We often find ourselves thinking that there are not enough hours in the day. There are a range of techniques and resources for using time more efficiently, and they often boil down to understanding priorities—differentiating the urgent from the important—and can be easier to understand than to implement.
The classic matrix is:
Important Not Urgent
Unimportant Not Urgent
Some resources talk about time management as a practice, others address the fact that regardless of your work, there is a need to be protective of your time for intellectual work. Recently, time management experts have focused on micro-goals and habit-building practices to encourage “practicing to becoming more productive.” The effective time management resources listed below provide suggestions for building better habits that lead to greater personal productivity and effectiveness.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
In Deep Work, Newport draws on his experience as an exceptional student as well as his work as a prolific and productive academic researcher to offer tangible suggestions on how to increase the time spent producing real knowledge. He argues that in today’s phrenetic world of e-mail communication, easy website distractions, and overbooked to-do lists, we can easily be busy without finding time to “go deep” into our work, which is required for creativity and innovation. Suggestions include designating times for doing specific kinds of work while allowing flexibility for changing schedules; doing thinking related to work while in transit (walking/driving); and reducing the commitment to being accessible at all times. His own research productivity, combined with the pressures of teaching and service as well as family commitments, demonstrates that his tools are effective as he uses them.
What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving more at Work and at Home Laura Vanderkam
Laura Vanderkam spent countless hours studying the habits of the most successful people, and combined three of her books into one. In this book, she explores the habits of successful people in the morning, on the weekends, and at work in order to provide evidence-based guidance on how to improve productivity. Drawing on the idea that our psychological resources become depleted over the course of the day, Vanderkam provides numerous examples of the early morning routines of organizational leaders. She offers that many of these successful people rise significantly early, exercise in the morning, do their most creative work when they have the greatest reserve of cognitive resources, and turn their behaviors from choices to habits to ensure that they stick with their own programs.
Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual by Jocko Willing
The title of this book explains the philosophy of the author – the more structure in your daily work and life, the more space you will find to complete good work and enjoy your free time. In addition to explaining how his experience as a Navy Seal on the most decorated task unit team taught him time management skills as part of his leadership training, Willing offers exercises and activities to motivate and to provide tools to succeed.
Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
In one of the most well-known time management books, Tim Ferris argues that you can get more done in less time, freeing your mind from the tensions of everyday life. He argues that real wealth comes from time, income, and mobility. He deconstructs these concepts by providing tangible ways to practice ignoring things that are unimportant, structuring your finances, and liberating yourself from particular locations. In addition to suggestions, he provides practical tools, and stories from his own life illuminating his mindset and how he came to his conclusions about time management.
Give and Take by Adam Grant
In this best-selling book, Grant explores time management through the lens of interpersonal relationships. He identifies three types of people based on their reciprocity styles: givers, takers, and matchers. Despite the fact that givers are often perceived to be pushovers who fail to get ahead, Grant argues that givers are the most successful in their work because they build better and more trusting relationships, increase the size of their networks, and achieve more in negotiations. While this book does not have exercises or activities, it is thought-provoking about the assumptions of how we interact with others and the effects that could have on time usage.
Online tools for Time and Project Management:
Great strides have been made in the development of online tools for productivity and project management. Here is a link by a company called Scoro, which lists some of the best time- management tools. The best thing you can do is try out a few to see what works best for you.
Ultimately, time management is about more than your schedule. It’s about becoming comfortable with making trade-offs; designating/making time to create work with real value; and changing your assumptions about what is important and what needs to be let go. These resources provide a starting point for the shifting mindset that will give you both more freedom and more productivity – and ultimately allow you to add value to your work and your life.