As a business owner, entrepreneur, or dedicated employee, you likely tackle numerous different tasks each and every day to get things done. This need to switch constantly between tasks means that you must manage your time efficiently to minimize distractions and improve concentration. And to allocate your mental resources and energy to the tasks that matter most.
Almost everyone battles to maintain a proper work-life balance in this day and age. We want healthy home lives and successful, thriving careers. Yet, it isn’t always easy to balance these two sets of demands, especially in the face of other distractions like personal responsibilities and increasingly entertaining smartphones and tablets. Many time management tips talk about building to-do lists and offering some support, but they don’t handle the root of the problem.
The reason for this is that time management should encompass so much more than just striking a work-life balance. The way you manage your time is not so much about streamlining your schedule as it is about maintaining an organized, clear, and a willing mind.
Here’s how to reboot your brain with time management strategies and empower yourself to reach peak productivity levels every day.
5 efftive tips for managing your time
1. Prioritize information to make more informed decisions
Chances are you regularly encounter a slew of information that you need to handle at once. This can be intimidating at the best of times and may paralyze your ability to effectively make decisions and move forward. It might be frustrating. But this is a perfectly natural reaction that arises because your brain is experiencing an overload of information vying for its full attention.
Just like your web browser can become overwhelmed when you have too many tabs open at once, your brain can do the same. It can become over-saturated when it’s expected to deal with too much information at any given time.
When you come face to face with an information bottleneck or a jumble of data, try to prioritize the information according to what you need to tackle first or what’s most important. This will free up your brain to process this information one step at a time and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.
2. Start your day by prioritizing important tasks
Just like any other part of your body, your brain uses a significant amount of energy during every task you perform. You may not run out of energy entirely while performing strenuous mental activities. Still, your body and brain will react as you encounter stress, urgency, and other responses.
One of the best things to improve your time management and conserve your energy is to start your day by making a list of your current priorities. Prioritizing your responsibilities takes energy in itself. The sooner in the day, you can do this, the more likely you are to turn it into a healthy habit. This will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed when you have heaps of tasks lined up for the day and help you get the most important things out of the way first.
3. Split your attention strategically
Multi-tasking is technically possible, but it is usually quite an inefficient way of getting tasks done correctly. The only true way to perform numerous mental tasks while maintaining a consistent work quality is to tackle them one at a time.
When you feel pressured to perform several tasks at once, make a deliberate decision about whether or not you should split your attention between them. A great example is choosing to focus on your boss’s essential points at a meeting rather than trying to listen while checking your emails simultaneously. Put a time limit on how long you are willing to split your attention for and then divert back to focusing on your top priority.
If your mind begins to drift towards other topics, or you are interrupted, make a quick note to remind yourself of your important task at hand and then continue to focus on it as soon as you can.
4. Use visuals to your advantage
The human brain loves visual aids. This is why images, videos, stories, and metaphors resonate so much with us. They create mental images that guide and structure our thought processes.
Even the simplest of visuals are packed with information. This information is accessible for the brain to process as it requires less energy to comprehend than walls of text. You can use visuals to manage your time by using illustrations or symbols to represent your priorities. This will help you form a picture of how each priority will look as you approach your goals and tick them off your to-do list.
This approach can also help when it comes to brainstorming new ideas.
Using a visual mind-map can help you collate and keep track of important considerations and factors influencing a project. All while making the whole brainstorming process more fun and interactive. The more engaging a task is, the more likely you and your team will be to tackle it without procrastinating!
5. Tackle your work in sprints
Popular project management techniques like the agile approach use short work periods called sprints to help you manage your time and maintain a high level of productivity. According to physiologist Nathaniel Kleitman and HBR, we work in 90-minute rhythms by moving through alternating periods of high and low alertness throughout the day. This means that after we work at a high intensity for more than 90 minutes, we start to rely on stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to keep us powering through.
Unfortunately, this is a recipe for disaster when it comes to our energy levels. These stress hormones begin to shut down the prefrontal cortex, hindering our ability to think clearly and perform tasks well. Research has confirmed that working in 90-minute rhythms allows us to stay productive while giving us ample time to rest without our stress hormones spiking and straining our cognitive faculties.
Rather than overriding periods of low productivity with stimulants like caffeine, manage your time by concentrating on a task for roughly 90 minutes and then taking a 20-30 minute break. During this time, you need to shift your focus entirely. Whether this involves going for a walk, playing a game, or simply sitting and relaxing, you need a complete disconnect. This will help you keep your energy levels stable throughout the day while still attending to your priorities in good time.
Effective time management to reboot your brain is about much more than drawing up to-do lists and working as hard as possible throughout the day. Neuroscience has offered some interesting insights into the human brain and how we can encourage ourselves to work smarter instead of harder to achieve the same excellent results.
Start your day by prioritizing tasks, using visual aids to build a clearer picture of your responsibilities, and prioritizing important information to make clear and informed decisions. Science also recommends tackling your daily work in brief sprints and giving your brain time to rest between them to optimize your cognitive outputs and your productivity as a whole.