Don’t you just love (and crave) the feelings that come with time managed well? Ease, clarity, balance and peace…just reading those words feels restorative! Some days and some weeks though, productivity feels out of reach. Overwhelm takes over and our procrastinating, maybe even self-sabotaging side takes centre stage.
If you’re looking for ways to break free of this struggle and create sustainable and effective habits this is the blog for you.
We’ve asked psychologists, coaches and small business owners to share their number one tip for time management and productivity. We’re excited to share their wisdom with you!
Tip #1 Eat That Frog!
Time – a rich and often polarising topic. If only I had the time to ponder it some more… Time (or our lack of it) gets blamed for a lot of what goes on (or doesn’t) in our life.
Long an obsessive list maker, I have realised that too much focus on a list (a long one in particular) can be demotivating. Nowadays I focus on just a few things from my list every day and use the prioritisation method from a book called Eat That Frog.
I love ticking things off my list – it feels so good. But really it’s got to be the right things doesn’t it? “Get sh*t done” is a slogan emblazoned on a notebook I own and it’s galvanising. However my ‘tick addiction’ means sometimes I choose to work on quick and easy wins, meaning I don’t get to the things that actually shift the dial in my business or personal life.
My current obsession is to wisely choose how I spend my time – to do less, but work on those things that give me the biggest bang for my buck. To eat that frog, so to speak. And to eat it, even when it’s a big, slimy, stinky frog (with bulbous eyes) that I’d much rather walk away from.
Felicity Watson, Personal Brand and Communication Coach
Tip #2 There’s No Such Thing as Perfect
Like a lot of people, I can get really caught up trying to do things “perfectly” (whatever that means), especially when doing things for others. The problem is I often end up feeling a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety, wasting time and energy (e.g., procrastinating, revising or redoing my work), and experiencing diminishing returns in terms of productivity and outcome. The reality, of which I’m gradually appreciating, is that perfection is a fantasy and that “good enough” work is enough in most cases.
Reminding myself that “done is better than perfect” helps me to get things done. The tough bit though is handling the uncomfortable feelings that can come up, such as the anxiety of not knowing how things will turn out or the sense of shame or disappointment when you get negative feedback from others which taps into old beliefs about needing to perform exceptionally well. However, I’ve come to accept all of this as part of being human.
Dr David Nguyen, Clinical Psychologist
Tip #3 The Power of Small Wins
In her research into creativity, productivity, and the psychology of everyday work life, Dr Teresa Amabile, director of research at Harvard Business School, discovered the progress principle – the powerful effect of small wins to increase engagement and positive emotion at work.
She discovered that of all the things that drive people in the work that they’re doing, and that make them feel good, the single most important factor is simply making progress on meaningful work. Forward momentum towards clear goals matters the most to people’s inner work life.
Even seemingly minor steps forward – small wins – can reveal the progress principle. Making that phone call you’ve been putting off, solving a problem that’s been looming, ticking off items on your to do list – all these small acts build momentum for progress. And because we are more creatively productive when we are excited and engaged, small wins are a very big deal.
Teresa recommends religiously protect at least 20 minutes – and, ideally, much more – every day, to tackle something in the work that matters most to you. Then make note of any progress you made (even if it was a small win), and decide where to pick up again the next day. The progress, and the mini-celebration of simply noting it, can lift your inner work life.
This tip is a goody for work, but its principles can be applied to any facet of life.
Binny Langler, Digital Strategist and Business Catalyst
Tip #4 Create a Morning Ritual
Nothing has been more effective than a morning ritual to keep me on track with what needs to be achieved for the day ahead. Before checking my phone or eating breakfast, I spend a short time on my yoga mat. My non-negotiable practice includes a breathing exercise and a couple of key yoga poses to help ground my energy, all of which can be achieved in fifteen minutes.
When I first started this ritual I would easily talk myself out of it. I only became committed to it after setting achievable goals, such as, “for the next five days, I’m going to stick with it”. Soon it just became second nature and I’m still practising it a year after starting it.
Ange Hammond, Inspired Website Designer
Tip #5 Make Time for Breaks
My top tip for increasing productivity and effective time management is ensuring I take regular short breaks throughout the day, as well as prioritising time for rest and play on weekends.
Taking regular breaks, whether a quick 5-10 minute walk outside or a short meditation, really does help me to reset and recharge which in turn makes me more efficient.
Prioritising time for myself on weekends allows me to rest and recharge more deeply. I think the biggest challenge is that it can often feel quite counter intuitive to pause when you’ve got so much you feel you need to do. It’s in these moments that it can be helpful to remind yourself that research has found that even brief breaks really do make a significant difference to your productivity (not to mention your overall wellbeing).
Catherine Morey-Nase, Founder of The Wellbeing Corner
Tip #6 Choose, Say and Do
Choose one thing
My ‘To Do List’ will always be never ending. We tend to live our lives switched on the fast forward mode, responding to multiple demands and setting ourselves unrealistic timeframes. To get around this I prioritise what needs to be done, allocate more rather than less time, and then ‘choose one and only one thing’ to get started with.
Say it out loud as your intention.
Take slow, deep breaths and say what you are about to do, even try singing it out loud!
If you keep thinking about what you need to do or waiting until you feel motivated, you run the risk of delaying and talking yourself out of it. Get out of your head and as the Nike slogan says, ‘Just Do it’. Big tick!
Kristen Barnes, Registered Psychologist and Life Coach
Tip #7 Take 25 With the Pomodoro Technique
One of my favourite tools for maximising time is the Pomodoro Technique. It’s 25 minutes of focus devoted to a single task. I know what you are thinking: How much can you actually accomplish in 25 minutes? So I challenge you: Try it.
Remember, it’s 25 minutes of uninterrupted productivity on just one task. It’s not 25 minutes of distracted, disrupted effortless whimsy. No emails, no phone, no chit-chat. Concentrate!
A couple of things might happen when you try the Pomodoro Technique. You might love it. You might love it so much that you look for more 25 minutes opportunities. You may begin to shift your priorities, smash distractions, shed habits that don’t serve you – all because you saw the power of 25 minutes. I look at my own Top Five habit here: Taking a few minutes each day to reflect on positive moments has led to a collection of more than 10,000 positive memories and a movement.
Greatness is just 25 minutes away. If you don’t have 25 minutes, don’t wait until you do. If you don’t make it to the 25 minute mark, don’t worry you are building a new habit – just start again. It all helps with training your mind to focus. Just get started with little pockets of time.
Clare Desira, TEDx Speaker, Life and Confidence Coach & Founder Top Five Movement
Tip #8 Schedule in a Weekly Life Check-Up
I love to learn about time management and productivity, but must admit I find it hard to stick with new habits that don’t feel exciting to implement, so I’m always on the lookout for fresh ideas that zing. One approach I’ve been using lately is scheduling a weekly meeting with myself to assess how things are going with my business – My Weekly Biz Fitness Meeting.
For one hour every Friday morning I pull together all activities of the week and examine key areas that tell me how I’m tracking and where my energy needs to go in building my business for the following week. I run a coworking, workshop and events studio called The CoworkCo and have just launched an online learning, connection and mentoring platform for solo biz owners called PathHunting so I have many moving parts and several roles to juggle. I really needed a way to take the pulse of my business, to help me make informed decisions about how and where to best use my time.
Committing to a weekly check-in works for me because I can be a bit of an ostrich when it comes to my business finances, preferring to focus upon the creative parts of my business. I also find myself following bright and shiny objects leaving strategy in the dust. My Weekly Biz Fitness Meetings make me feel savvy and empowered. I own my successes and failures and I’m super informed, improving the way I use my time and the quality of decisions I make.
This is a strategy I use for my business, but the principles could be easily applied to time management in other areas of life. A Weekly Life Check-Up perhaps!
Bec Mutch, TheCoworkCo
Tip #9 Sunday Night Strategising
Having a week that runs smoothly is all about planning. On Sunday nights, I look at my work calendar and my own personal calendar which details key pieces of work due in the coming week. I then decant all of this information into a four-page week plan document.
It gives me a peaceful night’s sleep on Sunday, knowing exactly what is due and when. It also means that I can just get on with doing the work, rather than worrying about if I’m forgetting something.
Iolanthe Gabrie, Director, Ruby Slipper
Tip #10 Communication, Organisation and Discipline
As a busy creative, I’ve worked out that for me time management comes down to three things: communication, organisation and discipline. Communication about what needs to be done is key because it allows me to plan. Once I know what I need to do, I can organise my week by locking in time slots for tasks. By being disciplined I push myself to tick off tasks in the allotted time. Having said that, I should also note that it’s not just ‘work’ I plan for as part of this process – it’s leisure time as well! Discipline is best adhered to where there is a reward, so making time to watch House of Cards or to take a long walk is also crucial to a good work/life balance for me.
Leah Morris, Digital Content Strategist, Copywriter and Creative Consultant
Breaking Down the Barriers
As helpful as we hope you’ve found all of these tips, if you are feeling really stuck sometimes improving your time management is about more than strategies or techniques. Sometimes it’s about being honest with yourself about the barriers that stop you from doing what you know works.
Are you prone to perfectionism? Avoidance? Being a self-sacrificer? Self-sabatoging? Difficulties delegating? Do you have trouble getting started? Find it hard to follow through? End up being too harsh on yourself? Compare yourself to others? Do the easiest things first and then lose motivation? Do the hardest things first and then wind up feeling like you’re not capable?
It can be heavy work figuring out what holds you back, but it’s an essential part of getting unstuck. If you think you could benefit from having an objective and non-judgemental person to help you to figure out what your blocks might be, give our friendly client support team a call to book an appointment. Our psychologists are experienced in helping people to break through old habits and patterns that no longer serve them.
Call us on (03) 9376 1958 or email email@example.com to arrange an appointment.