There have been volumes dedicated to explaining time management and whole lives dedicated to teaching about it. Whether or not you subscribe to any of these so called proven methods, we are all looking for ways to be more productive, save time, and to get the most out of our day. Drawing on expert advice from people who seem to be getting a whole lot done, we have compiled a list of 5 expert time management tips. So, in the spirit of saving time, let’s dive right in.
1. To-Do Lists are Evil. Schedule Everything.
This tip comes from Cal Newport in an interview he gave Eric Barker over at Barking Up the Wrong Tree (see the original article here). In the interview he explained,
“Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.”
Scheduling turns wishful to-do lists into a realistic plan of action and allows you to complete tasks when it is efficient to do so (read, do hard creative tasks at the beginning of your day instead of at the end when you don’t have any energy left). It also forces you to say no to things that can’t fit into your schedule, which brings us to our next point.
2. Say No
Ok, so this tip can be attributed to quite a few different sources. The idea is that time, like money or water or iTunes credits, is a valuable resource that can easily be squandered doing things that don’t contribute to your goals. Sometimes these things are obvious like checking Facebook when you should be writing your blog post… But there are others that appear less sinister like saying yes to every project that is offered to you. The facts are that we all have a limited amount of time in a day. Great entrepreneurs learn to say no to other people’s projects because they are so busy working on the few projects that are their own.
3. Do Very Few Things, But Do Them Well
Really, this tip is a summary of what truly great entrepreneurs do. If we look at greats such as Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, or John D. Rockefeller, we see that they have something in common. They focused their time and energy very specifically. What this means in the real world can be summed up by the Most Interesting Man in the World (see him here) who said:
“In life, find what it is that you do not do well, and then do not do that thing.”
4. Get Up Early
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” This quote by Benjamin Franklin has almost become a cliche. But, this doesn’t make it any less true. In fact, studies just keep proving it and people keep writing about it (check out this article in Forbes about the advantages of rising early). One of the most common traits found in highly successful entrepreneurs and world changers is that they all wake up early (some of them really really early). They cite various reasons for this. Some like to be up to check the markets, others to exercise or meditate, and some just for some peace and quiet. In an article found in Business Insider (here), 29 successful business people explain why they think getting up early is so important. Their comments support what studies have shown; that people who get up early are usually happier, healthier, and feel more in control of their schedules.
5. Don’t Drown in the Shallows
This tip comes again from Cal Newport via Eric Baker and is one of the most important on this list. As Cal put it, “Shallow work is little stuff like email, meetings, moving information around. Things that are not really using your talents. Deep work pushes your current abilities to their limits. It produces high value results and improves your skills.” The problem is that we drown in the shallows of checking email, going to meetings, and becoming human information routers and we never get down to the quality work, the deep work. And this isn’t to say that we don’t need to do the shallow work sometimes, but the goal should be to block out large amounts of uninterrupted time in our schedule for the deep work. This is the work that really makes us feel fulfilled, helps us grow, and truly contributes value to the world.
Can it be that easy?
Schedule, say no, do fewer things, get up early, and do deep work? We think this “less is more” approach is exactly what we need to lead more focused, fulfilled, and meaningful lives. But let us know what you think. Leave your comments below.