Top 10 tips for better time management

In this post we’re talking all about time management and we’re going to share the top ten practical tips that actually work for us. There’s lots of other lists of time management practices, but many of those haven’t worked for us… perhaps they’re a bit too rigid or in some cases simplistic. So we’re going to share with you what works for us. 

Of course we acknowledge that time management is a myth. There are always only 24 hours in a day, so all we can do is manage ourselves and what we choose to do with the time we have available. Maybe that could have been our first tip, but it’s more a philosophy really.

We think Stephen Covey said it best! Number one is: 
Begin with the end in mind. That’s our destination, so it brings clarity and purpose. More recently, Simon Sinek tells us to start with why, and then look at the how and what, but the why is most important as it describes our purpose. Otherwise we can be doing lots of good things, but not the important tasks that produce the real results. 

Number two is:
Write it down and break it down: this clears your head of all those other tasks floating around in it. So we find it helpful to write down the tasks for a particular activity we need to undertake. Then break them down into smaller items, which then gives us the baby steps which are much easier to accomplish. Sometimes it can be really useful to draw it as a mindmap, with the desired outcome  in the middle, and the main tasks as primary branches and then sub-tasks as twigs. John particularly likes this method; Denise not so much!

Number three is a good one:
Just make a start: don’t fool yourself that you can write perfect prose, or do anything perfectly the first time. To be able to edit your work and improve it, you need some words on the page! So just start writing. Otherwise you can suffer from Blank page syndrome, where you get stuck at the first bit! 

Number four is:
Aim for a B-minus; stop trying to be perfect! This is one from an Amy Porterfield podcast where she interviewed Brooke Castillo, a life coach. Her approach, which is like walking on glass for perfectionists, is that you can produce much more work at that level than if you aim for A-plus. She says “B-minus work can change people’s lives. Work that you don’t produce at all, does nothing in the world.” 

Seth Godin also talks about this, and puts it this way. If you need to send an email, you can spend 11 minutes meticulously composing it and getting every nuance just right. Or you could do it in 1 minute and get it 90% right, and spend the remaining 10 minutes doing other important tasks. It’s about the opportunity cost and the diminishing returns of spending more time to get from ‘good enough’ to ‘almost perfect’, as we’ll never actually reach perfect anyway. 

We’ve actually just both read the book “Ish” by Lynne Cazaly, an Australian author who encourages us not to get caught in the perfection trap, but to be content with “good enough”. It’s a good read and encouragement on this tip!

Number five is:
When you need to finish writing at the end of the day, stop halfway through a sentence. Ernest Hemingway said “When you are going good, stop writing.” That way you don’t come back to that dreaded blank page staring at you the next day. 

Number six is:
Write down your Most Important Task for the following day, before you leave work at the end of the day. Then when you arrive in the morning, it’s staring at you and there’s no need to think, you just do it! Ideally you don’t even check your emails and other time waster tasks.

Number seven is related:
Eat the frog. Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” So do the unpleasant tasks first, and you’ll find your day will only get better! 

Number eight is:
Go with your flow: by now you should know whether you are most productive in the morning, afternoon or night. Whichever it is, that’s when you should schedule your most important work and then savagely protect it. For John, who is a morning person, this means he rarely will catch up with you until 11:00 am because by then he should have achieved his best work for the day. 

Number nine is:
Just say no. How hard is this? Hard at times, but practice! John remembers a lovely guy who was a publications manager and he had a sign on his desk that said “A lack of planning on your behalf doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine”! So when people would bring overdue manuscripts and plead for them to be put at the front of the long queue for editing and printing, he would just point to that sign and shake his head.

OK our number ten tip for better time management is:
Single-task, not multi-task! It’s been shown that it takes our poor brains several minutes to effectively swap from one focus to a new one. Multi-tasking is a myth disproved by MRI machines. Numerous research studies have shown that in experiments, subjects lost time switching from one task to another, and as tasks became more complex, they lost even more time. Plus it can ruin your mental health by making you more anxious and uptight. So do yourself a favour and focus on one task at a time!

Well, you’ve read our thoughts, now we’d like to hear yours! Add a comment below and give us your top tip for time management! We don’t want this to be just a one-way conversation – join in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! 

Resources

Amy Porterfield podcast https://www.amyporterfield.com/2018/06/217/ 

Multitasking: Switching costs  https://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask.aspx 

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Carla Wegscheidl
Carla Wegscheidl
1 year ago

Great tips thanks John and Denise. If only I could master tip number 9!

Jane Graham
Jane Graham
1 year ago

So helpful, thanks John. One thing I really need to work on it to aim for B-.

Luke Hargreaves
Luke Hargreaves
1 year ago

“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.”
― Socrates

Graham HArris
Graham HArris
1 year ago

Thanks Denise and John – a great summary. In the last year or so I have been using David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach – it has been particularly useful in dealing with e-mails. Many of the tips provided in you video are part of this approach.

David Jago
1 year ago

Good stuff folks! No doubt you could have kept going for several more tips…

The “write it down” tip reminds me of ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen. Get stuff out of your head into a trusted repository. Then you can let it go and focus your brainpower and energy on what/when you will do stuff.

Paris Ilami
Paris Ilami
1 year ago

Thank you. It was brief, helpful and for kidding good enough :))

Jessica Lye
1 year ago

Do you worry about maintaining your reputation if you aim for B minus?