Unlock Your Potential: The Ultimate Guide to Effective Time Management How to manage your time effectively and get more done in a day?
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How to manage your time effectively and get more done in a day?

Written by :
Aashish Dhawan

All of us struggle at some point in our lives when we find it difficult to manage our time effectively. We fail to balance family and work, which in turn makes life stressful and frustrating for ourselves as well as the people around us. This creates an unhappy feeling within ourselves, and we wish for more hours in a day to get things done, or we hope for a lesser amount of work. How many times have you felt

  1. You were busy throughout the day, but nothing significant was done on that particular day.
  2. You are being consumed by other people’s needs, and it seems like you have been reduced to serving one person after another and are not able to focus on the things you have to do.
  3. You are running from one meeting to another, which drains your energy, and most of them are meaningless anyway.

We wish we could have more hours in a day to get more done or if something around us should change to make things better, but what if we stop looking for solutions outside and try to change ourselves and prepare our schedule better to handle the limitations of time and work? What if we could get more done in the same amount of time and take out time for our personal well-being and that of our loved ones? What if, at the end of every day, we could feel a sense of accomplishment and that we had gotten something meaningful done that moved the needle?

Here are a few tricks to get more work done by changing how you manage your time and how you execute your tasks.

Batch similar tasks together:

If you are doing tasks that are of similar nature, it is advised to batch them together and finish them at once. For example,

  1. If you have to reply to emails, manage all those together at once, and do not check emails throughout the day. Fix a time of day and answer all the emails in one session.
  2. If you have to make some sales calls or other phone calls, do them together, one after the other. Do not scatter them throughout the day. You can assign some time slots in a day for this as well.
  3. If you have to take interviews, maybe do it back-to-back. If you have to have meetings, do one after the other if the situation allows. Not only will you spend less time in each meeting, but you will also get more done in every meeting by just focusing on the right things.
  4. If you have to do other household chores or need to go to the market, batch things together.

Batching tasks like this will also save you from context switching, be easy on your brain, and increase your focus as well.

2 Minute Rule:

The two-minute rule says if you can finish a task in two minutes, just do it right away. Do not wait or postpone it. For example,

  1. If a colleague has asked you for information, a document, or some link to report, and you can send it right away within 2 minutes, just do it right there without waiting for the end of the day or postponing it to some future date.
  2. If you need to reply to an email, which is going to take less than 2 minutes, do it right away.
  3. If you can just talk to a person for 2 minutes and it kills a meeting, do it right away.
  4. If you need to make a decision on something and you can do that in 2 minutes and you do not have to come back to it later, do it right away. People make the mistake of postponing it for some later time, and they either forget it or get lost in other tasks that consume all their time.

The problem with a task is that it lives in our subconscious brain and keeps nagging us that something has to be done. You will spend the full day in stress, where your brain will keep reminding you that you have some unfinished business. The advantage of this 2-minute rule is that your brain does not need to track all these unfinished tasks, and it reduces stress a lot.

Decide on 3 victories for the day:

For each day, plan three tasks, which, if finished, will make your day productive and give you a sense of accomplishment. When you start your day and when your energy is highest, start doing these tasks first, and do not pick anything else unless these are done. Consider these tasks to be the highlights of your day. I suggest blocking these hours of the morning to just work on your three victory tasks.

Almost all of us generally maintain some sort of to-do list to run our day, but most of the time our calendar is filled with tasks that generally do not have a high return on investment (ROI); they are just fillers, which makes us feel busy, while at the end of the day we feel we did not accomplish anything meaningful. Therefore, pick the three most important tasks with the highest ROI and complete them first.

If nothing else gets done and you are only able to complete these three tasks, you will have made a lot of progress anyway. You will feel a sense of achievement and the satisfaction that comes along with it.

Block calendar:

Always block the calendar for the tasks. Once you start doing this, it will streamline your schedule and add order to your day.

Blocking a calendar does not mean that you have to just add an event to the calendar; you also need to decide how much time you want to spend on it. For example, you do not want to block one hour in the morning just to reply to emails. You might just need ten or twenty minutes for it.

Another question you need to answer before blocking a calendar is: What is the right time for a particular task? Do you want to read emails in the morning or do you want to do so in the evening? Do you want to do meetings first thing in the morning, or do you want to do them towards the end of your work day? You should not block your most productive hours with low-ROI tasks.

Sometimes you have planned your day and a random task comes along, and you leave everything planned to do that new task, which derails your daily schedule. Try to avoid these situations. Do not go into crisis management by picking up tasks that are thrown your way. You can always schedule such tasks for future dates if they are not urgent.

Plan your day a night before:

Your day does not start in the morning, but the night before. Spend 15-20 minutes each night to plan your next day and do a retrospective of the day passed.

While planning your next day, you can decide your top three priorities for the day that you would like to complete to make the next day a productive one. You can block time slots on your calendar for specific tasks. You can also do a retrospective each night if your day does not go as planned to find areas for improvement.

The main advantage of planning your day ahead is that when you wake up in the morning, you have your plan ready, and you can start at once without thinking about what to do with your day. You do not want to wake up in the morning and start planning your day; this rarely works. Planning something is a mental exercise, and you do not want to start your day with a problem. Therefore, plan a night before so that when you start your day, a quick victory awaits you because you have some goals to accomplish before you get going, like making your bed.

The divide by 3 rule

Let’s divide one hour by three, which gives us a 20-minute time period. Let’s call it a slot. This also means that an hour has three slots. This one 20-minute slot is enough to handle most of your short-duration daily tasks, for example.

  1. You can reply to all daily mail in one 20-minute slot.
  2. You can finish your meal, take a power nap, or even go for a walk for 20 minutes.
  3. You can finish most of the meetings in 20 minutes or less.

Now let’s divide a full day, i.e., 24 hours, by 3. We will have a total of eight, three-hour time blocks (8 x 3 = 24). Let’s call this one 3-hour time block a session, i.e., a session contains three hours. This three-hour session is enough to do most of your lengthy daily tasks. For example,

  1. You can go into a deep work mode and focus for 3 hours or less, but after that, you might not be able to do deep work.
  2. You can finish a movie in a 3-hour session or go out for dinner with your wife and come back in 3 hours.
  3. Most of the distances you usually travel can be covered in under 3 hours.
  4. Most long-running tasks, like adding a new feature to a software product, creating a presentation for conferences, or even writing a chapter, bog, or essay, can be done in a three-hour session.
  5. If one three-hour session is not enough for a long-running task, it can be finished by adding more sessions on top of it.

Once you start thinking about your time in 20-minute time slots and 3-hour sessions, you can use this to time block your calendar depending on how long you need a task to finish. You can cover almost all the tasks of your day in 20-minute slots and 3-hour-long sessions. If not, you can stack additional slots and sessions on top of it.

Deep productive work in time slots and sessions:

There is a big difference between being busy and being productive. Most of us are busy all the time while accomplishing nothing. The solution to this is to do deep work without getting distracted.

The problem with deep work is that the human mind cannot remain focused for too long. Also, each person has a different nature and ability to concentrate. Recovery time is also different for each of us. Therefore, no single solution works for everyone.

Now, how do you keep your mind focused while giving it time to relax?

Since we have now divided our day or schedule into slots and sessions, as explained earlier, our goal is to utilise most of these for productive work and waste less and less of these slots and sessions. You do not have to stick to a 20-minute slot and 3 hours of sessions; you can choose the timing for these that suits you best on a personal level. You can schedule a session for productive work, for example, for your top three priorities of the day or for any tasks that take a longer time to finish. For smaller items, you can schedule a 20-minute slot. You can also batch things together so that you have a slot and session fully booked.

To stop your mind from being distracted in these time slots, you can trick your mind with an index card. Keep an index card in front of you and write what you want to achieve in this time slot. Whenever you start to get distracted, read this index card and remind yourself what your task at hand is.

Defining the monetary value of a time slot:

What if I ask you to take out a $100 bill from your pocket, tear it, and throw it in the trash? Would you do it? Probably not. Yet most of us throw away our time a lot on a daily basis, even when we are aware that our time is more precious than a $100 bill.

Our brain is wired in such a way that it cares a lot about monetary loss. You can use this brain hack to improve your productivity.

Let’s assume you have a 1-hour time slot. Put a monetary value on it, for example, 10 dollars, and by the end of each day, try to calculate the money you have thrown away by finding how many 1-hour slots you have wasted. The first goal should be to waste less money each day, and the second goal should be to increase the monetary value of your time slot from $10 to $15, then to $20, and so on.

Also, you can use the same principle to find tasks that you do not have to do. For example, let’s say it takes you an hour to wash your clothes, but you can outsource it to some laundry guy and get it done for $5. Why would you spend $10 (1 hour) if this can be done for $5?

This means you do not have to do the tasks that are worth less than the monetary value of your time slots; you can outsource them because you know you are still saving money and time even after outsourcing them.

Automate maintenance tasks:

Many of the items we do in a day can be automated, and if done, you do not have to pay consistent attention to them. See if you can automate your bill payments, investments, or some emails as well.

Instead of buying a monthly subscription, see if you can buy it yearly. Check if you can automate investments through SIPs. You can start by automating those tasks that you have to do repeatedly on a weekly or monthly basis.

There are many other time management and productivity techniques available to be discovered by you. I have listed down tricks that have worked for me. Your choices could be different as every personality is different; therefore, feel free to adopt anything that works for you.

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