SIWIKE tools : Time management and productivity
Apart from the fact that there really is no such thing as time management, what will really deal with is priority and energy management.
Classical time management usually deals with urgency and importance. The Eisenhower matrix has a four-box with urgency on one axis and importance on the other.
You can also add significance as a third dimension which deals with how long something is relevant. Something with relatively low urgency or importance that happens frequently can increase its importance level.
In any case, I did want to share some of the time management tips and tricks that I found useful in my journey.
What actually is important to you? The concept comes from Stephen Covey‘s “Seven habits of highly effective people“.
If you have prioritized family, friends, your health, whatever else, then are you prioritizing and putting those things first is in your calendar? If you don’t start with those and do the less important things throughout the day then you won’t be able to fit in time for those important “big rocks”
Time audit and model week
Taking the time to reflect on how you spent your time can be important. Using your calendar and reflecting back on how you actually spent your time. And creating a model week on how you would want to spend your time can be very eye-opening. It becomes the Delta of what you want to be doing versus what you have been doing. Often times if you can measure how you spend your time then you’ll start spending your time more effectively.
Eat your frog first
From the mark twain quote “if the first thing you do is get a live frog, your day can only get better.“ Basically what you want to do is tackle those challenging, daunting, tasks and goals first thing after you wake up. Don’t go and check emails. Tackle those big activities. The main premise behind this is will power is seen as like a “power bar” or “health meter” if you were playing a video game. When you wake up, your power bar is full. As you go through the day your willpower decreases. And it’s no wonder that by the time you get home from a long day at work and have to tackle these tasks, you’d rather sit on the couch and watch Netflix with a tub of ice cream. “Eating your frog first” makes sure you can tackle them with full willpower.
(And yes I am aware that the power bar analogy isn’t exactly right but it’s simple enough to understand).
Your chronotype is your natural daily rhythm. Different authors use different terms: some called them larks, owls, third birds. Others use the terms lions, bears, wolves, dolphins. At the end the day, it’s whether you are a morning person, typical timed, or a night person. Knowing your natural tendencies can make you more effective on when during the day you “eat your frogs”.
I encountered this from David Allen’s “getting things done “. The two-minute rule basically says if something can be done in less than two minutes, then do it right then and there. That dish in the sink that takes less than two minutes to do. Do it. Moving those things from upstairs to downstairs or vice versa. Do it.
The idea behind this is that those enclosed loops of things that need to be done will take up extra mental capacity of more than two minutes throughout your day. as you’re rushing around your day and passing by the sink for the fourth time, thinking “ugh, I’ll have to wash that dish”, just do it. It will free up a lot of brain processing capacity.
Well most effective for learning, using a Pomodoro can be helpful in getting work done more effectively as well. One Pomodoro is working at a task for 25 minutes then taking a five-minute break, 25 more minutes then another 5-minute break, 25-minutes and 30-minutes as a break. So roughly breaking down a two-hour work chunk into blocks. So instead of studying or working for eight hours straight, consider breaking it down into into 4 or so Pomodoro’s.
The reason why the Pomodoro technique works well for studying is that it takes advantage of a fact called primacy and recency. We tend to learn and remember things that are first or last. By breaking up your time there are more first and last. When doing work, a Pomodoro is helpful as your mind gets to recover from any distractions with the understanding that they will be able to get them in about 25 minutes. Especially in our day-and-age where many find it difficult to stay focused on anything for a long period of time.
For me, I break my time I’ve been to about 45-minute chunks instead of 25-minutes as I find that I need more time to actually get into my work. Some people might need longer where they “get into the zone” and don’t want to take a break. A break is still often helpful as burnout can happen more quickly without the little self-care activities you include. Tweak and adjust to what works for you.
Even though you may have set up your model week and have organized yourself to handle all the important activities, when it comes to actually do them, your attention, focus and energy might not be there. Your mind might wander, and be distracted to do other things. So that the hour you dedicated to doing that important task might only have 10 minutes spent on it. Which is why energy management is quite important.
I have found that activities such as meditation have helped with my energy focus. In my mind, meditation is really just a “bicep curls for your focus”. For me, focusing on my breath was very challenging. My monkey mind would be distracted by something else and it would be five minutes or more until I caught myself to bring my attention back to my breath. However, that five minutes shorten down to four minutes until three and two and so on. And that focus is now allowed me to more effectively manage my energy and time.
I seemingly unrelated habit that has helped me with my energy focus, really more getting rid of procrastination, was taking a cold rinse in the morning. When I wake up, after doing my business in the bathroom, I take a cold rinse. About two minutes. One minute on the back. One minute on the front. 30 seconds of that with my face in the water. Basically the cold is on full blast with no hot water. I have found that the cold shower has allowed me to better start things up that I don’t typically want to do.
The cold rinse has trained my brain that when I think of something that I don’t really want to do, I’ll just jump in and do it anyway.
There is a lot of scientific evidence out there proving that humans cannot multitask. We actually task switch very quickly. This is evident for tasks that require cognitive abilities. There are some habitual tasks that you can do while thinking. However typing up an email, while listening to your partner talking about their day basically dropped your IQ for both activities.
So when you block off time to do something, make sure you are focussing on that specific thing and not looking to do multiple things at the same time.
What are your favourites?
There are quite a lot of time management and productivity hacks that I’ve come across. I likely add to this list as time goes on. Try one or a few and see how they work for you! What are your favourite time management and productivity tips?Follow: