I believe that managing time varies for each person. Every life is different, everyone has different experiences, and everyone does different things. In my first post about time management, I would like to share with you my way of dealing with time. First of all, I read Getting Things Done. I also finished two courses: The Art of Doing Less and Wake Up Productive. I know that each one gave me a different perspective on the topic. Now, a few months after finishing them, I can see my life from a higher attitude, and I can give you some clues that work in my own life. But before I give you advice, I need to specify what my life looks like.
I’ve just finished my studies. I’m a man of many interests and talents: I design and develop iPhone apps, I compose music for games and movies, and I draw and create 3D models. I work from home on my personal projects, on team projects, and on business-to-business projects. Doing so many things at once doesn’t make it easier for me. Moreover, many times I feel I want to do much more than I really can handle. For example, I wish I could have worked on Proud while I composed music, drew 3D models, and so much more. Advice number one would be:
Focus on doing one or two things at a time, and give your full attention to that task. I would support this advice with, “Do what works, don’t do what don’t.” If something is making money for you, give your full attention to it. If something doesn’t make money for you, or if people don’t recognize your skill as something exceptional and you won’t be able to make a profit from it in five to ten years, then drop it right now. Focus can also be taken from the perspective of one day. Turn off all of the distractions while you focus on the most important things in your life. Don’t check Facebook, Twitter and Email in the morning—postpone that activity to the evening. Nothing bad will happen if you don’t check them every morning. Try it for at least three days, and let me know if it ruined your life or if it made you more productive. I know it’s tempting to check them. I catch myself doing it too, but I try to avoid it as much as I can.
To be efficient, you have to have a plan. Point after point, you have to know what to do. Each big task needs to be broken down into smaller action-steps that you can read and follow, so you know what to do next. Planning is a skill that you can master every day by doing your stuff. Creating this whole website was a 50-point plan that took me one and one-half weeks to accomplish. Now that it’s all done, I can motivate myself by looking at that huge list and seeing how many things I needed to do in order to make this quality website. Every time I wake up, I know what to do and I can start working right away.
To save more time in your life, you have to optimize your everyday tasks. Step one is to write them down each day in a notebook. Then, look at the daily tasks and identify things you do regularly. Focus on those things, and try to write a system to do them faster by removing what’s useless, or by combining similar tasks so you don’t have to switch between tasks too often (that’s a cause of losing a lot of time). The last step is to use your systems every time you start doing a task.
You don’t know how many hours in your life could be saved if you delegated some of your tasks to someone else. There are people who are much faster and cheaper to use, rather than using your own time. Use oDesk to find freelancers who could be your personal assistants. They can book a table in a restaurant, call to make a dental appointment knowing your calendar, or help you with small parts of your projects, like graphics or marketing.
5. Create habits and rituals
Creating the habit of doing something important is the best way to train yourself to get to a champion level. Whether it’s playing the piano, learning a new language, or simply going to the gym, if you do it often enough (five times a week), after a year you will see incredible results. You can’t do it in two weeks or a few months.
6. Take breaks
Taking breaks has two big advantages: you can rest between long work periods, which will give you more energy when you come back to work; in that time you can plan your work better, look at it from different perspectives, and do things faster. I use Eben Pagan’s rule of “60-60-30”, where you work 50 minutes, take a 10 minute break, work 50 minutes, take a 10 minute break, work 30 minutes, take a 30 minute break. My colleague is in the process of finishing an iPhone app that lets you easily work that way. I’ll post more about it when it’s finished.
I have a plan to divide the multi-advice post into single posts, so check back if you want to know more about those rules. I also created Proud with those rules in mind. Be sure to follow Proud on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to RSS feed.