One of the most difficult skills you need to learn in your career is time management. If you try to do several tasks together or focus on trivial details, you will waste a lot of time.
Montreal designer and author Etienne Garbuli has struggled with this. Over time, he learned how to manage his workday and work efficiently. He analyzed what was happening to him and the other entrepreneurs. In 2013, his popular presentation on “26 Time Management Techniques I Wish I Learned at 20” was awarded the SlideShare Award for Most Favorite Presentation of the Year. Earlier in 2015, he presented “25 tricks in time management for the beginning of the new year”.
Richard Felly of BusinessInsider collects the best insights from both presentations with additional context. The tips apply to professionals of all ages, from 22-year-old interns to 50-year-old CEOs. Here they are.
1. Know that there is always time. Don’t think you don’t have time. If you don’t finish something, it’s because you didn’t find it urgent or enjoyable enough to take precedence over everything else you do.
2. The days are filling up faster than you expect. Take some extra hours. Avoid cluttering your schedule by being too precise with your plans. “The more detailed a task or plan is, the easier it will be for you to escape,” Garbuli wrote.
3. Do more by relaxing. Sometimes you will not be in shape, and other times you will be able to work 12 hours straight. Take advantage of the second type of day.
4. Look for activities that help not only your professionalism but also your personal life. “For maximum effectiveness, balance your professional and personal goals,” says author Chris Gilbo. For example, if you do not intend to move to Japan or work there, it is better to take a several-month course that is useful for your work, rather than enroll in Japanese lessons.
5. There is a difference between stimulating your development and getting tired. Hard work sometimes includes insomnia and relentless productivity. However, even if you are incredibly ambitious, you should take time to relax. Otherwise, fatigue will knock you down and you will become less productive than if you rested.
6. You will lose focus if you do many things at once. Studies show that the brain expends energy when it changes concentration from one thing to another. If you try to be multifunctional, you exhaust your brain.
7. You can limit distraction. Try the Pomodoro Technique, which divides the work into continuous periods of 25 minutes, with breaks between 3 to 5 minutes. Or use the SelfControl software, which prevents you from using Facebook and Twitter for certain periods.
8. Doing something small is the best way to start working. A presentation you have to finish looks threatening at 8 a.m. Prepare your mind by starting with an easy and quick task, such as responding to important work emails.
9. Perfectionism is only a temporary solution to daily activities. “A good plan implemented at the moment is much better than a perfect plan implemented next week,” General George Peyton once said.
10. More hours of work do not always mean more productivity. Don’t be fooled that by standing at your desk, your workload will be less. Do your best to complete your current task during normal business hours instead of working until the evening.
11. Separate the work that requires concentration from the other. If you constantly stop working to think about something, you slow down.
12. Slave labor must stop. You will ruin the hard pace of work if you send emails or update your schedule all day. Take another time for them.
13. It is best to respond to someone immediately if it takes you a few minutes. Apply the “two-minute rule” by David Allen, “Let’s Get Things Done.” The rule applies to written correspondence. If you can reply to an email right away, then don’t delay.
14. Big tasks are easier to manage when divided into parts. Alabama football coach Nick Saban has such a philosophy. He calls it the “Trial.” Instead of making his players focus on winning, he trains them to focus on what is in front of them – every block, pass, and goal.
15. If it takes you more than 20 minutes to start, change the task. If for some reason you do not progress, switch to something else to regain productivity.
16. No two tasks are equally important. Daily to-do lists are an effective way to plan your day, but it’s important to prioritize them. Start with these in the first place, and leave the arrangement of files and documents for the end when you are exhausted.
17. Always know what you need to do at all costs during the day. To make it easy for you to prioritize, think about which task is most important and give your energy to complete it.
18. You need to divide the work among other people. To be fully effective, overcome the fear of hiring someone else. “If one job can be done by at least 80% of someone else, give it to him!” Advises John Maxwell.
19. If you focus on the past, you will not move forward. Don’t be distracted by yesterday’s successes or failures. Instead, focus on the current task.
20. Keep notes. Do not think that you will remember every good idea that comes to mind during the day. It doesn’t matter if you write it in a notebook, on a whiteboard, or in an application like Evernote.
21. Think of bigger goals to spend the days. Garbuli urges, “Look for the real reward. Focus on the goals, not the tasks. Watch the goals.”