30 June 2021
Effective time management is perhaps one of the most valuable skills to learn and apply in life. With better time management comes better performance at work, less stress, and more free time available for recreation and relaxation.^1 Personally, I've been learning about time management strategies for some years yet still have a long way to go in becoming truly high performance and working productively.
So, how am I planning to improve my productivity? One method to better manage my time is to eliminate half-work.^2 In a nutshell, half-work is starting work on one task but switching to another midway, thus disrupting focus and increasing the amount of time needed to complete the task. For example, I could be working on writing this blog but turn away to check my phone and open up social media. While a short interruption may seem only a slight hindrance to completing the task, a study by the University of California, Irvine^3 demonstrated it could take 23 minutes and 15 seconds on average to return to original focus.^4 Simply put, getting distracted during work is a huge hindrance to productivity.
Now that it's established that focus is needed for high productivity, how can I ensure I stay focused? One way is to eliminate distractions completely. If I'm constantly checking my phone and scrolling through social media when I should be focusing on a task, I should put as many barriers as possible between me and the device. For example, if I put my phone on airplane mode, turn it off completely, and store it in a drawer in another room, I've just put 4 steps in between me and the distraction. This makes it much more painful to use the device, preventing me from simply reaching over to turn on my phone and thus losing focus. Additionally, if I'm working on my computer but find myself distracted by websites such as YouTube or my email, I can use software like Freedom, which blocks these sites and tracks the time they've been blocked.
Another strategy to stay focused is to use the Pomodoro method. This method makes it easy to get started with and stay concentrated on work. In essence, this method describes a routine of setting a timer for 25 minutes and working on a single task until the timer rings. After the timer's up, I can take a 5-minute break and start again with a 25-minute work period.^5 These short intervals of work and rest help ensure fixation on a task without getting fatigued. While this can all be done with a simple timer, apps like Pomotodo can help more easily set and track these sessions.
In addition to all this, I can be aware of Parkinson's Law—that is, the idea that "work expands to fill the time allotted".^6 If I set a longer deadline than needed, or even worse: don't set a deadline, my work will take much longer than it needs to. By setting hard deadlines to complete a task, I'd be able to constrict the amount of time I have and force myself to stay productive and finish on time. I can enforce these deadlines by asking a friend to keep me accountable. For example, if I don't complete a project by a certain time, I'll pay them $15. This motivates me to finish on time and motivates them to keep me accountable.
Time Spent Well
Finally, once effective time management is sorted out and we put in hours at work, how should we track it and ensure we're compensated fairly for our time? Well, I'd recommend checking out TimeClockGo, software to track pay schedules and employees' time at work. They have an easy-to-use, affordable solution that allows for companies to track expenses, time off, and team expenses and time entries. After employees clock in or out with a click, businesses can quickly generate custom reports to fit their needs. With their mobile app, you can take managing employee time on the go, making things easier and more accessible than before.
As I start my first semester at college this fall, I'm hoping to implement more strategies to better make use of my time, allowing me to maintain high course averages while making time to meet new friends and make connections—a positive start to a new season of life.