Effective time management essential to success. Everyone has great ideas and high aspirations–but only the people who have excellent time management methods and tools truly prosper.
If you are not using a time management method or tool, you’re giving up a lot of productivity. Which means you’re not achieving your full potential.
These principles range in complexity from simple to complex systems. but each one can help you keep control of your time and productivity. On the plus side is – they’re the methods are all free!
The 1-3-5 Rule
This simple example of a time management method encourages you to tackle one big task, three medium-sized tasks, and five small tasks each day.
Tool: 1-3-5 List
52 / 17
A strange, yet effective, time management technique. This is where you need to be 100% dedicated to working for 52 minutes and then rest for 17 minutes. Then repeat.
7 Minute Life
A time management tool that uses 1% of your day for planning. Where you spend 7 minutes in the morning planning your day and then review in the evening and planning for tomorrow in 7 minutes.
Tools: 7 Minute Life Daily Planner and 7 Minute Life Planner App
- Adopt the rule of threes. Choose three things to accomplish a day, for the week, month, and the year.
- Turn outcomes into stories. For example, “call customer” becomes “win raving fan.”
- To choose outcomes, ask these questions:
- What do I want to accomplish?
- What must be done?
- What value am I delivering?
- How am I improving myself?
- On Friday, identify three things that are going well and what you’d like to improve.
- Set boundaries. Where do you need to spend your time? Where should your focus be? This is a map of what’s important in your life. Topics may be things like family, work, and hobbies.
Tools: Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life Book and Bootcamps has two self-paced courses.
This time management system focuses on tasks you wish to tackle first, as you’re more willing to work faster and with less procrastination on tasks you enjoy. Once you become bored with the current task, move to another one that excites you. This process creates less stress, raises productivity, and forces you to focus on what’s important.
Bullet Journal (BuJo)
Is a daily note-taking system for staying organized and on task. The framework consists of modules for collecting and organizing specific kinds of entries.
- Number each page in a notebook.
- Add a topic on the top outer corner of the page. A topic is simply a short descriptive title.
- Add short, objective sentences as bullets under the title.
- Create tasks. Tasks are marked by a simple dot ( • ) and include any kind of actionable item—just put a dot next to the item. Mark tasks you’ve dealt with as follows:
- X = task complete
- > = task migrated
- < = task scheduled
- Create events. Events are date-related entries represented by an “O” Bullet.
- Create nates/ entries that you want to remember, but aren’t immediately or necessarily actionable, like facts or observations.
- Add signifiers. Signifiers are symbols that give your bullets additional context.
- Create modules. The four core modules are the Index, Future Log, Monthly Log, and Daily Log.
- Once you’ve hit your second month of journaling, take a glance at your previous entries. Look at any unresolved tasks and and assess whether the remaining open tasks are still relevant.
It’s a very popular way of organizing everything in your life.
Tools: Notebook/ pen and Bullet Journal Companion App
Dave Lee’s System
A time management system specifically for creatives.
It goes like this:
- Choose five important focus areas, one for each day of the week.
- Identify three desired outcomes for the week.
- Pick three desired outcomes for the day. All three should be related to your daily focus.
- Work in 25-minute focused sessions, and take breaks in between.
- Organize each daily focus as a separate project.
- Keep the minimum amount of information needed to stay focused. Don’t flood each project with tons of tasks and notes.
- Move information that isn’t immediately critical to storage.
- Prioritize your day on the focus area and the three desired outcomes. Toward the end of the day, work on other less crucial areas like email.
- Keep a clean work area.
Tools: Tomighty App
Don’t Break the Chain
An effective system for forming habits and pursuing goals. The process is to pick a goal, choose a day, and try not to go a day without touching that goal.
Tools: Wall calendar/ red marker, adapt Phone Calendar and Habit Calendar
Organize your tasks into 4 Quadrants: Do First, Schedule, Delegate, and Don’t Do. It’s an excellent system for prioritizing important and urgent tasks.
Fresh or Fried
When you wake up in the morning, your brain is fresh. As the day goes on and you use more and more mental energy, it gets fried.
With this time management technique, all you need to do is frontload your day with important, creative tasks, and leave the more mundane and less urgent ones for later. It’s a method of organizing your day around your mental energy.
Tools: Any to-do list app will do or even a notebook.
Getting Things Done (GTD)
This is David Allen’s famous and comprehensive time management method. Bring order to chaos. Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect and Engage.
A way of storing information quickly and efficiently to be used later. If you come across something interesting, you may not need it now, but you could in the future. So you store it in a well-organized system that allows you to reference it later.
It could be notes you take on a book, an email from someone you want to meet, or an article you want to read. With this method, you may find that you have 30% of your project already completed in the notes you already have. And that’s a huge amount of time saved.
Tools: Evernote App
A simple method that provides big results.
It goes like this:
- When your day is over, write the six most important to-do items down for the next day.
- Prioritize these items in terms of importance.
- When you start your day, start with the first item on the list and work down the list in order.
- If there are unfinished items when it’s time to go home for the day, move these to tomorrow’s list and again make sure there are six total items.
- Repeat this process each working day of the week.
Tools: Paper and pen
This system allows people to visualize the amount of work they have to do and the way to carry it out.
Create a Kanban board. Make at minimum three vertical columns: Backlog, Doing, and Done.
The Pomodoro Technique
It’s one of the simplest time management methods around.
This is where you focus on the tasks that need your immediate attention for short bursts of time, so you’ll learn to ignore interruptions and more accurately estimate time commitments. Then you can adjust your work process accordingly.
Time blocking is exactly like it sounds: you block out sections of your day so you can get a visual idea of your schedule. Seeing your whole day at a glance and blocking out short periods of time for distractions and things like email can help you really increase your productivity.
Tools: Any Phone Calendar
The premise is simple: keep track of what you do during your working hours. Having time tracking in place increases productivity, and reviewing logs regularly helps you see where you’re being the most productive.
Tools: Hubstaff App and Excel: more time-consuming method.
Zen to Done
An updated, holistic version of GTD that focuses on habits and routines.
Do you use any of these time management systems?
If Not. Try one, incorporate elements of a few, or build your own custom time management system using different key points.
You’ve got nothing to lose.
If you use more than one, which was your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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