How do you manage your time?

June 28, 2022

How do you manage your time?

“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.” —Brian Tracy

Everybody gets the same 24 hours a day, but why is it that some people seem to be experts on productivity while others struggle to get everything done in a day? It all boils down to time management.

As entrepreneurs, our time is expensive, and wasting time often means profits lost. But as our business grows, we find our list of tasks growing, but we’re not getting any additional hours in our day. Some would sacrifice sleep or family time, but that isn’t the most effective way. So how do you manage your time?

The first step is always awareness. Figure out how you spend your time and identify your “time-suckers”–activities that eat up too much time but don’t do much to help you achieve your goals. Focus on the tasks that are aligned with your goals. Of course, this means that you must also have clearly defined goals.

Once you have a clear picture of how you spend your time, you can now set your priorities and make a schedule. A lot of people use the Eisenhower Matrix:

Having a clear schedule that you can see, whether on paper or through a digital app, also helps you keep track of your task priorities. There are different ways you can choose to set your schedule: Some people find a detailed hourly schedule helpful, while others prefer time-blocking. Whichever works for you, the important thing is to stick to that schedule. But put some buffers in there, because sometimes interruptions are unavoidable.

You would want to minimize distractions and interruptions as much as possible. With technology being as advanced as it is, it is difficult to shut out the white noise. The key is a little discipline–if you can’t help but check your social media, do it during your break. That is also another thing you should incorporate into your schedule.

In between tasks, take a five-to-fifteen-minute break to reward yourself and reset your mind in preparation for the next thing on your to-do list. Breaks are important to keep our minds focused, rested, and motivated for longer periods. A lot of people swear by the Pomodoro Technique, where they do tasks in 25-minute increments and take five-minute breaks in between, or some variation of it.

The important thing is to focus on your tasks until they are done and incorporate breaks into your schedule.

Grouping similar tasks is also an efficient way to manage your time. Set aside a chunk of time to check your emails, respond to messages, and schedule calls with people. You can also do something like delegating days for specific recurring meetings (like following up on your team’s weekly agenda and progress so far).

Set realistic deadlines or time limits on how long you should spend on a task. Parkinson’s law states that “Work expands to fill the time allotted to complete it.” By setting limits, you are training yourself to focus on the task and minimize procrastination and distractions.

When tasks are too big, they feel overwhelming and the urge to procrastinate becomes stronger. Two ways to deal with these tasks are “snowballing” where you deal with the small tasks first and advance towards the more complicated ones, or “eat the frog first” where you deal with the difficult, most time-consuming tasks first so the rest is spent on the smaller, easier tasks.

Find out which one works for you.

Time management is more than just identifying what tasks to schedule and setting a schedule for them. It is also about what you say “yes” to, and learning when to say “no.”

Every time you say yes to a commitment or an opportunity, you are saying no to all the others. As Touré Roberts told me once in an interview, “Your YES should be expensive.”

Take time to consider what opportunities are worth your time before saying yes, and be bold enough to say no when you have to. As we said, there are only 24 hours in a day, and your life is more than just your business. You have to set aside time for yourself, your family, and the things outside of work that matter to you too.

By making your “yes” more precious, you reduce the need to multitask. The myth of “multitasking” has long been debunked by psychologists: it is just rapid switching. But this mental juggling comes with a “switching cost,” and the more frequently you multitask, the lower your overall productivity turns out to be.

Focusing on one thing at a time has been proven to actually be more productive than trying to juggle multiple things at once. The human brain is not designed for parallel processing the way our gadgets are.

Also, staying organized helps a lot. Keeping your workstation clean and clutter-free can help minimize distractions like the urge to get rid of the mess when your work starts to stress you out. Studies show that having a cluttered workspace triggers the fight-and-flight response, adding stress that could be avoided with an organized desk.

Using time management tools and syncing them to your Google calendar also helps keep things streamlined and organized—you reduce the amount of time you spend switching between apps or tabs or trying to find where you wrote your to-do list.

Lastly, as Jonathan Estrin puts it, “The way we spend our time defines who we are.” Always find time for the things that matter—yourself and your loved ones, the reason why you wanted to work hard and succeed in the first place.

Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.