Why time management techniques kill your productivity?

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Time management – how we spend our time – is a daily struggle for all of us. With so many techniques to save time, be more productive, and work smartly, it gets further confusing to choose the best one. And if not done correctly, it might affect our productivity adversely.

Effective time management can help in ways that go beyond professional lives. It impacts our personal lives and mental well-being as well.

A well-spent day brings immense peace and a smile to our faces.

There are so many methods; where to begin?

Different people require time management techniques depending upon the type of work and the level of commitment towards it. If you opt for one method which isn’t according to your style, it will kill your productivity instead of making you bright!

Here are three reasons to consider before investing in any productivity methods instead of simply going by their popularity:

  1. The method must be per your current role & challenges: Your techniques as a student might not be helpful in your job! You may require more than one technique to execute your day effectively. Your existing strategy might not work when you switch jobs or the type of work changes!
  2. Consider your planning & organizational skills before investing: Time management or productivity techniques are linked to your planning & organizational skills. But not all of us are good planners or have top-notch organizational skills. That’s why it becomes an essential factor to consider which technique you should opt for.
  3. Be clear with your commitment level: It makes no sense to opt for high-commitment productivity methods when you aren’t willing to invest that much time & effort. Be very clear before you begin with any of the time management techniques.

If you cannot show the needed dedication, you’ll feel the techniques to be more time-consuming & useless instead of practical and time-saver!

This article will tell you about the five best time management techniques. I have categorized them under the commitment level required in terms of time & effort, along with basic guidance on who should opt for which style. Choose wisely!

Commitment level categorization for time management techniques.
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Remember: You can opt for any of the methods that work for you; that’s always the best. But this categorization is only to help you get started according to your pace & comfort.

#1. Low Commitment Time Management Techniques

Here are two strategies to opt for if you get bored quickly, unwilling to commit too much, are a procrastinator, too busy to put any time behind planning, or cannot consistently sustain to keep up with the extra work.

1. Eat That Frog

Eat That Frog Time Management Technique
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This technique became popular when Brian Tracy mentioned it in one of his books, “21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating.” The technique got its name as he was inspired by Mark Twain’s quote: “Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Choose this technique if you:

  • Struggle with procrastination
  • Overwhelmed with the long to-do list
  • Lack of consistency in keeping up with any productivity techniques
  • Do a lot of work but still cannot make enough progress

How does it work?

This method follows a simple rule: do the most important work first thing in the morning. All remaining tasks you can do during the day, even when you are mentally exhausted.

  1. Decide your frog – the most important task (mind it, not urgent). Just one.
  2. Eat the frog. Do it without thinking.
  3. Repeat every day. 

This technique works as it takes advantage of time by pushing us to do the most challenging/complex work at the best time when we have the right motivation and mental energy.

A few tips can be really helpful while working with your frog:

  • Please only choose a task that does not take up your whole day. Make sure to finish it in 1-3 hours.
  • If the frog is a big one, break it down
  • Don’t jump into planning mode
  • Think about the frog in the night itself to utilize maximum time the next day to do the work.

2. Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro time management technique
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Pomodoro is one of the most popular and straightforward time management methods developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It is one technique that you can easily mix with any other technique.

Choose this technique if you:

  • Struggle with constant distractions
  • Want to practice deep work

It’s very easy to get started with. It allows a lot of breaks to not feel exhausted.

How does it work?

It requires you to use a timer to break your work into intervals; each interval is called a Pomodoro (tomato in Italian). 

  1. Decide the tasks you want to work on. Start with one task.
  2. Set a 25-minutes timer to do focused work.
  3. When timer buzzes, check-off 1 pomodoro.
  4. Take a 5-minutes break. Sip some coffee, walk around, or do anything unrelated to work.
  5. Repeat the same thing four times, i.e., four pomodoros.
  6. Take a more extended break this time, approx. 20-30 minutes.
  7. Repeat the whole thing.

A few tips can come real handy:

  • Review your completed pomodoros at the end. This will help you identify how much focused work you can do in a day.
  • You can experiment with the length of the Pomodoro according to your work. Some people prefer full 90 minutes of work, while the 52-minute slot works best for some.
  • Do step away from the screen and all work-related activities during your break. Free time is the power of this technique.

#2. Medium Commitment Time Management Techniques

Here are the two most popular strategies to opt for if you are a to-do list person, like working focused, setting goals, or prefer visualization.

3. Eisenhower Matrix

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Eisenhower Matrix or Urgent-Important Matrix is a robust decision-making framework developed by 34th American president Dwight D. Eisenhower that helps you manage time.

Stephen Covey projected Eisenhower’s insights in his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as a simple tool to prioritize tasks. It is now known as the Eisenhower Matrix (also known as The Time Management Matrix, The Eisenhower Box, The Eisenhower Method, and The Urgent-Important Matrix). It helps you prioritize tasks and sort your to-do list by adequately addressing the required tasks and eliminating the non-required clutter.

Choose this technique if you:

  • Cannot prioritize your work and keep juggling with random tasks
  • Want to practice delegation
  • Cannot say No

How does it work?

There are four quadrants, namely:

  1. Do Now – urgent and important tasks
  2. Schedule – less urgent but important tasks
  3. Delegate – urgent but less important tasks
  4. Delete – neither urgent nor important tasks

This matrix helps you compare your choices on the scale of “urgency” and “importance,” thereby allowing you to make a solid plan to approach your never-ending tasks list!

Eisenhower matrix Template for decision-making
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Download our popular Eisenhower Matrix template (6k+ downloads) made in MS Excel or Google Sheets. It is one of the best ways to make decisions and inherits all the best practices. It’s really worth trying!

Here are a few tips:

  • Use any task management tool or mind map to keep track of delegated tasks.
  • Prioritize your tasks in each quadrant.
  • Only add up to 8 tasks in each quadrant. This is an optimal number.
  • Do a weekly review to analyze which quadrant you spend most of your time on, what next steps you can take to improve, etc.

4. Time Blocking:

Time blocking time management technique
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The time-blocking technique requires you to dedicate a block of time to a specific task or batch of similar tasks. It involves task batching and day theming variations as well. Read more about these techniques here.

It is a great technique to practice focus for people who get a lot of interruptions in a day. Use a calendar or other software that allows visual planning for best results.

Choose this technique if you:

  • Juggle with multiple responsibilities/projects (Jack Dorsey uses this technique)
  • A lot of your time goes into meetings
  • Face constant distractions

How does it work?

  1. Planning – Prepare your work list. Define priorities. Identify if they require deep focus.
  2. Create batches – Group similar types of tasks together
  3. Assign time blocks- depending on your work – can be 10 minutes or 60 minutes. Ensure to assign deep work tasks at the time when you are most productive.
  4. Sync with your calendar – block these chunks, if your work role permits, so that others know when not to disturb you.

Many known personalities, including Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, and Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, favored this technique. It is the best way to have deep work hours and understand how you spend your time.

Here are a few tips:

  • Do not overschedule. Keep space for leisure time, break time, and mealtime.
  • Sync it with your calendar so that team members know the time you have blocked. 
  • Include some buffer time, say, 10-15 minutes, in each block.
  • Keep reviewing if the time blocks are being overestimated or underestimated. Change them as needed.

Download our popular Trello template based on “Day Theming” variation of time blocking technique. It’s really worth trying! Plus, Trello is free!

Task Batching Trello Template
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#3. High Commitment Time Management Techniques

Here are two strategies to opt for if you are good at planning, can visualize distant goals too, have super clear details about your work, or have perseverance.

5. Getting Things Done

GTD technique
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Getting Things Done is a popular time management technique developed by productivity consultant David Allen. It is based on the concept of stress-free working. You dump all your professional and personal tasks into a to-do list and free yourself from remembering them.

Choose this technique if you:

  • Keep forgetting small details.
  • Have many tasks on your plate, and you need help to focus on one task at a time.
  • Need help in finishing the work.
  • Feel overwhelmed

How does it work?

GTD is a 5-step process:

  1. Capture – Every task going on in your head. Work, appointments, personal work, anything.
  2. Clarify – Decide if the item is actionable or not. Is it a project, a big task, a small task, or not relevant? If you cannot decide anything about an item: trash it or archive it. If you can finish a task in 2 minutes, get it done immediately. DO NOT add such tasks in the GTD system at all.
  3. Organize – Park all tasks in relevant categories/buckets to add structure. Add dates, file references, note all details, and involve everyone associated with the task.
  4. Review – Decide what’s next. How do you plan to accomplish an item?
  5. Engage – Do it.

Here are a few tips here:

  • Be consistent and have patience. Keep updating the list daily. It seems a lot of work initially, but once the system is set, it helps.
  • Must have weekly reviews. Many people overlook it and end up disliking the technique.
  • Keep it interesting by mixing with prioritization techniques and even Pomodoro for focused working.

Remember: With GTD, the whole point is to dump out everything going on in your head so that you can finish them – either by doing or not doing. So, don’t get overwhelmed seeing the count.

Interesting part: Following GTD for a long time now (I really dump all my thoughts even when they are not related to work but some personal desires or future wishes), I realized so many things at the personal level. I mean, God, my brain thinks a lot, and half of it is nonsense built due to social pressure of doing things, the competition that if my friend does something, I need to do it too, and desperation of doing this and that and everything, etc.

Long story short, it did play a part in making me self-aware!

6. Pickle Jar Theory

Pickle Jar Theory
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How can pickles relate to time management techniques, right? It’s a figurative expression. 

Jeremy Wright established this theory that time is a finite space with limits. So basically, the jar of pickles is an analogy where the jar represents our typical day, and inside the jar, we have

  • Rocks- big and important tasks (Priorities)
  • Pebbles – average important tasks (Urgencies)
  • Sand – small and less important tasks (Distraction, Leisure)

Choose this technique if you:

  • Want to understand the dynamics of your work. What is useful to you and what is not.
  • Lose track of time quickly and put in extra hours every day or consistently.
  • Love creative thinking.
  • Prioritize your tasks.

The best part of this technique is that it is the most practical way of time management. It allows us to blend our day with all sorts of work which is how every day is. Mix a finite amount of sand, pebbles, and rocks in your jar!

How does it work?

Imagine a large empty pickle jar.

  • Add two or three rocks first. The most important tasks that you want to complete in the day
  • Take some pebbles, small tasks, some urgencies or work you can delegate, and toss them in the jar to fit it along with the rocks.
  • Next, add a handful of sand. Only rocks and pebbles can create friction and a lot of noise. Sand helps fit in everything. Leisure time, responding to emails, chatting, and extra meetings all go as the sand.

T­here’s a lot of stuff in your jar. The order and volume of each item are essential to understand here. If you were to put the sand in first, then your pebbles and large rocks wouldn’t fit. Or if you tried just to put in 10 large rocks, they’d break the jar. Such is the case with planning your day.

Summary

I explained to you six time management techniques that you can choose based on your commitments and work style.

Being able to master your time will not only make you productive or create room for more work, but it will also make you realize how you can do a bit of everything in your life – by finding the right balance.

Time Management Techniques Infographic
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Surbhi Mahnot

Surbhi Mahnot

Surbhi Mahnot is the owner of this blog. She has work experience of almost 10 years in the IT industry in varied roles. At present, she is working full-time on this blog. She is passionate about the importance of personal growth in individual and work life, which reflects in her writing too. Travelling, reading, and shopping are her core interest besides work.

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