Do you remember that March when we thought working from home would give us the opportunity to learn an instrument, get super fit, or renovate the basement? Yes … most people tend to dawdle some time gained. It takes a lot of work to be efficient with your time and energy.
“The biggest mistake is not having a plan,” says Craig Jarrow, founder of Time Management Ninja. The basis of time management is a to-do list. This is not a monster checklist with 50 tasks. Try to focus on your top five priorities every day.
“What keeps people from being productive isn’t that they’re not doing enough, but that they’re trying to do too much,” says productivity coach Grace Marshall, author of How to Be Really Productive. Instead of giving 100 percent, give everything 10 percent.
A paper to-do list is very visible and gives you the satisfaction of ticking things off, says Jarrow. “But apps have superpowers, paper doesn’t.” With the “Things” app from Apple, you can create individual tasks (e.g. errands) or larger projects with subtasks (e.g. vacation planning) and assign appointments. Then your calendar will be integrated to show you what is on deck.
Illustration by Kagan McLeod
Just notice, “If you overestimate how much you can do in a day, you can underestimate how much you can do in a year,” says Marshall. So fitness, self-care and time with friends and family fall by the wayside. Plan for this in advance by scheduling vacation time at the beginning of the year or adding workouts every other day.
“People see it as a waste of time to stop in the moment, but if you make room for these things as the year goes on, you actually become more productive because it prevents burnout,” explains Marshall.
It can also make you more accountable. Maybe you have a coworker you check in with every morning to share your daily schedule, or a running buddy you text every time you knock on the sidewalk. Even a free app like Habit List can track healthy behaviors (like reading every day), so you can build momentum and experience the same sense of achievement as tipping something off a to-do list.
Most importantly, stop living in your email, says Jarrow. Tools like SaneBox can filter your inbox so that you no longer notice this Pavlovian reaction and act on every single notification as soon as it pings. “
Check it only three times a day, ”he says. You will be shocked how quickly you forget what it is like to be chained to that new message alert.
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