There may be many productivity and time management hacks out there in use today, but there are quite few many obvious ones that most people overlook the importance of. The following 10 are some of those obvious time management hacks that I have come to learn from practice. Implementing these hacks have improved my life significantly and have since made me more efficient, productive and freed a lot more of my time.
1. Separate Urgent from Important
Tasks can be classified in two ways – Urgent & Important.
Based on this, we have four categories in which we can divide the tasks.
- Urgent & Important
- Urgent & Not important
- Non-urgent & Important
- Non-urgent & Non-important
Urgent & Important
These are the tasks that are really urgent and also very important that they should be done as soon as possible. The tasks like attending a meeting, making a phone call, etc., come under this category.
Urgent & Not Important
These are the kind of tasks that you need to get done as soon as possible but don’t relatively add any weight to your life or your success. Things like cooking, getting groceries, cleaning the house, etc., come under this category.
Not Urgent & Important
This is the most important category of tasks out of all the four. This category has the most serious consequences in a long term. The tasks that come under this category make a huge difference when done or left undone. These things may not appear so important today or tomorrow, but definitely add weight to where you go and how much you accomplish in your life.
For ex: You might want to become a concert pianist. What should you do for that? You should practice every single day. A single day’s practice may not seem to offer much for that day, may not even seem like much. But, if you practice every single day in a consistent way, you will get there soon enough.
The tricky part is that the tasks of this category requires real mental discipline for you to actually take up and do them every single day. Examples of the tasks that come under this category are going to gym everyday to build the body, practicing the piano every day to become a concert pianist, practicing Math and English in order to crack Gmat the next year, etc.
No matter what you do, give the tasks of this category the most important attention.
Not Urgent & Not Important
The tasks that come under this category are neither urgent nor important. They add no weight whatsoever at all to your life, career and success. These tasks can be skipped, avoided or just kept for leisure time. Activities like watching TV, reading the newspaper, going through your Facebook feed, etc., come under this category. They add relatively less weight to your success in life, career, and relationships.
You know what category of tasks most people spend most of their time on?
Yep. You guessed it right! The “Not Urgent – Not Important” kind of tasks. Most of us spend the most of our time on TV Shows, facebook, mindless browsing, and just tasks that don’t offer anything back in return.
Now, how do you plan and manage your time according to these categories?
Spend more time on (1) and (3), most importantly the tasks that come under (3) classification. Spend less/no time on tasks in the (2) and (4). If possible, refuse to do the tasks that come under the categories (2) and (4).
2. Forced efficiency:
The ultimate truth when it comes down to time management is that there is always enough time to do the most important things.
You probably put off the most important things until the very last minute, something like studying for an exam. You might even be telling the people you meet that you work best under pressure and that you study better under pressure. If people put off some task and then they try to do it at the eleventh hour, the most common excuse they have is that they work best under pressure at the last minute. But, sadly, the truth is no one works best under pressure. People experience more stress under pressure and hence there are chances of making more mistakes and burning out soon.
Forcing yourself to be efficient consistently, day after day, taking the most important thing and accomplishing the task you set aside for yourself is the best way to manage time with respect to your most important goals.
“What should I do now?”, you might ask. Let me tell you the answer.
First, identify the activities that will improve your life by a huge margin if done regularly and also identify the activities which improve your life, those you already do on a regular basis.
Now, divide these activities that you have to be doing regularly into two categories. The tasks under the first category are those that someone other than you can do for you and the second category of tasks are those that only you can do.
Here, the second category of tasks, those that only you can do, they are the ones that make a huge difference in your life. It may be things like taking your spouse out on a date or making a strategic decision for your company or even a simple thing like planning your every single day. These tasks cannot be done by anyone else other than you and these tasks make a huge difference when you make them a priority and do it consistently and regularly.
The bottom line is that you will always be able to make time for the most important things/people and you always work better without pressure. Find the activities that will make a huge difference in your life in terms of its betterment and do those activities regularly and consistently.
3. The Pareto Principle
Check out this article – 7 Things You Need To Stop Doing To Be More Productive
The Pareto principle says that only 20% of the things you do account for 80% of the value you produce in your life. The best way to improve your life, personal, as well as professional, is to become conscious about the 20% of the things that will contribute to 80% of the value and do those things first.
Learn to procrastinate creatively. Once you identify that 20% of things, you also need to procrastinate the 80% of the things that don’t contribute as much value. When you procrastinate those 80% of the things to later, probably once you get done with the best 20%, and you also do the remaining 80% of the things, you will definitely see a stark change in your productivity and accomplishments.
4. Work at your energy peaks
We all have energy peaks. Some of us work better in the evening, some of us in the early morning. For me, it’s early morning 4am to 7am and late evening from 8pm to 11pm.
You have a particular time everyday when you experience your energy peaks. Well, if you are tired all day right from waking up, you might need to take a look at what’s on your plate for every meal and what you put inside your body. Basically, light and nutritious protein rich food is the best if you want to feel wide awake and energetic throughout your day. Consuming a lot of carbohydrates, sugar, junk food, and other such kind of foods will only result in your feeling a slump all day.
So, if you want to feel energetic throughout the day, you gotta do certain things. Eat protein rich food and eat raw. Don’t eat junk food, don’t take too much sugar in your food. Exercise every day for at least 30-60 minutes. Exercise is done best early in the morning around 6am or early in the evening around 5pm. When you do it under the sunlight (of sunrise/sunset), that’s even better. The point is to sweat, work your body out, flex it and keep it running smoothly.
Also, if you want to be at your peak productivity month after month, year after year, accomplishing much more than your peers will ever do, you gotta do one simple thing.
Take a day off every week and take at least two weeks off every year. This way, you will be motivated to keep going and you will also take some time off and come back with more vigor and force, refreshed.
5. Organize your workspace
This is a highly debated topic. Whether an organized workspace makes a person work better or not, that’s different. But, an organized workspace sure saves a lot of time. Usually, if you have a cluttered workspace and you put different things at different places, if you want something when you are working, you normally take some time to search and get it. But, if you plan properly and you make a list of all the things that you will need when you are working and put all those things in an organized way at or near your workspace, things will be easier to fetch and you will save a lot of time everytime you sit down to work.
Let’s just say you spend like 10 minutes every 3 hours searching for something and getting it back to your workspace. If you work for 10 hours a day, that amounts to around 40 minutes of your time. That’s like 1200 minutes per month, 24000 minutes per year. That’s almost 400 hours of your time in a year. Think about it. If you saved those 400 hours, you could probably learn a valuable skill, complete a course or better yet, just add more hours to valuable sleep time.
You can find the part-2 of this article here