No matter what your goals are this year they will likely take time and that’s something that has to be rationed wisely in this day and age. It would be all too easy to let half your life slip away watching TV, surfing social networking sites and generally goofing off but real success takes time and in turn successful time management.
I was recently in a discussion with my mastermind group on StomperNet and the subject of how we all manage our time came up. I started talking about my simple set-up and quite a few people were interested so I decided to write up a blog post sharing a few of the tricks up my sleeve I use to manage my time.
Essentially as humans we can never manage time as it will continue endlessly with or without us. Therefore the essence of what we really refer to as time management is actually ‘task management’. The route to getting more things done with your time is actually managing how we allocate ourselves to tasks throughout the time that we do have.
I’m sure that by now everyone is familiar with the concept of the ToDo list, however there is a 21st century alternative to the tiny slip of paper that has completely changed the way that I plan my tasks. The ‘secret’ tool that I’ve been using recently is called Remember The Milk (RTM) which is basically an updated version of the traditional ToDo list.
You can install RTM so that it appears across your virtual workstations throughout the day so that you always have an up to the minute information on exactly what it is you need to do that day. Right now I have RTM installed in my web browser, my GMail account, iPhone and even my Twitter account. Rather than worrying about where a tiny slip of paper is, all of these lists are synchronized to a central account over the Internet that I run for just $25 a year.
The beauty of RTM is that you can make things as simple or as complicated as you want with their advanced sorting features. If you are the kind of person that just wants to list out 20 tasks and know you can zip through the lot in a day then you can it. However if you require a slightly more in depth solution you can set tasks with varying levels of importance, arrange them in categories and even plots them days or weeks in advance.
One tip that I’ve always tried to stand by is setting up the tasks you need to do a day in advance. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always do this but at the same time whenever I do the benefits are clear. You start your day with a sense of purpose and rather than spend the first part of your working day chasing your brain you can get straight to work on the most important tasks of the moment. If you’re lucky enough to work for yourself this can be the difference between making a profit or loss over the day or even finishing early if you have plans after work.
The beginning of the year is often a time for reviewing how things are going. Whilst this second tool is not strictly based around productivity you can use it analyse how you are using your time. Toggl is another service that you can link with your iPhone, browser and in this case even your desktop. You simply enter the task that you’re currently working on and can keep record of exactly how much time you spend on various tasks throughout the day.
One final idea that was discussed in my StomperNet Mastermind is recording how much time you spend on every single task throughout the week, including goofing off. Don’t even consider the data until you reach the end of the week. Once you have spent a week collecting it all you can then look objectively at how much time you spend productively and you can also see in plain view how much time you are wasting. Although I’ve yet to try this specific review, it’s clear to see how using Toggl to track your time could be beneficial.
In conclusion it’s clear that if you want to get things done you need to not only know what it is you need to do but how important each task is. Once you have this information you can successfully manage how you apply yourself to various tasks through your working day and week. Just a few simple changes in the way you work really can add hours to your week making this possibly your most productive year so far.