The writer Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Yet, we let our weeks happen to us instead of proactively designing our time. We don’t block off our calendars to do heads-down, focused work. We participate in meetings without clear agendas or purposes.
We work without a plan. We let the constant barrage of notifications distract us. We convince ourselves that our busy work is our most important work, even when we know better. The fundamental building block of a workweek is how each individual spends their time. But surprisingly, little attention is dedicated to how we design our hours and workweeks.
For example, when do you do your best work? How many meetings should you schedule on your calendar? Do you allow notifications and respond immediately, or do you turn notifications off to work uninterrupted?
Here are four steps to design your week
Conduct a self-audit to understand your time
Put everything you do on your calendar for two weeks, from meetings and time blocks for emails to special projects and preparing for upcoming meetings; then conduct a time audit by reflecting on the data.
What do you notice about how you spent your time?
What percentage of your time is dedicated to each project? To meetings?
What days of the week are you most focused?
What time of day are you most energized?
Use the insights from your audit to take the following steps:
Identify small changes: Making small improvements can add up to big differences. What are the simplest, easiest steps you can take to proactively design your workweek? For me, it was blocking off my calendar to do heads-down deep work time 3-4 times per week and turning off notifications.
Identify significant changes: Making big structural changes to your week can also lead to more time for the most important work. When I completed my self-audit, I realized that there were weekly standing meetings that could either get canceled or that I didn’t need to attend.
16 minutes: Time it takes to refocus after an incoming email
10: How many IQ points you lose when fielding constant emails (the same as losing an entire night’s sleep)
56: The number of times we’re interrupted per day
3 minutes: Spent working before switching between tasks
2 hours: Spent recovering from distractions every day
Here are a few steps to reduce the time lost to distractions:
Email: Turn off email notifications and set aside 2-3 blocks of time to check and respond to emails throughout the day. Then, ignore email for the rest of the day, knowing that you have time allocated to get to it.
Notifications: Turn off all notifications (email, internal team notifications) for certain “deep work zones” scheduled throughout the week. I blocked off two deep work zones each week where I could work uninterrupted.
Create goal-based calendar blocks: I often create 30 or 60-minute calendar blocks where I challenge myself to complete a specific task or reach a particular goal. Like the pomodoro technique, using time constraints to reach a predetermined goal can increase your focus and empower you to tune out distractions.
Finally, consider what you gain when you reduce distractions (time with your children, ability to go to the gym after work, work-free weekends, etc.).
Create boundaries to maximize your time
Boundaries are a crucial step in reducing distractions, burnout, and work stress. With 79% of employees reporting work-related stress in 2021, we need to take personal ownership and reclaim our time.
Boundaries can be hard to create, but consider using the results from your self-audit to help you determine what boundaries will be most valuable. For example, is it protecting your time? Limiting new, additional tasks? Blocking certain times of day for important work while you’re at your best? Avoiding company events that aren’t required?
When communicating your boundaries with others, focus on the benefit they create for the task at hand.
When your availability is limited:
“I prioritize time with my family on X day or after Y time, but I’m fully available [list commonly available times]. How can we leverage that availability to reach our deadline?”
When the project isn’t in line with your priorities:
“I am working on several projects right now and want to ensure I’m effective. Given that our quarterly goals are [insert goals/metrics/objectives], it seems like Y project and Z project are less essential and timely than x project. Is this right? How do you propose I best prioritize?
Test, Optimize, and Repeat to sustain your time
Start with designing just one workday. How might you proactively structure a workday that has a high chance of being focused, productive, and healthy? Make 2-3 small changes across notifications, deep-work time, emails, and boundary-setting. Then at the end of the day, review what you learned. What worked? What didn’t? Then try again for another day. Double down on 1-2 practices you already implemented and select 1-2 more to test.
If you find it harder to make changes daily, consider looking at a whole week and focusing on identifying 2-3 small changes you can make weekly. Then at the end of the week, reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and try again for the following week.
It can often feel like our calendar is predetermined for us; we just need to respond and make the best of it, striving to fit everything in. But we have more power than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. One of the best ways to find more time in our schedule is to recognize the agency within us and begin by taking a few small steps.
“We’re all working, but not for work’s sake,” he says. “Ultimately, we’re working for something else.” Norton came to this realization after a string of tragedies. His 21-year-old brother-in-law, Gavin, died in his sleep. His son Gavin, named after his uncle, died at just 10 weeks of age from whooping cough. His wife had a stroke, and his 11-year-old son was hit by a car.
“I was like, ‘Does God hate me?’” he says. “So, I’ve tried to spend my time creating time. How can this job free up space? How can this job support me having more time with my family or more time to travel or more time for the things that really matter, as opposed to endlessly working toward something?”
Norton calls his philosophy Gavin’s Law, which is, “Live to start. Start to live.”
Rethinking Time Management
Norton was a mentee of Stephen Covey, the time management icon and author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Stephen said to ‘begin with the end in mind,’” says Norton. “But he never said begin with means in mind. I think, in many ways, we’ve turned goals and habits into ends unto themselves, when in reality, all these things we’re doing are meant for us to live in a different way.”
Traditional time management tools are designed to measure every drop of blood, sweat, and tears from workers, explains Norton. “[They were] never designed for freedom,” he says. “The question is, ‘Who manages my time under time management?’ Traditionally, it is about control. Your employer controls your time. They create your schedule. They tell you what to do when and where. And, if you want to get crazy, they determine that you only have two weeks out of the year for vacation and when you get to retire.”
Norton suggests embracing “anti-time management.” Instead of being the opposite or the reverse, it’s a different level of thinking. “You control your time,” says Norton. “You decide what you want to do, when and where. You decide if you want to create space or not.”
To practice anti-time management, start by identifying “final causes.” “It’s a term from Aristotle,” says Norton. “The idea is [that] an acorn becomes an oak tree. But in real life, a lot of us are planting seeds thinking they’re going to be an oak, when they never will. Why not just plant an oak tree from the start?”
“Final cause” is the sake for which something is done. It’s not the goal; it’s the success that comes from achieving the goal. “Once you realize the final cause, you can change the decision tree around who you want to be and what you really want to do and set up from the dream instead of working endlessly toward it,” says Norton.
For example, you may want to create a table. You might make a design, hire a contractor, and build a table. “That’s great if the goal is to have an heirloom table, but what if the purpose was just to have dinner?” says Norton. “What does success look like after success? Once you understand that, you might realize you could have gotten UberEATS or gone to a food truck. In that process, steps disappear, and you get your time back because the steps weren’t necessary at all.”
“Tip” Time Instead of Managing It
Norton calls the process “time tipping”—rescuing your dream from the end of a timeline and putting it front and center. To tip time and get to the real goal of your goal, you need to get clear on the four Ps of purpose: personal, professional, people, and play.
Your personal purpose relates to the priorities that are just for you, such as health or spirituality. Professional purpose relates to your career, such as promotions or recognition. Your people purpose relates to those around you who are important in your life, such as your family. And your play purpose relates to activities that make you feel energized. Make a list of your Ps, and whenever you have a choice, ask yourself if it fits your purpose priorities.
“They become your North Star,” says Norton. “Does the action bring you closer to or fulfill one of these four goals or not?”
Stop managing time and start prioritizing attention, says Norton. “Pay attention to what you really want, then fast forward the model, going from purpose to priorities to projects,” he says. “The way you’re paid should be in alignment with what you want to be doing. Change the way you work. Change how you’re paid. Change your life. The work you choose determines your lifestyle.”
Any phenomenon that becomes “fashionable” instantly acquires its own mythology. This mythology forms a system of concepts that are accepted and not questioned. At the same time, the vast majority of people do not think about whether it corresponds to reality.
This paradox has existed as long as humanity. Some such misconceptions are harmless and cute. But misconceptions about any management, especially time management, lead to real mistakes in life and work, reduce motivation, and kill faith in oneself. Time management games and activities increase motivation, engagement, and problem-solving skills. They also improve resource management, speaks creativity, and enhances teamwork abilities.
So, what is the history of time management?
History of Time Management
The history of time management goes back to the distant past. As far back as 2000 years ago in ancient Rome, the famous thinker Seneca proposed to divide all time into time spent with benefit and useless.
Seneca also began to keep a permanent record of time in writing. The thinker said that when living a certain period of time, one should evaluate it in terms of occupancy. In the later history of time management, these ideas formed the basis of such a concept as “personal efficiency.
Leon Battista Alberti, a writer and Italian scholar who lived in the 15 century, said that those who know how to manage time usefully will always be successful. To do this, he suggested using 2 rules:
Make a to-do list every day in the morning.
Arrange things in decreasing order of importance.
For centuries, all of these principles existed only in theoretical form, and only since the 1980s, this topic has begun to move from theory to practice. For teens, it will be useful to read time management tips.
Time management is necessary not only for executives and business owners: each of us must be able to manage our own assets to enjoy the process of life in its entirety. Of course, not everyone needs time management. If a person has nothing to do in his or her life, and his or her main task is “to kill time”, then time management is an irrelevant and unnecessary discipline for such a person.
In other words, you should first decide whether you really lack time and where you would like to spend your free minutes, hours, and days when they appear.
Time management consists of several components:
Strict time management.
Optimization of time resources.
Planning a day (week, month, or another period of time).
Organization of motivation.
Time Management Myths That Affect Your Workplace Productivity
Time management is important not only for work: people who have mastered the art of time management are more cheerful, healthy, and successful in professional and personal life. Effective time management allows you to think about all your actions and decisions in terms of their appropriateness for your own development and improvement.
Myth Number 1: You can’t be a Successful Person Without Time Management
The main danger of this myth is that it equates being organized with being successful. This is not the same thing. It is the substitution of the essence with a tool.
At first glance, this myth seems very plausible. How can you be successful if you can’t consciously and systematically manage your time and activities? It seems like you can’t.
However, any success is first of all decision-making. And only in the second place is their execution. If you don’t make decisions or make the wrong ones, then no time management will help you at all. You will do a lot of things that lead you nowhere.
For example, Konstantin is a successful businessman. When I first met him and his style of doing business, I fell into a stupor. He was the epitome of anti-time management. Absolute unpredictability in his thoughts, actions, and decisions. Nevertheless, he has outstanding business accomplishments. Due to what? First of all – due to enormous experience, brilliant intuition, ability to make the most accurate decisions under conditions of lack of information, not to get lost in difficult situations, to be flexible and fearless.
And this is not an isolated example. Neither Konstantin nor others like him did not need the classic system of time management or rules for improving productivity. They succeeded without their help.
Myth Number 2: There are Universal Time Management Systems That Suit all People
Most books on time management inconspicuously carry the idea that time management systems are not personal. After all, this is management! And it is a universal thing. At best, the authors divide people into rationalistic and intuitive (orderly and chaotic).
A greater stupidity is hard to imagine. A time management system is built into a person’s way of life and changes it (and the image, and the person). If it does not do this, it is ineffective. And a person’s lifestyle depends on his or her values, beliefs, cognitive filters and strategies, life situation, type of nervous system, peculiarities of character, activity, etc.
Trying to change your lifestyle by copying techniques developed by someone else is like trying to transplant someone else’s organ. Your body will accept it only under conditions of suppressed immunity, i.e. partial destruction of your identity. The same happens when you copy someone else’s way of life. It disorganizes you. Basically, there are only three possible alternatives:
It will destroy your identity if you follow it fanatically.
You abandon it or modify it beyond recognition (but this is a rare option).
By chance, it will coincide with your personality traits and you will be able to apply it permanently (this is even rarer).
Myth Number 3: Time Management Doesn’t Work
The number of people who have tried living by time management and given up on it is greater than those who have succeeded.
In order for you to manage your time really effectively and without violence to your nature, you must construct a time management system for yourself. This requires a prior analysis of the characteristics of your personality, activities, lifestyle, and situation. If you set up a time management system for yourself – it doesn’t mean that all your time will be spent on work, the development of yourself, and your skills. You should also make time in this system for primitive things like watching movies using VPN for Amazon Prime or playing video games on PS4 or PC as well as other activities that help you relax and reboot.
The same about Konstantin, or rather about his sad experience of implementing time management.
Konstantin liked to attend all kinds of training, seminars, and other developmental events. At one of them, some charismatic person managed to plant in Konstantin’s head the bacillus of time management.
Konstantin decided to give it a try and hired himself a guru of time management. This teacher was the exact opposite of Constantine in temperament and most of his personality traits. However, he possessed great persuasiveness. The experiment of introducing time management into Konstantin’s life lasted about seven months.
Konstantin began to trust his intuition less and began to base his decisions on more formal and rational methods. As a result, for the first time in the last 14 years of his business career, he incurred serious losses (several tens of millions) and found himself on the verge of bankruptcy.
Now, being with Konstantin, it is better not to talk about time management.
Myth Number 4: Time Management Guarantees Personal Development
Many time-management techniques include blocks devoted to goal-setting. This is very correct and appropriate. But here lies a dangerous trap.
It lies in the fact that having reached a certain stage of development, people find themselves in a crisis associated with the need to rethink themselves and their life. He or she must make a kind of quantum leap. Instead, within the framework of time management, he or she is presented with rather primitive technologies of goal-setting.
In the vast majority of cases, these technologies are good in themselves. However, they allow you to choose goals based on meanings and values that are already familiar to you. And they do not work at all when you are experiencing an existential crisis.
If you fall into this trap, then instead of doing inner work on yourself and making a kind of quantum leap, you will move toward goals that are no longer relevant to you. You will lose time and exacerbate your own crisis.
For example, Elena is a talented person who worked for a long time as a top manager of a large company and finally opened her own business.
At the same time, Elena was always aware that the area of her professional development was not really interesting to her either when she was working as a hired employee or when she opened her own business. She was successful and highly professional. But all these years she was plagued by the feeling that she was out of place.
A year and a half after opening her business, this feeling became very strong. And then Elena went to training on goal setting and time management. Being an emotional and enthusiastic person, Elena came out of the training elated and with a list of new goals in her hands.
For eight months, Elena worked on achieving her new goals and got her way. What was the result? Severe disappointment and depression. Loss of meaning and motivation to move forward.
When I asked Elena why she thought this was the case, she said that the goals she had set in the training were totally artificial and superficial. With the shortage of time and group work, she formed pacifier goals: superficially attractive and appealing to the approval of others, but completely unresponsive to her deepest needs.
Myth Number 5: Time Management Immediately Starts Saving Your Time
This myth has probably caused the most casualties among time management recruits. Here is what a typical story of a victim of this myth looks like.
Vasily is a mid-level manager. He is promoted and made head of a division. The volume of tasks and responsibilities increases dramatically. Vasily ceases to have time and cope. But he does not give up and buys a hyper-popular in managerial circles book on time management.
Why does Vasya do this? Stupid question. To have more time. However, with amazement and irritation, Vasya notes that in an attempt to apply the great wisdom in the book, he gets less time, his life becomes more difficult, and the free time does not increase. And, funnily enough, all these phenomena only worsen over time.
After a little floundering in this situation and having exhausted his willpower reserves, Vasya powerfully forgets about any kind of time management. And later, upon hearing this magic word, he reacts aggressively and profanely.
What Happened? A tragic conflict between myth and reality.
Mythological time management is a magic pill that quickly and forever gets rid of your time problems. Real-time management is a painful process of changing your lifestyle and developing completely new and unfamiliar skills.
As soon as you start implementing a little bit of sophisticated time management in your life, your efficiency goes down dramatically instead of going up! And it remains low until new skills and habits are developed. And developing them takes extra time, motivation, and energy.
Because human is a lazy and fairy tale-believing creature, few people make it all the way to the end. Nevertheless, everyone should know how to avoid burnout.
A Practical Task
If you have never tried to implement time management in your life, please write for yourself on the sheet of paper:
What goals would you like to achieve with it, what desires to realize?
What in your way of life now prevents you from achieving these goals?
What in you/your character prevents you from achieving these goals?
If you have tried any of the time management systems but were not successful in it, please answer the following questions:
What time management systems have you used?
How would you characterize the features of that system/s?
What goals did you want to achieve by using them?
What prevented you from achieving those goals?
What didn’t suit you about the time management system you were using?
If you have tried any of the time management systems, implemented them, and are still using them, please answer the following questions:
What are the main features of your time management system?
Is there anything in your time management system that you find inconvenient or not fully effective? If yes, describe it.
What would you like to improve in your time management?
P.S. When answering the questions, please do not limit yourself to such general and meaningless concepts as “laziness” or “procrastination”. They do not explain anything, but only close the road to possible positive change. These questions will help you to understand what you really want.
Time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity. It involves a juggling act of various demands upon a person relating to work, social life, family, hobbies, personal interests, and commitments with the finiteness of time. Using time effectively gives the person “choice” on spending or managing activities at their own time and expediency.
Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects, and goals complying with a due date. Initially, time management referred to just business or work activities, but eventually, the term broadened to include personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods.
Time management is usually a necessity in any project management as it determines the project completion time and scope. It is also important to understand that both technical and structural differences in time management exist due to variations in cultural concepts of time. The major themes arising from the literature on time management include the following:
Creating an environment conducive to effectiveness (in terms of cost-benefit, quality of results, and time to complete tasks or project),
Setting of priorities,
The related process of reduction of time spent on non-priorities,
Time is something we all need more of, but how can you get more of it when there is only 24 hours in a day? Sadly there is no way to put more hours into each day, but what you can do is be more efficient with your time so you can follow your dreams. Here is how I was more efficient during my college years, which allowed me to run a business at the same time.
Watch television on the web – the problem with television is that you had to watch TV shows when they want you to watch them. Now with the technology advancements most entertainment channels like NBC, FOX, CW, and even a few cable networks let you watch your favorite TV shows online. It is free, you can watch the shows when you want to, and an hour show usually ends up being 45 minutes because there are a lot less commercials.
Sleep more – if you learn to take power naps, you will have more energy throughout the day. Although you may lose some time from napping, you will be able to work more efficiently, which will give you more time.
Eat healthy meals – changing your diet maybe hard at first, but eating balanced meals will affect how you do your daily tasks. It will give you more energy so you can get your work done faster.
Do less work – a lot of the things you do on a daily basis, don’t need to be done. Think about your daily routine and cut out anything that isn’t essential. You will be surprised on how much time you are wasting.
Tell people what’s on your mind – being honest and to the point is a great way to accomplish things quicker. When you beat around the bush things don’t get accomplished as fast. Just think about boardroom meetings, people are hesitant to say what is on their mind, which causes meetings to drag on forever.
Have some fun – all work and no play is a good way to make you feel depressed. Get some fun into your life, it will make you feel better, work harder, and hopefully make you want to accomplish your dreams.
Adjust your working hours – many companies are very flexible on what times you can start and end work. If you work in a heavy traffic city such as Los Angeles you can easily spend an hour or 2 commuting to work during rush hour. But if you adjust your working hours you can cut back on driving time drastically.
Cut down on your communication methods – cell phones, email, and instant messaging are just a few tools you probably use to communicate with others. The problem with some of these methods is that they can easily be abused. For example if you log onto AIM, you may waste an hour talking to others about junk. Try and use communication tools like AIM only when you need them.
Don’t multi-task – when you mult-task you tend to switch between what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t. By single tasking you are more likely to do what you are supposed to be doing.
Get rid of distractions – things you may not be thinking of can be distractions. Whether it is gadgets or even checking emails every 5 minutes, this can all distract you. By getting rid or distractions or controlling them, you will have more time on your hands.
Saving time creates time to focus on you and your goals. But finding time is only half the battle. You need to remain as productive as possible with the time you have to make the most of it.
If McKinsey & Company insights from July are any indication, consumers have rediscovered their power in the pandemic. Due to a combination of product shortages, economic and job concerns, along with a general willingness to change their purchasing behaviors, 75 percent of shoppers say they’ve behaved differently since coronavirus began spreading. In many cases, their new purchasing habits have led to exposure to unfamiliar brands.
This is a huge boon, especially for entrepreneurs trying to disrupt a market or industry. Under ordinary circumstances, getting consumers to move away from their favorite companies’ products and services can be challenging. However, with so much general uncertainty in the world, customers have become increasingly open-minded about giving untested organizations a chance to wow them.
If your startup or small business hasn’t been ocusing on customer service, the time couldn’t be better to put on a huge customer-centric push. However, you need to make sure you have the infrastructure, protocols and tools to be certain that your brand’s first impression is nothing short of powerfully awesome.
Below are a few ways to up your game when it comes to serving current and prospective patrons.
1. Leverage tech to ensure your sales time is nimble and responsive
Your sales team can’t afford to drop the ball anywhere or any time, particularly when customers are moving so freely from one product to the next. Mixmax, a sales engagement tool, boasts the time management benefits of utilizing key sales tools which can help your sales team focus less on tedious tasks and more on prospecting. Ensure they have the resources they need to carry customers from lead generation to conversion by investing in the best tech stack for your needs and goals.
What type of solutions might make sense? If you’re focused on improving the responsiveness of your salespeople no matter if they’re working from home or the office, you might opt for higher-end telephone and videoconferencing software that integrates most forms of visual and audio communication. On the other hand, maybe you want to streamline the information your prospective customers receive. In that case, you may be more interested in adding a secure contract management system into your toolkit.
2. Centralize knowledge so anyone can be a customer-service star
Nothing frustrates customers quite as much as not being able to get quick answers to their questions. A fast way to ensure that anyone in your business can solve a client’s issues is to establish a centralized knowledge-management database that can be housed on your intranet or another piece of cloud-based software. You may even want to include a corporate wiki so employees can find any information with only one login.
By giving everyone on your team access to customer information such as buying history, touchpoints and other data, you avoid having to bounce consumers between service representatives. Centralized knowledge-management systems can also be invaluable if you’ve moved some or all of your workforce remote.
3. Channel your inner Nostradamus and foretell customer questions
You want to make finding answers to potential questions as easy as possible for customers. In fact, according to Drift’s 2020 State of Conversational Marketing Report, 34 percent of consumers cite not being able to find the information they need online as their highest customer-service snag. Rather than forcing would-be buyers to hunt around for the solutions they want, begin peppering your site with rich content that gives them the insight they crave. It’s appealing to a lot of customers to be able to solve their own problems, and they’ll appreciate finding answers fast.
What should your content look like? Ideally, you should have a variety of content FAQs on your website. The content can take the shape of videos, written copy, images, blueprints, schematics, how-to charts or even GIFs. Whatever you feel will be helpful needs to have a home on your site. Of course, you may want a more traditional page dedicated to the biggest FAQs your sales folks and customer experience (CX) personnel hear. Just make sure your FAQs stay up-to-date and don’t become stale or irrelevant.
Spend a little time social listening, and you may just figure out exactly what your customers want. And you’ll be in good company: More than half of companies are currently using social media listening to get real-time consumer information. To be sure, many customers will talk about what they didn’t enjoy about a CX. However, their honesty is exactly what you need to hear and read. Add social listening to your sales and marketing plan today. That way, you can respond quickly if you notice that a customer is unhappy with you or, better yet, with a competitor.
For example, you might discover a critical review of your latest gadgetry on Twitter. Treat this knowledge as the opportunity to jump in and resolve the problem. Connect with the user publicly or in private and work together to solve the issue. Most people are willing to work with companies to get what they want. And you could end up turning a disgruntled buyer into a raving fan if you’re fast on the draw, take crisis management seriously and empower your CX team to do what’s right in every unique situation.
5. Make being your customer a rewarding, one-of-a-kind adventure.
Why do shoppers rave about Apple, Lululemon or Southwest Airlines? Though their products and services do tend to be well-considered, the key to the brands’ almost cult followings is the culture. Wanting to be part of a community is a basic human desire, and certain companies have made being their loyal customer an amazing experience.
If you’re trying to develop a fierce following of fanatics who wouldn’t think of going anywhere else, consider the user experience from start to finish. Look for opportunities for you to go above and beyond expectations to make shopping with you not just a pleasure, but a must-do. You might just end up building a society of kindred spirits like BMW did with its MINI series of vehicles. MINI drivers consider themselves part of a movement and collective, and the brand promotes this camaraderie on their site. Who wouldn’t want to be part of the “in” crowd?
Customers are moving around like never before and into a phase of discovery. Meet them where they are, and amaze them with a CX unlike any they’ve had before. They’ll be more likely to rave, not to mention stick with your organization for the long haul.