10 Ways to Win at Time Management Today

productivity board
(CC) Dennis Hamilton/Flickr

It’s easy to win at time management when you have a road map. Here are 10 things to try today (and every day) to crank up your efficiency.

  1. Take 30 minutes at the start of the day to map out your day. Include regular responsibilities, meetings, commitments and mission-critical tasks. Recognize that some of these priorities may shift over the course of the day; because you’ve already planned for them, you can adjust on the fly.
  2. Turn off visual and audible notifications. Block out set times to handle email and phone calls, and avoid these distractions between communication periods.
  3. Stay off social media. For crying in the mud, just say no — unless it’s central to your business and/or daily work responsibilities.
  4. Schedule “office hours” and work periods. During office hours, colleagues are free to interrupt you; during work periods, you’re completely shut off from others so as to focus on cranking out work.
  5. Preplan for phone calls and meetings. Even just five minutes of preparation in which you determine the planned result of each call or meeting can dramatically improve its effectiveness.
  6. Make a to-do list. Be careful to not make this to-do list too perfect — what you’re trying to achieve here is mental feng shui.
  7. Shift your focus according to the 80-20 rule. Spend your best hours, energy- and focus-wise, on the 20 percent of your efforts that yields 80 percent of your results.
  8. Get up and walk around regularly. Health experts recommend getting up once an hour. The idea is that you focus on medium- to long-distance objects to relax your eyes, get your muscles moving around, and thereby recharge and refocus. For efficiency’s sake, try adding a brief burst of athletic activity, like charging up and down a flight of stairs or cranking out 10 pushups. Over the course of a workday, this activity adds up quickly, and you’ll notice the change in your mood and energy levels.
  9. Build up momentum. I like crossing off items on my to-do list with an obnoxiously thick permanent marker. Over the course of a day, my to-do list turns black, signifying the tasks I’ve sent into a black hole.
  10. Gamify your day. Dangle a proverbial carrot in front of your nose by thinking of an appealing, tantalizing reward for a super-productive day. This could be as simple as a soak in the bathtub after work, a bottle of your favorite wine or an evening on the sofa for a DVR marathon.

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