Time Management for the Modern Age: Tips for Managing Distractions and Priorities
Bankrupt people and billionaires have an equal amount of one resource – time. The billionaires do not have more than 24 hours a day and the not-so-fortunate people don’t have less than 24 hours. Of course, other resources available to some might help in better utilization of time. But, with some tips and tricks, everyone can make optimal use of the time available to them.
Time is finite but distractions in this age are not. How much you can accomplish in a given period depends on how well you manage your distractions and priorities. For proper time management, you need to experiment with and apply strategies. Pick up tips and tricks, see what works for you, and make habits out of them. Here are a few tips and strategies to help you navigate distractions and manage your priorities well.
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Set yourself up for success
The adage ”Time is money” holds true and even gets new meaning in this modern age. If you wish to spend your time well, make appropriate arrangements. For instance, if you work remotely, set up a small home office and use noise cancelling headphones. If you work in an office with your team, you could use a signal to let people know that they must not disturb you.
Try to pick up additional skills by taking a time management course. Learn and use the latest time management techniques. Read books and articles on the topic and formulate your own systems.
Increase focus on your work using the Pomodoro technique
Pomodoro technique works well for perfectionists as well as procrastinators. The original creator of this technique Francesco Cirillo used a tomato-shaped timer as a university student. This is where the technique got its name; word ”pomodoro” means tomato in Italian.
The Pomodoro technique can help you focus on your tasks, eliminate distractions and prevent burnout. According to the standard version of this technique, you work uninterrupted on your task for 25 minutes at a stretch and then take a short 5-minute break. You resume work after the break and repeat the cycle. When you do it 3 to 4 times, you can take a longer break.
You can customize the work-to-break ratios as per the focus requirements of your tasks. These days the Pomodoro timer has evolved beyond its basic original version and has gained additional features to further productivity even more.
Handle similar tasks by batching
Batching is a technique in which you combine several similar tasks into a group to work on them together. You would do this to increase the efficiency of workflow.
Set a certain amount of time to work on a batch of tasks or focus on a batch until you complete a preset number of tasks. With time batching, you can prioritize tasks, eliminate distractions, reduce stress, and increase focus.
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Use a not-to-do list to break bad habits
Using a to-do list is common and effective; it can help you prioritize tasks. But have you tried a not-to-do list? On such a list you would add all your productivity pitfalls – all distractions like social media and tasks like checking your emails. You will avoid some of the items on this list completely (during work time) and delegate or outsource others.
Plan your life in 7-minutes
You can take a page out of the book of Allyson Lewis, a renowned financial advisor. She has written books on this topic and even developed a planner that you could purchase and use. As per this technique, you have to dedicate just one percent of your time each day to planning your activities.
Utilize seven minutes in the morning to plan the day, and seven minutes in the evening to review your activities and get a head start on the next day’s plan. This technique allows you to plan without it getting overwhelming and intimidating. You can follow this system with ease as it does not make huge demands on your time.
List your Most Important Tasks (MITs)
This technique can help you make the best use of your limited time and energy. Tasks vary in their importance, and it is a mistake to treat them equally. Create a list of three of your most critical tasks for the day. This list must be separate from your general to-do list. Tackle your list of MITs as fast as possible and then move on to your other tasks.
Set deadlines for yourself
Have you ever felt a rush of creativity and increased productivity when a deadline is closer? Instead of and in addition to the deadlines set by your boss or clients, set deadlines for yourself. Cut the estimated required time for each task in half.
People tend to overestimate the amount of time required for a task or give themselves some extra buffer time. Cyril Parkinson rightly stated, “Work expands to fill the period of time available for its completion”. This is known as Parkinson’s law. Additional unnecessary buffer time just creates room for procrastination.
Set some tight deadlines for yourself. Treat them just as you would treat formal deadlines and race against the clock. With time, you will get better at judging the time required for each task. You have the option of using Power BI for visualization and analysis of your time-related data. If you are unfamiliar with this tool or unsure about its uses, opt for a quick power BI course online.
Prioritize and manage tasks using the Eisenhower Matrix
Eisenhower Matrix derives its name from the man who presented the idea – Dwight D. Eisenhower. The matrix which is also known as Time Management Matrix, Urgent Important Matrix, and Eisenhower Box was developed by Stephen Covey based on Eisenhower’s idea.
With the Eisenhower Matrix, you can prioritize tasks and handle them accordingly. Categorize your tasks into 4 types: the tasks that you need to do urgently, the tasks that you can schedule and do later, the tasks that you need to delegate, and the tasks that you can delete/eliminate.
Utilise apps and online tools:
While many of the apps (especially social media) have become a bane to productivity, there are other apps and web tools that can help you make the best use of your time. You could use time tracking tools, digital timers, apps that block other specified apps and websites for a certain period of time, digital Kanban boards, and to-do list apps. Leverage technology to increase your focus and productivity.
Get the most out of your time (your very own finite resource) by planning your steps, drawing from the experience and knowledge of others, and experimenting on your own.
Proper time management will give you a sense of control and make you feel more satisfied with your accomplishments. With efficient management of your time, you can have a better work-life balance. You will notice a reduction in your stress levels and a boost in your mental health.
Remember that time management is a skill that you can develop and improve. You don’t just have to get tasks out of the way, you have to do all your critical tasks well for the best outcome. Give time its dues, and time will bring you what is due to you.
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