How to Save Time, Stay Focused, and Be More Productive

time management

Save time. Stay focused. Be more productive.

Lofty goals for a 655 word how-to guide right? Not really when you realize these three objectives can easily be accomplished by learning a little time management trick called time blocking.

I was having a conversation with my business partner, Josh, yesterday about our goals for the week. We came to the realization that if we were faithfully time blocking our days, we’d accomplish in 5 hours what we normally allotted 8 hours for. I used to be a time blocking rock-star, but have fallen from grace a bit these past few months. This post is my recommitment to sound time management.

You’re coming along for the ride. Here’s how we do it…

Step 1. Prioritize

“Know what you need to do and do it. Know what you don’t need to do and don’t do it.”

Prioritizing is the essential piece of this puzzle.  Before you can properly block your time, you need to identify and put the most important things first. In my line of work (and yours too probably) business development is the most productive activity that I can engage in. It needs to happen everyday if I plan on paying my bills and eating. So, that comes first.

Maybe you have a project that’s due, a time critical task, or an urgent matter to address. You’ve got to prioritize these tasks so that they get your immediate and most focused attention. This is important because, as you work down the list, you naturally lose energy and focus.

Step 2. Map Out The Day

I typically keep my mornings free for business development time. I block out 9-11 for focused lead generation. Next, 11-12 is blocked for database work and follow-up communication. 12-1 is lunch. My afternoons are for meetings, consultations, or admin work.

Even my admin work gets blocked out. It’s important to set aside time for specific tasks and projects. I know that if I give myself 30 minutes to work on a specific marketing piece, I’ll get it done in that period. If left unrestrained, I’ll tinker with the thing indefinitely.

Step 3. Hold Your Time Accountable

When blocking out time to work on a task, define your objective in that time. Have a real, tangible result that you can walk away with. Be specific. Instead of setting 2 hours aside to ‘write hand-written notes,’ set 2 hours aside to ‘write 20 hand-written notes.’ That way, you’ll focus on the task as opposed to the time.

Constantly measure these results against the time allotted. You’ll find yourself working much more efficiently and finishing tasks with time to spare. This will free up space in your calendar for you to do other things or go home early. I like going home early.

Step 4. Schedule Alone Time

Michael Hyatt wrote a great post on this a few months back: Scheduling Time in the “Alone Zone.” It’s absolutely critical. I like to schedule little grace periods into my day. This flex time gives me a chance to catch my breath, reflect on the day, and refocus.

Also, I’ll schedule appointments with myself to work on personal projects, write blog posts, read, think, and pray. Don’t skip this step if you value  your health and mental well-being.

Step 5. Keep Your Schedule Sacred

Don’t allow outside influences to come in and mess with your schedule.

  • Turn your phone off.
  • Logout of Facebook and Twitter.
  • Close your email client.
  • Lock your office door.

The key to this whole concept is to block out your time and stick to the schedule! If you don’t get the less important tasks done, don’t sweat it. Odds are, they didn’t need to get done today anyway. Assess your schedule for the next day and revisit those tasks when possible.

The Reward

  • Enjoy the abundance of spare time you’ll find in your schedule.
  • Marvel at the amount of focus and precision you put into your work.
  • Smile when you realize how much more productive you’ve become.

Time blocking works. I promise.

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