Do you feel like you’re not really achieving all that much at work lately? You’re not imagining things - most people are not very productive once they clock in. In fact, research states that out of the 8 hours we spend at work, the average person is productive for two hours and 54 minutes.
We could look for reasons in many different directions, starting from a multitude of distractions of modern life. However, most of the time, it boils down to poor time management.
Today, we’ll show you the practical steps you need to take to reclaim your productivity and create a time management plan for your workday.
Track your time religiously
Trying to create a time management plan without knowing how you currently manage time is like trying to reach a destination without a map. Sure, you’ll eventually get there, but in what time and at what cost?
The first step to creating a plan is tracking how your usually spend time at work. With a time tracking app like Timely, this is a breeze. Most people are against tracking time for one reason - they fear it will disrupt their day too much.
But with Timely, tracking your time is intuitive and doesn’t require more than a few clicks.
Take a week to measure everything that you do, from complex tasks such as brainstorming, all the way to the mundane ones such as answering your emails. You want to be able to estimate how long each task takes so you can make better predictions and a better time management plan for work.
Even if you’re not creating a time management plan, this is a great exercise if you want to investigate how you spend time at work. You may get surprised at the results and find out where the biggest time sucks are.
Get a grip on your meetings
Now that you’ve tracked your time, you’ve probably seen how big of a space is taken by meetings. The average employee nowadays spends 3 hours per week in meetings. What’s scarier is that the time in meetings has been increasing an average of 8-10% each year since 2000.
There’s a good chance you’re spending hours on meetings every week too and if you want to create a good time management plan for work, you need to cut out whatever is not crucial for you and your organization.
This live meeting cost calculator is a great starting point. Simply put in how many people will attend the meeting, what their average salary is and what currency you use. The calculator shows how much that meeting will cost your company.
Nothing better than a visual representation of money down the drain. If you’re the person scheduling meetings, use this as a guideline to determine who should be present. Or even better, if the meeting should even take place.
If all else fails, use the two pizza teams rule which was invented by Jeff Bezos. It’s pretty simple - if two pizzas can’t feed the people in your meeting, you’ve probably invited too many participants. In real life, that means no more than 10 or so people at a time.
Prioritize your tasks
When timing yourself, did you notice that you’re spending a lot of your day on tasks that bring very little value and have no impact on the bottom line? This is because you haven’t prioritized them properly.
We instinctively know that some tasks are more important than others but the problem is, we don’t always tackle the most important stuff first. What you need is a prioritization framework. There are different types that you can try based on your needs, but any of them will make for a good start.
Depending on your specific use case, you can use one or more of these prioritization frameworks.
The Eisenhower matrix
One of the most common ways to prioritize work, the Eisenhower matrix makes you split up your tasks into four different buckets:
- Urgent and important
- Urgent and not important
- Not urgent and important
- Not urgent and not important
Or, to put it in a more visual way:
If something is important and urgent, it needs to be done immediately. Everything else can be delegated, postponed or just deleted from your task list.
The MoSCoW framework
Got a list of things that you need to do for a project but don’t know which ones to tackle first? The MoSCoW method sorts your tasks into four buckets:
- Must have: things you absolutely should include in your project
- Should have: things that should be done but are not urgent
- Could have:
- Won’t have: things you don’t need to do right now and that can easily be done later
While it sounds a bit similar to the Eisenhower matrix, it’s better for those situations where you don’t want to eliminate any tasks - you just need to prioritize the ones that matter the most.
The ICE score model
In this framework, you take a look at each major task through three different types of lenses:
- Impact (how much of a global impact a single task might have)
- Confidence (how confident you are about the impact that this task will have)
- Ease (how easy it is to complete a certain task or project)
Tasks with heavy impact, low confidence and high difficulty of implementation might not get too high up on your list, for example. On the other hand, tasks with high impact, high confidence and high ease of completion should be at the very top of your to-do list.
This is a common framework in product methodology when you have too many options (e.g. features that you could build) but not enough resources and you’re forced to prioritize and make the best out of what you have available.
Practice time blocking
Now that you’ve successfully prioritized the tasks you need to do and delegated/postponed the ones that are not so important, you can start setting aside time for the important stuff. This is a practice called time blocking.
While it may sound complex, it boils down to blocking off periods of time for different types of tasks. For example, if you use Google Calendar, you can block off time slots for doing deep work, grabbing some lunch, talking to one of your direct reports or something else.
The basic purpose of time blocking is to dedicate a specific timeframe to just one task so that you can’t get interrupted with anything else, either on your own or by someone else who wants to invite you for a quick call.
Set aside some extra time for unexpected situations
Life can get pretty unpredictable and you’re one event away from ruining your time management plan for the week or day. This is why it’s always a good idea to budget some extra time on a daily or weekly level just in case things don’t go according to plan.
This means being more liberal with your due dates and estimates and giving yourself 10-20% more time on each task you set yourself up for. This ensures that you can do the task without pressure and you have some extra time in case things go down south.
Don’t know how much time is enough? All you have to do is track your time once to figure out the baseline for how much it takes to get certain things done. For example, creating a marketing campaign from scratch.
Start tracking your time with Timely today and you’ll see how easy it is - all it takes is one click. Timely shows you which apps and tools are taking your time throughout the day so you know exactly where your time is going and how much you can set aside extra for unplanned situations.
Work is how we spent one third of our lives and it is in our best interest to make sure that time is spent in a meaningful and productive way. Without taking a good look at how that time is spent, you may never have a clue if your work habits are making you productive or not. Creating a time management plan for work is a great starting point to get your things in order.
And it all starts with the first step - measuring how you spend your time at work. Don’t overcomplicate it - just grab a free trial of Timely and start measuring your time with one click. Easy time tracking, powerful insights.