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The Unconventional Guide to Work

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5 Time Management Strategies Everyone Can Master In 24 Hours

Meet the masters of time management: The List Lord, The Eliminator, The Pomodoro Princess, the Cyclops and the Pareto Prince. Think of them as a comic book super squad - except instead of fighting bad guys, they’re here to increase your productivity and maximise your profits.

In just 24 hours you could train yourself into one of these heroes. Download our 150+ page productivity guide and you could be all of them.

The clock is ticking… Which one will you try first?

1 - The Eliminator

Perhaps the most ruthless time master, the Eliminator lets nothing stand in his way. He knows the danger of workplace distractions. And he’s hell-bent on getting rid of them.

Eliminating distractions is one of the most effective ways to increase productivity.

But it’s about more than just saying ‘I won’t get distracted.’ For this technique to work, you must take radical steps to block-out the productivity sinks around you.

For most of us the internet is our biggest distraction - even though it’s often required for work itself. With fascinating articles, online shopping bargains, and your friends’ social feeds just a click away, it’s hard to resist temptation. That’s why you need to shut it out.

freedom internet blocker.pngFreedom internet blocker

Luckily there are tools which will block the URL of selected websites. Identify the ones you know distract you, add them to a blacklist, and get a trusted friend (or colleague) to set the unlock password. This is often enough to dramatically reduce procrastination. When you see the password prompt, you’ll decide it’s not worth the hassle and get back to work.

But it’s not just the internet. The average workplace has a lot of things going on - and it’s certainly not a peaceful, distraction free zone. While ambient noise can increase productivity, meaningful noises (like words and conversations) are highly distracting.

If you have chatty colleagues, slay them, or invest in some noise-canceling headphones. Use a white noise app to block out annoying sounds. It’s also helpful to put your phone on mute, unless it’s absolutely necessary for work.

Getting Started:

  • Password block your favourite websites - try Focus (for Mac) or Simple Blocker (Chrome).
  • Better yet, have a friend set the password and hide it from you.
  • Find a quiet space or use headphones.
  • Get comfortable, so aches and pains don’t distract you. An ergonomic chair is worth the cost!
  • Mute email, app and social media notifications on your phone.

2 - The Pomodoro Princess

She works hard and she plays hard - but only in 25 minute blocks. The Pomodoro Princess understands her own mind, and has perfected the art of self-discipline.

The Pomodoro technique was invented in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, a software developer and entrepreneur. He named the technique ‘Pomodoro’ after a small tomato-shaped timer, which helped him through many assignments during his time at university.

The methodology is very simple. When working on a project that requires deep focus, break your work into 20-25 minute timed blocks. During this time devote yourself completely to the task. Then allow yourself a 5 minute break, before starting another block.

This pattern of cyclical, strictly timed work is great for your focus and concentration. It works in harmony with your natural capacity for focus - which tends to wane after 20 minutes. Instead of getting distracted constantly, you get all those Facebook-scrolling urges out of the way in your scheduled break.

Using_the_Pomodoro_technique_to_get_things_done.png

If you follow the Pomodoro technique for a few weeks, you might even see improvements in your memory and concentration, thanks to the positive impact of regular breaks.

Be like the Pomodoro Princess - work in harmony with your natural attention span, not against it!

Getting Started:

  • Invest in a physical tomato timer, use your smartphone, or try an online version.
  • Choose a project which requires focus; like creative work or report writing.
  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to work. Eliminate distractions and close browser windows.
  • Have something fun (or a reward) planned for your 5 minute breaks.
  • Start timing!

3 - The Cyclops

The cyclops has one eye. She doesn’t worry about the ninjas approaching from the sides - she looks straight ahead, blasting away one enemy at a time.

Multitasking slows you down. It’s a scientifically proven fact.

Once upon a time, as human beings we needed to be wary of our surroundings. We had to be constantly alert in case of predators. But now it’s like sensory overload - our brains take in all the distractions from the internet, media and conversations. We struggle to turn this hyper-alertness off. So we feel a natural urge to multitask, and tackle everything at once.

Multitasking might feel like you’re getting lots done, but as neuroscientist Earl Miller warns, there are a number of negative side-effects when we jump between tasks. 

Let’s say your blog writing is interrupted by a phone call. Your brain is forced to pause its creative thinking, and leap into conversational and listening mode. This might feel simple, but your mind uses much more energy when it tries to return to the first task.

Not only does the switch between mental states waste time, it can take up to 30 minutes to regain our same level of focus. Research has shown that the more you engage in multitasking, the worse you get at filtering out distractions.

Don’t succumb to multitasking. Be laser-focused like the Cyclops, and blast away your jobs one by one.

Getting Started:

  • Tackle ONE job at a time.
  • Don’t move on until a task is completed.
  • Set sequential deadlines for yourself. Try not to lump project due dates together.
  • Take a break whenever a task is fully finished. This helps you separate mental states.
  • Try to move locations when you switch between projects.

4 - The Pareto Prince

The Pareto Prince is the most rational of the time masters. He follows the ancient Pareto Principle with devout loyalty - making the best use of his precious time and energy.

The Pareto Principle isn’t a new idea - in fact it’s been around since 1906. An Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto created a formula to describe the inequality of wealth in his society. He argued that 20 percent of the people owned 80 percent of the wealth.

Since then the 80/20 principle has been used for many non-political applications. And it’s become an especially powerful tool for time management.

The basic idea is that 20% of your efforts produce 80% of your output. Don’t believe me? Look at your weekly to-do list. Examine all of your individual tasks, and which goals they are tied to.

Chances are, only a small portion of them will be tied to real, meaningful goals - the kind that make a tangible difference to your business, profits, and personal or professional growth. 

Treat the rest of your tasks are excess. Cut out everything you can which isn’t bringing you closer to your ultimate goals. Think rationally like the Pareto Prince; and focus ruthlessly on the 20% that produces 80% of your value.

Getting Started:

5 - The List Lord 

The List Lord collects tasks, and keeps them as his prisoners. His day isn’t finished until every enemy is crossed off - leaving a fresh slate for tomorrow, when it starts all over again.

List making is probably the most old-school (and obvious) time management technique - but that doesn’t mean you should discount it. Lists have stood the test of time for a reason.

remember the milk.pngRemember the Milk List App

Do you often feel overwhelmed by your workload? Do you ever forget or miss deadlines, or find colleagues have to chase you for work? Chances are you’re not keeping a comprehensive daily and weekly to-do list.

Keeping your tasks written down means you never forget a thing. It also helps you to focus, because you’re not expending energy trying to remember what needs doing. 

But keeping a list that is properly structured, up to date and effective can be challenging. It’s crucial that you use the right tools. Online list software like Todoist or Remember the Milk can be incredibly helpful, especially when synced with your smartphone.

Online project management software like WorkflowMax goes a step further, letting you input digital timesheets on the go, and assign different jobs to staff members. Get a weekly view of your jobs, visual indicators of job status, and see at a glance which ones are overdue. 

Getting Started:

  • Break large projects into smaller, manageable tasks.
  • Keep tasks organised in order of priority. Have a label system for urgent and non-urgent.
  • Batch similar tasks together if possible. This will help you tackle them more efficiently.
  • Have a fixed time of day for updating (and crossing items off) your list.

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Which one of these quirky, obsessive time masters are you? Maybe you’re a little bit of them all. Time management for yourself is one thing, but there’s a whole other set of skills needed for remote workers. Next week we’re looking at Business Without Borders - helping you manage your remote workforce, and best practices for managers.