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3 Time Management Strategies to Get More Done with Less Effort

blog author
Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

There are only 24 hours in each day. Some people are able to achieve incredible amounts in that time seemingly effortlessly. Others put in massive amounts of effort, but don't seem to get where they want to be.

What are those in the more productive group doing differently? How are they able to achieve so much more?

We have found those who achieve more and whose work seems to come effortlessly have mastered the 3 time management strategies below:

  • Obsess Over TIME
  • Say No
  • Play Hard to Get

These time management strategies represent 3 of the 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity.

Time Management Strategy #1: Obsess Over TIME

Obsessing over TIME does not mean you need to schedule every hour of the day. However, most people need to be mindful of where they're spending their time. Focus on spending it in activities that will help you achieve your goals or be happy. Take control of your time.

Think about it: On any given day, how much time are you spending on activities that either:

  1. Help you achieve your goals
  2. Bring you happiness

Obsessing over TIME means that if an activity is not helping you work towards a goal or doesn't bring you happiness, stop doing it.

How liberating would it feel to do away with all the extra noise?

Before you can change how you spend your time, you first need to know where you're spending it.

Keep an activity log for a few days. Get detailed down to the minute. Label each activity with one of the following 4 Levels of TIME:

  • Treasured: Time you hold dear; time that brings you happiness (e.g., spending time outdoors)
  • Investment: Time that generates outsized returns (e.g., activities marching you toward your goals)
  • Mandatory: Time you feel you must spend (e.g., making healthy meals)
  • Empty: Time you waste (e.g., watching the third episode in a row of Orange is the New Black)

Click here for a printable image outlining the 4 Levels of TIME.

I've provided a few examples, but you need to define what each activity means to you. Binge-watching OITNB may be Treasured time that allows you to unwind. You may consider making healthy dinners for your family to be Investment time as you work toward a healthier lifestyle, but if you have the means to outsource it to an organic, healthy meal delivery service, it's mandatory time.

Any activity has the potential to be categorized differently depending on who you ask. There's no right or wrong answer. The goal of this exercise is for you to gain a better understanding of where your time is going and areas where you can improve.

When I've done this exercise for myself and with clients, it's almost always a game-changing experience.

Time Management Strategy #2: Say No

'No' is powerful. It's the one word most responsible for allowing people to take control of their time. Those who say 'yes' to everyone else leave little time to work on their own priorities.

Many people have a hard time saying no because they don't want to let others down. You want to be seen as a team player. You want to be liked. You don't want conflict. So, you say yes, even when it means sacrificing your own goals, priorities, and even happiness.

It takes courage to say no. This simple two letter word can set you free.

When you say no to others, you are saying yes to your priorities. Saying no allows you to do your job instead of someone else's.

Embracing the 'say no' philosophy doesn't mean you have to say it in an off-putting way. When saying no to a boss, colleague, or even a potential customer, you can decline their request in a way that lets them down gently, but still delivers a clear no.

Here are a few examples:

  • A colleague asks for help on a project.
    • Your 'no' response: I'd really like to help you, but I'm pushing this other project forward right now.
  • Your boss asks you to produce a report.
    • Your 'no' response: I'm on a tight deadline for the Smith project right now. I can get you the report next Tuesday.
  • A potential client (whom you know is not a good fit) asks for a call.
    • Your 'no' response: What are you hoping to achieve? If you can provide a bit more context, I can either help or connect you with the most appropriate person. (Note: this person might be you, or a co-worker, or a different company entirely.)

It's okay to say no. Turning others away gives you more time to concentrate on what's most important for you. Be mindful of how you communicate saying no to these requests and you'll be able to focus on your own priorities while still maintaining positive working relationships.

Time Management Strategy #3: Play Hard to Get

You know your priorities and you've carved out time to focus on them. You've said no to the mandatory tasks on your list. You've cut out empty time. You start working and…

Distractions are Everywhere

Distractions everywhere!

Distractions and interruptions derail your focus and steal your time.

Instead of being a slave to these interruptions, what if you:

  • Turned off all notifications—email, Slack, texts, social media, etc.
  • Put your cell phone on Do not Disturb and tucked it away in a drawer
  • Closed your office door
  • Moved to a different office or conference room
  • Worked from home or the library

By doing any or all of these things, you become impossible to distract. If people can't find you or get a hold of you, they can't interrupt you.

Now, this isn't to say you should never interact with coworkers. But when you need to concentrate, make sure you can't be disturbed.

Everyone feels they need more time in their days; 24 hours simply doesn't seem enough. However, most people who apply these 3 time management strategies find significantly more time to achieve their goals, and, indeed, to make themselves happier.

New Online Program! The Extreme Productivity Challenge

We've never been more distracted at work. From email and texts to sports scores and news sites, we're constantly being derailed and interrupted.

As a result, your productivity and results are suffering.

With RAIN Group's new online Extreme Productivity Challenge, you'll learn a proven system to take control of your TIME, get the most done in the time you have, and feel more fulfilled in both work and life.

Click here to learn more and enroll.

Topics: Extreme Productivity