We all have only 24 hours in a day. And no matter how much or how fast you try to accomplish, there is only so much you can do. Basically, if you want to increase your productivity, there are only two ways to go about it. The first way is to put in more hours, and the second way is to work more effectively.
When it comes to getting more things done, the first thing that goes into most people’s minds is that they should work harder. Working harder and putting longer hours may not be a wise choice, as you already know, we have only 24 hours to spend in a day. Hence, the better solution is to learn how to work smarter and become more effective.
While time management and personal productivity are not rocket science, you do need to understand the fundamental principles of how things work in order to improve your output.
And this is exactly what you about to discover in this article. Here are 5 effective time management principles according to productivity experts. Learn them and apply them to every area of your life, and see how effective you can be and how much you can get done.
Eat the biggest frog first
Mark Twain once quoted, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” And the productivity expert Brian Tracy mentioned this in one of his best-selling books, Eat That Frog, too. Alternatively, you can always go for eat that frog book summary if you do not have the time to go through the entire book.
Tracy agrees and says that if you have to complete two tasks in a day, choose to do the bigger and more difficult task first.
It is easy to understand why this is important. First, when you start your day in the morning, your motivation and willpower are at their peak. And second, once you have completed the biggest task of your day, you will be extremely fulfilled and the rest of your day will be much easier and lighter.
Not just that, because you are doing the heavy lifting the first thing in the morning, you are actually making progress. Most people leave their important task to the end of the day because they find it difficult to do. So they choose to do the easy tasks first.
And by the end of the day, they have already used up most of their willpower and energy for the less important tasks, and they have no more willpower to act on the important work that they save until the very end.
So, choose to eat the biggest frog the first thing in the morning.
Morning Exercise vs Evening Exercise? Exercise in the morning
Do you know that one of the habits of highly successful people is exercise? According to Laura Vanderkam, the best-selling author of “What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast”, says that most successful people wake up early and they exercise before they get to work.
We all understand that exercise is important because it gives us energy and makes us healthy, but do you know that exercise can also make you more productive? This is because exercise refreshes your muscles and allows you to have better focus.
Vanderkam writes in her book that highly successful people choose to exercise in the morning because they believe that exercise is important to their overall achievement.
Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox goes through an hour of personal training at 6am. Gary Vaynerchuk starts his day with his trainer for his regular training session, and Kevin O’Leary, the Shark Tank investor wakes up at 5.45am each morning to exercise. The same goes for Michelle Obama, Mark Cuban, Barrack Obama, Richard Branson, etc, all wake up early to exercise before they get to work.
And just like what Vanderkam writes in her book, “These are incredibly busy people. If they make time to exercise, it must be important.”
Managing your time is about managing yourself. And one of the best ways to manage yourself is through exercising.
Organize your day by time-block your most important task first
Time blocking is one of the most powerful productivity techniques that anyone can use to achieve more in their day. According to the author of the famous book, “The One Thing”, Gary Keller says, “I guard my time fiercely and without apology.”
Time blocking is a technique where you dedicated your time to a single task. And during these hours, you will never do any other thing, except the one thing that you have dedicated to doing. This technique helps strengthen your focus, and at the same time, it eliminates distractions.
Gary Keller uses time blocking and blocks the first four hours of every day to fully focus on building his business. He says that this technique has helped him turn a local office into one of the largest real estate franchise in the US.
The fundamental of time blocking is extremely easy and simple to understand, but you should not underestimate its effectiveness. What you need to do is to identify your top priority and then block off the time and work on it.
For example, if you are in sales and one of your top priorities is to prospect for more clients, what you can do then is to time block your prospecting. For instance, you may time block 9am to 12pm every day for prospecting. And during these three hours, you will do nothing but prospecting for new clients.
If you want to write a book, you can time block an hour a day into writing. Or if you want to build a successful blog, you can time block some of your work tasks so that you can work on them and make progress.
Prioritize your to-do list
In the nineteenth century, Ivy Lee shared his time management technique with Charles Schwab, who was one of the richest men in the world at that time. When Schwab asked how much should he pay for Lee’s consultancy, Lee replied, “Nothing, unless it works. After three months, you can send me a check for whatever you feel it’s worth to you.”
After three months, Schwab was delighted with the progress his company had made and wrote Lee a check for $25,000, which the amount is equivalent to more than $400,000 today.
So what did Lee shared with Schwab? Lee’s method was simple. He suggested Schwab’s executive team writes down six of the most important things to accomplish the following day, prioritize the list, and work on the first task the next day before moving to the next. And approach the list in the same manner for the rest of the tasks.
In other words, having a to-do list works. However, you must commit to doing the first task before doing any other thing. And once the first task is completed, only then you are allowed to work on the second task, and so on.
Everyone knows that having a to-do list is an important part of time management and personal productivity, but most people are not doing it. They either underestimate its effectiveness or it is just not part of their daily habit.
Therefore, plan and create your own to-do list from now on. Before you get to bed tonight, write down six tasks you need to do tomorrow, prioritize them, and then work on the first task the first thing in the morning.
Focus on your top 5 life goals
The billionaire and one of the greatest investors in the world, Warren Buffett, once shared a great productivity method to his personal pilot, Mike Flint.
When Flint asked Buffett about his career priorities, Buffett started by asking Flint to list down his top 25 career goals. And then Buffett requested Flint to identify and circle his top 5 goals out of the 25. Flint confirmed that he should start working on his top 5 life goals and make them his priorities.
And when Buffett asked him what he should do with the other 20 goals, like everyone else, Flint said that he would focus on his top 5 life goals, but for the rest of his goals, he would work on them whenever he sees fit. This is when Buffett shared a golden time management lesson with Flint.
Buffett said, “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
The lesson is clear. We cannot focus and put our attention on everything, and thus, we must choose to only work on what is the most important to us. The rest? You just need to ignore them and give them no attention until you have accomplished the important.
Many people try to accomplish as much as possible, and when they do this, they are spreading their effort too thin. You must act according to Buffett’s suggestion, to only focus and work on the top 5 life goals and ignore the rest.