Watercooler Work-Life Balance

20 Quick Tips for Better Time Management

Written by Peter Jones

You’re banging your head against the desk trying to multitask, but you just don’t feel like it’s working. Here are 20 life hacks that can actually help drive up your productivity and help you get your incredibly efficient bottom out of the office and onto the beach where you belong.

1. Automate your life when possible

The Internet is your friend. For almost any daily task or errand you can think of, there is probably an app or automated option that will not only save you time, but save you the hassle of having to do things you don’t enjoy (and save you dragging your feet). Set up autopay on your accounts to pay your bills. Grocery shop online. Streamline your wardrobe to eliminate guess work. Spend the time you have doing things that excite you or that help you keep advancing.

2. Cross tasks off your list

If you can complete a task in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Blast through these as soon as you notice them on your list. Remember: the longer you wait, the longer it will take.

3. Don’t tax your brain

Your ability to make clear decisions is not something you should take for granted. You can’t always rely on your clarity and willpower. It is possible for you to get exhausted and to overwhelm your faculties. Try making big decisions in the morning when you’re freshest. And if you aren’t feeling sharp, save your next decision for the following day when you’re back in your groove.

4. Streamline your morning routine

If you listen to music when you’re getting ready in the morning, limit yourself to four songs max. Brush teeth, shower, dress, and do your finishing touches. One task per song. Then get out the door and get to work.

5. Hide your temptations

Out of sight, out of mind. If you clear your worst distractions from your desk, it will be much easier for you not to get sidetracked by them.

6. Don’t be “on call” all the time

Turn your phone on silent and return your calls when it’s convenient for you and fits into your workday—rather than immediately after getting each call. You can even save up a few to make all at one time, rather than bleeding out little bits of your day for each one.

7. Follow the waitress rule

Never go anywhere empty handed. Something can always be tidied or sorted. Complete half of your smaller tasks just by spreading them out over the course of the normal back and forth of your day.

8. Limit your personal email checking

This can derail even the most concentrated concentrators in the work world. Try to limit yourself to checking your personal email just three times a day, rather than every three minutes.

9. Schedule sleep

You don’t want your sleep schedule to be random. Set yourself a schedule and stick to it and this will help you keep your work hours from being random too.

10. Use Self Control

Not just the lower case kind we’re all supposed to have, the productivity app. Limit your access to the websites that are the most distracting for you. You can set time limits for yourself to be your most productive.

11. Practice what you preach

If you want to excel at something … you have to work at it. Every day.

12. Say no

If you don’t actually want to do something or to accept an invitation. You might piss off an acquaintance or two, but you’ll have a lot more time on your hands to work on things that matter.

13. Keep a to-do list

Write tasks down and enjoy the thrill of crossing them off when completed. This way you’ll never forget a task and you’ll keep yourself honest about just how long you put certain things off.

14. Go Pomodoro

Give the “Pomodoro” technique a try. There’s an app for it. 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. Total dedication to your task in tiny increments. Watch and see what you can accomplish.

15. Tackle the big stuff

Pick the meatiest, most important tasks on your to-do list and tackle those first. You’ll be more driven to work on these things and will free up space on your list for more things to get accomplished!

16. Meditate

Seriously. Just 10 (to as many as 60) minutes a day can make a huge difference over a period of months in your mental clarity and focus. Clear your mind every day and see what greatness you can manifest.

17. Multitask

If you’re a fan of podcasts or audiobooks, consume them when you’re otherwise occupied, but with tasks that don’t require a great deal of concentration. Exercising, commuting, cooking, etc. Triple what you can accomplish in a span of time.

18. Don’t sit without a plan

Every time you sit down at your desk or your computer, make sure you have a plan for what you intend to do while your butt is in that chair. Set an intention (even one as simple as “ten minutes on Facebook”). But make sure you stick to it. That way, when you sit down to do real work, you’ll honor your goal.

19. Fold over tape

This is a good and practical thing to do, and perhaps also a metaphor for leaving projects in the middle. If you’re using a roll of tape, fold over the loose end before putting it away. It will save you time and energy when you need to use it again without having to find the seam.

20. Plus one

Whenever you sit down to cross a task off your to-do list, add one. If every time you set out to accomplish one thing, you actually knock through two things, imagine what you can get done throughout your whole career.

About the author

Peter Jones