Take a moment and think about your typical day; start from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. How much of your time do you reckon you spend being productive? And how many hours go towards distractions?
New research has revealed that the average office worker is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes out of the working day.
Not what you were expecting was it? What’s more shocking is how people actually spend their time. Greater percentage of the respondents said they a lot of time checking social media, reading news sites, chatting, making hot drinks, making personal calls, among other distractions.
To change how you work, and get more done in less time, you have to be open to the possibility that your methods aren’t as efficient as they could be.
It requires measuring your current patterns to find what works and what can be improved. Once you do that you can look for ways to get more accomplished without just increasing your to-do list.
Time management is everything if you truly want to get more out of your day
You have much more time than you think.
The University of Maryland sociologist John Robinson and his colleagues analysed people’s estimates of how much they work and compared those to time diaries. They found that the more hours people claimed to work, the more inaccurate they were.
So, with so much overestimation of time being wasted, how are we meant to rectify habits? A way to understand where the bulk of your time is going, is actually by logging it.
If you want to get more out of your 168 hours (the number of hours in a week), it helps to know how you’re spending them now. Download the relevant resources here for a time log.
Keep as complete a record as possible. “Study” and “review formulas” are both acceptable, but the latter will give you more information to analyse.
Separate your “today” list from your “master” list
Everything that needs to be done on your master to-do list can be overwhelming. Choose to just focus just on the present day.
If you are looking at your master list every morning, you won’t even know where to begin to make progress. Don’t make today busier than it is.
Julie Morgenstern, the author of Never Check Email in the Morning, endorses the idea of the nightly to-do list. She says, “If you’re waiting until the morning to organize your day, it’s too late; the day is already crashing down upon you.”
By creating this list at the end of your day, you will be able to hit the ground running the next morning.
Manage your energy, not your time
True productivity is determined by better energy management rather than simply cranking out more hours at your desk.
The life of a university student can sometimes be unpredictable, you could have a class at 7pm and then a shift at 6am. Not exactly the ideal situation when you’re looking to optimise your productivity.
You will notice that there are certain times of the day when you feel ready to go and brimming with energy. Then there are low-energy times where you feel like your head is full of sawdust. And finally, we have times where we need actually switch off, putting energy back into your body.
To give you an idea on how to plan according to energy levels, try this guide (courtesy of The Startup):
- For high-energy levels: creative work (coming up with novel ideas), creative team discussions, making difficult or high-risk decisions, planning for mid-term and long-term, actively learn new content, make presentations and pitches, thinking and reflecting, experimenting and trying new things, writing to-do lists.
- For low-energy levels: routine work, maintenance and cleaning, working through tasks that have clear goals and processes, writing correspondence and emails, reviewing what you learned, writing invoices.
- For relaxing levels: eating, sleeping, sports, outdoor activities, meditation, social times, gaming, shopping, movies etc.
Create a forced deadline
Having more time for work does not necessarily means you will get more done. In fact, studies have shown that having a limited amount of time actually does increase the speed of your work.
Just think of all those last-minute assignments you’ve submitted just as the clock struck 11.59PM.
But not all deadlines are as simple as a due date; so think of ways to set yourself one.
Set a timer if it helps. Setting a timer can change how you work. A constant reminder that your “deadline” is approaching can force you to focus.
Another idea is making it a group responsibility. Gather a group of people you trust (this is vital) will get the work done and, for example, split up the readings over the semester so by the time finals creep up you’ve got all your summaries.
We hope this shed some light on how you can improve your time management and productivity skills.
It can take some time to unlearn bad habits but by building better routines, managing your energy and prioritising your work load, you will complete more work each day, waste less time, find more free time and take control of your day.
Knowing how to prioritise and complete the work that matters the most on a daily basis can make you more effective, and efficient.