Five time management skills that work

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Much of the global workforce drowns daily in futile tasks. Major ones include neurotic checking and responding to emails and interacting with social media feeds.
These actions can cause stress and lead to a profound loss of concentration –
the underlying theme of world-class time management.

Many talk about optimizing time, but most fail to execute a personalized strategy. To do this, you must first recognize the everyday threats that drastically reduce your productivity and create stress. Next, create daily rituals and routines that direct your attention to productivity — whether you are in the office or at home.

Three principles must be understood before you can begin to optimize your time:

• Time management is not just about productivity, but intentional productivity.

• Time management is based on daily rituals that turn into habits.

• Time management is not only about working hours, but also about non-working hours.

Always start with 80/20 thinking, a life-changing concept in both professional and personal life. You want to get 80% of your positive results in 20% of your time. Prioritize tasks to focus on those that deliver the best returns. Incorporate the following into your daily ritual and, in turn, create new routines. You will see productivity increase and stress decrease.

1. Create distraction-free zones.

The main enemies of modern concentration are e-mail and social networks. Social media is easy to control: turn off notifications and schedule a few times a day to check social media in your free time. But respect the time allotted to him; social media is technical quicksand, and it’s hard to get out of it. When deep focus is needed for a project, it’s wise to kill social media for long stretches.

Email is a different and harder beast to control – especially for those who work for managers who demand immediate answers. We all know that most of these requests are frivolous, and the problem with immediate responses is that they are usually not considered.

Depending on your job, everyone will have different schedules for when to check email. I start my mornings with at least two hours of zero email checking, unless I’m waiting for a signed proposal or something that fuels my absolute best parts of 80/20 thinking. If I’m in for an intensive writing day, like third-party guest blogging or creating content strategies, I won’t be checking emails until noon.

Typically, I check my email three times a day: mid-morning, after lunch, and before I leave my office. A tip I learned from Chet Holmes, author of The Ultimate Selling Machine, is that if you open an email, you have to reply to it. This is why you also need to train those you communicate with to be very specific in their subject lines; you want to know if an email is worth your time at that moment.

David Allen, author of Do things, preaches a two-minute rule. If you can do something, like respond to an email, in less than two minutes, do it. This will release a lot of anxiety later, because not closing an open loop can drive our subconscious crazy.

Many of us forget to do the simplest thing a distraction-free zone should: turn off all notifications on all devices. This goes for emails, social media feeds, and text messages.

2. Customize weekly and morning prep rituals.

Many time management masters such as Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss talk about their morning rituals. I took some tips from them and customized my own. I take an hour every Monday morning, before checking email or anything else, and prioritize the major tasks I need to accomplish each day of the week to achieve this weekly tactic that supports my monthly goals .

Then, each subsequent morning, I take my first half hour (again, before emails are checked) and plan my days (more on that below). I also have monthly preparation rituals where I will take about an hour before the first of the month and make sure my monthly goals are aligned with my annual vision, and realign them if necessary.

3. Block daily time.

My first task every morning, unless I’m finishing a creative project that requires ultimate new focus, blocks time throughout my day. I prioritize important tasks first when I have the most energy and focus.

I try to tackle a maximum of three priority items a day, and find that after 90 minutes my mind starts to lose focus. I usually divide my time into 90 minute chunks per project, although when writing intensely I can sometimes get through three hours without losing focus. Do what works best for you. Try physically writing in a traditional planner – this little act does wonders for directed focus.

4. Make your intentions known to others.

In the book Execution, authors Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan discuss “emotional toughness,” something that empowers leaders to be honest with themselves and have the courage to handle conflict. Part of that is having the courage to express your intentions (“I don’t immediately respond to emails”) and learning to say no to futile projects or tasks in the moment.

As a content manager within companies and agencies, I took care of it daily. Many people expect a quick tagline or email subject line in a minute, but most of what is created in that second is garbage. These instant demands add stress and kill focus.

5. Schedule mandatory downtime.

Prioritize the more enjoyable tasks that will take your mind off work altogether. My Wednesday evenings are reserved exclusively for my favorite activities, from motorcycling to drinking wine and reading fiction. I also put the phone away, as I learned to do every Sunday. Downtime is essential to not burn out and to keep the mind and body fresh and energized.

These five tactics are simple but effective. The overall goal is to deepen focus, allowing you to do more in less time. All of this leads to less stress and more success, which many can use in our personal and professional lives.

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