Time Management Advice - Do less, achieve more!

Written by Professional Academy Management & Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

I'm a big fan of podcasts. My favourites include The Productivityist and The Productivity Show. Time management (or productivity) is a recurring theme with most people I have conversations with. We often believe that doing more equates to being more productive. However, being busy does not strictly equate to being productive. Have you ever got to the end of a busy day and felt you haven't achieved anything? The key to time management is to focus on being as productive as possible within the timeframe you have. Here are my top five tips you can use to take control of your day and do less to achieve more:

1 - Define your top three tasks

You can't achieve as much as you think you can achieve. This is why so many people get to the end of their working day feeling stressed and demotivated. However, if you strip back your task list to just three top tasks, you'll finish each day with a sense of achievement, knowing that you've completed what you set out to do that morning. To help with the process of deciding which tasks you should focus on you might wish to use Stephen Covey's "urgent v important matrix" from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

2 - Take a break

Don't underestimate the importance of taking a break to avoid mental fatigue. The Pomodoro Technique is a simple way of structuring your breaks and improving productivity. It was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that he used when he was a university student. It works by dividing your day into 25 minute chunks of working time (a pomodoro) followed by a five minute break. After four pomodoros have passed, you take a 15-20 minute break and repeat the process. Read more on the technique here: http://pomodorotechnique.com/.

3 - Answer emails three times a day

Unless you are in a job which necessitates that you answer emails immediately or within a very short timeframe, then try reading and responding to your emails just three times a day. Once you have finished each email session make sure you close down your email application to avoid any further distractions.

4 - Avoid distractions

Does your phone ring constantly, do you have a colleague who frequently interrupts you, is your chair comfortable? Make sure you eliminate your distractions, enabling you to complete tasks or sections of a task in one go.

5 - Use the tools of the trade

Embrace technology and use it to take ownership of how you manage your day. Software programmes such as Evernote are designed to link up all your existing task management systems in one digital space.

Sounds simple, but how can you make sure you don't slip back into old habits? Firstly, if you want to increase your chances of making a new habit stick then commit to your new routine for three to four weeks. This is the suggested period of time you need to make any new habit become automatic. Secondly, make your new habit a daily one and one that takes place at the same time each day. This creates a pattern of activity that helps the habit become imbedded in your daily routine. Finally, keep it simple to start with. Don't overhaul your whole way of working, change just one aspect of your working day. Your small successes will motivate you to keep going and inspire you to introduce new ones in the coming months. 

If you need further advice you can contact me via LinkedIn

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