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Learn to Manage Time or It Will Manage You
Posted on August 19th 2014
I can be extremely unfocused at times, and this causes me to not always accomplish all that I set out to do each day. I can be undisciplined and have many bad habits including checking my phone for new messages, checking my website analytics, logging into my email to clean up my inbox, and time wasted on different social networks.
If this sounds familiar to you and if you’re anything like me, at the end of the work day, you often sit back and wonder what happened to all that time you had this morning and why the great plans you had never got finished.
The thing is I haven’t always been this way and I used to pride myself on my organization skills and ability to stay focused. I’m not sure what happened but it’s been a downhill slide into disorganization hell.
Distractions are everywhere and we now have an infinite amount of ways to avoid doing our work.
Are YouTube and Facebook fun? Hell yeah, they can be. Who doesn’t like watching cat videos, epic rap battles and finding out what your friends are up to this weekend? Is any of it conducive to growing my business, my brand or my community? Definitely not. This is a problem for me because at times I can be the king of distractions.
My daily routine could be described as a jumbled mess and my list of what I want to accomplish today and what I got done often don’t match.
This was not working for me and I knew I had to change something or else risk burning out from playing the never ending game of catch-up or worse not being able to provide for my family.
Inspired and influenced by Chris Brogan’s new book, The Freaks Shall Inherit The Earth, and in it, his description of systems, schedules, to-do lists and finding discipline, I vowed to make positive changes.
This book has led me on a journey to discover how I can be more effective with my time management, get more done in less time and still provide value and help to those in my community.
I have tried different methods such as to-do lists and Getting Things Done but nothing ever stuck and honestly I was tired of trying.
Knowing I needed to make some changes to how I worked, I went searching, and what ended up working for me was the Pomodoro method of time management.
The simplicity of the system is also its greatest strength and this is how it works:
- Establish a list of objectives you wish to complete today
- Choose an objective and decide how long it will take you to complete
- Divide this time into 25 minute segments (if your objective will take you 50 minutes, that’s 2 Pomodoros)
- Start your timer (I use Clockwork Tomato on Android; several are free online, or a kitchen timer will work just fine)
- Work for 25 minutes of pure focused time (no phone, no social media, no distractions)
- At the end of 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, then repeat
- You do this a total of 3 additional times, but your 4th break will be a longer 15-minute recharging break
This is the method I have been using to help me get more done each day and it truly is amazing what a system like this can do to transform your work habits.
It works so great for me because it removes the distractions that were getting in the way of my work and I also know that I am rewarded with a break, which motivates me to get even more done before the break happens. The beauty of this system is how flexible it is. If you are working really hard and need to go over the 25 minutes do so, then take a break. If you underestimate how long a task will take to complete just keep going through each Pomodoro until you finish that task.
The Pomodoro method is not the only time management system available and it may not be the best system for you. What I have found is that there is no one fit method that can help everyone out and it’s a combination of tools, discipline and systems that help you achieve what you are after.
In addition to the Pomodoro method I have begun using tools such as:
I have been using Evernote more and more in order to keep track of ideas and as a memory dump location that allows me to drop ideas and then get back to what I am working on.
- Week Plan
I just found this site/tool after reading a recent 12most article and I have to say I’m impressed and am looking at how I can use and integrate it into my workflow. This is an online weekly planner that helps you see and then schedule your most important work first. I’m new to the tool but see it as being something that I can definitely use.
Again mentioned within the 12most article but a tool I’ve been using for a while is StayFocused. This is a Chrome extension that allows you to configure and block or allow websites for a time period in order to help you focus on your work instead of distractions. If you are short on discipline like I often find myself this is a great way to remove the distraction, stay focused and get back to work.
I’ve talked about CoSchedule extensively and that is because it is a fantastic tool that I use to help me stay organized with my blogging and as a way to schedule my social shares. It saves me time and keeps me organized.
Why does any of this matter? Because I believe (and have learned from Chris’s writings) that having a system in place to support your work habits is important. It doesn’t matter which system you use. All that matters is that it works for you and how you work.
For some the Getting Things Done system is how they bring order to the day, others use a to-do list and for others it’s a mixture of different systems.
The important thing to remember is that once you find a system that works for you, stick to it. I learned this the hard way as several times I have left behind my system only to have the chaos and disorder return to my routine, leaving me at the end of the day feeling as if I had worked backwards.
If you establish a routine and a system that works for you it’s amazing what you can accomplish each day.
Find a system that works for you and stick to it because if you don’t learn to control time it will quickly begin to control you.
Over To You
What is your time management technique?