Did you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? I think we all feel that way at times. Despite having the same number of hours in their day as everyone else – some people just seem to consistently get so much stuff done. I’m not talking about those who only get by on 4 hours sleep at night – I’m talking about people who get 8 hours of sleep each night, spend time with family and friends, and yet still get an amazing amount of stuff accomplished each day. Let’s take a look at 3 ninja time management tricks that the super productive use to squeeze more accomplishment out of each day.
Tracking your own time periodically is one of the most high leverage activities that you can engage in because it allows you to see exactly where your time is going. Until you’ve kept a time log for yourself, you can’t possibly understand just how empowering and transformative it is to keep one on occasion. Just to be clear – I’m not a fan of keeping a regular time log (unless the nature of your job requires it). However, keeping one on an occasional basis will yield huge results and breakthroughs.
I started doing this years ago and it has enabled me to get a lot more done. I’ve experimented with several different methods for tracking my time and here’s what I’ve come up with that really works great for me. I track my time in an Excel spreadsheet every day for a two week stretch of time. Two weeks is a great amount of time – long enough to get a real feel for how your time is utilized on a regular basis – and short enough for the activity to not be too much hassle added to an already full schedule. For me, I track Date, Activity, Activity Category, Start Time, Stop Time, and Total Time. At the end of the two weeks, I’ll review my time log and have Excel total up the time spent per category. It then becomes super easy to see not only how much time you’re devoting to different categories, but how your day is allocated by percentage of time spent.
If you compare your time spent with your priorities, the picture that often emerges is that in order to increase the time you’re spending on your top priorities, you’ve got to cut back somewhere else. When I’m looking back over the summary of my time log, it’s easy to see what activities I need to delegate, outsource or find some other way of cutting back on.
After I’m finished with my time log, I’ll set goals for how I want to allocate my time. Then the next time I keep a time log – perhaps a year later – I’ll compare my new time log summary with my previous time log summary to measure progress toward those goals. If you have staff – having them keep a time log can be educational for both you and them and enable them to be much more effective in how they are spending their time. Doing something like this even once a year can provide you with huge breakthroughs.
Time Block Management
Managing my day as a series of time blocks is the most recent ninja trick I’ve picked up for increasing productivity. It is something that I’ve observed that lots of super achievers use to schedule their day and after implementing this for the last couple of months, I can see why.
I will block out my time on my calendar and then set the alarm on my iPhone to go off at the end of the time block. There is something about working under a pressing deadline of the impending alarm that allows me to get more done.
The drawback to time block management is that you have to stop a task before it is complete in order to move on to the next thing at the appointed time. I hate pulling away from something before I am ready, just because it is time to move on – this is what kept me from implementing this sooner. The big benefit is that over the course of a few weeks – you’re able to make significant progress in a lot more things because your time has been allocated in blocks and you are much more likely to allocate your time blocks according to your priorities.
When you keep your top priorities in front of you – so that you are constantly reminded of them, you will naturally tend to devote more time to accomplishing them. I started keeping my quarterly goals on my desk so that I can see them constantly. I’ve also taken a photo of them and loaded them as the background picture on my iPhone so that anytime I pick up my phone to use it – I’m reminded of the things that I really wanted to accomplish in this quarter.
It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day routine and lose sight of our big goals and objectives. That being the case – it becomes critical to have systems in place to keep us on target. For me, keeping my quarterly goals in front of me as a constant reminder is a big part of that system. It helps me to consider my priorities when I am blocking out my day.
Getting Stuff Done
At the end of the day, what really matters is that the most important stuff is what got accomplished. These are three ninja time management tricks that I’ve picked up and that have really made a difference for me. I’m always interested in picking up new tricks for getting more stuff done, so I’d love to hear your favorite time management or productivity hack.