I have tried most productivity and time 'management' tips, tricks and hacks over the years. You could probably say I'm a little obsessed. Some have worked a bit, some have worked a lot and some have not worked even a little bit. Here are 6 really simple ones for you to try today - and if you want some more, click here to download my Top 10 for FREE 🙂
1. Have a Plan. I have an overall plan covering about 6 months, a monthly plan, a weekly one and a daily to do list. These feed off each other and get more detailed as the time frame gets smaller. Having a plan keeps you on track, keeps you focused and minimises time wastage. If you know what you have to do, there is very little reason to not get it done. Sunday is a great day for planning the week ahead and reviewing the previous one.
2. Have one diary only. Not one for business and one for personal. One for everything. If all your appointments, deadlines and commitments are in one place, you cannot double-book yourself and you can clearly see what and when something is happening. You can also see when you have free time to enjoy with family and friends. It also helps you to plan your time, including creating workable time blocks.
3. Block out your time. Working in focused task-specific blocks of time keeps you effective and efficient. Productivity increases too when you time block. These blocks of time should be closely guarded and distraction-free. Remember, a single distraction takes about 22 minutes to get back on track from, so turn your phone off, lock your door and get cracking.
4. Turn off email and social media alerts. Set aside specific times of the day to check and respond to email, and to catch up on social media. And limit the amount of time you allow for both of these. Having free access to both email and social media means you'll end up wasting hours on rubbish like angry cat videos that you could have been using to complete a worthwhile goal achieving task. This is a tough one for me at times and it is something I have to remind myself, so you are not alone if this one you struggle with.
5. Use a timer to boost task completion. A task will expand to fill the time available according Parkinson's Law (this is something I have been majorly affected by ever since I read @TimFerriss's 4 Hour Work Week) so use a timer to intensify the deadline and maximise your output. The added pressure is good stress for you and gets you focused. Some of the best work you can do is produced under tight time constraints. Remember, it's all about getting the task done, you can faff around with it and 'perfect' it later.
6. Always have a notebook to hand to capture ideas and thoughts, and to create lists and notes before you forget. This is something I have done since I was in my teens and will probably do until I die. I cannot leave home without a notebook and pen - although for quick trips to the park or doing the school run I now use Evernote on my phone - because ideas and follow on thoughts come to me all the time. I never know when that next bright spark is coming - and neither do you - so it important to have somewhere to capture them when you do. Some are really fleeting and you may never recapture them later, so make sure you have somewhere to store them for future use. I recommend Evernote for the technically-minded because you can sync everything across all your devices - even if they're differently operating brands.