Adopting good time management techniques in your life isn’t about squeezing as many tasks as you can into your day.Dan Silvestre
Unfortunately, this is exactly what I want – to get more time to do everything I need (see How to find time?). In the previous post, I have shared some basic tips about time management. Although I will implement them to improve my skills, there is no choice but to accept that I will need more than just tips. If I want to boost my productivity (to obtain some extra time to do all that I want), I need to dive into time management techniques.
“What about checking the most popular – supposed to be the most effective – ones first?”
The most popular techniques
It is worth mentioning that you should decide on your time management technique(s) based on what you want to improve in your routine. Besides, different people may need to apply different strategies to reach their goals. Accordingly, the most popular might not be the best choice for you; hence, the importance to figure out the one that will work for you in the first place.
This very popular time management technique, invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, uses a timer to break down your work into 25-minute intervals – the so-called Pomodoro (the Italian word for “tomato”) – separated by short breaks. Of course, nothing should interrupt an ongoing Pomodoro; this should be 25 minutes of completely uninterrupted deep work. Equally important, the 5-minute breaks (or a 20-minute longer one after 4 cycles) should give you enough recovery time to maximize your productivity. They are important to keep you fresh throughout your workday indeed.
By continuously alternating between concentration (during the 25-minute Pomodoro) and rest (to give your brain a break), you can stay focused and effective over several hours. Another advantage of this method – beyond its simplicity – is that it helps keep distractions and interruptions in check;
even the biggest social media addicts can usually manage not to be distracted for 25 minutes.
While this method can increase productivity and help overcome distractions, it does not work for everyone or in every context. In particular, there is a clear disadvantage with this strict system of work intervals and breaks. Because you have to stop working once the 25 minutes run out, it can be counterproductive. If you were doing particularly well, this will disturb your workflow and indeed achieve exactly the opposite from what it is supposed to.
If you find it difficult to resist [all the potential distractions on your computer, including social media, emails, news websites, and more] and concentrate on a single task for an extended period, you should try the Pomodoro technique.IONOS
Not my case – except for emails, though (see Time management: basic tips). Next.
Pareto principle (aka the 80/20 rule)
This technique, created by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, is based on the idea that 20% of actions are responsible for 80% of outcomes. In terms of time management, it translates into 80% of the tasks can be completed within 20% of the time, while the remaining 20% of tasks will take up 80% of the time.
The Pareto principle states that by investing just 20 percent of effort one can reach 80 percent of the overall result. For the remaining 20 percent of the result, 80 percent input is needed. This is why it’s often referred to as the 80-20 rule.IONOS
We are all automatically drawn to tasks and activities that don’t have a real impact because impactful tasks are usually much harder to execute in comparison to non-impactful tasks. This method ensures that you spend your time focusing on the tasks that have the biggest effect; doing so will help to increase productivity indeed. The Pareto principle helps to decide which work must be completed first. However, ignoring the tasks that do not contribute directly to the actual goal would be a mistake.
In keeping with misinterpretations of the Pareto analysis, a common error is to apply the 80/20 rule to overcome perfectionism. Although it takes indeed about 20% of your time to complete 80% of a task or project, neglecting the remaining 20% – even though this would cost you a lot (80% of the time) for just 20% benefice – would have serious negative consequences. To generate the full 100 percent return, the expenditure must also be 100 percent. Next.
Eat that frog
Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.Mark Twain
The idea behind this technique is to start your day by doing the most onerous task(s) first. By getting it (or them) out of the way, everything will be easy to accomplish afterward. Moreover,
keeping a difficult task in the back of your mind also takes energy away unnecessarily – after all, it has to get done at some point anyway. Some even claim,
Knowing that you’ve completed that most dreaded thing will give you the momentum to keep going and will give you a sense of empowerment. The key is to resist the temptation of tackling the easiest tasks first; always begin your day with your frog.
Now, you may end up completely drained from this effort (if the task is particularly demanding or difficult) and have no more energy to achieve anything else. Besides, this can be a demoralizing start of the day and set the tone for a miserable day. For this reason, it has been suggested to move
past eating frogs.
Instead of fixating on how much you dread a task, and forcing yourself to do it first, try changing your mindset about the supposedly unpleasant thing you have to do. Decide in advance that performing that job will make you happy, then come up with a list of all the ways that will happen.Valerie Alexander
Biological Prime Time
The idea is that you track your biological rhythms to find when your most productive hours are. Then, you should schedule critical work (e.g. your most important, difficult tasks) for peak productivity times and work on low-value and low-energy tasks when your energy is low (e.g. after lunch).
To know your Biological Prime Time (a term coined by Sam Carpenter), you should track your focus, energy, motivation, and attention span for 20 days. Indeed, one day alone won’t reveal much about your biological rhythm(s).
Once you have narrowed down the period when you are at your most focused and energetic, you need to figure out how to maximize it. The key indeed is to protect your Biological Prime Time. One strategy to do so is to block that time off on your calendar. Here is the catch, though, identifying my golden hours in the morning won’t be of any use – I am at work during this time and I can only work on CogitActive late in the evening. Next.
A few more
there are more than 50 time management techniques out there, for all the different personality characters, productivity issues and business needs.1 By no means, this post will be an exhaustive list; still, not satisfied with the aforementioned popular techniques, I have broadened my investigation a bit.
Rapid Planning Method (RPM)
This method created by Anthony Robbins is a way to train your brain to focus on a vision of what you want so you can make it real. It aims to transform your thinking by causing you to focus on what is truly important, that is, the results that you want. It also focuses on the reasons why you want it. Constructing a flexible plan to achieve it is the next step.
The first step toward taking back your focus and achieving the realization of your vision is to ask yourself three questions in a specific sequence on a consistent basis, the RPM system. Although RPM stands for the Rapid Planning Method, you can also think of it as a Results-oriented/Purpose-driven/Massive Action Plan.Anthony Robbins
The purpose of this time management technique is to minimize distractions for a workflow that enables concentration, attention to detail, and productivity. Batching, or time batching, consists in grouping specific tasks that are similar and doing them together. This way, you won’t lose your flow since the activities call for similar mindsets. This also allows you to capitalize on the power of momentum and, more importantly, drastically reduces multitasking – one of the single biggest killers of productivity. The key is to find related tasks that would make sense to do one right after the other.
Separating your to-do list items into batches helps you dedicate your full attention to those particular tasks, as opposed to multitasking.Mary Clare Novak
Like many, I thought that juggling several tasks at once would be a great time management technique. Therefore, I was trying to accomplish multiple things at the same time, believing I would get more done. The truth is that multitasking dramatically decreases productivity; we are most productive when we focus on one thing at a time.
Single-tasking – focusing on one task at a time helps you deliver quality end results much better than when you multitask.Clockify
The problem (with multitasking) is that you are actually switching rapidly from one activity to another; you are not doing two activities simultaneously. Our brain can only focus on one thing at a time indeed, and switching between tasks – even if it would last a fraction of a second; it’s not – has damaging costs to your work and productivity. Continuously switching activities and refocusing your attention is a gigantic time suck.
Half an hour of full-on focus is more productive than 2 hours switching between tasks.
To recap, multitasking does not save time, quite the contrary. Besides, the mind quickly moves back and forth between the individual tasks, focusing only partly on each, and the outcome is usually sub-par.
So far not so good
In my quest to achieve more with less time – with the idea of using this time gained to have CogitActive back on track (see New Year’s resolution) – I was looking for a way to squeeze as many tasks as I could into my day – without sacrificing quality. Naïvely, I thought that finding the right fit for me – out of the myriad of time management techniques out there – would not be so difficult. Of course, I barely scratched the surface of this topic, and I will need to take a deep dive into time management techniques to discover the method that will be the most effective for me.
No time management method is inherently better or worse than another. How well a method works for you depends on your personality, your work style, and the activities to which you apply the method. It’s up to you to find the time management method (or a combination of different techniques) that’s most effective for you.IONOS
To be continued…
1 Blaz Kos (2020) The Ultimate List: 58 Time Management Techniques & Our Top 10 Picks (with mindmap). Spica. ^
2 Unknown author (2019) The best time management techniques, summarized. IONOS. ^