Top business leaders manage to fit many productive moments into their days. How do they do it? First, they don’t try to do everything. For example, if they’re not an IT expert, they don’t worry about the technical details of different cloud infrastructures. Instead, they delegate it to the pros by choosing IT outsourcing with a managed service provider. With their extra time, they focus on what they’re best at.
Other time management techniques include the following:
1. Follow the “Touch It Once” Rule
The “Touch it Once” (TIO) rule is about tackling tasks right away. If something will take 10 minutes or less to do, finish it now. If it’ll take longer than 10 minutes, delegate it to others or to your future self. Just make sure you delay it for no more than a week.
The TIO rule is similar to David Allen’s influential Getting Things Done (GTD) strategy. Both are based on the understanding that doing or delegating simple tasks frees up mental space, allowing you to deepen your focus and attention.
2. Don’t multitask
Multitasking is highly overrated. Rather than getting a lot of things done, you’re more likely to get a few things half-done, often at a lower quality level. Just as opening too many tabs slows your computer, so too will multitasking exhaust your mind.
An exhausted mind isn’t great at being productive. Indeed, as far back as 2009, Stanford researchers were finding that memory and other cognitive functions were impaired by attempts at multitasking. This is why top leaders are extra vigilant about eliminating distractions that decrease focus. Instead of multitasking, they embrace the art of monotasking.
3. Use the Pomodoro technique
One popular way to monotask is through the Pomodoro technique. Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, this time-management technique is simple, effective, and widely acclaimed. To use it, choose one task to focus on, then, do the following:
- Spend 25 minutes on that task;
- Take a short, five-minute break;
- After four Pomodoros, take a longer, 15-30 minute break.
Repeat the above sequence until you’ve finished the task, then move on to the next.
4. Fit the task to the time
Not all tasks are made equal. Developing a high-level marketing strategy will take a lot of cognitive effort. Deleting unnecessary emails won’t. Trying to do the former on a Friday afternoon after a heavy lunch might not be the best approach. Instead, fit the task to the time.
At the start of the day, identify which tasks require the most focus. Then, schedule those tasks for when you know you’ll have the most focus. For some—including Jeffrey Bezos— that’s around 10 am. For others, it may be earlier in the day or even at night. Whatever the specifics, find your time of optimal focus and knock out your most demanding tasks then.
5. Batch similar tasks
Switching between different tasks exhausts your brain. Using the Pomodoro technique is one way to overcome that. Batching similar tasks is another.
Say you have one main goal for the day. Break that larger goal into smaller tasks, and then group those tasks into blocks that have logical consistency. Finally, complete each block. Following this method ensures you’re not switching between entirely different tasks. Instead, you’re using similar parts of your brain, making it easier to get in the flow and maintain focus. With steadier focus comes greater productivity.
Top business leaders have the same amount of time as everyone else. They just manage it more effectively. Keep the above five tips in mind to do the same.