Productivity boils down to a simple yet complex word: time.
And here’s the honest truth: you cannot make time. We have 24 hours in a day, and that’s it. What you can do is allocate it. The key to productivity is effective time management. Here are 6 tips for grasping time management that will improve your productivity both at work and in life.
1. Being busy ≠ being productive
This is the most common mistake people make. Just because a lot of time is spent on something doesn’t mean it’s productive. Too often we will wrack their brains and keyboards over details that, in the long run, aren’t that important. Prioritize tasks to decide how much time to allocate to each one, and give the most time to the most important.
2. The slow burn
We are constantly racing to meet deadlines, and Parkinson’s Law capitalizes on that. This law states that a task will swell in perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. Don’t take this to the extreme and leave giant projects to the last minute. Instead, find the golden mean where there is enough time to produce a quality product, but not so much time that it gets “put on the backburner”.
3. Prevent confusion
Confusion is a waste of time. Confusion occurs when people are unclear about their roles or tasks. This is why communication is so vital: it ensures that everyone has clear goals. Confusion also arises from panic: incidents and crises of all degrees tend to send people into a panic. Speak in terms of solutions, instead of wallowing on how bad the problem is. And often, the solution is far simpler—and quicker— than the problem seems.
4. Manage the social media monster
Social media, for all its wonders, is a frequent time waster. And it’s not just Facebook either: email alone is responsible for at least 2 hours of an employee’s day, and that’s only at work. Allocate no more than an hour at the beginning and end of each day to social media. Nothing is so important that it can’t wait.
5. Find your “zone time”
Productivity comes in bursts. Everyone has their own “zone time”, a chunk of a few hours where they are on fire, blazing through their to-do list. For some people it’s in the morning, for others it’s mid-afternoon. Find your own zone time and capitalize on it.
6. Prioritize your creativity
It doesn’t matter what you do, you are creative in your own way; you just need to find the right output. It was a simple equation I read (among other things) that totally changed my outlook on creativity: how much time do you spend consuming things other people have made, versus making your own? Consuming is necessary for creating–I’ve heard the phrase “if you want to write you have to read” many, many times–but consuming should not overshadow creating.
7. Take a break
This may seem antithetical, but taking a break is key to being productive. Occasional breaks are good for recharging the brain’s battery. The important part is discipline: ensure that your break does not go over the time you’ve allocated for it. This way you’ll mentally prepare yourself for going back into the fray.
Time is not flexible; it cannot change. However, by learning to manage time we can become more productive. It takes practice, but once you grasp it you’ll realize you have all the time in the world.