How you waste your time and how to fix it to be more productive
You can’t discuss productivity without coming across the term of time management. It’s a must within a sustainable productivity system, a mandatory tackle on your journey for self improvement.
However, a lot of people do it wrong.
Many people see time management as a way of cramming up as many tasks as possible in the shortest amount of time. They see productivity as a quantitative success, rather than a qualitative one.
That’s fundamentally wrong…
From a productivity perspective, you should analyze your goals, prioritize them based on your personal values and break it down into (hopefully SMART) steps that are more or less valuable.
If you’re using time management to fit as many tasks as possible, it probably means you didn’t prioritize your tasks, and you don’t know the value of each of them.
There can’t be all that valuable. So you don’t need to take all of them into your to-do list.
The winning split should be something like 3 very valuable tasks, 1 medium value task, and 1 or 2 tasks that are not valuable but need to be done.
Now that we’ve got this out of the way, let’s dive into the mistakes you make.
1. You Don’t prioritize tasks and put them in the right order
We already covered the prioritization in my explanation above, but what about the order. Why does it matter?
Allow me to introduce my humble understanding of neuroscience. I am a computer scientist, so be patient with me.
When we complete a task, especially the ones we view as valuable and important to us, we get a dopamine spike.
Don’t get me wrong. All the tasks completed offer you a feeling of achievement and you’ll get a dopamine spike. But the more important the task is, the more dopamine you will receive.
Dopamine is a deciding factor in our motivation. So, by completing difficult tasks or very important ones, you will get a huge dopamine spike, and be motivated to complete the rest. This is one important time-management hack to always feel good.
This will allow you to feel accomplished for the day and feel like it’s not a lost day.
The second reason to correctly order your task is what other events out of your control appear during the day.
If you know you have a lot of meetings in the morning, schedule the more demanding and important tasks right after, so you don’t get interrupted.
If you know you are very creative in the afternoon, schedule the creative tasks then.
If you have kids coming from school, you might be better scheduling important work in the morning.
2. You don’t properly estimate how long it takes
For successful time management, you need to be honest with yourself and estimate tasks correctly.
We all got used to saying:
Oh, that will just take me a minute.
Oh, I’ll have that ready ASAP.
Oh, that should be pretty easy. I’ll have it ready in no time.
However, there are always things that might delay it. You might get a message to do something else, get a call to help someone, you might have an unexpected meeting, your kid has an event they forgot to tell you about, or you might simply have technical difficulties such as laptop issues.
My personal trick is to always think how long a task normally takes and then double that. No less than this.
When you estimate tasks for your whole team, I would recommend to triple the time. It’s even harder to estimate for someone else.
3. You don’t allow buffer time between tasks
Once you prioritized your tasks, and you put them in the right order, with the right estimation, the next time management trick is to allow buffer time between them.
This will allow you to do 3 things:
- Allow for unexpected work or circumstances
- Allow time for a break
- Allow time for when others need you
You don’t want to schedule tasks back to back and then snap out of your flow state and realize it’s already evening. That will take a toll on your mental and physical health at some point. You might even end up in burnout.
Also, social interaction and collaboration is proven to improve productivity and catch errors and mistakes early on. Allow time for discussing with colleagues and friends.
In conclusion, time management is immensely popular and talked about but not everyone does it correctly.
Actually, 80% of people don’t do it correctly.
Use the steps above to become more productive and never feel like you’ve lost the day.