Time management is really an individual mindset activity that benefits greatly from discovering your own productivity rhythm. We cannot create more time in our day, and when we carve out time by eliminating, delegating or automating blocks of time, it is human nature to starting adding more things back in that put us in crunch mode all over again.
Discovering your personal productivity rhythm has a powerful effect on how you can maximize your daily workload, and improve your overall time management. Your productivity rhythm will measure how, when and where you are most productive; you can use these cycles to your advantage for making the most of your time.
Determining your peaks in levels of energy and focus will allow you to make better choices throughout your busy work day, as well as keep you on track. In order to effectively find your productivity rhythm, it is first important to take the time to invest in yourself and your current habits.
Know Your Energy
Energy levels fluctuate throughout the span of a work day. It is highly beneficial to prioritize your tasks based on these energy levels. These patterns are connected to the ability to use brain power, and think clearly. The terms “morning people” and “night owls” are often used to describe one’s most productive hours. Patterns of energy levels will differ for each individual based on various factors, including diet, sleep, or emotional stress. Once you determine your peak performance times, you can better schedule your daily tasks.
It is important to match the work that is of highest priority to your peak performance times, including those tasks that require critical thinking or problem solving. Likewise, you can assign your lesser complex tasks for the hours that you know you will be less engaged or focused. Knowing your energy will allow you to set the stage for how you perform your daily tasks, and seek better results.
Although work-life balance is a misnomer, since work is just a small component of our entire set of life activities, the idea of keeping work in its proper perspective is highly beneficial. The most productive individuals are those who are well-balanced. Work-life balance includes prioritizing the demands in one’s personal life at home, as well as the demands in the workplace. This does not mean an equal balance of time between work and home, but rather prioritizing what is important during that time. Work time should be dedicated to tasks that are essential for your career, whereas home time should be dedicated to family time, or personal time.
Be respectful of your time. Poor work-life balance will often lead to working longer hours, increased responsibilities, and a greater chance of experiencing burnout.
Taking Regular Breaks
Unfortunately, it needs to be said that practicing good time management does not mean that you are endlessly working around the clock to meet a deadline. Those who are most efficient with their time will understand the importance of incorporating breaks into their schedules—even micro-breaks. Taking breaks will help you to increase your level of concentration, as well as avoid burnout. In fact, breaks will allow you to get more done throughout the day and remain in your productivity rhythm.
The most effective breaks are those that happen away from your workspace, such as taking a walk, meditating, or sitting in fresh air. Find something that works for you to ensure you get time to relax. The key is to detach from your desk and reset your mental energy. Skipping lunch breaks to complete extra work will only decrease your performance levels, and increase your chances of making mistakes. Taking the time to care for your mind and body will have positive effects on workplace achievements.
The Multitasking Myth
A common misconception of effective time management is the skill of multitasking. The truth is that multitasking is not possible. The illusion that we are carrying out two or more tasks simultaneously is actually our brain doing rapid task switching, and it compounds errors and stress. Despite how this may seem like a sufficient way to conquer that to-do list, it is actually harmful to your productivity rhythm and leads to a significant loss of valued time.
Attempting to Multitask, and good time management, oppose one another. Performing multiple activities at once will cause you to stress more, perform poorly and increase your chances of burnout. Our brains are not designed to handle multiple assignments at once, such as answering emails while conversing in an important business call. It is of major advantage to devote all of your energy into one task at a time. When you dedicate your time and focus on one task at a time, you will generate a better outcome for that task. Organize your time so that each task will receive your full energy, rather than sharing this energy on various projects.
Time batching is a great productivity system to improve focus and build structure into your daily tasks. Different from multitasking, this approach involves grouping similar tasks together, and organizing dedicated time periods to complete these tasks without interruptions. Time batching will provide concentration without breaking your workflow, and will eliminate multitasking.
The practice of time batching is advantageous for everyone- whether you have difficulty focusing on a task, have many disturbances in your workplace, become easily distracted, or are just simply looking to have a productive day.
Time batching is a simple process to implement. To begin, start by establishing your to-do list. With this list, determine which tasks are related to one another and ‘batch’ them together on your schedule. Think about which tasks would be realistic to do right after another. It is important to remember that the time frames for these tasks should be realistic, and if necessary, longer projects can be divided into separate batching groups, to allow for renewal breaks or fresh air.
Putting It Into Action
Molly was always working endlessly around the clock to meet deadlines. She would spend her lunch hours at her desk, using one hand to type on her computer and one hand to eat her food. In Molly’s mind, she was optimizing her time by multitasking.
Molly’s co-worker, Jill, had asked her to join for a walk at lunch. Molly declined the offer, as she was too overwhelmed with piles of work, and could not even think about going outside. She wondered how Jill always felt so energetic and had time to take breaks. Jill could see the stress on Molly’s face and informed her that fresh air would be good for her. Jill explained that breaks away from her desk will help her reset her mental energy, and get back on track with her productivity rhythm.
Molly agreed to join Jill for some fresh air. When she arrived back at her desk after lunch, she could feel a big difference in her energy levels, and was ready to conquer the afternoon. Jill and Molly made a plan to continue this lunchtime routine.
How can you give yourself permission, especially in high-pressure situations, to practice one or more of these time management, personal energy restoring approaches?