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Self-Improvement

7 powerful strategies to get your time management right

What if I tell you that you are blessed with a resource that puts you in league with the Jobs and Zuckerbergs of the world ?

Would you believe me, if I told you that you have a crucial skill that can act as the perfect accelerator for achieving all your goals ?

It's time! The 24 hours that you get everyday without fail.

Time is something we don’t consciously think about. But, how you manage it can decide what kind of life you will lead.

Time is much more valuable than money. You can’t save it to use it for later, you can’t trade it, you can’t have more of it and once you spend it you can’t get it back.

Researchers of University of California and University of Pennsylvania have found that people who value time over money are happier than those who don't.

7 powerful strategies for  time management

Time is what we want most and what we use worst.

The average person uses 13 methods to control how he spends time in a day.

Still only 40% of working Americans say they have enough time in their daily lives.

1 in 3 American adults is sleep deprived.

15% of workers gave up on vacation because they didn't have time to use them.

We have developed the attitude of treating time as an infinite resource. In reality time is a one time specific resource. You can not save it nor can you go back to use it.

There are 1440 minutes in a day, 7 days in a week and 52 weeks in a year. All the time management in the world will never change that. It is not time that needs to be managed but rather our utilization of that resource.

Time management is not simply about getting things done. It means dedicating the greatest amount of time to your highest priorities to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Here are 7 strategies that will help you plan and execute your activities to optimise the 24 hours at your disposal.

1. Prioritise - what you don’t do saves much more time than what you do

On a typical workday employees spend 20% of their effort on high value tasks and 80% on other peripheral tasks. We are so focused on what we need to do, we fail to see the time leeches that sneak in between our actual work. Prioritising can help us weed out these distractions and sharpen our focus on what is truly important.

When it comes to priorities, knowing what not to do is often much more vital than knowing what to do.​

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Warren Buffett is a big believer in the power of elimination.

He once told his personal pilot to make a list of 20 life goals. Then asked him to pick 5 goals which were most important to him. Once he did it, Buffett asked him to throw out the 15 goals list and concentrate all his energies on the 5 vital ones. The lesson here was to know what not to do and avoid it at all costs.

7 powerful strategies for  time management

The habit guru Stephen Covey shows from his matrix that recognising and avoiding unimportant tasks is as crucial as getting the important one’s done.

If you just start working from a list you increase you output 25% each day. Imagine what all you can accomplish by working from a specific and prioritised action list !!

Stop spending your time on activities that have little payoff or make only marginal additions to your goals. Instead focus on perfecting the crucial tasks that can change outcomes.

Break down each large task into smaller and more specific chunks. This will give you instant clarity about relative importance of each component and the time you should be spending on it.

2. Understand the biology of time and use it to your advantage

Time management is not just mental and psychological. It is also biological.

Our body has its own clock in the form of circadian rhythm. Depending on this our concentration and reaction times vary throughout the day.

Rebecca Spencer, Associate Professor of Neuroscience at University of Massachusetts says that, “You can certainly make better decisions if you are making them at the right time of day.”

7 powerful strategies for  time management

Learning to capitalize on your body’s natural rhythms is an important time management skill. So, use your prime time (the scheduling sweet spot for maximum efficiency) to your best advantage.

When is your ‘prime time’?

Research has shown that for most of us our prime time is 2.5 to 4 hours after waking. Willpower expert Roy Baumeister says that, early morning is also when you’re most disciplined: Therefore most likely to stick to a plan.

Laura Vanderkam has studied the schedules of high achievers extensively . Her major finding? They all rise early. Almost all have a morning ritual that kick-starts their day.

So, schedule the ‘low energy’ tasks like sending mail and returning calls in the afternoons.

Work on the ‘deep tasks’ that require focus and effort in your prime time to perform at your best.

Further, mood plays a strong role in how people decide to spend their time each day.

In the PNIS survey on ‘Hedonism and Everyday Activities’,researchers found that, participants chose pleasurable activities when they were feeling down or out of sorts. And, people chose to perform disagreeable but necessary activities when they were feeling upbeat.

Simplest way to keep an upbeat mood? Get enough sleep.

Research has shown that even partial sleep deprivation can make you feel irritable and vulnerable.

3. Spend time to save time - plan, schedule and organise your day

Peter Turla Management expert

A plan is what, a schedule is when. It takes both a plan and a schedule to get things done.

Time can't be managed - you can only manage yourself.

Time can’t be manipulated. But you can plan and manage your activities so as to get the most from it. When you complain about lack of time, it just means you don’t know how to fit your priorities into a 24 hour day.

7 powerful strategies for  time management

The Bureau of Labour has released the statistics that 70% employees work beyond work hours and on weekends.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, office workers waste an average of 40% of their work day. Not because they aren't smart, but because they were never taught organizing skills to cope with the increasing workloads and demands.

Simple reality is, What doesn't get scheduled doesn't get done.

And the activity which gets a specific time allotted to it gets done.

As part of the Implementation intention study, in the experiment group that was asked to commit to exercising at a specific place, on a specific day at a specific time of their choosing, 91% of members exercised.

Schedule everything - including off time into your day. Assigning dedicated time blocks to all activities will help you get everything done without distractions.

The best selling time management author in history, Brian Tracy, says that, it takes only about 10 to 12 minutes for you to plan out your day, but this small investment of time will save you up to 2 hours (100 to 120 minutes) in wasted time and diffused effort through the day.

Equally important is decluttering and organising your physical spaces along with your schedules.

The 2010 touch survey found that the average employee spends 38 hours per year looking for lost items. It costs $89 billion annually.

Spend time to clear your messy desk and organise your stuff for saving time.

4. Use technology against its own distraction

Technology often gets a bad rap for time wastage and not without reason.

Constant connectivity equals constant interruptions.​

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Increased access to technology means that we are interrupted with personal issues at work and work issues at home.

7 powerful strategies for time management

The salary.com survey found that time spent on mobile, texting and social media were the top time wasters at work. Additionally, only 20% of workers said they did not check non-work information on the Internet.

It takes 16 minutes to get back to work after checking mail and an average employee checks mail 36 times a day.

In spite of all its faults, technology is also an inescapable reality in today’s world. Instead of fighting it why not use it to manage its own distractions?

The average worker spends 46 minutes a day commuting to and from work. Why not work remotely and save this time at least couple of days a week?

Professionals lose 31 hours or approximately 4 work days per month in unproductive meetings. Why not use webinars for training and hangouts for meeting?

Employ apps like Rescuetime to keep track of the time you are spending on social media.

Use apps like IFTTT to connect the info amongst your apps.

Use automation to handle recurring tasks and events like payment of subscriptions, if you have done the same task more than 3 times schedule it to be done.

Technology is a great servant but a terrible master.

Be mindful that you don’t become habituated to its temporary highs. Use technology as an aid in your high value tasks. Don’t depend on it to tackle your boredom and fill your free hours.

5. The case against multitasking

Do you pride yourself on being a Multitasker? Wait before you pat yourself for employing this new age time management strategy.

Multitasking costs the global economy 450 billion annually.

7 powerful strategies for time management

University of Michigan study found that multitasking causes a 40% drop in productivity.

Not just that, it also increases the probability of errors by 50%. It also increases the time spent on completing each task by 50%.

Earl Miller MIT neuroscientist               

Our brains are not wired to multitask well. When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly.

This task switching comes with a cost.

A typical employee switches task every 3 minutes minutes and it takes 23 minutes to refocus after interruptions.

Not only time, there is also a biological cost. Brain expends energy as it shifts focus from one task to another. Constant switching means brain drain that can temporarily lower your cognitive IQ by 10%.

Instead of trying to do everything at once, organise the tasks one after the other with dedicated chunks of time. Then work with your complete focus on one task at a time.

7 powerful strategies for time management

Try the 'pomodoro' way of work schedule. It works on the principle of working for 25 minutes without distraction with 5 minute breaks in between. Draugiem Group found that it's employees maximised productivity when they worked for 52 minutes with intense purpose, then rested for 17 minutes.

Find your own work rest ratio by experimenting with your break times. Be aware that checking on social media or watching TV defeats the whole purpose of taking a break. Use the break to move around, interact with your co workers and give some relief to your busy brain.

Aim to maximise your effort and focus in the work period by avoiding disruptions like checking mail or texting.

The Disruption and Recovery Field study conducted by the University of Illinoi found that the average employee deals with 56 interruptions per day and spends 2 hours everyday recovering from these distractions.

Don’t be distracted by menial tasks in the middle of your work. Set aside dedicated chunks of time for checking emails, scheduling etc.

Don’t mix the work that requires your focus with chores that can be done on autopilot.

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6. Delegate to expand time horizontally

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

No matter how good you are at your job, you have only 24 hours at your disposal. This is why delegation is a crucial skill in the time strapped world. The only way you can get quality output within the stipulated time is through delegating the work.

7 powerful strategies for time management

So, are we giving the due importance to delegation of work ? Not really.

A 2007 study on time management found that close to half of the 332 companies surveyed were concerned about their employees’ delegation skills. At the same time, only 28% of those companies offered any training on the topic.

Lack of confidence in the employee, paucity of time and ‘only I can do it’ mentality are the top reasons we don’t delegate.

According to the ‘Time management survey’ by The Alternative Board, 30% of small business owners don’t delegate because they feel they are the best person to do the job. 20% feel their employees are not good enough to take up the job. Another 20% feel they cannot afford the time to delegate. Still 65% of them feel they are good at delegating.

7 powerful strategies for time management

Delegation when done right will relieve your workload and lets you focus on more challenging tasks. But ineffective delegation can actually waste time and cause more stress.

According to the Wall Street Journal, 280 hours (7 weeks) per year are lost by workers seeking clarification due to poor communication. And managers spend 3 hours everyday on interruptions.

Strategic delegation involves assigning the right job to the right person. Follow these 5 key principles to avoid pitfalls of faulty delegation -

  • Provide clear cut instructions about duties involved, skill set needed, outcome expected and the timeline of the task.

  • Choose the right employee for the job on the basis of skills, motivation and experience.

  • Offer regular help in the form of trainings that can build the employee capabilities and enhance existing skills.

  • Know when to delegate- Follow the 70% rule. If an employee can do the job 70% as well as you can, then assign it.

  • Invest your time to build trust and communication with your subordinates. Start by delegating tasks on a trial basis giving time to iron out the process.

Delegation is a teaching oriented process. Resist the temptation to jump into the fray at the first sign of trouble. Don’t be afraid of getting results through a process different than your own.

7. Value your time enough to spend it on yourself

Time is your most valuable asset. It is free but it is also priceless.

Take care of it as you take care of your investment.Know how you spend it. Assess how you can make better use of it on everyday basis.

7 powerful strategies for time management

According to 'Wasting time at work' survey by Salary.com, the average worker admits to wasting about two hours of each eight-hour workday, not including lunch or scheduled breaks.

Recognise that, your time is your own personal resource. Wasting it will be only harmful to the employer but can have devastating consequences to you in the long run.

Learn to say NO- to everyone and everything that is a waste of your time. Make hard choices for yourself by choosing long term gains over short term mediocre gratification.

Learn to say YES to ‘me time’.

We don’t know how to take a break and spend time on ourselves. Harris Interactive Survey found that Americans have an average of 9 unused vacation days. Further we are constantly connected to work even when we are off work thanks to our smartphones.

We have been conditioned to view downtime as a waste of time. In reality mental breaks are essential to recharge ourselves and in fact increase productivity.

The rest is not idleness research argues that, when we are resting the brain is anything but idle and that, far from being purposeless or unproductive, downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics’

Constantly ask the question - what’s creating real value in my life ?

Dedicate larger pieces of your time to those activities.

Conclusion

Time management is the prerequisite of success. Time is the great equaliser and can neutralise all other advantages in this extreme competitive world.

So, spend time planning and prioritising your tasks on a daily basis. Use your prime time to ensure the best execution of your plans.

Time management is a learned skill.

Every minute you spend on perfecting this skill will be a worthy investment. Because, if you don’t run your time, your time will run you around.

Take the first step towards becoming a better time manager by trying this time management quiz.

Categories
Self-Improvement

The Ultimate Guide to Wade Through Quarter Life Crisis

Responsibilities like getting married, starting a successful career and paying back student loans can be rather large sources of stress, especially when you’ve just entered the real world.

A survey by WebMD found that young adults, those between the age of 18 and 33, are the most likely to feel stressed out.

The same WebMD survey also claims that only 25 percent of individuals surveyed felt any relief from meeting their doctors or counsellors.

As an individual you alone can help yourself and no amount of external advice can change this fact.

Before taking the necessary steps to deal with the crisis, there are a few changes you should make to your lifestyle - you must first eliminate anything holding you back.

Negativity can take many forms in your life and not all are immediately visible.

A survey by the American Psychological Association states that the three biggest sources of stress in young adults are work, money and relationships.

Now immediately quitting your job or breaking up with your significant other is not advisable. However, try and see where you can adjust your lifestyle to remove the source of negativity. You need to make a change in a sustainable way.

We all allow ourselves to get distracted every once in awhile. Usually it is a movie or a generous meal.

But any distraction that is taking over your life cannot be termed as a trivial distraction anymore.

Jermaine Riley R&B Artist

Distractions destroy action. If its not moving you towards your purpose, Leave it alone.

Although you may have convinced yourself that having those few drinks every night is nothing harmful.

Or a few hours of gaming every day is just a bit of fun.

These often have a way of spiraling out of control. For a short period try limiting non-productive activities in your daily life. Getting away from harmful habits requires a good level of introspection.

Charles Duhigg, the author of “Power of Habit” describes a process to get rid of an unhealthy habit by analyzing it on a deeper level and dealing with the base urge itself.

Only if you have a life free of unnecessary negativity and distractions, you can focus on what you really need to.

You.

1. Handling stress the right way

You must realize that this is just a temporary phase. You will become stronger in the long run if you keep at it. The Harvard Business Review notes that people tend to experience a sharp increase in stress levels in their twenties.

Another study by the Happify data science team on 88,000 people found that there is a sharp increase in stress in early thirties and late twenties. In fact, the average age for depression has dropped from the late forties to the mid-twenties.

But there’s a silver lining….

A person's emotional response to this stress declines over time. And they also experience a significant improvement in overall life satisfaction.

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The American Psychology Association has found that levels of stress consistently decrease as an individual ages.

As your life takes course, you will have less time to dwell on your stress. You will gain experience and be better equipped to deal with challenges.

2. Letting go of limits is as discomforting as is important

The plethora of choices for you to consider might be one source of stress.

But you can use this as an opportunity to reflect on your past and find out what you truly want to do. Find things that run parallel to your passion and lifestyle. Then focus on them.

There are no arbitrary rules or limits that you need impose on yourself. Worrying about these will only lead to further stress.

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A study by the Pew Research Center found that only 20% of individuals between the ages of 18-29 are married, in fact the same study shows that the average age at which people are getting married and settling down is increasing.

At the same time your twenties are not simply a time of procrastination. In this Ted Talk, the speaker, who is a clinical counsellor, describes how important this decade of your life will be.

Your twenties are about making the right plans and investments into who you are and who you want to become. If you are not pursuing traditional goals, that is perfectly fine but then make sure you are pursuing something worthwhile.

3. It is always good to rethink your identity

Taking this personality test will help you learn a little more about yourself. It assesses your personality in terms of Mind, Energy, Nature, Tactics and Identity.

The Mind aspect shows how we interact with other individuals. You might be an introvert in which case you prefer solitude and are easily exhausted by social interaction or you might be an extrovert and prefer group activities and feel energized by social interactions.

The Energy aspect is about how you process information in the world. An Observant might be more down to earth and focus on the present and current patterns in his world. On the other hand an Intuitive individual might focus on the hidden meanings of the world around him or her and the future possibilities it lends itself to.

The Nature aspect determines how we make decisions and cope with our emotions. Individuals who display the Thinking characteristic tend to focus on objectivity and rationality while those who are Feeling are more sensitive and emotionally expressive.

The Tactics aspect reflects your approach to work and decision-making. As a Judging individual you may value clarity, predictability and structure over spontaneity. A Prospecting individual may be more flexible and prefer improvising and spotting opportunities over working within a defined framework

At the end of the day, human behaviour cannot be measured by data points. This test might only give you a little insight into your behaviour and habits. It is up to you to make changes in your lifestyle to fit your personality type.

4. Comparison with others is the death of success

In the 1950s, the psychologist Leon Festinger popularized the social-comparison theory. He argued that people have innate tendencies to assess their self-worth by comparing themselves to other people and that social comparison leads to feelings of insignificance and insecurity.

Social networking platforms have only exacerbated this problem in recent times. Just look at the spike in the amount of time people spend on Facebook after a breakup.

In an interview with a psychologist, Dr. Steers, who conducted a study on the link between Facebook use and depression, it was noted that “Part of the reason for that is people tend to self-present on Facebook and they try to present themselves in the best light possible”

It is important to remember that whatever photographs and posts you see on Facebook or Instagram have been selectively uploaded by your friends.

Do you post your day to day mediocre moments on Facebook?

So while you may be witnessing a constant stream of road trips, parties and weekend getaways, remember this is the highlight reel you are witnessing.

Theodore Roosevelt American President

Comparison is the thief of joy.

5. Success is never 'overnight', unlike popular opinion

Success happens in slow and painful steps, not overnight. You will find success in the culmination of your sustained effort over a large period of time. This graph from a youth blog conceptualizes this perfectly.

Think of each step you take as an investment into your future. Like any investment, the returns can only be seen after a sufficient amount of time has passed.

If you always judge yourself prematurely you will find yourself reaching short of your goal. You must give yourself time.

Longevity is what breeds results.

6. Figure out the RIGHT risks, and take them

Take a little time and try to come up with an overarching aim and a timeframe.

Although a detailed goal will be much easier to work towards, it is having a goal that is crucial. This will define success for you, for example assume your goal could be “I want to be a graphic designer by the time I am 30.”

Now you need to find the steps to achieve that goal. This is where research comes in. You would need to look at the jobs available and their recruiting requirements.

You might need to take a course or a certified training program in this field to gain the required skills.

You could contact young people who work in the field, who would be able to offer you inside information on average pay scales, or working hours.

You might find an opportunity on the opposite end of your country. Even if this seems discouraging at first, try doing a simple cost benefit analysis of the risks and rewards of pursuing this.

Since self-doubt and discouragement do not factor into these analyses, you might find the pros outweighing the cons.

That is the leap of faith.

7. Finding a mentor who can channelize your energies

A mentor can provide priceless guidance at the start of your career.

Although, finding one is easier said than done, you would be extremely lucky to find one amongst your existing contacts or through social media.

Before approaching someone, reflect on what you want from this person as your mentor. If you require day to day attention then you might be better off reaching out to a family member or a retiree rather than a busy CEO. You can approach others if you don’t want advice so often.

It is also much easier to find someone to mentor you when the relationship is mutually beneficial. Try contributing something to them or their organization first. They may then be more inclined to guide you.

It is important to remember that ultimately it is your work ethic and grit that will bring you success, your mentor might guide you to the water, you must be the one to drink.

8. Dealing with failure is something everyone should be ready for

As you go through life you will come to realize the importance of failure.

Looking at stories of highly successful people, you will find that failure has always been an integral part of their journey to success.

Before he found Microsoft, Bill Gates, owned a company called Traf-O-Data which tracked traffic data to sell to municipalities. The only problem with the product was that it did not work and the venture failed.

Thomas Edison Inventor

Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

However, Microsoft cofounder, Paul Allen, has said that “the programming and entrepreneurial experience gained was seminal in preparing them to make Microsoft’s first product.” In the long run, your failures are an integral part of your successes.

This is where the concept of learning as a curve comes from.

Investing in your education is investing in yourself and it is in your twenties when your investments have the most potential to grow.

The investment into education may not even be monetary. Online services like Coursera, MIT Open Courseware, and Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Institute offer high quality certified courses from reputable institutes for free.

And there is no shortage of variety.

You can also look for programs and workshops in your local community or universities. Here you could also interact with a variety of people who might be in a similar position as you.

Every step you take on your journey is a leap of faith even if you don't stick all the landings, keep taking those leaps!

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Conclusion

This is not a perfect tutorial.

Everyone is in a different situation and there will never be a one-fits-all solution to our problems. Usually a quarter life crisis is a symptom to a much deeper problem in our lives. This process did not focus on any single aspect of my life, instead I changed the fundamental way I lived.

The process is simple by itself but it requires constant dedication.

Do you think your life is in a bit of a lull? What changes do you plan to make to kick-start your life today?