In a world full of distractions, time management is becoming a superpower.
By taking control of your time, you can make the most of each day and focus on what really matters.
The best part? Much like riding a bike, time management is a learnable and difficult-to-forget skill.
In this guide, we'll provide a step-by-step blueprint to optimise your time and make the most of each day.
In this article, we will cover ✍️
- How to plan your day and week
- Get motivated to implement your plans
- Five time management hacks to stay focused
- The best time management software
- How and when to take breaks to stay productive
How to plan your day to improve productivity
As Michael Altshuler puts it:
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot”
For many, planning can be an overwhelming task.
But having a plan is the key to good time management.
The first thing to remember is that planning your day shouldn't take long.
The key is to make it as easy, quick and as accessible as possible.
So limit your planning sessions to 15 minutes each morning.
In that time, identify three things that will make your day productive when completed.
Remember to leave a buffer for unexpected tasks.
Pro tip 💡: Keep in mind that plans aren’t meant to be perfect.
Instead, think of your daily plan as a compass guiding you in the right direction.
Even if you end up a few degrees off, you are still much closer to your target than you would have been otherwise.
The smart way to plan your week
Set aside 30 minutes each week to reflect on the past and plan the following week.
Friday afternoons, Sunday evenings or Monday mornings work best.
Reflect on the past week and review your goals.
Identify what worked well and consider what should be changed next week.
Pro tip 💡: Identify your three most valuable tasks for the week ahead.
These are the tasks that will make an impact and will move you forward.
Commit to three things and get them done each week.
Get motivated to implement your plans
The real challenge of managing your time is getting started.
Motivation often only materialises after you gain some momentum.
A bit of a chicken and egg situation.
If you lack the motivation to start, try these three simple techniques.
1. One Thing a Day
When planning, set a goal to complete one thing each day.
This can be anything from unloading the dishwasher to writing a blog post.
Pro tip 💡: pick a task that will make your day productive and worthwhile.
At the same time, make sure you set a realistic goal that you can complete early in the day.
This sense of accomplishment will move you forward and will keep you going.
“A body in motion will stay in motion” as Sir Isaac Newton once said.
2. Eat the Frog
A similar approach is to try and "eat the frog" every morning.
In other words, tackle the hardest task on your to-do list first thing in the morning.
Completing the most challenging task first creates a sense of accomplishment.
Instead of constantly thinking about "the Frog", you free up mental space and time for other tasks.
3. Use the 2 minute rule
The 2 minute rule is a simple yet powerful time management technique.
The idea is that if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, you should do it right away.
This approach is highly effective in overcoming procrastination as it creates a bias for action and sparks momentum.
It builds a sense of accomplishment that can boost motivation and spill over to larger activities.
It also helps us free up space and reduce mental clutter.
Unfinished tasks tend to occupy our minds, creating stress and overwhelm.
By keeping small tasks from accumulating, we can focus on what matters most.
How to start?
Incorporating the 2 minute rule into your daily life is a breeze.
Keep a running list of small tasks that take less than two minutes to complete.
This includes responding to emails, making phone calls, decluttering or washing the dishes.
Use a physical or digital list to keep track of these tasks to remind yourself what can be done right away.
You can update the list as often as you like.
You can apply the 2 minute rule for larger projects by breaking them down into smaller, manageable pieces.
Five time management hacks to stay focused
Now that you have gained some momentum and motivation, you might want to start working on the task at hand.
If only you could concentrate for long enough to actually get it done!
In a world full of distractions, maintaining focus is becoming a superpower.
Here are five valuable techniques to help you stay focused and on task.
1. Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro method breaks your work into 25-minute intervals with 5-minute breaks.
Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on your task until the timer goes off.
Then, take a 5-minute break before starting another 25-minute interval.
The Pomodoro technique works well as it breaks down tasks into manageable chunks.
And the small breaks help us recharge and stay focused for longer.
Timeboxing involves setting aside specific time slots for each task.
For example, set 90 minutes to work on writing a blog post and then focus on that task for the entire 90 minutes.
The timeboxing technique works like magic creating a sense of urgency that fuels motivation and efficiency.
It helps you prioritise the essential aspects of the task at hand.
And it eliminates work spillage by setting a time-bound framework.
Timeboxing also helps you avoid overwhelm by breaking down larger tasks into smaller, manageable bits.
3. Website Blockers
We all know how addictive and distracting social media is.
Those pesky notifications and constant temptations to check for replies or likes can derail your focus.
Enter website blockers. These handy browser extensions or apps prevent access to distracting websites and apps.
Install one on your computer or phone to safeguard your productivity.
Embrace the power of single-tasking.
Despite popular belief, multitasking is a myth.
Research shows that only 2.5% of us can multitask effectively.
On average, it takes about 23 minutes to regain focus after a distraction.
And we lose a whooping 40% productivity by multitasking.
We hop from task to task only to feel burned out, distracted and unproductive.
Committing to one task at a time is the key to staying focused.
5. Online Coworking & ADHD Body Doubling Online
Virtual coworking - a simple idea backed by solid neuroscience research, can make you the most productive version of yourself.
You join a group video call, share your gals and work in silence with ambient and focus music in the background.
At the end of the session, members share their progress to stay accountable.
It's particularly suitable for adults with ADHD, as it is a form of ADHD body doubling online.
It' like having an ADHD accountability buddy - adding intentionality and some light social interaction to your workflow.
But what else can you do to improve time management and productivity?
Here are some suggestions.
Best time management software
The digital world offers countless tools for managing time.
To cut through the noise and make your life easier, here's a rundown of the essentials.
Sounds obvious, we know.
But you’ll be surprised how many people don’t use a calendar.
They think they’ll remember every appointment, but that only creates confusion and chaos.
Remember that your brain is made for creativity, not for memorising dates.
So allow it to do what it does best and put all dates and events in your calendar.
Google Calendar, Outlook and iCal are the incumbents in the calendar app world.
They both easily integrate with your to-do list.
Time tracking software
Time tracking software helps measure how much time is spent on certain tasks, apps, websites or activities.
It can be a useful tool for identifying time wasters and can help you stay organised and focused.
To make the most of a time tracker, it's important to set goals for how much time you want to spend on certain tasks.
We are big fans of a simple to-do list on paper.
That being said, today's digital task planners have many advantages.
They can be accessed from anywhere and synced across devices, allowing for easy updating and tracking.
To make the most of a digital task planner, it's important to prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance.
Many digital task planners allow for the creation of categories or tags, which can help group tasks together based on similar themes or projects.
This can help break down larger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.
And if you would like more ideas, check out our blog post on productivity tools for freelancers.
How and when to take breaks to stay productive
Taking breaks is crucial for improving your productivity and focus.
Lack of rest will lead to burnout and a big dip in efficiency over time.
Take breaks daily and when you feel your energy levels start to dip.
Pro tip 💡: go for a walk when feeling stuck.
You will find it much easier to solve a difficult issue once you come back refreshed and energised.
And if you feel guilty for relaxing, you can reframe breaks as recharging sessions.
Watching mindless television or scrolling through social media doesn't count.
Activities that truly recharge us include exercise, meditation, or quality time with loved ones.
Even a quick 15-minute walk in the local park can be all that you need to boost your energy and mood.
Effective time management is critical to making the most of each day.
Try the time management techniques in this article and see what works best for you.
With some practice, persistence, and a bit of experimentation, you can become the master of your own time.
Keep in mind that if you have ADHD and live in the UK, you might be able to take advantage of the government's Access to Work ADHD grant to cover the costs of some of these products.