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Want to be more productive, stay focused, eliminate time wasters, and understand which tasks are actually important? Super! These 5 time management methods can help you get there.
I’m a huge fan of time management tips, techniques, and tools. And it’s not because I want to be doing more but actually because I want to do less while getting the same results.
Because that’s what time management is all about: prioritizing your tasks, getting rid of the time-wasters, and freeing up your time for more important things.
Here are 5 best time management techniques (my favorites!) that have helped me tremendously.
So if you ever find yourself procrastinating and you want to be more productive, stay focused, eliminate time wasters, and to understand which tasks are actually important and which are not then these productivity methods can be the key to do just that!
1. The 80/20 rule
WHEN TO USE: When you want to do less but get the same results while you were getting when doing more.
ORIGIN: The Pareto principle by Economist Vilfredo Pareto. He noted that roughly 80% of the results/outputs come from 20% of the actions/inputs.
The 80/20 rule is my absolute favorite of all the best time management techniques out there and I use it with a lot of different aspects of my life.
The idea behind the 80/20 rule is that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.
The 80/20 rule is the perfect technique if you have a tendency to try to achieve perfection – when perfection is not required – and wanting always to do you’re very best. It allows you to see which tasks bring you the most rewards and where you should focus.
For example, if you have a business and you analyze your sales you might notice that about 20% of your products bring in 80% of your income. Or that 20% of your clients bring in 80% of the turnover. And the way to use the 80-20 rule to your favor is the concentrate on that 20%. And what it also means is that the rest 80% of your products bring in only 20% of your income.
And the 80/20 is not always 80% and 20%, but it can also be 90/10 or even 95 % and 5%. But the idea is always the same.
The 80/20 rule is not only beneficial tool for businesses and sales, but you can also use it to analyze different aspects of your life.
What I’ve noticed in my life is that:
- Usually a small number of things I do bring me the most happiness.
- If I clean my house completely it will take about two to three hours to be (almost) spotless. But instead cleaning about 20 minutes to half an hour brings enough results to make the house look enough pretty nice and clean.
- And when looking at my closet I’ve notived I wear a handful of my clothes most of the time. That means the fifth (20%) of the clothes are used 80% of the time and the rest are usually just sitting there taking up space.
So if you know what are those 20% of actions, inputs or prouducts/clients that bring you the most (80% or more) results, outputs or income, it’s easier for you to concentrate more on those and delegate or eliminate the other tasks that don’t turn into results as easily.
If you want to dig deeper into the 80/20 rule and learn more ways to benefit from it, read this post: The 80/20 Rule: 3 Easy Ways to Simplify Your Life This Week + Worksheet
2. Reduce Multitasking
WHEN TO USE: When feeling overwhelmed and starting to get stressed about juggling multiple tasks at the same time.
ORIGIN: The word “Multitasking” first appeared on the IBM report in 1965 but it was only the following year when someone was able to say: “I’m good at multitasking!”
Reducing multitasking is not considered a time management technique or method, but it’s one of the things that will make such a huge difference in your work routine that I had to add it here.
I remember the first time I came across a research about multitasking and learning that it’s one of the worst things you can do if you want to be more productive. When you scatter your focus to multiple directions none of the things that you are doing are actually going to be done from start to finish. You’ll have a lot of things that you started and because you’re doing the simultaniously, none of them actually get done – or at least it’ll take you much longer to get of them done.
Multitasking means that you are doing multiple tasks at the same time. Or switching back and forth between the tasks.
For example, you are working on a project and you here a notification from your email and you’re thinking about answering that email quickly and then going back to your project. And at the same time, you notice that’s your desk is a little disorganized, and you’re thinking about doing that one at the same time as well. And while you’re at it your phone rings and you answer. So instead of finishing the project you were supposed to, you’re starting to answer your emails and organizing your desk. And none of those things are actually going to be done because you answered the phone.
This doesn’t mean you have to work on something from start to finish, because some projects take a long time and sometimes you do need to answer the phone and emails within the next hour or so. But you can easily reduce multitasking by deciding to work on one thing for 20-30 minutes uninterruptedly.
And that’s when the next time management tool comes in: The Pomodoro Method.
3. The Pomodoro Method
WHEN TO USE: When something is difficult to start. And/or when you spend too much time on certain tasks.
ORIGIN: The Pomodoro method is the time management technique created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.
The Pomodoro Method is one of the best time management techniques out there.
The idea behind the Pomodoro method is the breakdown your day into multiple 25-minute blocks AKA Pomodoros while having short 5 minute breaks between each block.
During the 25 minutes, you’re supposed to work uninterruptedly and concentrate only on the task at hand preferably finish it during that time. After each 25-minute interval, you get to have a 5-minute break, and if you do need to answer to an email or a phone call you can do it then.
And the benefit is not only that you work uninterruptedly, but also you give yourself only a short amount of time to finish the task. It’s kind of like a deadline.
For some tasks you might need to allocate two or three Pomodoros meaning you estimate your task taking about an hour or hour and a half to finish, so you block two to three 25 minute time periods from your schedule (while again having 5 minute breaks between each Pomodoro).
The benefit of using the Pomodoro method is that if you have difficulty start or you feel tired of doing something it’s only 25 minutes that you need to work.
And during the time your focus only on one thing. This way it kind of gives you a feeling of urgency so it might be that you finish your task faster than you would have if you would have allocated more time for it.
4. The 4 D’s of time management
WHEN TO USE: When everything feels important and urgent and you want to look at all tasks, chores, and work you do and make changes to your daily, weekly or monthly work routines.
ORIGIN: The 4 Ds of Time Management were presented in the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. But the idea behind the 4 Ds of time management is way older and comes from the 34th President of the United States – Dwight D. Eisenhower – who invented the Eisenhower Principle that later has been repackaged to Eisenhower Matrix also known as Urgent-Important Matrix.
The Eisenhower Matrix is one of the classics of the best time management techniques ever invented.
The idea the Eisenhower Matrix is a prioritizing tool. You categorize your tasks depending on their importance and urgency. The matrix is divided in four parts:
- Important & Urgent – DO
- Important & Not Urgent – SCHEDULE
- Not Important & Urgent – DELEGATE
- Not Important & Not Urgent – ELIMINATE
And with the 4 Ds of Time Management the tasks are divided into four different quadrants the same way, but they’re called four Ds: Do, Defer, Delegate, Delete.
So the idea is the same and depending on the urgency and the importance of the task/project they fall into one of the categories: do it, defer it, delegate it, or delete it.
- DO IT: If something is important and urgent you need to do it right away.
- DEFER IT: If something is important but not urgent you need to schedule it and find the time to do it at some point depending on their importance. Try to find the time to do these tasks in the near future, instead of putting these on a “do someday” -list. Because even though these are not urgent, they’re still important and it’s essential to allocate a specific time to tackle these tasks, because otherwise the urgent tasks that might not be that important might take the time from these important but not urgent projects.
- DELEGATE IT: If something is not important but it is urgent the best way to deal with these kinds of tasks would be to delegate them and let someone else do them. These are the tasks that need to be done, but it doesn’t mean they need to be done by you.
- ELIMINATE IT: If something, on the other hand, is not important nor urgent, you would need to delete it immediately from your to-do list. Your time is valuable and you need to spend it on the important tasks.
So when you look at your to-do list, the chores you need to do and your overall work routines, consider always which tasks are really the important and the urgent ones and which are not and then you know which tasks:
- you need to do right now
- you need to do at a later date,
- you can delegate
- and especially which are the ones that you can eliminate.
5. The 2-minute Rule
WHEN TO USE: When you don’t know how to separate the time doing tasks that take a short while and tasks that need to be scheduled for a later time or when you’re adding all tasks to your planner or to-do list even though writing them down would take longer than actually doing the task itself.
ORIGIN: David Allen’s bestselling book, Getting Things Done
If something takes you less than 2 minutes to do – do it immediately.
- So if answering an email takes you less than two minutes don’t add it on your to-do list but do it right away.
- If you notice that the kitchen countertop is dirty and it takes you less than 2 minutes to clean, clean it right away.
The idea behind the 2-minute rule is that if something takes less than two minutes to do from start to finish, instead of adding it to your to your to-do list, you can and should do it right away. Because if you start writing down each and every little thing you might end up spending more time writing things down, scheduling them and thinking about them, instead of just doing them.
And if something would take more than 2 minutes of your time it’s better to allocate time for it instead of letting it interrupt what you were doing.
But this is only one aspect of the 2-minute rule.
NOTE: Sometimes we don’t know if something takes two minutes to do, so we need to take into consideration the “processing time”. Meaning sometimes it is better to write things down, because while you’re writing things down, you’re actually processing them. And only after you’ve written everything down and freed up you mind from all the to-dos and tasks, it’s easier to see if something will take less than two minutes to execute from start to finish. And if they do, do them right away.
After you’ve done certain tasks a few times you learn how long something takes. So then applying the 2-minute rule without processing it first becomes easier.
And whatever you do, don’t start a 2-minute task and before you finish it you see another 2-minute tasks that you start doing and before you know it, you’re doing multiple 2-minute tasks at the same time and nothing actually gets done! (Read above about Multitasking and why you should reduce it to minimum.)
And this leads us to time blocking. By allocating time in your schedule to do certain tasks you can batch those tasks together and do them more productively.
For example, you could block two 30-minute periods of time from your schedule and during those times you read and answer your emails, instead of reading and answering them during the day. And if you want to use the Pomodoro method presented above you can block to 25-minutes chunks from your schedule and make sure that during those 25 minutes you answer all of the emails that you received. This way you don’t spend too much time on answering to just one while interrupting another project you were doing and wasting your precious time.
How to start using these 5 best time management techniques instantly
So these are my favorites techniques, and the best way to start using one is to understand which area you need help with.
So if you notice that some tasks take too much of your time, you need to either eliminate, delegate, schedule them, or just do them.
And if you want clarity about what you need to focus on – use the 80/20 rule.
If you need to prioritize all of your tasks – use the Eisenhower Matrix.
If you need to execute your projects and tasks faster – allocate time with time blocking and use the Pomodoro method.
And if you find yourself multitasking – don’t. Do one thing at the time.
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