I think I know what you’re thinking now - another management b…t! 6 months ago reading such headline I would say the same. That was a time when I spent 10 plus hours at office and still had a lot of work not done. Then I decided to change something and what the hell: I tried to apply some of time management rules to my working day. Some of them worked for me and some failed but following 5 principles I’m using everyday and they work like a charm.
I’m not planning whole day because running a small company is still to unpredictable. Instead of planning whole day I decided to be making a list of critical tasks to be completed before the end of the day, optimally before 12pm. Before noon you can complete tasks that not require interaction with anyone but also it is possible to reach a contractor or a customer who had just finished a morning meeting.
Many people suggest to plan the next day as the last task of the previous day but I’m making my lists as the first thing after arriving the office, even before drinking my beloved morning coffee ;)
The list should be made on a paper or a board but not in any digital form. Why? I’ll get back to it in the next paragraph.
That’s the principle that in my opinion it’s the most important and causes massive time-saving effects.
I’m taking and completing tasks in the order as they are written on the list. Do not try to pick the easiest task first - it doesn’t work. The effect is that you will spend most of time resolving relatively easy and short issue. Just take tasks in a given order.
I’m also not thinking about setting priorities or if the order is right - it’s simply too time consuming. I’m just taking a task and complete it, then the second, then the third and so on. The only exception to this rule is when it’s impossible to finish a task because of unavailability of a contractor or a customer involved in the task.
After finishing the task you have to cross it out of the list immediately. It’s out of the question - You have to! There is something magical in watching the list getting shorter and shorter. Something that will drive you to complete following tasks even quicker.
Another ingredient that is mandatory on the way to increase productivity may be hard to apply. Not because it’s complex or expensive, just because it’s against common rules and environment expectations.
To be productive you have to isolate from the environment completely and stay focused on the task that must be completed. No chit chats, phone calls, no e-mails (reading nor sending), no web surfing unless it’s necessary to complete the task. Turn off or disable all communication channels until you finish all critical tasks.
Personally I don’t like to work in complete silence so usually I listen to chillout music that doesn’t distract me and covers office noises - you can find dozens of chillout music clips on youtube.
That’s a consequence of applying the previous rule. Disabling all communication channels includes turning off a phone and an email client so it’s almost impossible to contact you for relatively long period of time. It can be seen as offensive by your clients but it’s your role to explain that in a long term they will benefit from this attitude.
At the moment I’m not available at all from 8:30am to 11:30am and in this time I’m able to complete all critical tasks. Then I check what’s going on, resolve problems that appeared in the morning and get back to idle communication mode.
I must say that applying these principles was easier than I thought and it’s not tiring nor hard to do. Nevertheless I think that every period of hard work deserves a reward. So after 3 hours of productive work I’m taking a break and going for a short walk. Also taking one day off in a week becomes a rule rather than an exception.