Here’s a secret to achieving higher productivity
By SHEERA HUSSIN
We have all sighed in anguish and shook our heads when we check our to-do-list and concede with the never-ending tasks that we have to complete. In fact, most of us probably check the list at the start of the day and try to prioritise the ones that need the most attention.
But how do we actually determine which to begin with and when to do them? When we have actually organised the items into our calendars, are we absolutely sure that we have prioritised them right? If so, how much time do we actually need to allocate for each assignment since they are all equally urgent and important?
Let’s get something straight. Time is the most valuable asset everyone owns. How you utilise it has a resonant effect on your achievements, how others perceive you, and how you relish in your personal fulfilment.
One of my favourite maxims by entrepreneurs around the world is “everyone has the same 24 hours a day.” Take a moment to let this truth sink in and reconsider your time management measures!
Think about how many times you check your Facebook notifications when you are doing your work, how many times you are distracted by WhatsApp group messages and how much time you spend chatting idly with your colleagues.
Now, time management does not mean occupying your days so much so that you do not allow a minute to go to waste. On the contrary, the idea behind time management is that it gives you ample time to cherish meaningful moments that you seem to surpass in the name of chasing deadlines and career progression.
So fret not, your to-do-list can be completed in due course, as long as you approach it differently this time.
In whatever you set out to do, some principles can be followed when setting your personal, short-term or lifelong goals.
The first principle is to dream big as it equips you with the gritty perseverance to overcome any hindrances you may face along your journey.
Next, rewrite your goals every day and look out for opportunities that can help you build your way up to achieving them as well as be reminded of the importance of walking the talk.
Finally, keep your goals in balance and ensure that they cover your career aspiration, professional growth and personal spheres such as family and health.
Once you have set your goals and determined the measurements for each of them, you will be more ready to step out in faith and do something daily. Steadily and surely, you will be able to manage your time better by focusing on behaviours that are responsible for achieving your target.
Now that you have set your goals, you need to understand how to prioritise them to get the results that you desire.
In Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he argues about the urgency and importance of an activity, based on his Time Management Matrix. The matrix is divided into four quadrants of activities that are:
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Not important nor urgent
Urgent activities are usually visible issues that require us to take action as soon as possible. These are activities that others will push us to deal with. Important activities, on the other hand, have to do with results. They contribute to our high priority goals, our mission and values.
A common mistake that people usually make is spending most of their time on matters in quadrant one, which are urgent and important. Rather, we should increase our efficiency by focusing on tasks in quadrant two that are important but not urgent.
This is because spending too much time on the first quadrant will dominate your time schedule and would result in you spending 90% of your time only on those activities, thereby ignoring the ones in other quadrants altogether.
If you’re sceptical about how powerful one small hour can contribute when you save them for other chores, let’s do the math to prove just how big it actually is.
One hour a day, seven days a week is seven hours a week. That translates to 28 hours every month. Now imagine if you have more than one hour a day that you do not waste. You will then have so much time in a month you can employ in doing things devoted to your dreams.
To make this easier for you, try applying the 80–20 rule by Richard Koch, whereby 20% of our efforts can result in 80% of value. Identify the 20% of your time and actions that can give you 80% impact in what you do. Subsequently, try to reduce or even eliminate the low-value activities to allow more important work during prime time.
Dealing with time masters
One important part of self-discipline when it comes to time management is to stop spending time on activities that are truly a waste of your time. Against all odds, the things you find overwhelming on your to-do-list can be crossed out by the end of the day.
For instance, try to avoid socialising too much on your phone while you are at work. Put those group messages to mute, browse your followers’ photos on Instagram during lunch time and reply your Facebook comments after you head back home. Furthermore, keep your meetings at work short and straightforward, break your procrastinating patterns and avoid water cooler chats already!
Simple enough, isn’t it?
Training ourselves to be aware of how much our goals are rewarding is actually very powerful in changing our behaviours. Because, often in that split second when we decide to check our Facebook page or delay an assignment, we will be reminded of the extra time we can enjoy instead of rushing to chase deadlines across a million hurdles.
Delegate, defer, downsize, outsource or eliminate your tasks for real productivity. Most people learn time management the hard way and wish they’d known better.