Sometimes, you may feel overwhelmed with having to tackle your to-dos, maintain an active social life, and take care of your mental, physical, and emotional well-being at the same time. With every single person having the exact same number of hours in a day, what can get you ahead of the pack is your skill in time management. “Highly successful people feel the passage of time. They know the potential every minute holds,” says Kevin Kruse, author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management.
With a few tweaks to your daily routine (and a lot of determination), proper time management is an invaluable skill to learn. Read on for a few tips to help you make it work.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is designed to train your brain to focus on a task for short periods of time. Developed by author and entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo, this methodology instructs you to work for 25 minutes then take a break for five minutes. After four work periods, or “pomodoros,” you take a longer break for 15 to 20 minutes, then go back to step one and repeat.
If a distraction comes along—your boss calling you for an emergency meeting or a coworker needing a consult, for instance—you can either end the pomodoro and start from scratch, or negotiate a time when you can get back to them. If the form of distraction is not urgent, you can say something along the lines of, “I’m just in the middle of something at the moment; let me get back to you in 15 minutes.” This helps you stick to your schedule and meet your goals, while still being a conscientious team player.
The 52:17 Technique
DeskTime, an employee productivity tracking software, found that the top 10 percent most productive people worked for 52 minutes then took a break for 17 minutes. This finding came from the analysis of 5.5 million records logged per day on the software. During the 52 minutes of work, employees are completely focused on the task at hand, with zero distractions. Then when it’s time to rest for 17 minutes, employees are completely removed from work—no checking emails or taking phone calls. Employees are encouraged to step away from their desk and go for a walk, chat with colleagues, or grab some energy-boosting food.
According to DeskTime, “Concentration is like a muscle. It needs to rest to be able to function, and it shouldn’t be overworked. Otherwise it’ll simply burn out and [it will] take [you] longer to get back into the swing of things.”
The 90-Minute Technique
This technique is based on sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman’s findings that our bodies have a “basic rest-activity cycle” of 90 minutes when we are asleep and when we are awake. To be more efficient and productive, this technique suggests that you divide your work into periods of 90 minutes, taking short breaks in between.
Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of productivity company The Energy Project, swears by this 90-minute technique. “The counterintuitive secret to sustainable great performance is to live like a sprinter. In practice, that means working at your highest intensity in the mornings, for no more than 90 minutes at a time before taking a true break.”
Schwartz used this technique to write his book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working. He wrote for no more than four and a half hours a day, divided into 90-minute sessions. “I had breakfast after the first session, went for a run after the second, and had lunch after the third. By limiting each writing cycle to 90 minutes and working in periods of renewal, I was able to focus far more intensely and get more done in far less time.”
Though the specifics may vary, what these techniques have in common is the work-rest balance. The human brain is not built to concentrate solely on work for hours at a time. The mind needs time to wander and recharge, so that it can be at its peak during work hours.
These are just a few time management techniques to try, so you can figure out how and when you work best. The important thing is to do the heavy lifting during your most productive hours, and allot enough time to recharge your brain. Try to strike a balance between work and rest, using time management to boost your productivity.
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