The 4 Best Productivity Tips We Learned From Top Leaders

The 4 Best Productivity Tips We Learned From Top Leaders

At Hive, we’ve got a series called “7 Hours With” where we talk to leaders in their field about their roles, work style, and their best project management and productivity tips. Since Hive is all about productivity and managing projects, having these insights is valuable in helping us improve our product and expand our reach.

As a culmination of our first nine interviews, we’ve gathered a ton of tips talking to people who work at places like LinkedIn, Fabletics, and Harry’s—here’s a breakdown of the top four productivity and project management hacks we learned throughout our interviews.

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Productivity Tip #1: Take Time Off When You Need It

Juliana Jaoudi, LinkedIn’s senior director of marketing solutions, had great perspective on work-life balance. One of our favorite quotes from her was “It’s actually not really work-life balance, it’s just work and life.” This may seem obvious, but many people operate inside of a strict 9-5, no-exceptions timeline.

“I like to leave my brain open to have excellent ideas outside of working hours. If you love what you’re doing, you’re able to live in this fluid space where it’s OK if there’s something that filters in on a weekend, or at night. And it works the other way too — maybe on a Wednesday afternoon you just have to turn work off because you need self care. That’s OK too.”

That type of schedule and flexible work environment allows people to really dig into work and maintain high levels of productivity when they need to, and remember that turning off the laptop is OK.

Productivity Tip #2: Time Block

PureWow’s Rachel Bowie is a huge fan of time blocking (a time management technique) for personal and professional to-dos. She finds that blocking off her calendar into these small chunks really helps keep her accountable and productive throughout the day—especially since she’s got an adorable two year old at home!

“I’m a huge fan of time blocking when it comes to items on my to-do list. I actually keep a running Google doc of everything I want to get done in a day that I update every night before bed. I break each day out in sections: “before work,” “work,” and “after work,” then I categorize within those areas by separating to-do’s that take a ton of time and those that I can do quickly. I occasionally keep paper lists, too—and jot down to-do’s in various notebooks and on post-it’s throughout the day—but the Google doc is the place I funnel everything into since it’s so easy to update in real time (my day pivots a lot).”

We also spoke to the CEO and founder of FireHydrant, Robert Ross, who employs the Pomodoro technique of time tracking to his more technical work:

“This technique is basically working in 25 minute increments followed by 5 minute breaks. After 4 intervals I take a 15 minute break, and I work for two 25 minute sections with a 10 minute break every hour. Writing code is actually very mentally demanding, so you have to give your brain a bit of a break to keep it on track. You can’t run a car at full speed for an hour—you have to give it a break or you’re going to blow a fuse.”

Productivity Tip #3: Schedule Monthly Off-Sites

Harry’s Sebastian Hayto gave us a few great productivity tips, including labeling all of his emails as they filter into his inbox. But our favorite was his focus on monthly off-sites for his team.

“I hold at least one half or full day offsite per month to brainstorm new business opportunities and generally have fun. I find that it really bolsters productivity. This frequency might seem excessive, but I’ve found that they not only lead to some of the best ideas, but are also great for team bonding—they seriously make a difference.”

It’s statistically proven that a bonded team have improved project management skills and overall productivity, so we thought this was a brilliant idea. Why not ingrain time for bonding into the people’s monthly schedule?

Productivity Tip #4: Eliminate Notifications

In a world of incessant messages, emails and other pesky interruptions, notifications can become a huge productivity killer. This includes everything from social media, which the average person spends 3.2 hours on per day, and random Slack notifications from your office Fantasy Football team.

When we talked to Katy Donahue, Head of Operations and Strategy at Fabletics, she explained how she helpful she’s found eliminating notifications:

“I’ve turned off all email notifications on my desktop and mobile—it started as an experiment and I kept with it when it seriously increased my productivity.”

And this same sentiment was echoed by FireHydrant’s Robert Ross, who also mentioned how important it was for him to turn off his notifications:

“On Mac, you can change your notification settings very granularly. In the world of Slack, every message is a distraction and can pull you out of flow. When you’re changing windows you can see the number of messages on Slack, and you’re drawn to the notifications missed. You almost get Slack FOMO. But you can actually turn off that notification bubble, so you’re none the wiser if there are messages in Slack that you haven’t seen yet. You have to very explicitly open Slack to see them. I’ve done that for email too. The reality is that people don’t need you to respond in 5 minutes.”

Plus, the statistics are there to back up this notification elimination—it turns out these distractions could actually cut productivity by 40%. Who wants that?

Do These Productivity Tips Work For You?

So, what do you think about the above strategies? Have you tried any out yourself? Let us know in the comments below, and feel free to recommend additional strategies that you think we should know test.

The Digital Project Manager is reader-supported. When you click through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Author:

The Digital Project Manager

Michaela Rollings

Michaela Rollings

Michaela is the Content Marketing Manager at Hive, an AI-based productivity platform, where she runs their blog, social media, email, and drives other marketing efforts.

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    Realtors: It’s 2020, Why Are You Still Working 70 Hours a Week?

    Realtors: It’s 2020, Why Are You Still Working 70 Hours a Week?

    Time management for Realtors: Best Strategies for 2018

    For New Yorkers, complaining seems almost like a full time job.

    When I worked as an agent in Manhattan though, the only people who complained about working “80 hour weeks” weren’t closing very many deals…

    There’s a simple reason why:

    The more stressed you are the harder it is to sell real estate. 😨

    Yes, really. You want to know what stresses most people out more than anything else? Working more than 40 hours per week.

    Even worse, studies have shown that working more than 40 hours a week makes you LESS productive.

    Thankfully, there’s a better way;

    How To Learn to Stop Worrying & Love the 40 Hour Work Week

    Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You have to work 70 hour weeks to get ahead right?

    Believe it or not, there is 150 years of productivity research behind the 40 hour workweek.

    More to the point, it wasn’t designed to help workers, but to boost productivity, and it applies to people working from home too.

    In fact, study after study has shown that productivity falls off dramatically after working more than 40 hours per week for a month.

    If you or a coworker needs a reminder to take a break, print out this graph from Daniel Cook and pin it to their monitor:

    Daniel Cook Graph -Time management for Realtors: Best Strategies for 2018

    Image via Lifehacker

    Long story short?

    You CAN work 60 hours a week, but after an initial boost, your productivity falls off a cliff.

    The takeaway here should be obvious…

    Okay, okay… I know what you’re thinking.

    “I have too much to do and not enough time to do it as it is… How can I get MORE done by working fewer hours?!” 😡

    Well, you’re going to have to embrace yet another cliche that turns out to be true:

    Work smarter not harder.

    Ready to give it a shot?

    Here are 7 ways to become a lean, mean, selling machine that still has time to take the dog to the park or spend a weekend in the mountains.

    1. Prioritize Your Daily Tasks With The Eisenhower Matrix

    Before you can start working smarter instead of harder, you’re going to have to sit down and figure out which tasks are absolute priorities, which are important but not THAT important, and which tasks are straight up time sucks.

    15 year real estate veteran and SEO specialist Joshua Jarvis uses what’s called the Eisenhower Matrix to help agents prioritize their tasks;

    Matrix-Time management for Realtors: Best Strategies for 2018

    Like most great ideas, using the Eisenhower matrix is actually pretty simple. Make a list of all the real estate tasks that you do on a daily basis, and put each one into one of four categories:

    1. Do first

    These should be your core tasks that directly earn you money like cold calling, door knocking, managing Facebook ads, and responding to new leads and current clients.

    As the category name suggests, you should do these tasks first. Joshua also suggests blocking out time in your day to get these tasks done. More on this later.

    2. Schedule

    Important, but not urgent, you should schedule tasks like researching a new CRM, networking with listing agents, optimizing your website, and segmenting your leads.

    3. Delegate

    Here’s where it might get a little tricky for some agents. Delegating tasks is great if you have the help available. If not, we have tips for finding great, affordable help in this article. Can you delegate social media? Hunting for email addresses? Screening cold leads?

    4. Don’t do

    These are the tasks that aren’t helping you at all. For most people, these will be social media related. For example, have you been spending an hour a day on Pinterest for six months with nothing to show for it? Probably time for a new strategy.

    Once you have your Eisenhower Matrix done, you’re probably going to be scratching your head.

    Is this really going to work?

    Is it really possible to become a top producer working… 40 hours per week?!

    Yes. Yes, and yes.

    Here’s some tips on how you can do it:

    2. Automate Outreach & Lead Nurturing With a Good CRM

    Want in on a secret to real estate success? Most agents at the top are kind of cheating…

    No, they’re (probably) not committing RESPA violations or hoarding pocket listings, but they’re using robots (!) to automate many of the tasks you might still be doing the old fashioned way.

    Their robotic secret weapon?

    A good CRM that helps you reach the right lead, with the right message, at the right time.

    Right now you might be squeaking by with Excel, but what’s going to happen when you have 5x as many leads to deal with?

    How are you going to remember all their birthdays, closing anniversaries, move dates, preferences, etc. etc?

    Chance are, you’re not.

    You’re going to just push ahead and let leads, deals, and most importantly potential future referrals just slip through the many cracks in your system.

    A great CRM can save you HOURS of work per day and help you nurture leads long enough to become clients and closed deals.

    Real Estate CRM

    Perfect for small teams and brokerages, Propertybase is a real estate CRM built on the rock solid industry standard Salesforce platform.

    It offers a ton of automation and customization options, and offers something that many real estate CRMs don’t: It integrates directly with your MLS.

    That means you save properties they liked, send out blasts with new listings, weekly updates and anything else you’d do within your CRM and regular old email.

    All in One IDX Websites/CRM Systems

    Good options here include Real Geeks, Boomtown, and Chime.

    The only downside here is that these systems can get pricey quick.

    For a good IDX website with a CRM you’re looking at around $150—$250 per month at a bare minimum. More sophisticated sites and CRMs can cost more than $1000 per month and up.

    3. Hire an Overseas Virtual Assistant

    This one will take care of the “delegate” section of the Eisenhower matrix.

    Since not every agent can swing a full time US based assistant, hiring from overseas is usually a great starting point.

    In fact, many large brokerages and other companies hire overseas virtual assistants for more mundane tasks like updating listings, social media, finding contact information, lead qualifying, appointment scheduling and more.

    Here at The Close, we’ve had great results hiring VA’s from the Philippines from onlinejobs.ph. Like India, remote workers in the Philippines speak great English, and many even have specific real estate experience.

    You can hire part time or full time workers, and can even browse workers profiles to find the perfect match for you budget and specific workflow.

    You can expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $10 per hour for a qualified and hard working virtual assistant in the Philippines

    4. Hire an ISA

    If one of your pain points is qualifying and nurturing cold leads, then you might want to think about hiring an ISA (Inbound Sales Associate).

    An ISA does many of the selling tasks that you might ordinarily do, but screens and qualifies you leads so that you only end up with the cream of the crop.

    Next, and ISA might set up a schedule to call and nurture those cold leads that you don’t have time for in order to keep you top of mind.

    While ISAs can be an amazing advantage to your team, keep in mind that in many states, they will need to be licensed.

    That means higher salaries, and more difficulty in hiring and retaining talent for new and newer agents.

    Instead of going through the process of hiring your own ISA and hoping you can afford them and have enough work to keep them busy, you might want to consider a service like Agentology.

    Agentology offers 24/7 lead qualification and support from their US based ISA team.

    Even better, they charge a pretty reasonable flat rate of $25 per month and $6 per lead. That means low lead volume = a lower monthly bill.

     

    5. Start or Join a Team

     

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned in almost a decade of working in real estate, it’s that no Realtor is an island.

    Or, to use an even cheesier cliche, it takes a village to sell lots of homes.

    Think about it. What top producing Realtor do you know that doesn’t have an assistant, an ISA, a closing coordinator, and a few junior agents?

    What mega top producing agent doesn’t have dozens of junior agents if not their own boutique brokerage?

    The answer of course, is almost none.

    There’s a very good reason for that. Teams allow team leaders to delegate.

    That means they can work on small parts of the business that they’re great at like pitching homeowners, or negotiating deals, while a whole crew of other people work on what their great at.

    If you want to get ahead in real estate, start a team.

    If you want to work in real estate but have tons of leads, lots of support, and a whole lot less chaos, join a team.

    Although the myth of the super hero solo agent may persist, they are rarer than unicorns in today’s tech driven market.

    6. Spend More on Lead Generation

    This one may seem a little counter intuitive, but if you internalize one more cliche (last one, I promise) then it will eventually click:

     

    It takes money to make money.

    In a a lot of ways, success in real estate isn’t a whole lot more complicated than that.

    The more you spend (smartly) on lead generation, the more leads you’ll get, and the more deals you’ll close.

    The more deals you close, the more referrals you’ll get.

    Rinse, repeat, and head straight to that vacation property in Malibu you’ve been daydreaming about.

    Of course this strategy will leave you with lots and lots of cold leads that fall through the cracks.

    Luckily, after you started getting more leads and closing more deals, you used some of the strategies outlined above to keep your workload out of the constant panic mode you’re in now.

    By the way, did you know that 70% of sellers only interviewed ONE agent before listing their house? That means if you want sellers (or good buyers for that matter) you want to get them as soon as they start their search.

    Since almost everyone starts their search in Zillow, Zillow Premier Agent is the perfect way to get great leads before they’re gone. Click below to see if Zillow Premier Agent is available in your zip code.

    Visit Zillow

    7. Use Time Strategically

    Another crucial step toward working fewer hours per week is to use your time more productively.

    In practice, this means you need to adopt two strategies that have been proven to increase productivity for most people; time blocking, and the Pomodoro Technique.

    Let’s start with time blocking.

    Time Blocking

    Time blocking is just what it sounds like. Instead of sitting at your desk and attacking a million little tasks at once, you block off large chunks of time and tackle one at a time.

    This guarantees you will be more focused, and therefore more productive.

    Let’s say you identified cold calling as one your important tasks to schedule.

    Instead of sprinkling calls throughout the day, mark off say, two hours every morning to set aside for just cold calling.

    Keep doing this until you have your entire week blocked out so you’re spending the most time focusing only on your most important tasks.

    Don’t Let Your Schedule Become a Tyrant

    The fastest way to throw your schedule out the window is to turn it into a tyrant and never, ever deviate from it.

    Stuff will happen. Your days and mood will change. Think of your schedule more of a strong suggestion rather than a command.

    Remember to Schedule Time for Relaxation

    Another way to ensure you abandon your new schedule is to overbook yourself with work.

    Instead, remember to schedule in time to grab a coffee, chat with coworkers about anything that’s NOT real estate, or just take a walk.

    The best way to work relaxation into your schedule is to use something called the Pomodoro Technique.

    The Pomodoro Technique

    Named for the tomato shaped timer the system’s inventor used, the Pomodoro Technique is a simple way to block your time to increase productivity.

    The idea is that your brain can only truly focus on one task without wandering for around an hour.

    That means getting up and taking a quick break every hour or so and then returning to your work will make you much more productive.

    Although the evidence for the productivity increases is anecdotal, a study of workers in 2014 found that the top ten percent of employees by productivity tended to take 17 minute breaks every 52 minutes.

    In order for it to work, you need to set a timer with a gentle alarm set to remind you to take a break.

    Believe it or not, this has actually been studied as well. A 1999 study at Cornell found that subjects who were given reminders to take breaks were 13% more accurate in their work than subjects who had no reminders.

    The Takeaway for Realtors

    Working a billion hours per week is not going to make you rich and famous. In fact, if you learn time management for Realtors, use time strategically, hire help, start a team, use a great CRM or up your ad spend, you will actually close more deals working fewer hours per week.

    Author:

    About Emile L’Eplattenier

    As Managing Editor for The Close, Emile is responsible for the editorial direction of the site’s real estate content as well as curating actionable insights from top producing agents and brokerages from across the country. A licensed New York City Real Estate Agent and veteran of the marketing department at Tishman Speyer, Emile has been involved in every aspect of residential real estate from branding new developments to pre-war rentals and resales. Emile also regularly provides market insights and commentary for publications like The New York Times, Realtor.com, Apartment Therapy, Fox News, Yahoo, and US News & World Report. When he’s not writing or editing, Emile enjoys collecting vintage furniture and playing his guitar.

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        Why some people find it so hard to manage their time when working from home – and what to do about it

        Why some people find it so hard to manage their time when working from home – and what to do about it

         
        A more productive moment. via shutterstock.com
        More people than ever now work from home for part or all of the week. Such flexibility can seem a good idea, but many people find it difficult to manage their time. Working from home in isolation can also prevent people from engaging in the daily interpersonal relationships that working life can offer – and which can help creativity and improve our mental wellbeing.

        Time is our most precious commodity and a currency to spend. As my own research on lateness has highlighted, time management involves managing complex relationships and conflicts within ourselves – as well as with others.

        In an ordinary workplace, we are helped in our time management by the fact that our access to many temptations is limited. We don’t have to constantly monitor ourselves as our colleagues or bosses are likely to be doing so. While we might bemoan our lack of choice about what we do and when – such as attending a two-hour meeting – we can also be relieved of the need to make choices about what to do next.

        Just one more biscuit and a glance at Facebook. via www.shutterstock.com

        But when working from home, temptations abound which can eat up our time. Food is in the fridge or can be bought in a quick trip to the shops. Excitement of all kinds can be easily accessed through social media, websites or games which will arouse, enrage, shock, entertain, amuse or enthral us. For some, the temptations to use their time “badly”, particularly online, can be very seductive. At any moment there is a delicate balance of power within: between our creative, constructive side and the side which seeks easier gratification and mindlessness.

        Real work is often scary, and the responsibility can frighten us. Difficult tasks remain vague if we don’t actually start them. Procrastination is not a good way to manage anxiety, but it is a very common option. Putting things off keeps the anxiety going of course, but also keeps the possibility alive that the task will get done well – at some point in the future.

        At work, the pressures of time management mostly come from other people. While we can resent the bossiness or oversight of others, we still get things done and being closely managed in this way can actually spur us to do so. At home, we are both the “boss” and the “worker”, so the conflict, now internal, can be much harder to manage.

        If we are lucky we have a kindly and parental internal voice, guiding us towards helpful choices while still allowing us time to have fun. However, many of us have a nagging internal voice, berating us for not doing things as we should, or ramping up our anxiety about our own abilities to complete the task at hand. For some people, the boss in their head can be far more critical and unfriendly than the one at their place of work. This is likely to lead them to employ destructive ways to evade or defend themselves: they are more likely to duck and dive and give in to temptation.

        No substitute for the real thing

        At work we engage with others in ways which are straightforwardly helpful – they are there to bounce ideas off when when we’re getting unduly caught up in a narrow way of thinking or to express appreciation of our work. But even when we are having conflicts or difficult relationships with others they may be helping us in another way. Not only can we define and refine our own ideas through these arguments, but if these conflicts don’t just happen inside our own heads, they trouble us less internally.

        We can do some of this virtually when working from home, but engaging with others by email, on messaging services or social media is very different from doing so in person. It is less likely that virtual interactions with our co-workers will give us that lively sense of interaction which truly makes these processes successful. Many people actually need the opportunity to come up against other people in person to feel successful in their working and creative lives and to enhance their emotional well-being – in ways beyond their need for friendship or to avoid loneliness.

        So if you find working from home challenging, don’t worry, many people do and it is not because you are in some way especially flawed. Take seriously the possibility that you need to recreate something more like a workplace in your own home by setting aside an area away from your relaxation space and setting yourself designated, but limited, working hours. Think about what you need to do to re-establish some of the other external constraints of work by involving others in your deadlines, arranging progress meetings and, most importantly, limiting your access to distractions by switching off internet access for periods during the day.

        Take seriously the need to have proper interpersonal relationships with colleagues as well as friends, other than online. We are not designed to manage our emotional lives in isolation and need others to relate with – in ways over and above those of friendship and intimacy.

        Author


        1. Senior Lecturer, Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex

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        Time Management: A Realistic Approach

        Time Management: A Realistic Approach

        Article Outline

        1. Introduction
        2. The Basics of Time Management
          1. Goals
          2. Organization
          3. Delegation
          4. Relaxation
          5. Ditch Guilt
        3. Summary
        4. References

        Realistic time management and organization plans can improve productivity and the quality of life. However, these skills can be difficult to develop and maintain. The key elements of time management are goals, organization, delegation, and relaxation. The author addresses each of these components and provides suggestions for successful time management.

        Long hours are not a substitute for efficiency. Tasks not worth doing at all are not worth doing well.

        —Alexander R. Margulis [1]

        Introduction

        We have all been there: busy with our jobs and taking care of our families, we have to-do lists a mile long. If we are lucky, when we stumble into bed at night, we might have crossed off a handful of tasks. We have trouble sleeping as we think about all of the things we failed to do. For some reason, in the middle of the night, the size of these tasks is exaggerated. When we get up the next day, we are sleep deprived and racked with guilt, ready to begin yet another day of being behind. This vicious cycle goes on day after day, month after month, year after year. In this age of 24/7 connectivity, if we take a “vacation,” we continue to do work, and if we don’t, we feel guilty. The fatigue, disorganization, and sense of loss of control usually leads to reduced productivity and quality of our efforts, both professional and personal. The stress and anxiety take up valuable time and energy. Anxiety eats brainpower. How do we break this cycle? Learning to manage our time, instead of allowing time to manage us, is the key.

        There are many time management and organization books and other resources. Unfortunately, many make the reader feel guilty, because it is difficult to complete all of the suggested tasks. Morgenstern [2] stressed that you must take small steps and do things that feel comfortable to you. If you feel guilty and try to adhere to someone else’s style, you are likely to become frustrated. If you find something that works for you, you will feel good about whatever you are able to accomplish and forge ahead. For example, most authors stress the need for filing. This is great if you 1) have a simple filing scheme and 2) have someone to do the filing for you. Otherwise, filing is a time-consuming task that is difficult to maintain over time. From Morgenstern, I learned that my method of “organized piles” is perfectly acceptable as long as I can find items easily. Instead of feeling like a filing failure, I feel successful in my maintenance of orderly heaps.

        The Basics of Time Management

        The key steps for successful time management are as follows: 1) set realistic goals, 2) get organized, 3) delegate, 4) relax and recharge, and 5) stop feeling guilty. There are two major time management stumbling blocks: procrastination and perfectionism. When we put off tasks (usually distasteful tasks), we often increase our anxiety level, further delaying our work on the task. If we insist on being perfect in every task, we minimize the chance that we will actually complete the task. In fact, perfect is the enemy of good. If 80% of the effort produces 95% of the product, does it really make sense to reach for that final 5%? Will anyone notice? Will it affect the outcome?

        Goals

        The development of goals is critical for personal success. Covey [3] described this as a process to “organize and execute around priorities.” Everyone has both immediate and long-term goals. In many cases, the very short-term goals or tasks supersede long-term goals to the point that individuals may never achieve their lifetime goals. To determine if you have fallen into this trap, write down your top 3 to 5 lifetime goals (Table 1). Next, list 10 things you plan to accomplish in the next week (your to-do list; Table 2). Compare these lists (Table 3): is there anything on your to-do list that relates to your lifetime goals? In the example here, many of the small tasks might ultimately lead to becoming the head of a radiology practice. However, this individual is unlikely to ever get an MBA, learn to play the saxophone, or get to Fiji. For many of us, the lack of correlation of the lists goes on for weeks, months, even years. It is important to work toward your lifetime goals in addition to accomplishing your immediate tasks. This means you must elevate your lifetime goals to higher priorities. Obviously, you cannot ignore many of your weekly activities, but if you don’t perceive that you are not working toward your lifetime goals, you will never accomplish them.

        Table 1 

        Lifetime goals

        1. Become the chair of my department or head of my radiology practice

        2. Get an MBA

        3. Shoot under 85 in golf

        4. Learn to play the saxophone

        5. Retire to Fiji at age 60

         

        Table 2 

        To do this week

        1. Abdominal reading room M, W, Th, F

        2. Department and hospital meetings on Tu

        3. Finish manuscript for AJR

        4. Drive kids’ carpool to school

        5. Coach kids’ soccer W night

        6. Prepare for MQSA inspection

        7. Revise pt safety protocols

        8. Prepare presentation for seminar for referring doctors

        9. Revise referring physician phone list

        10. Grocery store

         

        Table 3 

        Lifetime goals related to weekly to-do list

        1. Become the chair of my department or head of my radiology practice (weekly items 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9)

         

        Organization

        There are 2 basic components to organization: organizing stuff and organizing time. Both are necessary for success in accomplishing your goals. Disorganization and clutter add to stress. We waste time looking for important information, often failing to find it. We spend too much time repeating tasks, such as reading e-mail. We feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks to complete, and ultimately, we spend too much time worrying about uncompleted tasks. It becomes difficult to distinguish between important and insignificant tasks.

        How do you organize stuff? Throw out items—papers, e-mails, files, and so on—that you don’t need. Organize and file (have someone else do the filing whenever possible) so that you can find important items in the future. Unfortunately, organization and filing is an ongoing process, not just a onetime event. That is why it is so important to find an easy system that can be managed in the future. If it is too complicated, you won’t keep at it.

        We are all swamped with mail, most of it electronic. It is critically important to learn to manage your mail and e-mail. Strive to handle both once. The 4 D’s for all types of mail are do now, dump, delegate, and delay. Most e-mail can be read and handled immediately by a brief response, forwarding to an appropriate individual, or deletion. Only a minority of items should be delayed. Make a file for mail or messages that you can’t decide how to handle. Review this file periodically. You will find that the majority of this mail never needed action at all. Most of it was unimportant and was taken care of by someone else. If you mistakenly put an important e-mail in your delay file, it will be sent again. Ideally, you were able to recognize the truly important mail when you originally opened it and took care of it immediately.

        A problem with doing e-mail on a device such as a Blackberry is that one may find it difficult to deal with long messages and attachments. Thus, the item is opened, closed, and forgotten. The same problem may occur with the use of a laptop. If you have this problem, try to identify messages with attachments or ones that will require concentration, and wait to open them on your laptop or desktop computer.

        One of the key components of organization is the management of your calendar. Many of us let our schedules manage us. This is necessary to some degree. For example, if your calendar says you are assigned to the reading room, you must be there. However, if you can learn to manage your schedule to some degree, you will ultimately accomplish more with less anxiety. The first step is to develop a to-do list. It does not matter whether the list is paper or electronic; chose what works best for you. The most important thing is to list everything you need to do and prioritize each item. Be realistic about what you can accomplish within the next day, week, or month. If you overschedule yourself, you will be disappointed when you cannot accomplish every task. Review your to-do list regularly, daily if possible, and revise as necessary.

        When you make your list, make time for planning and prioritizing. Schedule time the first thing each morning or the last thing in the evening to plan for the next day or week. It is important to do this daily or weekly because your priorities will change over time.

        Determine your most effective mental time and schedule this time to work on important projects. For example, if you are a “morning person,” don’t waste this peak brain time to do e-mail. Instead, use it to work on an important project. Save the e-mail for times when your brain is not maximally efficient. However, don’t do e-mail right before bedtime; an unpleasant message can destroy your sleep for the night.

        Break large, important projects into manageable segments. Some people find it helpful to get away from their desks or workstations where they may be distracted by e-mail, phone calls, or cases. However, staying at your desk has the advantages of ready access to your reference materials, files, and so on.

        Covey [3] also stressed the determination of urgency and importance in attacking tasks on your to-do list. Decide what is important and what is not. It is also important to decide if a task is urgent or not urgent. Urgent, important tasks should be at the top of your priority list. Unfortunately, we often consume a great deal of time with “easy” activities, which are frequently of low importance.

        Time management and organization are not the same as multitasking. Multitasking is widely practiced but is not necessarily a good thing. For example, think of the last time you talked on your cell phone as you drove home. How much of the trip do you remember? It is likely that you remember the phone call more than the driving. Although this may make your trip more enjoyable, it makes it less safe, because your attention is not fully on the road. One definition of multitasking is “doing two things at once by taking twice as long to do them half as well” [4]. It is better to give your full attention to tasks, particularly the important ones.

        Delegation

        Before doing a task, ask yourself, “Why me?” Delegate whenever reasonable and possible. The downside of delegating is that you must still check to be sure the task is done, and sometimes it takes longer to tell someone else how to do a task than to do it yourself. Get over the guilt of delegating: think of it as a leadership-building opportunity for others in your practice. Many tasks can be handled effectively (or even more effectively) by others. Don’t use your time to do something that someone else can do more easily or better.

        Relaxation

        In the current environment of overachievement, overscheduling, and overstimulation, we tend to underestimate the need for mental downtime, relaxation, vacation, and time with friends and family. I often hear criticism that “generation Xers” are too interested in personal time, friends, and families. Those of us who are baby boomers and older should examine whether our work ethic (or “overwork ethic”) is actually better.

        Obviously, it is necessary to balance work and relaxation, but what is the cost of overemphasizing the work component of our lives? The balance between work and personal time is delicate but should not be ignored. When we take the time to relax with family and friends, pursue outside interests, and truly “get away,” we recharge and find renewed strength to tackle all of the important tasks.

        Ditch Guilt

        Etta Pisano [5] published an excellent paper on time management in 2001. She stressed that one of the most important (yet most difficult to accomplish) elements is getting rid of guilt. The guilt may involve things that you don’t get done at home or the office. Many of us are, for some reason, hardwired to feel guilty about all sorts of ridiculous things. However, guilt just leads to stress and anxiety, which lead to more stress and anxiety. Nothing good comes from an unreasonable sense of guilt. In fact, worrying just makes a task take longer and also makes it less pleasant to accomplish. I have learned the hard way not to waste time worrying about a daunting project: just do it!

        Stress and feeling of loss of control can lead to anxiety and depression. When you are anxious or depressed, it is even more difficult to manage your time, complete immediate tasks, and accomplish your lifetime goals. If you or those around you find this affecting you, don’t hesitate to get professional help.

        Summary

        The implementation of realistic time management plans can improve productivity and the quality of life. Accept the fact that you are not Superman or Superwoman. Find time to relax, including time to do absolutely nothing. Stop feeling guilty. The result of having adequate “downtime” is a brain that works better during both professional and personal time.

        Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them … well, I have others.

        —Groucho Marx

        Author:

        Valerie P. Jackson, MDlow asterisk,Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana

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            Six Tips to Time Management for Maximum Productivity

            Six Tips to Time Management for Maximum Productivity

            A list of six ways to stay productive at work.

             

            tips to time management

            When it comes to tips to time management, I love how Jackson Brown Jr. put it all together. He said,

            “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

            Well, Brown may be right about 24 hours theory, but time management is an entirely different realm. If you are not able to manage time, you will either make do with a minimum amount of work per day or nothing to show for. It’s that simple. Period.

            Time Management Is an Art

            This holds, especially in the modern age because we have “so many things” to do and so little time. However, I’d ask you to do a retrospective of your past 24 – 48 hours activities. What did you do exactly? Were you able to get your work done – or a small portion of it?

            useful infographic on time management skills

            I can guarantee that the deductions of your retrospective analysis will suggest that you didn’t score enough. That “I’ve got so many things to do” analogy is kind of false hope because a huge portion of those activities makes up for distractions. I’d say that the lack of time management starts with distractions. Cut the clutter, and you are halfway through to the right path.

            In that order, I’d say that the baby boomer generation was more time-oriented. Sure, you can argue that the older generation was doing well on tips to time management because they had minimum distractions. The most debatable point of this argument could be the lack of cellphones or the unavailability of smartphones during the baby boomer generation’s time.

            While it is true that baby boomers didn’t have smartphones, you cannot say that there were “no distractions” during that period. Human beings are a very interesting species. They can find tons of distractions if they want to. Especially, when it comes to working, you can find distractions and all that “stuff to do” even if you are seated in an empty room! That gratitude monkey in your brain will suggest different ideas for wasting time – trust me on this one because we’ve all been there.

            Get Started on These Tips to Time Management:

            Although there is an abundance of time management applications available in the market these days. The truth is that they all act as reminders. Some of these “reminders” are annoying, which causes users to delete the applications. Others are so subtle that they usually go on the ignore list. Eventually, the person deletes the application and calls it quits.

            Here are some tips to time management that might save you a ton of hassle in the long run

            6. Find a Partner in Crime:

            tips to time managementNot asking you to get married or find a significant other; a partner could be someone who can help you to manage time. Let me give you a very real example from any local gym. You can see those people who have a partner to spot them, doing better. A partner motivates you. If you could find someone who has the same interests as you, he/she can push you to go the extra mile.

            So, gym buddies aside, what could a partner in crime do for you in the business world? I suspect a lot more than you could think of. One of the tips to time management is a genuine friend who is there to hone your time management skills. If you two have planned something together for a day, your friend could pursue it. He will push you to be punctual and get regular at doing it like clockwork. That’s what a partner is for. Make the right friends at the right department, and you’ve got yourself, someone, to cover the base.

            5. Your Timing is Unique:

            tips to time management

            Every person has a biological clock. Some people are active during the day. Others are more productive during the late hours of the night. On a personal note, I think you should develop a habit of waking up early in the morning. That way, you can do more work because you start early. This is one of the best tips for time management in my humble opinion.

            Arguably, if you cannot wake up early, find your clock. Identify which hours of the day are the ones you could work at the highest peak. Likewise, what time are you at your lowest low? The time on the clock and the time on your biological clock are two different things. If they are coherent, that’s perfect. If your biological clock has a mind of its own, don’t fret about it. Just adjust accordingly, and you’ll do well.

            Alternatively, you can install habit tracking apps on your cellphone. They are a great way of getting things done while being most productive throughout the day. I am not a huge advocate for habit trackers. But hey, if it saves time and helps you to maintain a good habit, then why not give it a shot?

            4. Important Tasks Go to the Top of the List:

            One of the key tips to time management or getting things done is all about prioritizing tasks. If you have numerous things to do, prioritize them accordingly. Perhaps there’s this very important “Ninja Report” that’s due by the end of the week. Get started on it on Monday, instead of waiting until Thursday or Tuesday.

            I know it’s hard to prioritize tasks but some people in Agile Project Management do it like a ritual. I know a few guys who are so meticulous at prioritizing things, it’s as if someone is holding a gun to their head. That’s a nice example of sheer responsibility for there.

            3. Getting Enough Sleep?

            Are you sleeping for at least six to seven hours per day? Researchers argue that the average human needs at least 8 hours of sleep a day to recover. We either don’t sleep a lot or when we do get a chance, we sleep more than an entire stretch of the day.

            Secondly, an excess amount of sleep is also attributed to stress disorders and depression. I like Jason Fried’s philosophy in his bestseller book: ‘Rework.’ Fried believes that a positive middle attitude is all that’s needed to excel in life. Be it time management or a preset number of tasks that you are supposed to follow up on.

            As far as sleep’s relation to tips to time management is concerned, don’t stress on overworking. Work at a moderate pace and give your body enough hours to recover. Some people work extra hard. They burn the midnight oil to crank some work, but the body eventually shuts down. I kid you not, you will burn out sooner or later. It happens to everyone. Therefore, don’t mess up your biological capacity to work optimally. Sacrificing sleep is not worth it.

            2. Keep Distractions at Bay:

            This is a no brainer. If you want to get by with tips to time management, minimize distractions as much as possible. The Pomodoro technique is especially useful in cases where you have a lot of work to do, but you are easily distracted.

            The Pomodoro timer is set by-default at 25 minutes interval. Followed by that, you get a 5 – 10-minute break. This way, your brain remains active, and you get to “distract” yourself after 25 minutes of non-stop work. As of right now, Apple and Android users can download Pomodoro apps to get started on tips to time management without any hassle.

            Download your favorite Pomodoro technique application today. You won’t regret it.

            1. Make those Weekends Plans Work:

            why it companies fail

            Weekends are a gold mine of resources for those looking for useful tips to save time. Just like new year resolutions, we make a lot of plans for our weekends. In reality, we wake up late and we are hardly able to do anything until Sunday evening. That’s when the realization phase kicks in and we are reminded of all the hours we wasted during the last two days.

            Friday is when you should do retrospective analysis. Think of whatever you have achieved and your plans ahead for the weekend. You don’t have to overdo it. Weekends are not for work. Mind it. You should give time to your family; do some chores and attend other important stuff that is neglected during the business days of the week.

            However, do a little bit of work over the weekend. You will still have plenty of time to watch Netflix, read books and do whatever your little heart desires.

            How do you manage time when it comes to tips to time management? Do you have anything to add? Please let us know through the comments section below. By the way, bookmark this post. We will be updating is soon with additional and resourceful tips on time management skills.

             

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              Wall Street bets virus meltdown gives landlords a chance to grow

              Wall Street bets virus meltdown gives landlords a chance to grow

              Rental executives say some recent move-ins chose to rent instead of buy given the economic uncertainty

              BDP Holdings LLC Managing Partner David Placek says temporarily waiving rent for his tenants is good business and that he’s taking the long view.

              Wall Street’s wager on high-earning suburban renters is paying off, and it is raising its stakes.

              Investors are flocking to America’s mega landlords, drawn by signs the companies that emerged from last decade’s foreclosure crisis owning huge pools of rental houses are weathering the economic shutdown far better than feared. Many also expect that the coronavirus pandemic will make suburban single-family homes both more desirable and more difficult to buy for even the relatively well-heeled.

              Share prices of the largest home-rental companies, such as Invitation Homes Inc. and American Homes 4 Rent, have outpaced the broader stock market since they and the S&P 500 bottomed in late March. Invitation is up 55% since then and American Homes has gained 37%, compared with the S&P 500’s 31% climb.

              Invitation, the country’s biggest single-family rental company, last week reported record occupancy of its roughly 80,000 houses and better-than-normal on-time rent payments in May — despite the pandemic leaving millions of Americans unemployed.

              American Homes 4 Rent, the second largest with about 53,000 houses, said it isn’t much below its own pre-pandemic levels of rent collection or occupancy. The company said a $225 million venture to build rental houses that it struck with J.P. Morgan Asset Management in February was enlarged in recent weeks to $650 million.

              Redwood Trust Inc. executives said that the bundler of real-estate debt was preparing to offer investors a fresh pool of loans to single-family landlords, even after the value of its mortgage-related assets collapsed.

              Amherst Residential, which manages about 20,000 houses for big investors such as hedge funds and pensions, called off its planned acquisition of 15,000-home rival Front Yard Residential Corp. over the difficulties of integrating the two companies during the pandemic, including back-office functions in locked-down India. Amherst paid Front Yard a $25 million breakup fee, loaned it $20 million and bought $55 million of its shares at the above-market acquisition price.

              Amherst still wants to add houses. President Drew Flahive said in an interview that the firm is negotiating separate house-hunting pacts with two large insurance companies.

              “The amount of interest we’ve gotten in the last two or three weeks in terms of setting up private-market investments has really accelerated,” Mr. Flahive said. “We’re likely to see a really pronounced capital flow into single-family real estate.”

              Investors weren’t so sure about rental houses at the onset of the pandemic. Bonds backed by rent payments traded down from face value. Shares of Invitation and American Homes plunged on worries about how many people would pay their rent. But the stocks have bounced back. Rent collections and tenant retention have proven far better than commercial property, such as office towers and shopping centers, and even apartments, which tend to have smaller household sizes and incomes than rental houses.

              “Investors will be able to breathe a deep sigh of relief,” Raymond James analysts wrote in a note to clients. “Residential rent collection results…have been far more resilient than initially feared, proving to be a steady ship in a sea of turmoil.”

              Invitation executives attributed the company’s record occupancy and strong rent collection to two main factors: the dual-income households earning about $110,000 that are its typical tenants and a shift to promoting occupancy of its houses with discounts instead of pushing up rents.

              The company bought $28 million of houses in April but said it would pause purchasing once it completes another $19 million worth that it has under way. Meanwhile, it is hoarding cash, including $152 million of security deposits, in case tenants run into problems paying rent in the coming months.

              “We will be able to pivot quickly to resume buying when the time is right,” said Ernie Freedman, Invitation’s finance chief.

              Both Invitation and American Homes said there has been an uptick in leasing activity in recent weeks. That is partly thanks to their earlier investment in self-showing technology, such as electronic deadbolt locks, that was intended to eliminate the cost of staffing showings for so many scattered properties.

              After a slow second half of March, April showings for American Homes rose 5% over the previous year and the company recorded some 9,500 showings during the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May. That is about six per available property, said operating chief Bryan Smith.

              Rental executives say some recent move-ins chose to rent instead of buy given the economic uncertainty. Others have leased houses to get out of apartment buildings, given the contamination risks associated with close living.

              “You have this squeeze from both sides,” said Amherst’s Mr. Flahive.

              The executives say it is unclear whether historically low borrowing costs will prompt a surge of homebuying, or aspiring homeowners will be stymied by more restrictive mortgage lending. Either way, there may not be enough new suburban homes to meet demand, given the slowdown in construction.

              “We’re still going to have the fundamental lack of supply to meet normal household formation,” said Invitation’s 39-year-old Chief Executive Dallas Tanner, who is the same age as the company’s typical tenant. “There are 65 million people between the ages of 20 to 35 coming our way.”

              Reprint from:

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              7 Tips to Make Your Business More Organized

              7 Ways to Make Your Business More Organized

              With the technological developments of the Fourth Industrial Revolution impacting how we all live, work and relate to one another, a rapid pace of change is happening across all businesses.

              This is doubly true in uncertain times, where organizations in every industry are faced with a sudden need to switch to different working styles and make their business the most resilient and flexible.

              It’s a good time to ask how your business can organize its key processes to deliver the best experience for both your employees and your customers.

              With the optimal blend of people, processes and technology, you can make your organization the most adaptable to change and in the best position to thrive.

              Here are seven organization tips for businesses to help you continue on the right track.

              1. Cut the tech bloat

              Goal: Streamline your business tech stack to help your team get the job done most effectively.

              Technology can boost your business’s organization, productivity and collaboration. However, there is such a thing as too many tools – otherwise known as tech bloat.

              When an organization uses far more apps and tools than it needs, it can quickly experience problems from excessive complexity, distractions and security concerns.

              If this sounds familiar, it’s time to assess, prune and optimize your business’s tech stack.

              To keep your technology ecosystem under control and reap the benefits that cloud apps can offer, establish a consistent set of processes using the apps and functions you need to get the job done.

              Set the groundwork in place so employees don’t end up trying to juggle a hundred different things at once on too many apps.

              2. Build a culture that rewards focus

              Goal: Instead of expecting constant communication and collaboration from every team member when they’re at their desk, carve out time for every employee to focus on where they deliver the most value.

              Staying organized depends on your ability to avoid distractions – which isn’t always easy in organizations that have a culture of constant interruption disguised as collaboration.

              Common daily time wasters include: using business tools that are too complex or a bad fit for the job; distractions on social media; and manual data entry on multiple different systems that don’t work well together.

              Let’s also not forget about the so-called notification fatigue caused by being bombarded by irrelevant notifications and emails every day.

              Here are some of the best ways to get rid of the time-wasters in your business:

              • Use carefully selected cloud-based tools that everyone in your company knows how to use
              • Establish company-wide processes that minimize unnecessary business meetings
              • Encourage team members to block out distractions for set periods of focused time

              Many of the most organized businesses are those that realize that they don’t have to do things the way they always have.

              What processes and assumptions can you rethink to make your business more organized and productive?

              3. Migrate to the cloud

              Goal: Identify business practices that are still managed via outdated systems or tools, and plan how to replace them with cloud-based workflows and apps.

              Almost every business is already using some form of cloud technology, even if it’s nothing more than web-based email. But there’s a lot more to the cloud than many businesses realize.

              Whether it’s customer relationship management (CRM), data storage or business automations delivered through the web, almost any digital workload can be migrated to the cloud.

              With SaaS tools – or cloud-based apps with a subscription model – your business can escape the physical limitations of desktop computers and enable employees to take their work with them wherever they are.

              Continue to bring your business further into the cloud and minimize the back and forth that comes with outdated computing environments.

              4. Embrace different working styles

              Goal: Create a plan to future-proof your business by embracing different working styles, such as remote working or flexible hours.

              From agile startups to enterprises driven by digital transformation, many organizations are already embracing the advantages of different working styles, including enhanced producivity, reduced costs and access to more diverse talent.

              But even if your organization is far from ready to enjoy all the benefits of additions such as remote work and flexible hours, making it a long-term priority will help you future-proof your business and make it easier to adapt.

              If you’re looking to enable more remote working in your business, here are some tips to make the transition as seamless as possible:

              • Pivot your company policies to cater to remote work best practices
              • Strengthen team communication and collaboration with cloud-based apps such as Slack
              • Reduce your reliance on in-person meetings by introducing video call apps
              • Adjust your tech stack to focus on cloud-based apps that your team can use anywhere

               

              5. Focus on smaller goals

              Goal: Look at company-wide, departmental and individual-level goals to ensure that they are broken down into actionable next steps.

              It’s harder for your business to stay organized if you set lofty goals that are both intimidating and difficult to focus on.

              In every department and job role, determine the most likely way that your team will be able to reach your key targets before breaking them down into actionable next steps.

              With smaller and easily measured milestones, your team will be in the best position to stay focused and avoid burnout and confusion.

              6. Go paperless

              Goal: Identify what’s causing the piles of paper in your organization and create processes to minimize this.

              Paper is a common source of disarray in many offices, but a largely avoidable one. If you don’t already have a digital filing system, then it’s time to build one.

              Here are some of the best ways to help your business go paperless:

              • Attach notes and files to customer records digitally in your CRM
              • Use team apps like Google Drive to collaborate on team projects
              • Take document signing online with apps such as DocuSign

              The more you reduce your reliance on paper, the faster your business will be able to modernize, and the easier it will become to organize your workflows.

              Established businesses may have a harder time, since they often still have huge amounts of valuable information in printed documents or on physical digital media.

              Start by scanning and digitizing everything and uploading it to a document management system. That’s a lot more organized than having reams of documents and paper receipts piled up around the office!

              7. Automate workflows

              Goal: Identify what’s needlessly consuming time in your organization and determine how you can use automated workflows to free up more time to focus on what matters.

              If there’s one thing that kills productivity above all others, it’s cumbersome manual processes that eat up time and leave workflows open to human error.

              Manually importing or exporting data between your email marketing software and CRM might not sound like a big deal at first, until you realize you have to do the same thing with lots of other apps and databases. Eventually, the challenges of scale make it practically impossible.

              Sage advice holds that anything which can be automated should be automated. You could get started by automating:

              • Lead scoring for new contacts in your database
              • Sales nurturing email workflows
              • Backup and syncing routines between apps
              • Customer care processes, such as alerting account managers of support tickets or carrying out NPS surveys

              The goal should be to unify your technology systems and processes into a cohesive environment in which everyone on your team has access to accurate and current information in real time, no matter where they’re physically located.

              With the right tools and data at hand, everyone in your team can stay organized without getting bogged down in repetitive manual tasks or spending hours trying to track down that one key document.

              When there’s so much going on in your business, staying organized isn’t easy. But by streamlining your core processes and looking towards the future, you can meet the challenges of scale and put your business in the best position to thrive in the years ahead.

              Author- Lucy Fuggle

              Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.

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              Time Management Is About More Than Life Hacks

              Time Management Is About More Than Life Hacks

               

              Project creep, slipping deadlines, and a to-do list that seems to get longer each day — these experiences are all too common in both life and work. With the new year resolution season upon us, many people are boldly trying to fulfill goals to “manage time better,” “be more productive,” and “focus on what matters.” Development goals like these are indeed important to career success. Look no further than large-scale surveys that routinely find time management skills among the most desired workforce skills, but at the same time among the rarest skills to find.

              So how do we become better time managers? There is certainly no shortage of advice — books and blogs, hacks and apps, all created to boost time management with a bevy of ready-to-apply tools. Yet, the most frustrating reality for individuals trying to improve their time management is that no matter how effectively designed these tools might be, they are unlikely to work. Simply put, these tools presume a person’s underlying skill set, but the skills comprising time management precede the effectiveness of any tool or app. For example, would anyone seriously expect that purchasing a good set of knives, high-end kitchen equipment, and fresh ingredients would instantly make someone a five-star chef? Certainly not. Similarly, using a scheduling app without the prerequisite time management skills is unlikely to produce positive time management outcomes.

              Fortunately, there is a wealth of research that delves into the skills that undergird time management. Here, time management is defined as the decision-making process that structures, protects, and adjusts a person’s time to changing environmental conditions. Three particular skills separate time management success from failure:

              • Awareness: thinking realistically about your time by understanding it is a limited resource.
              • Arrangement: designing and organizing your goals, plans, schedules, and tasks to effectively use time.
              • Adaptation: monitoring your use of time while performing activities, including adjusting to interruptions or changing priorities.

              Of these three skills, arrangement is probably the most familiar, especially considering that the majority of apps and hacks deal with scheduling and planning. However, there isn’t the same widespread recognition of awareness and adaptation skills. This raises key questions about how these skills play out from a developmental perspective: Are they equally important? Are some more difficult for people to master? And, are some rarer than others?

              Measuring Time Management Skills

              To answer these questions, I examined the results from more than 1,200 people who participated in a 30-minute microsimulation designed to objectively assess time management skills. Participants were given the role of a freelance designer, and they had to manage tasks and relationships with clients and colleagues within a communication platform complete with emails, instant messages, cloud drive files, and so forth. Problems they had to confront included dealing with scheduling conflicts, prioritizing client demands, and deciding how to use (or not use) their time.

              The evidence revealed several compelling findings.

              First, all three skills mattered equally to overall time management performance. Therefore, only improving one’s scheduling and planning (i.e., arrangement skills) ignores two-thirds of the competence needed to effectively manage time. This might explain why it’s so disappointing to try a new tool and then feel like we’ve never really moved the needle toward being great overall time managers.

              Second, people struggled the most with awareness and adaptation skills, where assessment scores were on average 24 percent lower than for arrangement skills. This evidence suggests that awareness and adaptation are not only rarer skills, but are more difficult to develop naturally without direct interventions. Additionally, awareness skills were the primary driver of how well people avoided procrastination and adaptation skills were the primary driver of how well they prioritized activities.

              Third, the results ran counter to popular admonitions of either the virtues or the detriments of multitasking. A survey after the simulation asked how respondents felt about multitasking. The evidence revealed that their preferences for multitasking (what academics call “polychronicity”) were actually unrelated to time management skills. How well or poorly people managed their time had nothing to do with their preferences to multitask. Thus, the extensive attention so often given to multitasking by those offering time management tricks is unlikely to yield any real success.

              Fourth, the evidence was crystal clear that people are not at all accurate in self-evaluating their time management proficiency. For example, less than 1% of people’s self-ratings overlapped with their objective skill scores. Moreover, self-ratings only accounted for about 2% of differences in actual time management skills. These results echo previous work on people’s lack of accurate self-awareness regarding their competencies and how this impedes change and leadership development.

              How to Improve Your Time Management Skills

              So how might people best prepare themselves to become better time managers? Doing so first requires figuring out where to focus. Taking a deeper dive into your current skill levels is the only genuine way to answer this question. There are three steps you can take to prime your improvement efforts.

              Build accurate self-awareness of your time management skills. This can be accomplished by using objective assessments like a microsimulation, seeking feedback from others like one’s peers or boss, or establishing a baseline of behaviors against which gauge improvements.

              Recognize that preferences matter, but not how you think. Self-awareness of one’s preferences or personality related to time management, such as multitasking or being proactive, can deepen an understanding of where you might struggle as your change efforts go against existing habits. But remember that skills, not personality, are the most malleable personal attributes and provide the greatest ROI on self-improvement efforts.

              Identify and prioritize the skill you need to improve. Although this sounds obvious, the key point here is to avoid self-improvement that is an “inch deep, but a mile wide,” where efforts are spread too thin across too many needs. It is best to prioritize your skill development, focusing on the most pressing skill need first and then moving on to the next.

              There are a number of evidence-based tactics for enhancing time management skills. Below are some examples. Again, it is critical to understand that tactics are for developing your underlying skills, which will ultimately improve your time management. Simply implementing these tactics is not the end-goal.

              Developing awareness skills. Effectiveness is different than efficiency, with effectiveness being about doing things well and efficiency being about doing things fast. Both are critical. Pursuing efficiency for its own sake is counter-productive.

              • Find your peak performance time. Break your typical day into three to four time slots and, over the course of a week, rank-order these slots from your most to least productive (most productive is peak performance).
              • Treat your time like it’s money. Create a time budget that details how you spend your hours during a typical week. Categorize time into fixed time (“must do’s”) and discretionary time (“want to do’s”).
              • Try timing-up. Record how long you’ve spent on tasks with very clear deadlines, rather than how much time you have left.
              • Evaluate how realistically you assess time. After finishing a project, evaluate how long you thought it would take and how long it actually took.
              • Take a “future time perspective.” Think about how the tasks you are doing right now will help or hurt you in the future (e.g., how do today’s project tasks impact next week’s tasks?).
              • Avoid “sunk cost fallacy.” When you think you might be spending too much time on an activity, step back and evaluate its importance (e.g., how valuable is the outcome, who will be affected if it’s finished or not finished, etc.)

              Developing arrangement skills. Unfamiliar but important tasks often have steeper learning curves and more unpredictable time requirements. Developing arrangement skills is not about organizing your work to better control your life – it’s about taking control of your life, then structuring your work around it.

              • Prioritize activities and obligations. It’s not enough to simply list out your tasks, to-do lists, and meetings.
              • Avoid the “mere urgency effect.” Urgency and importance are related but distinct concepts; urgent tasks require immediate action, whereas as important tasks have more significant and long-term consequences. Tasks that are both urgent and important should be done first.
              • Use a calendar app. Record due dates for tasks and appointments — and do this immediately when they are planned or requested. Label or color-code entries (e.g., work, school, life, etc.).
              • Schedule protected time. Make calendar appointments with yourself to ensure uninterrupted time to dedicate to your most important projects.
              • Reduce underestimation errors. When forming plans, ask a neutral party for feedback about your forecasted time requirements.
              • Try half-sized goals. When struggling to attain a goal that seems to be too challenging, set a less difficult version of the goal.

              Developing adaptation skills. These skills are tested and developed in situations that naturally involve high pressure and sometimes even crisis – the challenge is to handle such situations without getting upset, anxious, or distracted.

              • Try “habit stacking.” Tie your time management behaviors to habits you already exhibit (e.g., track daily progress every evening when you sit down for dinner).
              • Use short bursts of effort. When tasks seem overwhelming, put forth maximum effort for 15- to 30-minute intervals to help avoid procrastination.
              • Experiment with time-tracker or checklist apps. Remember benefit must exceed cost when using these tools. Gains should outweigh the time spent using the app.
              • Don’t be a “reminder miser.” Reminders should have detailed explanations or descriptions, not one or two words that fail to describe the task’s importance, expected quality, and so forth.
              • Create contingency plans. Think about best case/worst case scenarios when you outline possible outcomes of your plans.
              • Seek to reduce time wasters. Create do-not-disturb time slots and block social media sites during critical work time.

              In this season of personal introspection, why does improving time management remain such a persistent, perennial goal for so many of us? The irony is that we need to become better time managers of our own efforts to improve time management — to prioritize our developmental efforts. This path begins with turning away from the alluring quick fixes and instead toward assessing and building our underlying time management skills before another new year’s resolution reaches its dissolution.


              Erich C. Dierdorff is a professor of management and entrepreneurship at the Richard H. Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University and is currently an associate editor at Personnel Psychology

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