By John Rampton, founder of Palo Alto, California-based Calendar, a company helping your calendar be much more productive.
We’ve all got the same 24 hours in a day, but what differentiates the high performers from the average Joes is time management. Get a handle on the minutes that make up your day and you’ll improve how you manage your time. Try one or all of these six surefire strategies to get more done in less time than ever before.
1. Commit to single-tasking.
Multitasking has been overused and overhyped and is, quite frankly, counterproductive. Many of us cannot function at a high level while doing multiple things at once.
Instead, commit to single-tasking — that is, focusing on just one thing at a time. This approach allows you to home in on the task at hand and do your highest-quality work.
2. Use time blocking to your advantage.
What does your typical workday look like? Do you answer an email or two, make a few sales calls, update your monthly spreadsheets and start creating a slide deck? If so, you’re wasting precious productivity on context switching.
Instead, divide your day into distinct blocks of time. Answer your email in two 20-minute chunks, say one at midday and one at EOD. Set aside an hour to complete that entire slide deck instead of leaving it two-thirds finished before heading out for a client meeting. Speaking of meetings, try to cluster them together rather than sprinkling them throughout the day. Time blocking reduces the interruptions and mental adjustments that keep you from doing focused, productive work.
3. Deploy the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is an amped-up version of time blocking. Avid users commit to doing 25 minutes of concentrated work on a single task. Once the time allotment is up, they take a five-minute break. After four rounds of this, they take a 15- to 20-minute break to fully recharge.
This approach simulates a time crunch, which prompts your brain to really zero in on a task and execute it. With the promise of a small break as your reward on the horizon, you can keep up your momentum.
4. Schedule movement breaks.
If you use the aforementioned Pomodoro Technique, consider using your five-minute breaks for stretching or a quick lap around the office. You’ll get your blood pumping and may even spark a creative idea with the change of pace and scenery.
Our bodies simply weren’t made to sit in an office chair for eight or more hours a day. Give your muscles the movement they crave by allowing yourself scheduled breaks throughout the day. They’ll help you make better use of your on-task time.
5. Try task batching.
If you’ve ever found yourself overwhelmed by your diverse to-do list, task batching may be your savior. The mindset you need for schmoozing a prospective client is different from the one you need to crunch month-end numbers. By batching tasks that require similar skills or mental processes together, you can accomplish them more quickly and efficiently.
If email is your enemy for a particular task batch, develop a plan of attack. To minimize distractions, close down all other applications and windows on your computer. Set a goal for how many emails to address or set a time limit for your task. You’ll create a sense of urgency to get an otherwise unsavory job done.
6. Fuel yourself for success.
You can’t power through your tasks unless you have enough energy. Fuel yourself throughout the day with foods that make you feel good, allow you to focus and gives you sustained energy. While it can be tempting, especially on a busy morning, resist the urge to subsist solely on coffee. After all, what good is adding in productivity tactics when your body is too tired to put in the work? Fuel your body right, and it will serve you well.
Start wrangling your time.
The time management tactics above will only make you more productive if you’re focusing on the right tasks to begin with. So prioritize and develop a plan of attack for your workload. Identify key milestones and can’t-miss deadlines using your calendar or project management tool. With your work prioritized, and these time-management tactics at the ready, you’ll be a productivity powerhouse in no time.