Maximising Efficiency: Proven Techniques for Successful Time Management
Who doesn’t battle with distractions during their workday? Whether you work in an office or from home, multiple things competing for your attention can make staying focused hard. According to HBR, the average employee gets distracted as many as 50 to 60 times every day!
Research has shown that to do our best work, we must reach “the flow state” – a state of intense concentration where McKinsey proves that people are five times more productive. But how do we get there?
Knowing how to manage your time more effectively is often the best way to keep your focus narrow and get the most out of your day. Here are five suggestions to help you feel more organised and in control of your working hours.
Decide what’s most important and prioritise it
In Future Skills: The 20 Skills And Competencies Everyone Needs To Succeed In A Digital World, business author and tech influencer Bernard Marr devotes an entire chapter to time management. In this chapter, he encourages readers to prioritise tasks based on their importance instead of how enjoyable they are. To do this, he uses the “ABC Method”:
- A is the important, must-do item for the day. If you do nothing else except your “A” task, you’ve achieved something significant. If there is more than one “must-do” task, stagger them based on what is the most urgent.
- B tasks are less important, but you only move on to them once all “A” tasks are done.
- C tasks are great if you have time to do them, but it’s okay if you don’t find time.
Successfully completing a weighty task with a broader impact is a great way to feel accomplished and get into the zone. This makes it easier to stay focused for more of the day and maintain a sense of motivation.
Bonus resource: Take a look at Makeuseof’s review of apps that help users prioritise tasks.
Timebox to limit how long you spend on tasks
Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” meaning we’ll take three days to complete a task if we have three days to do it when realistically, it could be done in a day and a half.
When timeboxing, you allocate a certain number of hours or days to each task and use only this time to complete it. It’s a simple and effective way to manage your daily workload and ensures you don’t spend too long on any given task.
To help stick to your allocated timebox, set yourself a deadline when you have to submit what you’re working on to a colleague to help keep you accountable. It’s easy to creep over self-imposed timeslots, but having someone waiting on you can apply the right amount of pressure to complete your tasks.
Visually block off your time
While this might not work for everyone, try dividing your calendar into bite-sized timeslots with tasks pre-assigned to different times during the day. The more detailed you are with your allocations, the easier it will be to see how much you’re taking on and how much is realistic to achieve.
Colour-coding your tasks in your calendar can also help you feel more organised. When you can see everything clearly categorised, it can help group similar activities and limit context switching – something that kills concentration for almost everyone!
If your calendar is publicly available, blocking off time for specific tasks and breaks away from the screen can help your colleagues better respect your schedule and book meetings when you have an intentional opening.
Bonus resource: Use a meeting scheduling tool like Calendly to take control of your diary and only allow people to book meetings when it suits you.
Manage your notifications
Because we work cross-functionally, we often have to sort through a jumble of information coming from all directions. Different departments rely on various tools, productivity apps, documents, and spreadsheets that all send notifications that vie for your attention, contributing to an “always-on anxiety”.
To manage this, batch check email, notifications, and instant messages at predetermined times. Tools like Gmail’s Inbox Pause lets you pause your inbox once you’ve checked it and only unpause it when you’re ready. Blocksite and the Freedom app also allow you to block access to specific apps and websites during specified intervals.
You can also turn off unnecessary notifications on your phone and set it to “Do Not Disturb” or aeroplane mode to limit interruptions during certain times of the day. Research conducted in the USA showed that in 2023, the average person checks their phone 144 times a day, so if you just can’t put it down, try locking it in a drawer or leaving it in a separate room.
Bonus resource: Check out Zapier’s list of distraction blockers that help you focus and build discipline.
Practise the Pomodoro technique
As human beings, it’s impossible to stay completely focused for extended periods of time. The Pomodoro technique suggests working in 25-minute bursts before taking a short break and then continuing. Here’s how to do it:
- Start your day by deciding what tasks need to be done
- Choose what you’d like to start with
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Focus exclusively on your set task until the timer goes off
- Take a five-minute break
- Start your next 25-minute burst
After four “Pomodoros”, take a longer 15-30 minute break before starting the next cycle.
People who’ve found success following this method have reported that it’s felt less daunting to tackle tasks, improved quality of work, less mental exhaustion, better attention span and more motivation.
Bonus resource: Make your Pomodoro more fun by using a tool that allows you to customise your timer with a fun background or relaxing music.
Manage your time better and take the next step in your career
We often get asked how our learners are able to manage studying, working full-time and making time for their families while enrolled in our Career Accelerators. Many learners, like Gåbriela, Diego and Kelli, share how the support from their Success Managers and Career Coaches helped them prioritise effectively so that they could do it all.
If you’re interested in finding out more about any of our programmes, get in touch and let’s discuss whether it’s the right fit for you and how we can help you make it work.
- Book a call with an advisor on the Melbourne Business School Career Accelerator in Digital Marketing: Analytics and Strategy
- Book a call with an advisor on the King’s UX Design Career Accelerator
- Book a call with an advisor on the King’s Product Management Career Accelerator
- Book a call with an advisor on the LSE Data Analytics Career Accelerator