Time management fundamentals

To best utilise my time for maximum, and most importantly, valuable output, I signed up for this LinkedIn Learning Time Management Course run by Dave Crenshaw. Crenshaw was diagnosed as “off-the-charts” ADHD, yet used this as a personal challenge to implement simple systems to improve his focus and productivity. Today, he is a renowned author and business coach – assisting business leaders across the globe.

Here are my five take-homes after completing the course.

What would you do with an extra ten hours per week?

 This is the first question to ask yourself. If you want to manage your time better, you need to have a clear vision of why you want to do so. Once you have an unequivocal answer to this question, you’ll be more motivated to make the necessary changes.

And if you think it’s impossible (a whole extra ten hours!), that’s even more motivation to challenge yourself.

Designate minimum gathering points

 What’s a gathering point? A gathering point is any place where you have unprocessed items or tasks. For example, your email inbox, diary, calendar, voicemail, an in-tray on your desk or your briefcase for physical items (a portable inbox pretty much). Even messaging services, for example WhatsApp, and social media accounts are gathering points.

Write down every single gathering point you have – every one. You’d be surprised how many you have. The average person has a staggering 30 to 40 gathering points! It’s no surprise that the mental processing power it takes to process it all is significant.

Crenshaw advises you strive for six or less gathering points. Otherwise, you’re switching between them all day (even if you’re only mentally switching between them) which isn’t productive. This includes work and personal gathering points.

For example, I managed to narrow mine down to:

  1. Work email
  2. Personal email (note: Crenshaw recommends only having one email account. For me, this isn’t possible. However, my personal email is minimal and I can get both emails coming into Gmail should I want to).
  3. Slack (our team’s chosen platform for internal communication)
  4. Asana (work tasks)
  5. Google calendar
  6. WhatsApp (personal)
  7. A digital notebook (I’m trialling Evernote. I used to have a physical diary on my work desk, a physical notebook AND used the notepad functionality on my phone to save personal tasks and reminders. This is three gathering points! I’m now consciously attempting to use one for all tasks – work and personal).

Disclaimer: this is still over the recommended 6 gathering points, but much less than my previous amount. I will attempt to reduce these even further.

In short, take it all back to the basics. What to know what else you can minimalise? Read marketing minimalism – how to take your marketing back to the basics for the best results. 

Switch-tasking is really, really bad

Switch-tasking (jumping and juggling from task to task) is a thief! This is not the same thing as multitasking. Multitasking is doing multiple tasks at once, but they’re usually related to the same outcome (e.g. answering a call on your hands-free kit while driving). Switch-tasking is doing multiple different tasks at the same time, jumping between each one.

Switch-tasking is bad because:

  1. The task takes longer to complete
  2. The quality of your work decreases + mistakes more likely
  3. It increases your stress levels

Interestingly, research has shown that multitasking is a myth.

Have a time bank account

Think of scheduling time as withdrawing money from a bank account. If a task doesn’t add value to your goals, either personal or professional, don’t schedule it in. In other words, don’t do it. This isn’t always possible but saying no more often (somewhat surprisingly, this will most often be you saying no to yourself) will protect your precious time budget.

A useful rule of thumb is that if something can be done in 5 minutes or less, do it immediately – because scheduling the task will take 2 to 3 minutes to complete (but be aware of switch-tasking). If the job will take more than 15 minutes to complete, don’t switch tasks – rather schedule it in an approved gathering point to be processed and completed at a later stage.

Reminder: if you don’t see your time as valuable, then you can’t expect anyone else to.

Procrastination is not always bad

Procrastination is not always bad – if you are using a gathering point to schedule your tasks and are cautious of deadlines. What you want to avoid is the sneaky, time-stealing, switch-tasking thief.

If you’re delaying replying to an email because your allocated email response ‘time slot’ is only in an hour and the email isn’t urgent, that procrastination is actually valuable.

And (not related to the course at all) remember that if all else fails, you have precisely the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé!

 What time management tips have you found most useful? 

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