Time Management: Small Ideas That Add Up To A Big Difference

by Ben Richardson
6th August 2020    
A Phone With Lots Of Notifications

In our recent set of posts looking at time management, we’ve looked at ‘big ideas’ like OHIO and pomodoro and procrastination. These are techniques that you can build a strong time management practice around.

You need to work with them, optimise them and then, most importantly, stick with them but they are foundational ideas.

In this post, we are going to look at some of the ‘smaller’ ideas to help with your time management.

Individually they will not have such an effect, but in aggregate they add up to a big improvement and they’re quick and simple to implement.

  1. Notifications

TURN THEM OFF!

Turn all of your notifications off. Whether it’s email, twitter, WhatsApp, or texts all your notifications need to be turned off permanently if you can.

If you can’t bring yourself to do that then reduce them as much as possible. Each time one goes off it distracts you and slows you down.

In an ideal world, people won’t look at or be able to hear their phones for most of the day. They would sit down to work and only pick up their phone at specific times.

I appreciate that this isn’t realistic but do think about and experiment with reducing your level of notifications, especially if you’re struggling with your time management.

For example, turning off email notifications. For many people this is difficult. They have colleagues that expect prompt responses and they don’t like to feel ‘unplugged’.

However, almost everyone is happy to wait at least an hour for a reply by definition. If it was important and urgent then they would have called.

So try changing the settings in Outlook so that your email only updates every hour. This is much less difficult for people but still gives them decent periods uninterrupted to work on projects. I know one person that actually uses this to schedule their work. The pings of their email updating are part of their time management as it helps them keep track of their time throughout the day.

2. Reflect And Experiment

Everyone works differently and everyone has different demands on them.

We have lots of tried and tested time management techniques to show you on our time management course but the exact implementation of them will need to be personalised.

The best way to do this is to commit to a brief period of reflection every week. Put aside 15 minutes to think about the previous week. What went well and what poorly? Then look at the week to come.

If things are going well then recommit to your system and keep going. If things went badly think about a way that you could adjust things to try to improve.

At the end of the week again see how things have gone and keep going until you find that your weeks are generally going well.

Committing to a period of experimentation is the best way to optimise your time management.

Although this is a further burden for someone that is overstretched (and if you’re thinking about time management the odds are high that you’re feeling stretched!) it is a sure way to improve.

If you want to make a change then you’re going to have to invest in it to make it work, and done properly a 15 minute period of reflection and planning should save you more than 15 minutes over a working week.

Ideally, you would start with a full time audit but if that feels overwhelming don’t worry, the most important things are that 1) you get started and 2) that you stick to the system that you have committed to for long enough to have a real impact.

3. Improve Your Confidence

Time management and confidence are very closely linked. Many people think that good time management is actually driven by good self-esteem and confidence and that poor time management is a symptom of low self-esteem.

If you are confident you believe that good things will happen (on average!) and so are enthusiastic about driving things forward and don’t worry unduly. You are happy delegating and will stand up for yourself appropriately.

So one fix for your time management that is well worth trying is building your confidence and self-esteem. After all, even if it doesn’t help with your time management you’ll feel better!

Body language is a really quick fix here. Although some of the research is controversial, there is a body of evidence that shows that your brain actually follows your body’s lead when trying to figure out how you feel.

It’s as if your brain isn’t sure what to tell you when you wonder how you’re feeling at any given moment. So when asked that question it then pings your body to try and find out.

If you are smiling, your body is open and you’re speaking slowly, for example, then your brain would take all of those things as signs that you are relaxed and happy. It would then tell your conscious brain that you are relaxed and happy.

So if you accept that this is how the process works then it’s relatively easy to fix.

Make a conscious effort to smile more, speak slowly and adopt positive body language and you will start to feel more confident.

One intriguing experiment relating to this was done with Russian weightlifters. A coach noticed that when weightlifters lifted a weight repeatedly to exhaustion they inevitably started to grimace just before they reached exhaustion. He then got them to start consciously smiling when they reached the point at which they would usually grimace.

When they did this they were able to do two or three more repetitions than they have been able to previously. It was as if the grimace was sending a message to the brain saying, “This is really difficult you’ve reached your limit and should stop” and by smiling that process was delayed.

 

Hopefully, these smaller tips will help you build on and improve your time management. Good time management is a practice rather than a ‘one and done’ type exercise so we would encourage you to keep experimenting and trying out new things.