Productivity Friday: Time Management
People often mistake being productive with being busy. And while productive people might look busy, most busy people are not productive. The key to maintaining productivity is not how busy you are, but how well organized and prepared you can be.
For me, staying productive breaks down into three areas: planning, scheduling, and focusing. Today we’ll look at all three with an eye toward optimizing time management.
Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
Effective planning is essential to staying productive and should be the first focus of any task. It is often said that one minute of planning saves 10 minutes during execution, which means that 15 minutes of planning each day could save you two hours of work!
I break my planning into two categories. The first is the master plan, it is a high-altitude view of any project and includes my goals, a process outline, and a basic timeline. The second category is my short-term plan – I do one of these each week. The short-term plan is built on the master plan and serves to shape my day-to-day schedule.
This sort of big-picture planning keeps me from mission drift as there is a hierarchy of controlling plans (master plan>weekly plan>daily schedule), and it provides a metric against which to measure productivity.
It’s all in the Schedule
I like to make a distinction between plans and schedules. Plans provide overall structure, while schedules dictate my day-to-day on an hourly basis. Making a schedule is the first step of my day, I spend fifteen or twenty minutes prioritizing tasks based on my plan and mapping out the rest of my day.
During this task, I break my day down into tasks and sub-tasks – this way I have a detailed, step-by-step guide for my day. It prevents me from wasting time between projects. When I finish a task, my next step is clear and defined and I can stay on task.
I also pay attention to the most productive times of the day (for me: 8-10am and 4-6pm) and schedule accordingly. If I have projects that will take significant attention, I try to schedule them during these times. Then I put the less important tasks in the middle of the day when I’m more prone to interruptions and distractions.
Armed with a plan and a schedule, I’m ready to dive into my work. At this point, there’s only one obstacle to overcome. But it’s a big one – staying focused in the face of daily interruptions. Combat distraction like your life depended on it.
Forget multitasking and staying connected – just focus on your task at hand until it is complete. Multitasking is a huge cause of stress in the workplace – and stress is a productivity killer. If you want to be productive, you must jettison the myth of multitasking and be willing to focus on a single thing at a time.
Manage your Time, Manage your Life
Everyone claims to be super busy, but only a small portion of those people are actually productive. By managing your time in an intentional manner, you can transform your life from busy to productive. The process is easy: plan, schedule, and focus; but the implementation isn’t. It takes hard work and dedication, but the payoff is huge and will transform your work life.