Hi, I am Mrinal and I work as the Chief of Staff at Le15. To all of you wondering what this designation really entails, well, maybe we can address that in another blog post, however, what I can surely tell you is that a very important part of my job involves effectively managing not just my time but also that of Pooja’s (CEO) and Devika’s (COO) which is why I thought this would be an apt topic for my first blog post EVER.
I remember hearing the term time management for the first time in Class 7 and many more times ever since. I have had so many questions – Why is it so important to manage time well? How do I manage my time and prioritize tasks? How do I know which tasks to do first? How do I know that I am doing a good job at managing my time effectively?
While I believe time management will always be a work in progress for me; along the way, I have learnt about a lot of hacks, tools and processes that work for me and many more that don’t. I have also learnt about a few myths that many of us, if not all, believe to be true. This is my attempt at addressing most of these points and I hope that this read will be worth your time.
Before I tell you guys about the time hacks that have worked for me, let me bust a few myths about time management:
- The goal of time management is working towards an all-time high productivity: If I could get a penny every time I read/heard about time management for work productivity, I would be a very rich person today. Contrary to what we believe, productivity is a lousy goal for time management. The problem with productivity – expressed as a ratio of outputs to inputs – is that it is merely a metric derived keeping machines in mind, not humans. On the other hand, roadblocks related to time management have a lot to do with very human elements like procrastination, mental state of mind etc. unlike machines. Instead of productivity, I learnt that aiming for effectiveness & efficiency yields much better results without the added pressure and stress of having unrealistic continuous productivity as a goal. So next time you feel like pushing yourself through energy slumps, DON’T! Take a break instead, rejuvenate and then get back to work and you will notice that the much needed break helped you achieve a lot more in lesser time.
- Multitasking helps you get more done in less time / multitasking kills efficiency: It is not difficult to find different talks/articles glorifying or vilifying multitasking; yet I have seen so many contrasting examples of people benefiting as well as suffering as a result of multitasking. A lot of us say multitasking when what we actually mean is rapid switching of tasks. Multitasking is doing more than a single task at any given instance and can be advantageous or disadvantageous depending on the nature of the two tasks at play. For instance, there are two kinds of tasks, one that requires our attention like consuming information and others that don’t like running. What I have found is that multitasking can be a boon if a task that requires attention is clubbed with a task that doesn’t. For example: Listening to a podcast while running where listening to a podcast requires attention while moving your legs for running does not. On the other hand, it can also be a curse and a recipe for a lot of anxiety and stress if we combine two tasks that do require our attention since biologically our brains are not naturally geared for that. Perhaps we can expand this topic in another blog post.
- Calendaring/scheduling = Effective Time Management: I myself have fallen prey to this and cannot stress enough how inaccurate this statement can be. While calendaring or scheduling can definitely help in managing one’s time, it does not necessarily guarantee the stress free effectiveness we would all like to hope for. Calendaring or scheduling your day without learning how to prioritize can not just lead to anxiety and stress but also cause burnout. Here are some of the common traps of scheduling:
- Over obsessing over colors and labels is a great way of killing inefficiency while feeling a sense of achievement.
- Not building failure into your calendar by not scheduling a buffer for every task.
- Bombarding the calendar with meetings and phone calls without questioning the objective or necessity of the meeting/call under consideration.
Now that we are aware of a few slippery slopes, here are some time hacks and strategies that I have picked along the way mostly through trial and error method of learning. A lot more errors indeed!
- Setting an objective/goal for the day before embarking on any task however big or small: Planning and prioritising only works in relation to the goal at hand. Without a goal there is no way to know if the task at hand is important or not.
- Rule of 3 combined with 80-20 rule: The 80-20 rule states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. For example: 80% of you results come from 20% of your activities. Dividing these 20% activities in not more than 3 important tasks/projects can be a game changing strategy. Try it yourself!
- Bonus Tip: Allocate 80% of your time to the 3 tasks/projects at hand and leave the remaining 20% as buffer for mundane have-to tasks like emails, calls etc.
- Delete: The fastest way to get a task done is to NOT do it. Question the task at hand and keep a very high standard for the RoI (Return on Investment) on your time. This will help you in deciding which tasks are better avoided.
- Get things DONE vs just DOING things: There is a big difference in doing things and getting things done. Just because you are doing things does not necessarily mean you are getting things done effectively. Aim to get things done instead of functioning as per a checklist.
- Analyze, Reflect and Fine-tune: Analyze how you spend your time, reflect on your successes and failures and fine-tune your next week and REPEAT. It works like magic, trust me!
Are you good at time management? How do you optimize your time? Do you have any hacks that you swear by? Let me know in the comments section below. Looking forward to learning from each one of you.