Time management: basic tips

Time scarcity is an awareness that time is one of the “scarce” human resources—one that can’t be restored.Timely

Given the benefits of good time management, it was worth taking some of this scarce commodity to figure out how to develop good time management skills. Finding valuable information turned out to be quite time-consuming, unfortunately. The thing is, while there is no shortage of articles on this subject, there is, as alluded to once, a lot of crap on the web. Believe it or not, some people come with tips as crazy as to skip the shower1. The trick to being more productive is to learn how to get more done in less time, without sacrificing quality; not to remove items from your daily routine. In my quest for extra time (to have CogitActive back on track), I am nowhere to sacrifice my personal hygiene indeed. Anyway, here is my selection of time management tips that I will implement (and that I thought would be worth sharing with you).

The no-brainers

I have read on the Mind Tools website that interruption is a natural and necessary part of life. I am not sure to agree with that; still, one thing is sure, failing to manage them can end up pretty costly in terms of time. The same applies to distractions – both drawing one’s attention away from what you are supposed to be paying attention to, be it on purpose or unintentionally. The problem, indeed, is that it takes a lot of time to fully regain your focus on a task after being distracted, or interrupted for that matter. So, how to minimize my interrupted time?

Most articles on the subject will blame social media as the common culprit, but here is the catch: I don’t use them – except for LinkedIn. I may be the odd one out, but I don’t like social media. I don’t even comprehend the need that people have to post about every little thing that’s happening in their life. Even worse, I don’t understand this compulsive urge to check what others have posted. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Whatsapp, I don’t care! Accordingly, I don’t have to resist the temptation to scroll through my feeds every now and then. The good news is that social media don’t kill my productivity and I don’t have to turn off social media notifications on my phone to stop them from distracting me. The flip side is that I cannot improve on this. Approximate time saved: 0 seconds.

Reading the latest headlines, checking sports scores, and ordering new clothes online (even for the office) can easily steal 30 minutes of our time.The Mind Tools Content Team

Not me either; browsing is not a distraction that I face. Neither at work nor home! Admittedly, I have started – since I have my new (compatible) smartphone – to swipe from the left side of the screen to access “Google Feed” before falling asleep. However, this (bad) habit is killing my evening “reading book” time – and probably my sleep quality – not my productivity. In keeping with the phone as a distraction, I should stress that I am not a slave to my phone. I have no problem putting it away; this is a tool, not my master. Besides, I still prefer to use a real computer (desktop or laptop).

one’s time
  by insulation  
   and isolation.  

At work, I don’t have to turn off my phone (see above), but surely I could shut my office door, if only to deal with loud colleagues. But at home? How to gain a few uninterrupted moments? I don’t have a dedicated room where I can work. More critically, should I mention that I have a baby boy? Of course, I can work when he is asleep – what I am already doing (in the evening). But what about the weekend?

“Any suggestion on that matter?”

I am well aware that the productive cost of my daily distractions quickly adds up. Despite all my efforts and best intentions, the truth is that I still get distracted and/or interrupted. I have to manage both distractions and interruptions effectively to protect my flow and focus. I cannot wait for the perfect, silent work environment.

The bad habit(s)

In keeping with distractions, there is one bad habit that I could drop immediately. One that is robbing me of my time more than you can imagine. Emails! At work, I cannot resist the temptation to look at them as soon as they arrive. The worse is that most are neither urgent nor important. Not to mention that I have to translate them all into English2 – to discover that most are spam or the likes. First, I should turn off the alert that signals me when I receive one. Second, I should check (and respond to) them at set times of the day; ideally, during my downtime.

E-mail icon

Ironically, I do apply this (good) habit to my personal emails. I even face the opposite problem. I don’t take the time to read them and I am so far behind when it comes to replying.

The action of delaying or postponing something (despite knowing that there will be negative consequences for doing so).

Procrastination is choosing to do something else instead of the task that you know you should be doing. Not only can this affect your productivity, but it also causes you to miss out on achieving your goals. According to a MindTools article3, the first step to overcome procrastination is to recognize that you’re procrastinating. In keeping with this source, you are procrastinating if you:

  • Fill your day with low-priority tasks.
  • Leave an item on your To-Do list for a long time, even though it’s important.
  • Read emails several times over without making a decision on what to do with them.
  • Start a high-priority task and then go off to make a coffee.
  • Fill your time with unimportant tasks that other people ask you to do, instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list.
  • Wait to be in “right mood,” or wait for the “right time” to tackle a task.

Like 95% of people, I am procrastinating to some degree!

The second step might be a little bit more challenging (than the first one); it involves understanding the reasons behind such behavior. The aforementioned article lists a few potential reasons, but none ring any bell – except, maybe, the idea of being overwhelmed. To help me figure this out, I have read an article about the psychology and causes of procrastination. According to the author, procrastination is NOT simply a matter of willpower, and, for instance, feeling overwhelmed (see The Who and the When) could indeed be a demotivating factor. On top of that, exhaustion – difficult to find the energy to work late at night after working hard all day indeed – could be a hindering factor that interferes with both willpower and motivation in a way that also makes us more susceptible to procrastination.

Once you know why you procrastinate then you can plan to get out of the habit. Reward yourself for getting jobs done, and remind yourself regularly of the horrible consequences of not doing those boring tasks!The Mind Tools Content Team

Time of birth
All right reserved

In keeping with delaying something, what about repeatedly hitting the snooze button? Sounds familiar? Not only can this bad habit lead to extended periods of sleep inertia (feeling of grogginess after waking up), but it also messes with your sleep cycles, which is bad for both your mind and your body. Of course, if I would not be so tired… Maybe I should make sure that I am getting enough sleep in the first place.

The secondary time management skills

Those help keep your mind sharp and energy levels high, to help you perform better with your primary time management skills. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that I don’t have enough sleep. Keeping healthy life habits – such as having quality sleep – would definitively help me achieve more when I get to work. Should I mention that to save time, in addition to shortening my sleep, I have also cut exercises from my schedule? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Scientists have found sleeping less to create more time for tasks actually has a negative impact in both the short and long run. Tired people procrastinate more and get distracted more easily.Toggl

To sum up, although I found some tips that should have a beneficial impact on my productivity (see above), too many of the tricks out there are irrelevant (e.g. turn off your phone notifications), if not already part of my habits (e.g. get organized). Now, mastering time management will require more than reading a few posts about the “best”, “effective”, “powerful” or “that work” tips. If I want to improve my skills significantly, I have to dive deep into this topic.

To be continued…

1 I am not kidding; the author even argues, along with saving extra time, you’re also conserving water. ^
2 For those who are not following this blog, I am now working in the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, 99% of the work emails I received are in Czech. ^
3 The Mind Tools Content Team (2022) How to Stop Procrastinating. Overcoming the Habit of Delaying Important Tasks. Mind Tools. ^

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