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Creatives have a lot of strengths, however, time management is not often at the top of the list. The challenge is that the kind of work that we do demands that we are smart with our time. After all, it’s our most finite resource.
There’s a way to get a lot done without working 20-hour days. I’m a huge proponent for working smarter, not harder. Water boils at 212 degrees. There’s no reason to heat it to 213 degrees if the goal is to boil it. Hotter water doesn’t make it “more boiled.” That “minimum effective dose” (coined term by the illustrious Tim Ferriss) is the heartbeat of productivity.
Effective time management is important to make sure you are doing the things that are necessary each day, without losing all of your time. So if you want ten+ hours back in your week, here are five strategies to implement today.
1. Time Activate Your Day
Time activation means that you’re accounting for every bit of time that you have and that you’re allotting that time to the things in your life that matter. Begin by getting clear on your values and then determine how you will spend your time. This is something that I learned years ago when I studied time management at a Stephen Covey seminar. With everything that is pulling at your attention, categorize it. Determine what is urgent, what is important, what is not urgent and what is not important. Prioritize the important and the urgent by giving them specific time slots in your schedule.
2. Two minutes or less rule
If something comes up that you can accomplish in two minutes or less, do it right then. Don’t add it to a to do list, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Just go ahead and knock it out.
3. Three week calendar view
Keep a bird’s eye view three-week calendar accessible and a seven-day detailed calendar accessible on your computer. This shows you what’s coming down the pike so you’re not surprised by any deadlines in a week or two while simultaneously showing you how you’re going to execute your work over the next week. I’ve found this to be the most productive calendar views for me. If you use a Gmail calendar you can change it to a 3-week view by going to settings>custom view> select 3 weeks.
4. Pomodoro Technique
This is a great strategy to get work done especially when you’re feeling unfocused or unmotivated. Work in 25 minute increments with a five minute break in between. Use a physical timer, stopwatch or even the digital version on your smartphone or computer. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work. Don’t check email. Don’t answer a text. Just work for 25 minutes. Then take a five-minute break. Check all the things. Stand up and stretch. Have a mini dance party. Do whatever you want for five minutes. Then get back to it. Repeat. I use this technique to make myself focus when it is near impossible. This helps me pump out work for at least 25 minutes. Because I know there is a break in sight, I can focus and be productive.
5. Three-item to do list
Plot out three or less important tasks to get done tomorrow at the end of the day. Keep this list ambitious but practical. This gives you a game plan at the start of each day. You know what is highest priority. And these items are plausible to execute and complete in a day.
Productivity and time maximization really come down to one thing: intention.
Intentionally plan your day. Intentionally don’t spend more time on a project than is necessary. Intentionally put your phone in the other room so you’re not distracted by social media. Intentionally get rest, exercise and take care of your mental, physical and spiritual health. With clear priorities and an arsenal of time management strategies in your possession, you will find that you can achieve more in less time.
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