Do you want to know one thing that all humans have in common regardless of circumstance? We all get the same amount of time in a day. Despite this universal truth, the amount each of us gets out of those 24 hours differs greatly. There are those who are supremely productive and seem to be able to get an immense amount done without even seeming that busy. Then there are also those who never seem to have enough time to get through even the most basic of tasks. The ability to use your time productively and efficiently is key to achieving your goals.

Do you have a to-do list?

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do? Have you missed deadlines or forgotten something important? These are usually the result of not keeping a “to-do list”. A to-do list is absolutely non-negotiable if you want to manage your time effectively. By keeping such a list, you make sure that your tasks are written down all in one place, so you don’t forget anything important. To-Do Lists are essential if you’re going to keep on top of your workload.

Are you busy or productive?

One of the key criteria for effective time management is to focus on activities that deliver the most impactful outcomes. It is a simple fact of life that there are simple not enough hours in the day to do all that we would want to do. Therefore, it is imperative to be able to focus on the activities that reap the biggest benefit to our overall goals. Research shows that we only have a certain number of hours each day where we are truly productive. After that any extra hours worked contribute very little in terms of productivity. This is why leaders such as Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg decided to wear the same outfit every day. They did not want to waste time on things that did not matter so they literally filled their wardrobe with the same outfit, so they do not have to waste time deciding what to wear. Likewise, Jeff Bezos considers his main objective of the day to make 3 key decisions, that’s it. Because if he gets 3 key decisions right, it significantly outperforms anything else he needs to do that day. So, your starting point for time management has to be a simple question when you look at your to do list. Is the activity a productive use of your time or is it time consuming?

Is the activity Urgent or Important?

In addition to making sure the things you are focusing on are productive, you also need to make sure that you prioritise appropriately. For example, something may be productive, but not urgent. It could be urgent, but not important. It could be important but not urgent and so on and so forth. Understanding the difference between each of this is key to really maximising your time. For example, getting a call from a client is an urgent activity. It is urgent, because they are calling and therefore you have a short window to answer the call before they hang up. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the call is important. They could be calling to thank you for a gift you sent. That can wait if there is something else more important to be doing. Likewise, you might need to send an invoice to a client to ensure you get paid. This is important, but unlikely to be urgent, because whether you send that at 9am or 3pm, you are still going to be paid. On the other hand, having to prepare a presentation to win a huge new account tomorrow is both urgent and important.

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