In our previous article, “Why ‘I Don’t Have Time’ Is The Reason Your Business Is Not Succeeding”, we discussed why many people struggle in putting in productive hours in a day.
The problem is not because they “can’t”. The problem is because they “won’t”.
Everyone can be productive. But productivity won’t happen by itself. You have to make it happen.
This is the reason why time management is one of the most sought-after skills. If you have the ability to find more quality time, you will be productive.
In time and with consistency, effective time management will help you become successful in your business, career, family life, and other endeavors.
Here are 7 tips on how to find more quality time and be productive.
1. Plan Ahead
For sure, you have had one of those days where you found yourself staring at blank space for several minutes… perhaps an empty wall or a computer screen.
It is perfectly okay to gather your thoughts. However, if the seconds add up, you may end up losing valuable minutes that could lead to wasted quality hours.
Guesswork is one of the biggest time-wasters. The best way to avoid playing the daily guessing game is to plan ahead.
How early should you start planning?
Here are a few helpful tips to consider when planning ahead:
- Monthly – Review your calendar. Do you have any meetings or special occasions lined up for the month? Even if these meetings are still tentative and subject to change, work some of your tasks around these dates. Send a follow-up email to the party you are scheduled to meet with and confirm the time and date.
- Weekly – Again, review your calendar. Which dates have been marked for meetings or special occasions? Have these activities been confirmed? It would be a good idea to have them confirmed before the start of the workweek. Once you get a confirmation from the parties involved, close them out by encircling the date. Then, work the rest of your workweek around these times and dates.
- The Night Before – Before calling it a night, do a quick review of the day’s activities. What key duties and responsibilities were you able to accomplish? What tasks remain unresolved? Do you have upcoming deadlines? Identify the most important tasks and rank them according to priority.
- The Next Day – Do a quick review of the tasks you have earmarked for the day. Make sure you have everything you need right in front of you. Have a good breakfast and a strong cup of coffee. Take a deep breath… then hit the ground running!
2. Prepare A To-Do List
Preparing a to-do list is a simple but effective way to gain more quality hours. It clears out your head and lays out the important tasks that you have to work on. Where and how you prepare the to-do list is your choice.
There are many wonderful apps you can use to prepare your to-do list such as Evernote, Wunderlist, and Microsoft To-Do. Likewise, it may be a good idea to go old school with an Executive Planner or a simple whiteboard.
Studies have shown that writing notes using a pen on paper can retain memory longer than tapping away on a keyboard. The research concluded that writing by pen increased the amount of feedback the brain receives from the writer’s motor actions.
A whiteboard is an inexpensive but highly-effective tool for posting reminders and tasks. It allows you to write your thoughts out so you can articulate your ideas more clearly. Whenever you see your notes on the whiteboard, you feel more motivated to get tasks done.
3. Learn How to Prioritize Tasks
How many tasks can you handle per day? The answer would depend on the number of hours you want to spend per day on your business.
According to the Ultradian Rhythm theory, you can only maintain 100% focus for 90 to 120 minutes before you would have to take a 30-minute break.
Let’s assume you want to dedicate 8 hours or 480 minutes per day on your business. If you spend 90 minutes per task and follow it up with a 30-minute break, then realistically, you should be able to handle 4 tasks per day.
The next question is: “Which tasks should you prioritize?”
There are 3 ways you can prioritize your tasks:
First, prioritize the tasks based on Return on Time Invested (ROTI). In other words, work on the tasks that result in the highest returns for your business.
Which projects pay the most? Are there projects that once completed may open new doors of opportunity for your business?
Second, attend to the most dreaded tasks right away. These are the ones that weigh on you like an 800-pound Silverback Gorilla and give you sleepless nights.
Work on them right away – first thing in the morning, if possible – so you can breathe much easier and move on to the other tasks.
Third, once you have firmed up your calendar for the week, you can choose to prioritize the easiest tasks. By attending to the easiest tasks, you might accomplish more than 4 per day.
Once you’ve cleared out all of the easy tasks from your schedule, you will have more time to work on the key tasks that you have earmarked for the week.
4. Organize Everything You Need Before You Start
How much time did you waste looking for the mock-ups on the client’s project? Worse, how many precious minutes did you waste looking for a calculator, pen, paper, and a stapler?
Lack of organizational skills will keep you from expertly managing your time because you waste valuable seconds searching for files and other things when you should already be working.
Since you have prepared a to-do list the night before, take the level of preparation another notch higher by organizing everything in your workplace.
Pull out all the files and tools you need to work on the tasks identified in your to-do list and organize them properly on your table. If the files are on your computer, move them to the desktop folder so you can see them right away when you open your PC.
The tools you need – pen, paper, calculator, other office equipment, and the hard copy of important files – should be within reach. You can place these items near the edge of your desk or on top of the closest shelf.
5. Take a Step Back… If You Feel Like It
There is a saying, “Take one step back to take two steps forward.” It means that sometimes doing more can lead to accomplishing less. Therefore, call it a day, get some rest, and come back stronger, recharged, and more focused.
We are human beings, not machines. We get tired and fatigued both physically and mentally.
If we are not fit to continue, then the more we push ourselves, the greater becomes the risk of compromising the outcome of the task we are trying to accomplish.
The important thing to keep in mind is that we should focus on “quality” time.
You can work for only 4 to 6 hours in a day, but if the time spent enabled you to accomplish key goals and objectives, then you put in quality hours on your business.
If you feel tired and worn out, do not hesitate to pack it in, regroup, and resume work when you are ready. Take a short vacation if you have to.
6. Say “No”… If You Have To
They say whenever opportunity knocks, you should answer it because it may never come back.
However, if you do not feel confident in your ability to render top-quality work and service for the prospective client, saying “No” may be the best decision to make.
At Mountaintop, we have a team of highly-experienced professional web designers. The web designers are the company’s assets and we assign specific projects to them.
We will accommodate requests for website design and development only to a point where we are 100% confident in our ability to build the best website for the prospective client.
If we end up pulling assets from one project to another because our resources are heavily stretched out, the decision to say “Yes” to a new project may end up compromising our other clients.
We will do our best to negotiate the development schedule of the website with the client. If the client agrees to the new timetable, then we will accept the project.
If not, then we will have to say “No”.
In any business, your work is the best representative of your brand. As long as you consistently produce high-quality work, opportunities will always come around knocking.
7. Shut Out Distractions
There is nothing wrong with spending time on Facebook or catching up on the latest release on Netflix. However, there is a time and place for everything. When it is time to work, there should be no distractions.
The reality is, distractions lurk everywhere. Your mobile phone could be buzzing every few minutes with calls, messages or notifications.
If you work from home, a family member could knock on your door and engage you in conversation. At the office, co-workers could be nudging you to spend a few minutes with them at the watercooler.
To get things done, you have to make arrangements to shut out distractions. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use a different PC for work; it should not have access to Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, and other websites that are potential distractions.
- Keep your mobile phone locked away in a drawer or better still, in a different room. Make sure to leave a message that you will return the call or respond once you have available time.
- Talk to your family and friends about your quest for productive time. If they care about you – and we’re sure they do – they will understand and will leave you alone during those hours.
You can check your social media pages or your phone for text messages and missed calls during your 30-minute break. If you have kids, spend the 30-minute break time with them.
If you want to be an expert in time management, you must apply it to all facets of your life.
For example, if you have a family, take a few hours during the weekend to plan for their needs the following week.
What meals will you prepare for their dinner? Do you prefer to eat out? If so, where? When will you schedule your visit to the supermarket or the laundromat? Is it time for your kids to visit the dentist?
If your kids have school activities, make it a point to mark the dates on your calendar. You would not want to miss your daughter’s musical number with her classmates or your son’s championship game.
Of course, you should include another important person in the planning process: You. Set aside time in the week for yourself.
There is no excuse for not finding time to exercise if you plan your workout days properly. It does not have to be in the gym. You can walk around the neighborhood, run at the park, or play ball with your kids.
Similarly, you may simply want to find time for some peace and quiet – perhaps catch up on some personal reading.
The bottom line is if you want to find more quality time, make it happen! Don’t say, “I don’t have time.”
We hope you enjoyed this article as much as we did writing it. If you have a friend who needs help in becoming productive, please feel free to share this article with him.
Outsourcing services is another proven way of finding more time for yourself. If you want to learn how outsourcing some tasks can increase quality time, give us a call and let’s discuss what you need.