5 Time Management Tips to Work Smarter, Not Harder
Have you ever asked yourself how you can get more done, not by working harder but actually by working smarter?
Over the past couple of years, I built many successful businesses, and I dedicate my skill to making the most out of my time as one of the most important factors in actually achieving this success in the first place.
Let’s take a look at 5 of my best Time Management tips that will definitely make you work smarter as well.
1: Plan in Advance with S.M.A.R.T.
Tip number one would be to make a plan of action for your day, week, or even month.
This helps you clarify what you need to do so you don’t have to keep looking at your to-do list repeatedly and get distracted by everything you still need to do.
Which, in return, gives you the time to focus on what you need to do right now.
One useful framework to make sure you’ll start working with a plan is called S.M.A.R.T.
In 1981, George T. Doran first coined this acronym.
It’s not only a great acronym because it says “SMART”; it actually beholds a framework in each letter to work with this framework.
Because the letter S stands for SPECIFIC, which means you should define a clear and specific goal to put on your planning in the first place.
The letter M stands for MEASURABLE, which means you should always track your progress, like, for example, the status of a task.
The A stands for ASSIGNABLE, which is actually an important one; decide if you’re the right person to do the job. If not, assign someone else, like someone from your team, or by hiring a freelancer, for example.
The key is to both look at time and fit. So, ask yourself with each task: do you have the time to do the job, and if so, are you the one who is best at doing the job in the first place?
Now, the R stands for REALISTIC.
Now that we’ve determined our task and decided who’s in charge think about how achievable it is within the given time frame.
Consider all the variables, such as time, budget, and available resources.
The last one, the letter T, stands for TIME, and in this last step of the framework, you’re going to assign a target date that is reasonable and attainable.
So, having a clear path of what you will be doing will free up the time to achieve it.
2: Design your day in a Calendar!
The next one is one of my favorites, so tip number 2 would be designing your complete day in your calendar.
This method comes from the fact that multitasking is bad for you, as one study from the University of California discovered that it could take up to 23 minutes to get your focus back on what you were doing after you were interrupted.
Imagine how much time you’d save if you never got distracted again simply because you only focus on one thing.
And that’s exactly what designing your day can do for you!
So, what you’ll do is you grab your calendar, I’m always using Google Calendar, and you literally start designing your day from the moment you wake up to the very last hour before going to sleep.
By designing every single minute and hour of your day, you immediately see the bigger picture of what you need to achieve today.
The key is to batch tasks of a similar kind in one block, like for example, “doing customer support” would be tasks like responding to emails, answering chat messages, and taking a look at our feature request boards to reply to customer feedback.
And don’t forget to plan your breaks as well, as you’re working exactly the way your calendar tells you.
I always like to add a 30-minute book-reading session, and in the morning and afternoon, I’ll take 30 minutes to walk outside just to have some off-screen time, which will improve my productivity after.
The nice thing about this framework is that you only have to think about one task at a time; thus, you’ll get less distracted.
3: Take Regular Breaks!
It sounds kinda controversial, but tip number 3 would be to take breaks regularly.
Don’t get me wrong, working hard is fine; I used to work 10 hours a day to get my software product off the ground, but over time I realized that working for hours and hours straight actually reduces my productivity.
And so, that’s when I decided to give myself a couple of well-deserved breaks during my day.
With these breaks, I’m actually improving my performance in between these breaks when I need to perform at my best.
Especially the off-screen time by walking outside is the one I enjoy the most.
Whenever I return to my computer, I feel refreshed and energized.
And believe me, by not taking breaks, you will get less effective in achieving your goals and tasks. Not to mention what the effects of sitting at your desk and looking at your screen will do for your long-term body and mental health.
It’s also one of the reasons I’m using a standing desk. I regularly switch from sitting to standing, which helps the blood circulate, and as another side effect, I discovered it makes me more creative as well since I’m changing position.
This turns out isn’t a bad thought at all, given that studies have shown that switching between positions will activate different parts of your brain rather than only using your problem-solving mode.
Besides going for a walk, there are a couple of proven methods to take breaks efficiently, such as taking a power nap of an hour in the afternoon or meditating before and during your work, or playing with pets, for example.
I like to either design these breaks in my calendar, as we’ve seen in the previous chapter of this video, but I also like to set my alarm clock, so I don’t forget about my highly valued breaks.
Now, if you’re feeling a bit confused about adding breaks to your day, here’s a simple shift in how you should treat them:
When you consider breaks as tasks, you won’t feel as useless as taking them. They’re just another task you must cross off your to-do list.
4: Eliminate Distractions!
Tip number 4 would be eliminating as many distractions as possible to maintain focus.
This means cleaning and tidying your desk by removing paperwork and unnecessary distractions that would otherwise get your attention when you simply look away from your screen for just a second.
By decluttering your workspace, you clear not only your desk but also your mind, which in return helps you focus on your tasks.
Now, if you’re the kind of person that has a desk full of stuff, one rule of thumb is to pick up each item and decide to either put it away in a closet, give it away to someone else who can use it, or, simply throw it away.
Besides clearing your physical workspace, the same goes for your digital workspaces, such as your phone and computer.
Turn off all notifications, so you won’t get distracted by unnecessary Slack messages or Emails, and make sure your desktop, just like your physical desk, is clutter-free.
Now, if you’re the kind of person that has files stored all over the place, the simplest way to get it clutter-free right away is to grab all files and store them in one single folder.
The goal is not to get distracted for now so you can focus on what you need to do.
Another great tip is to use focus music which gets you into the zone and will help you get less distracted.
Personally, I really enjoy using Endel; feel free to try it out for free for one month.
5: Do or do Not!
The last tip would be using the 4 D’s of Time Management, which comes from the book “The Power of Focus.”
The 4D’s stand for Do, Defer, Delegate, or Delete.
And this framework is specifically designed for you to prioritize your tasks, which is one of the most important things when working on accomplishing your goals.
The way this method works is to assign one of the D’s to your tasks on your to-do list.
So if you assign “DO” to a task, it means you have to do it right away.
When you decide to assign the “Defer,” you can leave it as it is for now, as it’s probably something that isn’t important, and you can schedule it for another day.
The third D, “Delegate,” means assigning someone else to this task.
And the last one, “Delete,” means you won’t do this task at all.
Using this framework gives you a clear understanding of your prioritization and what to focus on next.
So, by using any of these methods, you will use your time efficiently and increase productivity.
As the Roman Philosopher, Seneca, said, “It’s not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it.”
Or, as I always like to say:
Simply work smarter, and you will get things done! ;)
Bonus tip: Pomodoro Technique!
There’s actually one technique called the Pomodoro Technique that I’ve been using for the last couple of years, for which I’ve created a full video on my channel:
Stay productive! ✌️