Minute by minute, hour by hour, how effective are you really at getting items ticked off your to-do list?
Some of us might find that it’s easier to get certain tasks done in the morning, with the rest of the day spent on planning and meetings. Others might prefer to get meetings and planning out of the way first before getting stuck into a to-do list. Either way, life happens and it can be difficult to manage our time effectively if we don’t have some kind of plan.
To structure your work schedule, and allow for unexpected interruptions, here are three time management techniques that can assist in getting the most out of your day:
1. Pomodoro Technique
Brainchild of Italian entrepreneur, Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is named after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer that he used to time his work schedule during university. A very simple technique, it allows you to be more productive by timing shorter but more frequent bouts of undistracted work, ideally twenty-five minutes, with short breaks in between.
Each unit of undistracted work time is called a “pomodoro”, and after every four to five pomodoros (or pomodori to be precise), you can take a longer break. While the number of pomodoros done each day depends entirely on your schedule, this method allows you to fit more focused time into your schedule, whilst making sure that you take regular breaks, which further enhances your ability to accomplish more during the course of a given day.
2. Getting Things Done (GTD)
David Allen developed the Getting Things Done (GTD) method as a time management method that aims to help you spend less time on urgent tasks by capturing all of your to-do’s in a manageable format and organising them according to priority. One of the important first steps is to make sure that you have a system that can accurately capture everything, and can be easily updated, whether it’s a white board, journal or app.
Once you’ve captured everything that you need to do, you need to make sure that each task is broken down into actionable steps. Once these items have been given their priority rating, the next step is to review them regularly so that you can make adjustments as necessary, and can always start your workday with a systematic approach.
3. Important/Urgent Matrix
We all have things to do that are important, but are they always urgent? Often it feels like we can get confused between the two, and end up focusing on either one or the other. An approach attributed to former USA President Eisenhower, this decision matrix has also been made famous in Stephen Covey’s bestseller, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
This technique consists of creating a four-block matrix, categorising tasks into the following four categories: Urgent and Important; Urgent and Not Important; Important and Not Urgent and Not Urgent and Not Important.
By dividing tasks into these four categories we can get a better sense of what we need to focus our attention on, without losing track of things that still need to be done at some point. For example: whilst it might not seem appropriate to including vacation planning into your schedule, including this as an Important but Not Urgent task is actually an essential element of overall productivity.