Time. As we discuss here, time can be our most valuable commodity; we can’t get it back, and we have a finite amount of it, yet we often manage it poorly and rarely maximise the time we do have.
If, like us, you have lots going on and little time, then you need information quickly; distilled, curated and ready for review. In our Six of the Best series, we compile key resources that may prove useful - summed up concisely in one easy, at-a-glance list for you to bookmark for future reference. To claw back a little time in a non-stop world, we’ve put together a list of six of our favourite time management tips, direct from the experts.
The 1-3-5 rule
This technique follows a seemingly simple principle for task management; prioritisation. The basic rule follows that for an average given day, you should aim to accomplish:
- 1 'large' task
- 3 'medium' tasks
- 5 'small' tasks
As Medium states; the idea behind the 1-3-5 technique is to have 1 major focus for the day - that all-important meeting or interview, 3 still-critical tasks to further your progress, and 5 small items to keep up with your workload. With this, you immediately understand your priorities, can choose the order you wish to work on things, and still feel good about accomplishing a lot.
Read more here.
Do a time audit
If you often have that feeling of time running away with you, this one could be for you. Often, we can’t see exactly where our time goes, and are just left with that vague feeling that we simply have too much on – too many tasks, and not enough time to work with. The aim of a time audit is to identify the activities that are most demanding of our time during the day, and ensure these really are the tasks which should be being prioritised. Often, the results may surprise you.
For example, it’s easy to feel that you've spent the entire day working on a presentation, however a time audit can show that perhaps you actually spent only 4 hours working on the presentation, 2 hours jumping onto emails and 1 hour on the office messaging system and checking your phone. A time audit should be able to identify any discrepancies.
Productivity501 recommends a simple method to do a time audit for yourself. Set a timer at around 1 hour intervals (or this could be less, depending on how piecemeal your daily activities are). Start at a random point during an hour - say 8.11am. Each time the alarm goes off, write down a quick note of what you’re doing. Do this over a period of several days. It's then time to analyse the data. Try separating the activities you noted into:
- Very important – what you should be doing most of the time
- Not that important – it may need to be done, but won’t add significant value
- Worthless – activities you shouldn’t be doing and that do not contribute to your overall goals
Is 75%+ of your time being spent on ‘very important’ tasks? That’s great! If you find however that most of your time is being spent on ‘not that important’ or ‘worthless’ tasks – this is something to look at. Where are the time drains? Is your phone a big distraction? Are there colleagues or direct reports who are particularly time consuming to interact with? Are there tasks you are doing which you could delegate? Once you have a clear picture of your average week, you can then begin to work on the distractions which are preventing you from focusing on those all important priorities.
Read more here.
With the data, you could even ask yourself where each task falls into the following…
The ‘four Ds’
Concise and easy to remember, this mantra can be applied to any request upon your time. Choose one of the following:
- Delete it
- Delegate it
- Defer it
- Do it
Read more here.
The Pomodoro Technique
Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, this technique stands for a very simple concept: time boxing. The technique uses a timer to break down time into 25 minutes boxes, called pomodoros. These intervals are said to be named 'pomodoros' - the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato) - after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student. The idea is to set the timer for 25 mins, work uninterrupted on a task for one pomodoro, then stop working on the task when the timer rings. At this point, put a checkmark on a piece of paper; if you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short 3-5 minute break and then start on the next task for another pomodoro. After four pomodoros, take a longer break - say 15-30 minutes - then start with the set of four pomodoros and short breaks again.
The aim of the technique is to focus our attention on one task at a time, rather than multitasking, thus reducing the impact of external and internal interruptions on focus and flow. As Medium states, ‘this seems like a very quantified approach, a rigid program that demands attention from the user; but the opposite is true. The technique is incredibly flexible, and can be implemented in a number of ways.’ Medium states that the technique is effective for a number of reasons:
- It imposes deadlines
- It gives visibility as to how long you are actually spending on certain tasks, allowing you to evaluate your productivity and identify time-draining activities.
- It forces you to take breaks. It’s been proven that both our mind and body work best in short bursts, so imposed breaks ensure this is happening, and keep our productivity levels up for longer overall.
Read more here.
Stop trying to manage time altogether
This is an interesting concept set out by Henna Inam on Forbes:
“The Greek philosophers identified time in two aspects: Chronos (chronological or calendar time) and Kairos (the ever present “now”). "Kairos" - according to Wikipedia - is defined as "a passing instant when an opening appears, which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved." In our time-starved perspective, we have forgotten about the abundant quality of "kairos".
If all we manage is chronological time (i.e. what’s next on the calendar) we actually give up the “kairos” qualities of time that make leading most effective - being fully present to the opportunities in the present moment. There are many things worthy of our time that in our “time-starved” perspective we feel we can never carve out time for. A different perspective to explore is to “carve-in” to our existing time the qualities of being that help us be more effective.”
Manage other qualities
Henna Inam goes on to suggest we could look at managing the following quantities, instead of trying to manage time:
- Manage connection: be present. This allows us to focus less on the next task, and connect more with those we are interacting with, creating more meaningful, productive interactions.
- Manage stress: stress breeds stress. Our best decisions – and our most productive work – is often at times when we manage our stress levels.
- Manage focus: many studies have proven multitasking is a death knoll to productivity.
- Manage listening: when we listen to others, we challenge our own ideas. The best decisions are often made when all perspectives are heard.
- Manage perspective: approaching situations with an open mind and ensuring we have all information before making a decision.
Read more here.
Would you like to know more?
Also in our six of the best series:
Six of the best: BIM resources
Six of the best: Resources for construction news