3 tips to improve time management and productivity

Photo by Rayi Christian Wicaksono on Unsplash

An increasing number of people feel stressed out at work. So what is happening? Do you also feel like you’re being pulled in a 100 directions without getting any real work done? Here’s how you can easily be at least 20 percent more productive and how to improve your time management. And that 20 percent is awesome, because that really compounds over time. I’ll provide you with a number of tips that I’ve personally applied and which are discussed in well known literature.

Tip 1: Productivity – Prioritize your work

There are a lot of Apps to facilitate your time management. They help by creating checklists, prioritizing and including estimates of the time we think we will spend on a task. However, people completely suck at making proper estimates of how long tasks will take to complete. So why bother? Your just creating additional stress for yourself. Also, what does an endless checklist do for you? They’re basically guilt trips, as you’ll never be able to finish everything you wrote down on the checklist in the first place. Checklists do help to offload some of your to-do list out of your memory. But do not try to write down everything, focus only on the important things. Moreover, prioritizing should not be about ranking each item on your checklist in order of importance: this will take you more time than it saves. Just pick one priority and focus on that priority. Then look at your list and pick the next priority. Only focus on one thing at the time. People are not made to do multiple things. It is already proven that men AND women are not good at this and will finish tasks faster if they focus on one thing.

How can you determine what your priority should be? Well, why do you come to work each day? (besides being paid…!) What makes you happy and with what task will you provide the highest level of contribution? This is the work that will likely be your highest priority, but which gets pushed out of your workday because of “busy work”, such as answering e-mails.

Tip 2: Time management – 90 minute task

Once you determine what your priority is, you should plan time during the day which you dedicate to your priority. Otherwise, if you have a really busy schedule the priority will most likely be pushed out of your day. Therefore, make sure that you plan a block of 90 minutes at the start of the day to work on the task that is most important to you. Or at any other time in the day for that matter. This really depends on your energy level. I’m more of a morning person, meaning that I get my best work done at the beginning of the day. You can and should plan ahead of time, so you can make sure that you will have no other commitments at that specific time. Why 90 minutes? Because research showed that we cannot do anything meaningful if we have to constantly switch tasks. If you need to do something creative or difficult, you will need a longer time block. Working for a clean 90 minutes without being interrupted, will really enhance your productivity and allows you to finish the task you’ve set out for yourself to do. Make sure you make this a habit.

Tip 3: Productivity – Taking a break and sleep

You need a break and to take rest to be productive. If you do not take a lunchbreak, your productivity drops dramatically. Your mood will be worse, which will bring more friction with your colleagues. Moreover, because you do not think as clearly and creatively, you will not bring your best self. Sleep is also very important for the same reason. If you burn the midnight oil to make sure your work is finished, this will have adverse effects on the next working day. Your productivity will plummet and therefore you need to make sure that the late night hours you put into your work are really worth it. Interesting to know is that when you don’t sleep for 18 hours, this is the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.05 – you’re considered to be drunk at 0.08. And it gets even worse: when you do not sleep for 24 hours, this is equal to a blood alcohol level of 0.1! Other disadvantages are that your stress levels go up and the effectiveness of your immune system goes down.

Good luck with the tips above and I hope to see you next week for my next blogpost!

National sleep foundation

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