Time Versus Task
We all start our day with the best of intentions. Well, I know I do. But all too often, you wind up at the end of the day with little or nothing to show for your efforts, an ever-expanding to-do list, the feeling that you've been busy all day but haven't achieved anything significant. It can be frustrating and disheartening to feel like your journey is static and not traveling in a linear motion toward the things that matter to you.
Start Your Day With Intention, Not Shot Out of a Cannon
According to procrastination experts (yes, it's a real job,) "people tend to overestimate how long it will take to complete short tasks and underestimate the time longer projects will take." In short, we don't plan our time effectively. Bad time management can be detrimental personally and professionally. It can reduce you or your company's earning power, eat into budgets, and cause delays.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, here are 5 tips to help you become the boss of your own time.
1. EAT YOUR BIGGEST, UGLIEST FROG FIRST
"If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first - Mark Twain"
Getting the most massive, most unappealing task out of the way first thing each day can be very productive. You'll start the day with a sense of achievement, which then propels us to do more. Let's not forget the motivator of the relief of finally being able to tick that unpleasant job off our to-do list. We also have more energy in the AM, so we're more likely to complete more difficult tasks first thing than in our 3 pm slump.
2. HAVE A TO-DO LIST
A traditional to-do list can be overwhelming, but having a plan for your day is imperative. I recommend the 1-3-5 rule. As someone who used to wildly underestimate how long things would take, this has shown me how to fit a manageable number of tasks into one day. Before you go to sleep, chose nine items that you need to accomplish: one large, three medium, and five small. Actually write them down. Studies have shown that this makes you more likely to do them.
3. LOOK BACK IN TIME
Review how long it took you to complete the same task previously and use that as your estimate. Most people disregard their own experience and assume that things will become quicker each time around. Research shows this isn't usually the case.
According to research studies, we're much better at estimating how long it will take for other people to do something than we are for ourselves. If you're unsure about how long something might take, then ask a friend or co-worker what their estimate would be.
Allow time for unexpected events. Having that buffer in your time takes away the stress of working to a now impossible deadline. If you're still struggling to estimate accurately how long tasks take you, then apply the "Scotty Principle." Estimate a time, then add 25% to 50% longer to it.
4. GIVE IT YOUR FULL FOCUS
The more you can do this, the quicker you'll complete your list. Multitasking doesn't serve us. It splits our focus and slows us down. Better to give our full attention to one task within our set time frame until it's complete. If you can turn off your phone and resist checking emails, you'll sail through the job at hand. Even listening to music while working has been shown to slow us down.
5. USE A TRACKING SYSTEM
There are many desktop programs or apps we can employ to track our time. Some people find that the time spent inputting data on these apps is counterproductive to time management. But some programs like the time tracking software Manic Time actively tracks what you're doing on your computer to make filling in your daily workflow simpler.
Our computers aren't the only place we need to track our time. I like this paper planner https://plannerpads.com/ which lets you easily categorize, prioritize, and schedule tasks for the entire week. By mapping your time over the whole day or week, you start to see exactly how much you can realistically fit in. Ultimately, this isn't something you would do permanently, but it can be beneficial in the short term.
I'm not advocating you schedule every minute in your day. We also need downtime to be productive. Although time management is essential for living a fulfilled vs. frustrated life, it's critical to schedule time for self-care and allow space to listen to your body. Making time for this aids in avoiding overwhelm and burnout. And that can only be positive.
https://lifehacker.com/how-to-get-better-at-estimating-time-for-tasks-1626399924, https://lifehacker.com/five-best-time-tracking-applications-5362829, https://www.fastcompany.com/90313102/how-to-get-better-at-estimating-your-time, https://zapier.com/blog/how-to-estimate-time/, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-be-a-better-time-manager/, https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnrampton/2018/05/01/manipulate-time-with-these-powerful-20-time-management-tips/#3c66569a57ab