Anyone with a Pinterest account has probably seen mugs, canvases, and notebooks adorned with the quote “you have the same number of hours in the day as Beyoncé.” While it is true that each of us has the same amount of time in each day, it’s hard to envision a way in which her level of productivity and success can be attained by somebody without her resources. You may not have billions of dollars, a crew of assistants, or the ability to move meetings around, but there are simple and easy ways to make your 24 hours feel longer and more constructive:
Make a Schedule
Whether you plan your days out weeks in advance or the morning of, taking time to reflect on and organize projects is just as critical as actually completing the tasks at hand. Oftentimes, people make a to-do list to track everything they have in the works, but this could actually hinder productivity. As this article in Entrepreneur emphasizes, to-do lists can infinitely get longer and longer, but schedules only allow for a finite amount of time in each day. Using a schedule or agenda will help you be more realistic in your planning, as you’ll be able to account for where you’ll be spending time and set expectations for what you can get done each day/week/month. Putting your life into a schedule will prevent you from missing deadlines, taking on too many tasks, and having large gaps during the day where you could be doing something more worthwhile.
Analyze Your Projects
Before you start anything, try to understand the resources and mental exertion you will need to put into it. Successful entrepreneur Kevin Harrington does this whenever he takes on a new project.
He says, “I ask myself, ‘How much of my time will this take, and what is my financial upside potential?’. Then, I create a ‘dollar per minute’ analysis, with hopefully a million dollar per week upside.” Not all tasks are created equal, and while completing 26 tasks in one workday may seem more satisfying than completing two big ones, scheduling based on quantity of projects rather than the quality of your times could be less profitable. Understanding the value of your time will help you prioritize tasks and arrange your agenda more efficiently in the workplace.
In addition to understanding the value and time commitment that goes into each of your projects, you should also consider how each one will affect your mental and emotional energy. If you find meetings draining, try to put tasks that require more focus before meetings and more simple or mindless ones afterwards. If you tend to have more energy in the morning, schedule presentations and anything that require more focus for before your lunch break. This blog post also recommends alternating the kinds of activities you are doing throughout the day so you don’t get stuck doing hours and hours of one thing, as this will drain you. Planning out your time each day according to your work style and personality will allow you to stay more energized, focused, and productive.
Master Your Computer
According to a study by Microsoft, employees are generally unproductive for about 17 hours in any given work week. These employees cited reasons such as ineffective meetings, unclear priorities, and confusing software, all of which can be avoided. One of the best ways to save time and streamline your daily tasks is understanding how to utilize whichever programs are important to your job function and/or company. For example, anyone who uses Outlook is probably missing out on functions that sort, filter, and prioritize email automatically, the use of which could save the average user at least a few hours each week. While you may understand the basics of whatever programs you are using, taking a few hours to watch online tutorials (most programs or apps you use in the workplace offer free tutorials) or participate in non-mandatory trainings will save you time in the long run.
Some people tend to associate breaks with being unproductive or lazy, but really the opposite is true. This Inc.article discusses a study that found that the employees who typically accomplish the most are the ones who take consistent breaks. Taking one break each hour will leave you feeling more focused, refreshed, and will cut down on the time you spend with small distractions such as checking your phone or getting water (both of which can be accomplished in a designated hourly break). While this may seem like it’s taking a lot of time out of your day, the results that taking a break will have on your energy and productivity will leave you accomplishing more on the days when you take breaks than on the ones you don’t. If you have a particularly difficult, stressful, or undesirable task to complete, you may even want to give the Pomodoro Technique a try. Figure out what works best for you, but be sure that your schedule isn’t so restrictive that it decreases your energy and focus.
It can be hard to fit everything you want to do into 24 hours. Prioritizing the value of your time and activities can help you figure out where your time is best spent, but it could also prevent you from finding balance. To squeeze all of your priorities into a limited number of hours, this Fortune article recommends combining them. For example, if you feel like you don’t have enough time for entertainment because it is not a high priority for you, you might try listening to interesting podcasts during your commute. Or, if philanthropy and exercise are both important to you but difficult to squeeze into the average workweek, you could train for a charity race and fulfill both areas at once. Don’t drive yourself crazy by doing things like responding to emails at family dinners or taking important calls at the gym, but try to think of where in your day you can incorporate balance between work and the other aspects of your life without being distracted or overwhelmed.
Do Your Spring Cleaning
Spring may be almost over, but the idea of ‘spring cleaning’ should be something you come back to every so often. In this case, spring cleaning refers to finishing up all the old business and clutter you’ve been putting off. Though projects or meetings are probably the most important items on your agenda, taking 5 minutes a day, 30 minutes a week, an hour a month, etc. to organize your desk and tie up any loose ends on lower-priority tasks will help you focus on the important things. According to productivity expert David Allen, “sometimes the biggest gain in productive energy will come from cleaning the cobwebs, dealing with old business, and clearing the desks-cutting debris that’s impeding forward motion.” Allot some time into your schedule to finish the things you have been putting off so that these easy tasks won’t hold you back.
Time management is something that comes with practice and may even take more time to utilize at first, but planning well will leave you feeling more accomplished and fulfilled. How many hours you have per day isn’t as important as how much control you have over your productivity, energy, and overall happiness.