The New Rules of Time Management
Tips for Better Use of a Precious Resource
Since the Industrial Revolution, when “efficiency experts" prowled factory floors, there have been time management techniques. But in the high-tech 21st century, the very technology designed to enhance efficiency may be curbing our productivity. Information overload is constant. Distractions are the norm, especially for workers in open-office environments. We are at the mercy of emails, text alerts, and so-called “self-service" platforms that put the onus on us to figure out everything from flight delays to tracking overnight packages.
The trick is controlling the technology, rather than letting it control you. These tips can help you take command of your most precious resource: time.
Tame the Email Backlog
You may never get to inbox zero, but you'll have a sporting chance if you unsubscribe from unwanted promotions and email lists. Most of the emails that cross your desktop won't be spam, of course, but letting these necessary communications pile up can still hamper your productivity. Don't tell yourself you'll “deal with this later." The OHIO Rule (“Only Handle It Once") is one that has stood the test of time. Apply it by taking some action with new emails — whether that involves handling the task yourself, assigning it to a team member, or hitting the delete button.
Tap Into Some Time-Saving Apps
There are a growing number of apps to help you get a better grip on your life. The best of them will enable you to manage your time or money more efficiently, for example by letting you prioritize tasks or pay bills and transfer money on the go. Some apps will even remind you to pause and refocus your mental faculties by generating bells on a preset schedule, or if you prefer, a randomized reminder. Think of it as a call to a mini-meditation. Ideally, apps that aid you in organizing and visualizing your time and money should synchronize with every device you use.
Find Your Cyber Loafing Cure
If you find yourself compulsively checking emails, calendars and social media when you should be doing something else, it may be a sign of sleep deprivation or stress. A 2013 study at Singapore Management University found that sleep-deprived participants gave in to the temptation to loaf online more readily. If a few minutes of this helps relieve your stress and you can quickly refocus on the task at hand then it might actually aid your productivity and reduce the risk of burnout. But if this behavior is interfering with your ability to perform on the job or to spend quality time with your family, you might need to adjust your daily routine so you wake up rested and refreshed.
Achieve Your Work/Life Balance
It might seem counterintuitive that you will excel at work by leaving the office an hour earlier to spend more time with your kids or to hit the gym, but leading a well-rounded life may enhance your performance on the job. Set modest goals to alter your habits, and explain these changes to all of the stakeholders. Time is your most valuable resource; it's up to you how you spend it.
Photo: iStock | Kelly Beamon is a freelance journalist in New York who writes about health, business and home renovation.