help you get more done and eliminate unnecessary tasks. At the same time, chronic procrastination should be avoided. Restraining yourself from procrastination is because practicing poor habits can become — well — habits. Patterns have severe consequences, and you don’t want the habits that will harm you.

The most apparent negative impact would be missing deadlines. For instance, not filing your taxes on time, failing to submit a project by the due date, or waiting to buy a birthday present for your spouse at the last minute. All of these actions and non-actions will affect your career and personal life. As a result, poor-action habits can damage relationships and put your health in jeopardy.

Science Behind Procrastination: The Different types of procrastination.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what procrastination is and what impact — for good or not-so-good — this action will have in your life. Keep in mind, non-action is still an action. If you have made a decision and taken the “action of not acting” — there will always be a consequence.

Now it’s time to figure out which type of procrastinator you are so that you can get to the bottom of why you’re not getting things done. Or you’ll want to know why you are doing other things instead of making a plan and working the plan. According to psychologist Neil Fiore, and author of Awaken Your Strongest Self, there are five common types of procrastinators:

  • The Perfectionist.

    Perhaps the most common kind of procrastinator who strives for the best and is their own worst critic because they don’t want to be embarrassed. “They may spend too much time on one component of a project, failing to manage their time properly. Or, they avoid the project altogether, then rush to finish it at the last minute,” writes Fast Company‘s, Gwen Moran.

  • The Imposter.

    “Afraid of being revealed as unqualified or inferior, this procrastinator puts off doing anything to avoid that risk,” adds Moran. “Often, this type of procrastinator has learned to feel like an imposter when they are surrounded by people who are difficult to please.”

  • The Dread-Filled.

    Out of all the different types of procrastination, this person is the most rational. After all, when you can’t stand what you’re doing — it’s almost impossible to find the motivation to get started.

  • The Overwhelmed.

    The overwhelmed individual is a more contemporary type of procrastinator and one that I feel a lot of entrepreneurs fall into this category. “Sometimes, there’s just too much to do, and it’s hard to figure out where to start—so we don’t do anything,” Fiore explains and is quoted by Moran.

  • The Lucky One.

    “Some people believe they do their best work under pressure, so they procrastinate until their back is up against the wall,” Nicole Bandes, founder of the consultancy the Productivity Expert,” told Moran. “If they have a history of doing this without consequence, they’ve essentially been rewarded for procrastinating.”

What drives procrastination.

We’ve briefly gone over why some people put off getting around to specific tasks. But, let’s dive a little deeper here. For starters, as Ishan Daftardar explains on Science ABC, as humans are simply wired and driven toward procrastination. “We can picture this whole process as a fight that has been sparked between two parts of the mind when it’s faced with a tedious task: a battle of the limbic system (the unconscious zone that includes the pleasure center) and the prefrontal cortex (the internal “planner”).”

“When the limbic system dominates,” continues Daftardar, “the result is putting off until tomorrow what could (and should) be done today.” Simply put, procrastination “all comes down to one simple thing – the wiring of your brain.” It should also be noted that the limbic system is one of the most dominant parts of the brain. It also controls mood and instinct.

An “instinct” means that emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, insecurity, and pleasure are all a part of this vital system. If emotions and instincts tie into procrastination, it’s easy to see that if you have to do something painful or stressful this system will urge you to stay away from it. Your instincts or emotions may be telling you something like, “danger, too much work,” when if fact, there would be less work if you just hurry and get the work done.

But you already know that emotions often have something irrational going on — somewhat like a “history program” running an app in the background of your mind. The old “history program app” is going to serve-you-up images, maybe even sound, to the weaker portion in your brain — the prefrontal cortex. “The prefrontal cortex (as we’ve just read), “is where you assimilate information and make decisions, says Daftardar. “The prefrontal cortex is what eventually forces us to complete a job or task.”

However, it takes some effort on your part to get the job done because the prefrontal cortex doesn’t work automatically. The reason behind this fact is that the limbic system takes control whenever we don’t succeed at a particular task. As a consequence, “you become more interested in doing something else that pleases you,” adds Daftardar.

Don’t forget about the amygdala.

There’s also the amygdala in there competing for attention. This “is the section of the brain associated with our automatic emotional reaction to a situation.” Whenever we feel stressed or overwhelmed, such as when having to tackle a challenging activity, a fight (resistance) or flight (ignore) reaction kicks into play.

“Both are forms of procrastination  — the brain is protecting us against possible negative feelings,” concludes Daftardar. “The norepinephrine chemical takes over, causing increased levels of fear and anxiety. That’s when adrenaline gets pumped into the picture.”

Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa, has a much more straightforward explanation in the New York Times. “Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem.” Is this statement by Dr. Pychyl is true? I hate to think it’s true — but anything to do with how you get your business accomplished each day — and how you face the demands of making a living — bears taking a close look.

Here are other reasons why you might procrastinate.

There are, of course, more specific reasons why people procrastinate. For example, technology has changed our cognitive control thanks to frequent buzzings throughout the day. In other words, all of those notifications on your smartphone are diverting your attention.

Another reason is that we have difficulty visualizing our future selves. According to a study conducted by psychologists Neil Lewis of the University of Michigan and Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California, “when people viewed distant events as days, instead of months or years, they took action more quickly.”

Pamela D. Garcy Ph.D. adds that procrastination can be caused by:

  • A lack of self-compassion.
  • Learning this habit from role models like your parents.
  • Believing that you can’t effectively complete a task.
  • Being bias towards a specific task.
  • Underestimating how long it takes you to get something done.
  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Feeling physically or psychologically uncomfortable.

Finally, avoiding anything that has negative associations is rewarding. “Our brains are always looking for relative rewards. If we have a habit loop around procrastination but we haven’t found a better reward, our brain is just going to keep doing it over and over until we give it something better to do,” psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Judson Brewer, Director of Research and Innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, told the New York Times.

How can you overcome procrastination?

You can’t tell yourself to you snap out of it. Sometimes it requires you to do some rewiring of your habits. Dr. Brewer recommends that you give your brain a “Bigger Better Offer” or (B.B.O.).” What the BBO is saying, is get a reward for yourself that’s more substantial than the avoidance is giving your brain.

Forgive yourself quickly whenever you dilly dally. Other times you can stop procrastinating by merely establishing goals and routine. And, if that doesn’t work, then you should also try out the following techniques to overcome procrastination once and for all.

Awareness.

According to Princeton University’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the first steps to overcoming procrastination is to understand the reasons why you procrastinate:

“As with most problems, awareness and self-knowledge are the keys to figuring out how to stop procrastinating. For a lot of people acquiring this insight about how procrastination protects them from feeling like they are not able enough, and keeping it in mind when they are tempted to fall into familiar, unproductive, procrastinating habits goes a long way to solving the problem.”

After you’ve identified the root cause of procrastination, you can begin to take action. You may actually discover that it doesn’t take a whole lot to stop procrastinating. For instance, you may only need to change your environment, set deadlines, eliminate common distractions, or try telling others about your goals.

Do the worst thing first.

“We have a limited, depletable supply of willpower and resources,” says Piers Steel, Ph.D., a professor of human resources and organizational dynamics at the University of Calgary. Steel is the author of The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Things Done. To counter this depletable supply of willpower, tackle your most challenging or heinous task first thing in the morning when you have the most energy.

Mindful training.

You will usually procrastinate because you feel anxious or overwhelmed. One of the best ways to combat this is through mindfulness. “Research has already shown that mindfulness meditation is related to amygdala shrinkage, expansion of the pre-frontal cortex, and a weakening of the connection between these two areas.” This statement was said by Prof Tim Pychyl from Carleton University to the BBC. Apps like Calm or Headspace can help you get started in becoming more mindful.

Get rid of catastrophizing.

“One of the biggest reasons people procrastinate is because they catastrophize, or make a huge deal out of something,” writes Elizabeth Lombardo Ph.D. for Psychology Today. “It may be related to how tough, how boring, or how painful it will be to complete the task; whatever the case, the underlying theme is that doing the task will be ‘unbearable.’”

“In reality, challenges, boredom, and hard work will not kill you — or even make you sick,” adds Lombardo. “Procrastination, on the other hand, is associated with stress. Think of the stress you feel when you avoid making a phone call you know you need to make.” The solution then is to “keep things in perspective and assuring yourself that you can “get through it.”

Use the five-minute rule.

“If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it,” says Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. “After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.” This strategy of “just starting” works for a couple of reasons. The first is that it encourages us to break down larger goals into more manageable pieces. The second is because of a psychological phenomenon called the Zeignarik Effect. This “effect” means that you have the tendency to remember unfinished tasks. So, in theory, if you start something, it will stick with you until it’s completed.

Practice self-compassion.

Research has found that self-forgiveness is one of the best cures for procrastination. Sounds simple? Not really. But, the sooner you forgive yourself and move on from past procrastination, the more likely you’ll experience any further delays.

Change your thinking.

“You may be procrastinating because you feel that you’re being forced by someone else to perform a task that you don’t want to do,” writes entrepreneur and lawyer Marelisa Fabrega. For example, you may feel like your co-founder is manipulating you in fixing a bug on your app. Obviously, you don’t like feeling this way — so you do everything but fix the bug issue. To get around this propensity inside yourself — start telling yourself that you choose to fix the app instead of believing that you have to.

Use your calendar.

“Put the tasks you need to do in your calendar — and commit yourself to get them done,” suggests Paul Petrone in a LinkedIn post. “The act of writing things down (as well as the satisfaction of crossing them off your list) will increase the chances you’ll do them on schedule.”

 

Using the 4Ds of Time Management to Your Advantage

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I have yet to meet a fellow entrepreneur who didn’t want to step up their time management game. The problem is that entrepreneurs and all business people — get overwhelmed by the plethora of hacks and advice thrown their way. But, I think one of the easiest, and most effective places to start upping your time management self-rating, is by trying out the 4Ds of time management.

Using the 4Ds of Time Management to Your Advantage

If you’re unfamiliar, the 4Ds are deleting, delegate, defer, and do. Dipping into this dish of four will boost your productivity because it encourages you to spend more time on the things that really matter. First, you need to know precisely what the 4Ds are in more detail and how to use them to your advantage.

Delete

Some people call this a “drop,” but the idea is the same. Scrap all of those personal and professional commitments that aren’t important or necessary. Tossing or dropping may make you anxious — what if you trash a critical email? If you don’t attend that event, you could miss out on building a new connection. As Steve Jobs once said, “deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”

In other words, you don’t have to trash everything in your life; this strategy is meant to make your life easier, not stressful. Take the time to evaluate what’s wasting your time and remove the time-wasters from your schedule. The time-waster list might include unproductive meetings; it could also include:

  • Interruptions when you’re working during peak productivity hours. These could smartphone notifications or people popping in your office. Identify these distractions and eliminate them.
  • Projects that you start, but will never complete.
  • Emails, such as newsletter subscriptions that you no longer open or care about.
  • Clients or employees who drag their feet and hold you back on finishing projects.
  • Tasks that could be automated.
  • Calendar tasks that you’re going to do habitually, like brushing your teeth.

One final advice here. Some people also use the Pareto Principle, which is the 80/20 Rule, to help them drop wasteful activities. It then encourages you to prioritize on your most results-driven tasks. Here is the best ways to pivot when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Delegate

“If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate,” Richard Branson has famously said. Of course, this is often easier said than done. Entrepreneurs are known for wanting to do everything themselves either because of trust issues, control, or concern that quality will decline. An entrepreneur or founder may not have the resources to delegate tasks to others.

“Most tasks should be delegated or outsourced properly, depending on the task and the level of the employee,” Laura Stack, an award-winning productivity expert, and bestselling author told Forbes. “For example, delegating a low-dollar task like photocopying or fixing a computer to a highly-trained, highly-paid software engineer would be foolhardy.”

In short, if there are activities that need to get done, but are a waste of your time, then these tasks need to be assigned to someone else. For example, I know how to code a little. But, I save time and money by delegating any coding tasks to someone who knows what they’re doing.

“Yes, business owners could do it, but you are throwing money away if there is a low Personal Return on Investment (or PROI) in doing it yourself,” Stack further explains. “The next time you consider assigning tasks to team members, think about what they should be doing with their time — as opposed to what would be a waste of time for them. If the task doesn’t fit, delegate it, outsource it, eliminate it — or learn to be satisfied with mediocrity.” Here’s how to delegate effectively.

Defer

Others may refer to deferring as delaying, but the concept is the same. For tasks that can’t be deleted because they’re essential, you can defer them to another date or time. The reason this strategy is useful is that it frees up time for you to address what needs to get done right now.

When everything seems important or urgent, deciding what to put off until later can be a tough decision. Personally, this works best for activities that are down the road. For example, if you have a meeting at the end of the month, go ahead and schedule it in your calendar. But don’t spend any time today creating an agenda and sending invites.

The principle can also be applied to managing your inbox — which can be a real time-saver. You could create a new folder and move any new messages that have to be read there. You’ll check these emails when you have the availability. But, since they’re not urgent, you don’t have to worry about them as soon as they arrive in your inbox.

Do

Jump in and do the work. The final 4D of time management is, in the words of Wan How, “Buckle down and get the task done.” I know this also sounds easier said than done when you have what seems like a million things scheduled to your calendar. Wan suggests prioritizing your tasks before diving into your work. This way, you’ll “only work on one thing at a time.” Wan adds, “I don’t start on something else that adds to my work-in-progress pile until I finish a current assignment.”

Besides prioritizing your tasks, you could also implement the 2-minute rule. The 2-minute rule comes from David Allen, the mastermind behind Getting Things Done. The gist is that if something takes you less than 2-minutes to do a task, like responding to an email, then you should go ahead and get it done. “The rationale for the two-minute rule is that that’s more or less the point where it starts taking longer to store and track an item than to deal with it the first time it’s in your hands.” Allen calls this, “the efficiency cutoff,” in Getting Things Done.

I’ve also found that this method is great when starting a new habit of procrastinating on a task. Once you get started, you build-up the momentum to complete the specific item you’re working on. In psychology, this is related to the Zeigarnik effect, which states we remember interrupted or unfinished tasks more than the completed ones. As a consequence, this creates mental tension since it’s on the top of your mind. The only way to get relief is by finishing the task and fighting procrastination.

Mastering the 4Ds of time management.

To get the most out of this simple and powerful time management technique, list and track your daily activities. It’s the only way that you’ll be able to see how you’re spending your time. And, more importantly, where it’s being wasted. You can either use a handwritten time log, your calendar, or software to track your time.

The key is to look for activities that aren’t helping you or your business grow, along with items that can be quickly dropped, assigned to someone else, or saved for later. After you understand how your time is being spent, and where the 4Ds fit into the picture, you’ll be on your way to becoming a time management ninja. And, as a result, you’ll get more done in your already hectic days.

The 11 Biggest Symptoms of Poor Time Management

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Whether you realize it or not, time management plays a huge role in how successful you are in life. For starters, it can reduce stress, allows you to prioritize what’s most important, and improves your reputation. Time management also helps you make the right decisions, eliminates wasted time, and gives you the freedom to do the things that you truly enjoy in life.

Here’s the thing. Just because you have a full calendar and receive daily reminders doesn’t mean that you’re effectively managing your time. It just means that you’re busy and not necessarily spending your days as productive as they should be.

But, how can you tell that you need to adjust your time management game? Here are 11 symptoms of poor time management to let you know and how you can cure them.

1. Poor punctuality.

Sure. There are times when something out of control, like getting a flat tire, causes us to run late. However, that’s not the same as having the reputation of being that person who is never on-time.

This may not seem like a big deal. But, it actually shows that you’re not respectful of other people’s time. “Essentially, running late is very poor manners,” etiquette expert and founder of The Good Manners Company, Anna Musson, told The Huffington Post Australia.

“There are a multitude of reasons as to why, but the overriding reason is it suggests deep down you think your time is more valuable than others’.” Musson also explains that during “the Victorian times, there were often six-course dinners all perfectly timed according to wine and service.” That meant if someone was late, “it could throw out the whole evening.”

Besides being disrespectful, tardiness also costs money and lowers productivity in the workplace. For example, even if you just ran five-minutes late to a meeting, that means all of the participants are just sitting there waiting for instead of doing more important work.

There are several ways that you can change this behavior. But, Musson suggests that one of the first things to do is to pretend that anything you have scheduled starts 30-minutes earlier. So, if a meeting begins at three P.M., schedule it in your calendar for 2:30.

2. Constant rushing.

Do you feel like you jumping from one thing to another without being able to catch your breath? If so, that’s another red flag regarding your time management.

Like running late, sometimes this is unavoidable, like if you got caught in a traffic jam on the way to a meeting. However, most of the time it’s because you’re either waiting until the last minute or overextending yourself.

To rectify this, be more realistic with how much you can do in a day — tracking your time for a couple of weeks can help you with this. After that, you should know how much you can get done in a day so that you aren’t planning to do more than you can.

Also, schedule buffers between calendar entries. This means if you have a meeting that ends at 1:30 PM, you would schedule the next one at 2 PM or later so that you aren’t immediately going from one meeting to the next.

3. Decreased quality of work.

You might not realize this as a business owner or leader. But, if it’s been brought to your attention that your work has been sloppy as of late, then that’s another sign to be aware since it shows that you’re rushing just to complete a task.

The only way you’ll become aware of this is to solicit feedback from others. For example, before submitting an article to Entrepreneur, I always have a teammate look through the piece to make sure it’s acceptable. If they notice a pattern of poor writing, I expect them to bring this to my attention. I may have been too busy with other work and write the pieces too quickly. Knowing the team member will let me know if I’m off somewhere, leaves me free to keep my mind clear. Also, I can make sure not to repeat the same errors in the future.

4. Frequently missing deadlines.

I don’t know about you. But, I hate missing deadlines. Personally, I feel that it shows that you are unreliable. And, if that’s the case, then you can be certain that customers and clients will take their business elsewhere to more reliable businesses.

There are actually a number of reasons why this may be the case. But, a lot of the time it’s because you’re either dragging your feet and just have too much on your hands. Again, be real with how much you can get done in a day. Also, learn how to say “no” to time requests if you’re already working at full capacity. You can also learn to outsource better. And, try to build your schedule around when you’re most productive.

5. Inability to set and achieve goals.

Goals help us identify our priorities. They give us direction and motivation. And, most importantly, they give everything we do a purpose.

But, do feel that a majority of what you do lacks a purpose? Or, do you feel that you’ll never be able to achieve the goals that you have set? If so, it may be because you haven’t taken the time to set and achieve goals that are SMART — which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

6. Procrastination.

I’ve alluded to this a couple of times. But, procrastination is one of the most glaring signs that you have a time management issue.

To be fair, some people actually thrive waiting until the last minute to complete important work. In fact, it even feels good to procrastinate. But, it’s definitely something that is not recommended. After all, studies have found that it can lead to anxiety, stress, and depression. If kept up, it can eventually impact your physical health as well.

Kicking your procrastination habit isn’t always easy. But, the first place to start is to figure out why you’re procrastinating. From there, you can find the best way to stop waiting until the last minute. For example, instead of focusing on your most important activity for the day in the afternoon, block out time in the morning for it since this is when we have the most concentration and energy.

7. Easily distracted.

I get it. The workplace is full of distractions. But, if you constantly let them interfere with your work, then expect consequences like running late, rushing, missing deadlines, and procrastination. You can also forget about reaching any of the goals you set as well — whether they’re SMART or not.

The first step is to identify your biggest distractions. After that, you can eliminate them. For instance, if your smartphone interrupts you every time you receive a notification, then either turn it off or put it on silent.

8. Overextension.

Another symptom of poor time management is overextension. This is where you take on too much work or make too many commitments. For example, if you’re already spending more than 40 hours per week working for the clients that you already have, why would take on even more clients? Or, if next Thursday already has three meetings in your calendar, then you probably don’t have time for a fourth.

Again, be realistic with what you can get done in a day. If you already have a full plate, then don’t add anything else. Instead, schedule it for another time when you do have the availability.

9. Multitasking.

Let’s be honest here. Multitasking does not work. However, when you’re strapped for time, you may try to do the impossible and do more than one thing at a time.

Instead of multitasking, focus on thing at a time. Once that is done, then move on to what’s next. It may not sound like an effective. But, single-tasking is much more effective and time-efficient.

10. Unhealthy habits.

Who has time to sleep, eat healthy, or exercise when there are so many other things that need to get done? Hopefully, we all do. After all, neglecting your health because think that you don’t have time is never a good thing and can result in a wide range of productivity and health concerns.

Make getting 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep a priority. When taking a break between work, go for a walk or do some exercises in your office. And, skip the junk food by preparing your meals for the week on Sunday afternoons.

11. Burnout.

Finally, if you aren’t managing your time the right way, then you’ll eventually get burned out. As a consequence, you’re putting your career and health in jeopardy. The reason? You’re working yourself to the bone just to play catch-up. Eventually, you aren’t sleeping, eating garbage, and so stressed that you’re making yourself sick. This can then lead to diminished work, relationship problems, and lowered creativity.

Schedule frequent breaks throughout the workday. And, most importantly, spend time away from work so that you can enjoy your life. That means when you’re spending time with your family during dinner or a weekend excursion you aren’t preoccupied with work, such as responding to emails or phone calls.

10 Time Management Skills Every Person Should Cultivate

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To be successful, everyone needs to continue to add to their skillsets. Each entrepreneur, startup, and small business will have its set of “how-tos” that are vital. Then there will be the set of skills that are the essential ones to know.  Search your business and become the best you can at your particular business space. Time management will assist you forever in getting better at performing your tasks. Here are 10 excellent time management skills every person should cultivate.

We also have essential life skills everyone should know. Examples include:

  • Housekeeping skills — basic home repairs, cleaning after yourself, and knowing how to cook at least one signature dish.
  • Survival skills — knowing how to change a tire, administrative basic first aid, and living without electronic for more than an hour.
  • Professional skills — minimum skills required; writing a resume, networking, preparing for an interview, and negotiating a raise.
  • Money management skills — being able to create and stick to a budget and calculating a tip.
  • Self-awareness and relationship skills — knowing your strengths and weaknesses, basic etiquette, being respectful, and learning how to communicate.

Those possessing these skills will get further in life — you can’t respond to life events well without some of the basics. But, they also make life more fulfilling and can give you a little self-confidence boost. However, one set of skills that often get overlooked are those related to time management.

Some of these greater and lesser skills go hand-in-hand with each other. For example, being respectful of others motivates you to arrive on-time and never keep people waiting. However, for the most part, when it comes to time management, it’s in a category on its own.

So, if you’re ready to manage your time effectively, here are the 10-time management skills every person should have.

1. Plan your day around priorities and goals.

The most successful and productive people are well aware that they must address both essential and urgent matters daily. Here’s their secret though; they how to balance the two.

It’s definitely an art to master this juggling act. But, it’s possible when you know what priorities need your attention to know and what can be dealt with at another time. To assist you with this, you can use the Eisenhower Matrix. This Matrix is where you evaluate all of your tasks and separate them as follows:

  • Urgent and vital — these you’ll do immediately since they are pushing you closer to achieving a goal.
  • Important, but not urgent — tasks that can be scheduled for later.
  • Urgent, but not important — these the things that can be delegated.
  • Neither urgent nor important — these are the tasks that can be deleted altogether.

According to Calendar’s Howie Jones, the secret behind an amazing time management strategy is able “to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency.”

Once you’ve identified your priorities, you should schedule them when you have the most energy and focus — or, in other words, when you’re “in the zone.” For most of us, that’s in the morning. Also, completing your most important task of the day in the morning gives you the momentum to tackle the rest of the items on your to-do list. If a priority or goal is a big one, break it up into more manageable chunks.

2. Effectively use your time.

There are a couple of ways to effectively use your time. The first is being more present and giving your full attention to what deserves it at this moment. For example, you can’t be engaged in a conversation or meeting when you keep looking at your phone every time you receive a message. It’s not only disrespectful, but it could also cause you to miss an essential piece of information or not being an active participant.

The other way to effectively use your time is to get creative. Let’s say that you’re sitting in a waiting room for an appointment or meeting. There might be a TV with a talk show that you stare at because it’s there. Or, you could get sucked into mindless social media nonsense. Either way, that time you were sitting, there could have been used to catch-up on your emails or the latest industry news.

3. Schedule it, do it and forget it.

“No one can multitask, even people who pride themselves on their ability to do so,” writes Angela Ruth in a previous Calendar article. Research shows that multitasking cuts efficient and even raises risks.

“Avoid the temptation to multitask by scheduling time to handle batches of small tasks throughout the day,” suggests Angela. “For example, set one time during the morning and one time during the afternoon to answer emails, then ignore the inbox outside those windows. Schedule a couple of short breaks to avoid burnout and maintain focus.”

What’s more, you can eliminate indecisiveness “by setting deadlines on when to make final choices.” It could be as simple as making a phone call to a vendor by Friday morning or settling on a flight in the next 10 minutes. “Get into the habit of acting on available information to cut down on unnecessary balking. If the decision isn’t correct — you can pivot just as quickly.”

4. Become a master-batcher.

Speaking of multitasking, did you know that productivity decreases by 40% when we attempt to focus on more than one thing at a time? That’s because according to Peter Bregman

In a piece for The Harvard Business Review, we’re not multitasking. “We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.”

The most effective way around this is not just focusing on one thing at a time. It’s grouping similar tasks together and knocking them out at the same time. Instead of checking your email and social media feeds every time you receive a notification, don’t allow yourself to check more than three times a day. Check once before jumping into work, right after lunch, and at the end of your workday.

5. Pencil in time for distractions and interruptions.

Batching is also a great way to handle distractions. Turn your phone off while working and don’t worry that you’re missing something important. You’ll be confident in this action because you know you’ve planned to check your phone when it’s time. However, no matter how hard you try, distractions and interruptions are inevitable.

One way to manage these distractions is to add blocks of free time into your schedule. So, if a co-worker wants to speak with you, let them know that you currently not available to chat. But you can talk to them at one pm.

Another perk of this is if there’s an emergency. For example, you were zoned in on your work when suddenly a frantic knock on your door interrupts you. A colleague lets you know that the company network has been compromised. Something this important needs your immediate attention. Once it’s resolved, you can use that free block of time to go back to work without completely getting your schedule off-track.

6. Stop biting off more than you can chew.

There are a variety of reasons why you may be tempted to overextend yourself. At work, you pick-up extra hours or take on a new project because you want the extra money or don’t want to upset your boss. Socially, you accept every social invite because of FOMO.

The reality is that if you already have a full schedule, spreading yourself too thin could have some repercussions like scheduling conflicts or delivering subpar work. And, as previously discussed, it prevents you from focusing on your priorities.

7. Add “no” to your vocabulary.

“I honestly believe that the main reason why time is an issue for so many of us is that we can’t say ‘no’ says Howie Jones. “We can’t turn out an invite to an unproductive meeting or social event. And, we can’t tell others that we already have enough work to focus on and can’t take on any more responsibilities.”

The downside to this is that if you’re always saying “yes,” “then you’re letting other people take control of your time.”

While I get why “no” isn’t a word we like to say, you don’t want anyone to be offended; it has to become a part of your vocabulary. And, you can accomplish that, without ticking anyone off, y doing the following:

  • Be transparent and upfront. Don’t lie or make excuses. People will understand if you’ve already made a social commitment or have a full workload.
  • Don’t initially fully commit. “Let’s say someone invites you to lunch. You don’t have to accept or reject the request immediately,” adds Jones. “Tell your caller that you have to check your calendar and you’ll get back to them before the end of the day tomorrow.”
  • Offer alternative solutions. You may be booked solid for the next two weeks. If there are openings three weeks from now, ask your client to meet then, for example. If not, refer them to a colleague.
  • Always be polite and professional. “Simply saying ‘thanks’ can go a long way.”

8. Develop your emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence can be defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” What does that have to do with time management? Well, EI can assist you with problem-solving, calm you down, and improve your communication skills — all of which can be applied to time management. For example, when you frustrated, it’s almost impossible to give your full attention to the task you’re currently working on.

Moreover, those with strong EI possess qualities like not being a perfectionist and being able to balance life and work. Also, EI can help you establish boundaries, maintain motivation, and be more aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are.

Overall, improving your EI can help you stay focused on completing your most productive tasks. Make sure that functions are aligned with your goals.

9. Learn how to delegate and outsource.

Remember the Eisenhower Matrix that you used to help you determine your priorities? If you recall, it also encouraged you to hand-off specific responsibilities to others. These are usually essential tasks that aren’t exactly worthy of your time.

For example, you could hire a service to clean your home or office. Spend the saved time on more productive areas like building your business or spending time with your family. If you don’t enjoy writing, but there’s an employee who does, you could ask them to take over your company’s blog.

Just keep in mind that delegation isn’t handing off all of your responsibilities to someone else. It’s assigning the right work to the right people so that you can open up sometime in your schedule.

10. Find a time management technique that works for you.

Finally, experiment with different time management techniques that work best for you. I’ve mentioned the Eisenhower Matrix several times. While that could be helpful for a lot of people, it may not be sufficient for you. Instead, approaches like the Pomodoro Technique, Getting Things Done Technique, Rapid Planning Method, or Pareto Principle may be better suited for you.

Don’t expect you to solve all of your time management issues overnight. It’s a process that involves some trial and error. And, most importantly, it’s continually working on and improving upon your skills until you get it just right.

Don’t Fall Into the Urgency Trap: How to Prioritize Your Work

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Planner on desk

I recently went hiking in a state park. Besides spending some time outdoors, which helped me clear my head and burn some calories, I saw a sign posted outside the interpretive center. It simply read, “Today is the best day.” I’ve since taken this to be my daily mantra.

I think we all have the intention to make today the best day. Whether if it’s taking the time to do the things you enjoy or just sending good vides back out to the rest of the world. And, it also means being productive at work as opposed to just busy.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. When you have so many responsibilities and such a short amount of time to complete them, everything seems essential. That’s why learning how to prioritize your work is a skill everyone needs to learn. It ensures that you spend the right energy and focus on the right activities at the appropriate time.

The problem is, you often fall into the urgency trap. Instead of tackling something that is helping you move closer to your goals, you end up wasting time on things that seem important. While these are tasks that need to be addressed, they don’t need to be done ASAP. Some of them may not deserve your attention at all.

With that said, if you want to be more productive, get the most out of your time, and prevent problems like missed deadlines, then you must perfect prioritization. And, here are some of the ways that you can accomplish that challenge.

Create a master list and analyze it.

The first step in prioritizing your work is to collect a list of all your tasks. It doesn’t matter if you jot these down in a notepad, Word Doc, or to-do-list app. The idea is to have everything that needs to get done in one location that can be easily accessed.

The second step is to review these tasks and whittle them down to the essential. That may seem like a lot of work upfront. But, this helps you rate your functions so that you spend time on what matters. Even better, it allows you also to eliminate certain tasks altogether.

Delete, Delegate, Defer, or Do?

Personally, I find that the 4Ds of time management to be most useful here. It’s a simple technique where you have four options to narrow down your list:

  • Delete. Sometimes this is referred to as “drop.” But the idea is the same. Any time commitments that are no longer necessary or aren’t crucial to the big picture should be scrapped. A perfect example of this is the lengthy and unproductive meetings you have in your schedule.
  • Delegate. These are the activities that need to be done. But, just not by you. Instead, they should be assigned to someone else. For instance, I’m familiar with the necessary coding. However, I’m not an expert. If my website or app crashed, it’s just worth the money hiring a pro who can fix the problem faster than I ever could.
  • Defer. These are essential tasks that can be delayed until another time. Let’s say that you an important meeting at the end of the month. You need to create and send an agenda. But, considering that the event three weeks away, that’s something you don’t need to do today.
  • Do. Here is where you, in the words of Nike, “just do it.” It could be a task that only takes two-minutes to wrap-up. Or, it’s one that needs your attention sooner than later, like anything with a due date.

Will this solve all of your prioritization issues? Not necessarily. But, it can remove at least some of your work off your plate. And, now that you have a much leaner list, you can begin to start successfully prioritizing your work.

Adopt a prioritization method.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all prioritization method. It depends on your own personal style. But, here are seven techniques that you could try out until you find the one that works best for you.

Eat the frog first.

InThe 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss wrote, “Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.” Often times, these are the most difficult tasks that you aren’t looking forward to. And, as a result, we procrastinate on them. The funny thing is that they also happen to be your most important.

Instead of putting these obligations on the back burner, take the advice of Mark Twain and eat the frog first thing in the morning. “And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Now that the worst is behind you, the rest of the day will seem easy in comparison.

Also, since we usually have the most energy several hours after waking uP, it just makes more sense. Why try to force yourself to do something you dread when you’re exhausted at the end of the day.

Focus on your MITs.

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to prioritize your work is to focus only on the most critical tasks that you would like to accomplish for the day. You can jot these down during your evening routine or first thing in the morning. Just note that your MITs should only be between one to three items.

“And here’s the key to the MITs for me: at least one of the MITs should be related to one of my goals,” suggests Leo Babuta. “While the other two can be work stuff (and usually are), one must be a goal next-action. Goal centered ensures that I am doing something to move my goals forward that day.”

And, just like eating that frog, it’s best to do your MITs in the morning. “If you put them off to later, you will get busy and run out of time to do them,” adds Babuta. “Get them out of the way, and the rest of the day is gravy!”

Separate the urgent from the important using the Eisenhower Matrix.

Inspired by former U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once said “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent,” this is where you place all of your tasks into a four-quadrant box. You then organize them by:

  • Urgent and important: These are the things that need to be done right now.
  • Important, but not urgent. Decide when it’s best to do these and schedule them.
  • Urgent, but not important. These can be handed off to someone else.
  • Neither urgent or important. Drop these from your to-do-list and calendar.

Prioritize daily tasks with the Ivy Lee Method.

Developed in 1918 by productivity consultant Ivy Lee, this is a simple trick to help you prioritize your daily work.

  • At the end of each day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
  • Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
  • When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
  • Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. Move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
  • Repeat this process every working day.

As I explained in a previous Entrepreneur article, “The Ivy Lee Method is so effective because by planning your day the night before, you reduce decision fatigue and reserve your energy for your most meaningful work.” What’s more, “you know exactly what you’ll be working on all day instead of wasting valuable time and energy making decisions in the morning.”

Assign a value to your work with the ABCDE Method.

If you need a hack for knowing the true importance of a task, I recommend Bryan Tracy’s ABCDE method.

“You start with a list of everything you have to do for the coming day,” explains Tracy. “Think on paper. Once you have a list of all of the tasks you must complete, start the ABCDE method.”

  • “A” is assigned to your most important tasks.
  • “B” are items that need to be done but only have mild consequences.
  • “C” are tasks that would be nice to get to. But, if you don’t, there are no repercussions.
  • “D” is anything that can be delegated.
  • “E” is for eliminating.

For every letter, also assign a number to it so that you know where to start. For example, an A-1 task would be “your biggest, ugliest frog.” It just adds multiple layers of prioritization to your work.

Follow the Pareto Principle.

Also known as the 80/20 rule, this was developed by the Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto. As Choncé Maddox explains for Calendar, this rule “clearly states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.”

How does this help you prioritize your work? Well, according to toChoncé, “If you’ve found that 20% of your effort is resulting in 80% of your results, you’ll want to prioritize and improve that 20% margin.” Knowing that you should take “care of it first when you begin your workday.” Need a place to start? You could ask questions like, “Are there any tasks that would make you feel relieved by accomplishing them, no matter what else happened during the day?”

Also, don’t get hung up on the exact numbers here. The point is that you should spend most of your time on the handful of activities that deliver the most results.

Chunking.

Chunking is fairly straightforward. It’s where you block out specific times in your calendar for undisturbed work. Ideally, these would be your most important tasks for the day that have been scheduled around when you’re most productive. As an example, if your peak productive hours are from 9 AM to 11 AM, then that would box out that time for devouring your frog.

During this timeframe, this would be the only thing that you’re focused on. To aid you in this pursuit, you would turn off smartphone notifications and close your office to eliminate distractions. And, most importantly, don’t forget to take frequent breaks, like around every hour. It’s the best way to stay fresh throughout the day.

Final words of advice.

When you prioritize your work, you’ll be confident that each day will be the best one ever. But, even if you’ve learned to no longer fall into that urgency trap, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Be flexible. Fires will have to put out. Your priorities will change over time. And, no matter how organized you are, the unexpected will always rear its ugly head. Work on becoming more adaptable so that you can roll with the punches.
  • Break large tasks into smaller pieces. It can be overwhelming when jumping into larger tasks and projects. Breaking them down into more manageable sections can help you get started. It also lets you focus on what needs your attention right now.
  • Be realistic. In a perfect world, you would be able to knock out your entire to-do-list in one day. Realistically, you’ll probably only be able to get to a handful of them. Understand how much you can actually get done in one day and move the less critical items to another date.
  • Manage distractions and interruptions. No matter how hard you try, these are inevitable. Sure. Turning off your notifications is a start. But, what about addressing an unforeseen emergency? Add some blank spaces in your calendar so that you have time in your day to handle this.
  • Ask for help. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask others for help. Whether if that’s delegating some of your work or asking for feedback on what’s most important.
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