We cannot change the number of hours in a day, but we can definitely fill them more efficiently, with less stress and mental effort. Most people’s attempts to increase productivity get derailed by two virtues of modern living: technology and options. Today’s onslaught of technology like smart phones, iPads, social media is fragmenting our attention spans and turning us into surface-level thinkers. But we don’t have to give up technology to regain control.
Here are seven ways to manage time.
- Finish simple tasks
You should always complete easy tasks. It is scientifically proven that the mind holds only about seven pieces of information at a time, and if you switch to other tasks, those pieces of information gets scrambled and needs to be relearned. Hence you should not try to do two simple tasks at once.
- Break up complex tasks
Complex tasks like building a budget differ from simple ones: You can complete them more quickly and efficiently by breaking them up. If you have to complete challenging tasks, you can do so more effectively when you take a two-minute break and worked on something completely different — for example, doing a crossword when trying to finish your project. It is better if you choose something completely different from your main project.
- Build willpower
Willpower is the key to efficiency and if you exercise it more frequently, you can improve it. Hone your willpower by breaking a routine like driving the same way to work or by giving up a bad habit like junk food for a week.
Avoid making major decisions after a series of hard choices. When possible, make the toughest decisions when your willpower is strongest.
- Keep a calendar, not a to-do list
To-do lists are ineffective because they lack context. People mostly leave the most difficult tasks undone at the end of the day. You need to make mindful decisions about the finite amount of time you have to work.
Always leave a few empty spaces for inevitable crisis and interruptions, and to make room for tasks that may take longer.
- Pull, don’t push
Most of us are bombarded with emails, calls, and requests that don’t necessarily need our attention that moment.
If a project is complicated and involves multiple people, talk about it instead of emailing. Don’t constantly check and respond to. Create an email signature that says you don’t have time to respond to everything. You need to set expectations and slow down the avalanche of information coming at you.
- Limit your choices
While you can’t change the number of decisions you make for your job, you can limit daily choices at home. Too much choice is extremely stifling and paralyzing. Establish routines that let you focus on what you need to do first.
- Prepare yourself the night before
While it’s important to get a good night’s sleep, the time just before bed is ideal for getting your thoughts together for the next day. Reviewing a little work before bed helps imprint on your brain exactly what needs to be solved. But avoid overly stressful projects before bed, which may cause you to toss and turn with worry.