Andrei Monenciu is the community manager at a company called Paymo, and they make a neat tool that does time-tracking. I've consistently tracked time by hand and found a lot of advantages to doing that (and no compelling software that made me want to switch), but I like Paymo a lot. Their Desktop App that syncs with online is great for breaking down where time is going, and their native iPhone app is good for figuring out how much time is spent eating, walking, going to the gym, etc.
He gives ten points here to muse over, that he calls "the time management decalogue" --
The Time Management Decalogue
1. Know your enemy - what’s stopping you from being efficient? We all know that before starting a fight, you need to pinpoint what’s keeping you from being efficient. You need to know what’s eating up your time. In order to do that, you need to track it, either using a time tracker or some other way of recording how your day goes.
2. Plan your day - you need to see your daily tasks as parts of a project, make sure to take some time to plan and cover everything that needs to be done that day. One common practice (almost all of us do it) is to think about what you need to do either before going to bed or in the morning before starting your day. Set your to do’s in such a way that you can check them off when they’re done, there’s nothing better than seeing how the to do list shrinks.
3. Prioritize - it’s imperative to deal with the most important and harder tasks first, because these will require most of your attention and you need to have a rested mind to tackle them. Although you might need a great deal of tasks taken care that day, they have different levels of importance, work out a rating process and go with that.
4. Have a system - everyone has a pattern in tackling tasks, most of them are repetitive. Find a system on how to do these faster, especially the ones that aren’t that important. If some tasks could be be done by other people with a minimal cost, you should outsource your work and focus on more important things.
5. Have milestones - you need to split your tasks in stages using milestones, this way you will be able to keep an eye on your progress and be efficient. “Mile markers” are important in order to know how far along you are.
6. Don’t multitask - multitasking will ruin your concentration and will make it even harder to keep track of your work. It’s common knowledge that you’re not working at maximum capacity when you’re trying to do more things at once.
7. Limit interruptions to a minimum - if you’re working in an office or at home, make sure that you have at least a couple of hours when you can work uninterrupted, those hours will be the most fruitful. Studies show that it takes you longer to get back on track than it takes to complete some of the actual tasks.
8. Know when you’re at your best - we all have a certain time range when we’re the best we can be. Some work better in the morning, some work better in the evening or at night. Try to set up your work in such a way that you tackle the hardest tasks when you’re at your best.
9. Don’t waste time - if you want to be efficient, wasting time is not an option. Time is the most precious commodity we have, use it and if possible, monetize your time.
10. Recharge - not only does all work and no fun make you dull, but it also kills your creativity and drains you. We’re social beings, we need to be with family, friends, take a well-deserved vacation. Most successful people take at least a couple of weeks per year to get away from it all. This is a must if you want to grow both professionally and as a person.
Guest post by Andrei Monenciu, Community Manager at Paymo.Thanks Andrei. Paymo is worth trying out for time-tracking, I like what I've gotten from it.
Huum... I haven't downloaded it yet, but it seems business focused.
How's your experience using it in your day by day activities?
It's not built for personal life, but you can tweak it. I made "Client" my "General Category" and "Project" the specific category.
EX: A Client called "Business" and Projects underneath that called "Sales", "Production", "Admin", etc.
It's not quite built for that, but it works pretty well if you think it through and hack it together.
From time to time, everyone gets so ridiculously busy than they need to make cuts on some of their activities. If these cuts aren't consciously chosen, they'll happen anyways - we've only got 24 hours a day.
Interestingly, I hit a massively busy patch last week. I came onboard as a partner at a new company that's growing fast, but we haven't hired the staff to take over a lot of the mid-level tasks that need done. So we were jamming on everything for a week, plus I have a lot of other things going on.
What shocks me is how poorly the cuts I made at first were. The things that weren't getting done were some of the most valuable. Here's three that I wasn't doing, that I've now reversed even though this week is still busy -
1. Planning/organizing: There's been a bit of an anti-planning backlash the last few years in response to stupid bureaucracy in big companies. But the more experience I get and the more I interact with people performing on a really high level, the more planning and organizing I see.
Think about it - many activities and tasks only get 5-10 minutes of planning, but then take 3-10 hours to do. If you double your planning and make a task only 10% more efficient, you've got a net gain. Yeah, it can feel like "shit, I've got to get to work" when you're super busy, but being frantic leads to waste. Don't stop planning if you have too much going on. Arguably, that's when you should plan more carefully at the start of each day and week.
Focus is the act of putting all of your attention and concentration towards a single act. It’s staying away from distractions like email and Twitter to finally get some real work done. It’s doing the hard work and putting your all into it. Focus is a cycle of abundance which takes less time than your normal, easy routine. Focusing leaves you with more time to recuperate your energy, which ultimately allows you to focus harder tomorrow.
When assessing your progress on producing things of real value (the best path to building a rewarding and well-rewarded life), consider your own capacity for hard focus. Most important accomplishments boil down to this single, often overlooked ability.
This quote is from Cal Newport, who believes that the ability to sustain focus for long periods of time is the key to success.
Let’s say you and your best friend run against one another. Your best friend runs for three hours a day, listening to his pumping workout music and looking on as the sun sets under the ocean. You, however, simply run in your neighborhood for an hour every day. But you’re different. You’re not the staring at the sights or the people, you’re focusing on your running form and your breathing, every single day. After a month, who do you think will be the better runner? You will, because you were focusing.