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MANAGEMENT, 8 min Read

Time management for business. Effective hacks by
IT company owner

April 1, 2019
ARTEM BARMIN
Self-organizational skills help to stay competitive and feel better in spite of all the present-day challenges. It's especially important for business owners, who need to constantly improve both themselves and their companies. Using my 12-years experience in practicing time management techniques, I prepared an article with the most effective and workable hacks.
How do you think, is a week a long or a short period of time? How fruitful were the last 7 days of your life? Do you want to make yourself more productive? If yes, you may search for "time management tips". And feel a little bit frustrated. Firstly, because Google asserts that the phrase "time management" is an oxymoron. Actually, you can't control your time, the duration of seconds and hours, as well as of your own life. You can only decide where to put your energy, efforts and attention at each certain minute. The second reason for your potential regret is the amount of information on this mainstream topic. There are thousands of books, courses and recommendations, but I will show you those, that work for me.
Happiness, productivity, presence, and fulfillment all find their roots in your ability to proactively control where you direct your mental energy.
Zat Rana, Medium
This statement tells us about the significance of prioritizing and the ability to control attention. What you concentrate on at the moment, that you will get in the future. How to gain these time management skills? Let's see.

The history of time management

My introduction to the topic started when I was a student. I've read a book by Gleb Arkhangelsky called "Time drive". The author explains the basis of self-management and shares tricks on how to do everything on time. It's a nice option for beginners, who only start to discover this approach.

The next book was "This strange life" by Daniil Granin. It tells a story of biologist Alexander Lyubischev, who has developed his own system of time management. It was based on the understanding that personal time is as valuable, as money. And it should be controlled in the same way. The scientist not only focused on the prioritization and effective thinking, but also was quite pedantic following his chronometry technique. He tracked each minute of his life by writing special notes on an everyday basis. It doesn't mean you should follow his steps, because it may be very challenging. But the case shows how crucial is time management for successful professional results, long and fruitful life.

Many famous personalities used self-organizational techniques and reflected on the importance of time. One of the first of them was Greek philosopher Socrates, who said:
While we wait for life, life passes.
The main opponent of time management, its worst enemy, is procrastination. But you shouldn't blame yourself too much on spending time in easy, but meaningless ways. Procrastination is common to all people on the planet. No matter how significant and respectful are their professional achievements and posts.

Not only humans procrastinate their tasks. Animals also demonstrate such behavior. It's a phenomenon of "shifted activity", which can be caused by 2 factors:
  • frustration due to a challenging situation
  • the inner conflict caused by some controversies

Let's look at a seagull that sets on a nest and lays eggs. Suddenly, it notices a danger. For example, a polar scientist. The seagull wants to escape, but can't because of the nest. So, it feels the inner conflict and decides to clean feathers. It an irrational action, which can't help to avoid the danger, but the bird acts this way.
Now, let's imagine a journalist who is writing an important article. Suddenly, he hears about breaking news. An editor says he must write a note about them. What then the journalist does? He opens Facebook and surfs the Internet for the whole day. The thing is he simply can't decide what of these 2 important tasks should be done earlier.
Do you notice the similarity of the 2 cases? Procrastination is an ancient way in which nature saves us from unpleasant and difficult situations. On the other hand, humans need to cope with it, if they want to make their everyday life more effective and interesting.

How can we deal with procrastination?

In my experience, the best way is to use the Japanese approach "Ikigai". In a few words, it's an answer to the question: "what makes your life meaningful?". The concept has special meaning for each person and depends on 4 criteria:

  1. passion (what you love to do)
  2. mission (how can you help others)
  3. vocation (what you are good at)
  4. profession (what brings you money)
Ikigai

Procrastination is also known as a conflict between undervalued tasks and overvalued. Ikigai helps to find the needed balance and simplifies the concentration on one single goal. I want to emphasize this, because the more tasks and issues you have, the higher is the risk to face a conflict between them. So, you will spend more time on procrastination. Some people say that multi-tasking influences us worse, than alcohol. You just get lost among many projects and start to do something unnecessary.

Setting goals as a powerful time management method

Like Ikigai, this technique requires a deep understanding of your personality, values and beliefs. Defining your goals for years isn't a simple thing. I usually write my plans for a month and then check what I've done. Sometimes I put a goal to the next month, or just delete it, realizing it isn't valuable for me. Ikigai helps not only to focus on the personal aims, but also to know your priorities better and view yourselves from the outside.

As for prioritizing, I recommend a simple scheme. It's the matrix by David Eisenhower, who proposed to divide everyday tasks into 4 sections:

  1. important and urgent
  2. not important and urgent
  3. important and not urgent
  4. not important and not urgent
matrix by David Eisenhower

Usually people forget about the third point because the urgent issues take all their time. It's an endless stream of problems that require your attention. But important and not urgent goals have the greatest influence on your life in a long time perspective. By the way, most of the not important and not urgent tasks can be simply skipped.

GTD as the best way of self-management

Getting Things Done is a system, created by David Allen, an American business consultant. Entrepreneurs and top managers are those, who really feel the lack of time. David Allen helped them by creating these simple rules. Let's look at them:

1. Inbox (the technique of empty head)
Never keep all tasks in your mind. Use your smartphone to write down all new plans and ideas. This rule is also connected with the famous Zeigarnik effect. Psychological experiments show that people are more likely to remember uncompleted processes, than completed ones. So, if you just stop working at 5 p.m., you may all evening worry about things you had to do. It's better to finish at least some little tasks, and then have a rest.

2. Weekly review
If you just put everything into the inbox, one day you will find it confusing and messy. So, once a week you should make time for review. I usually divide all tasks to separate projects, check the completed and the planned ones. Some of them can be paused, others can be transformed. The review guarantees your trust in the system, because you are sure that you will see all the tasks, not forget them.

3. Define the next steps
Everyday hustle spits your focus and you start to react without thinking and analyzing a situation. To avoid impulsive decisions and time wasting, it's better to plan your actions in advance. At weekends, when you feel safe and peaceful, sit and think about the further tasks. You can spend an hour, two or three, as much time, as you need for long perspective planning. Then, write specific steps for each task. It's the simplest way to move your goals forward. The steps should be SMART:

  • specific
  • measurable
  • achievable
  • time-bounded
  • realistiс

Using this personal time management technique you will see the progress. Because you don't need to think, reflect and doubt. Just do.

Principles of time management

  1. Define one main task for the day that will make you close to your goal. You may have other things to do, but this one should be in the first place.
  2. Notice everything that distracts you. I mean random thoughts, new ideas, social networks. When you notice them, you can control them.
  3. Filter information to get rid of unimportant facts. Be mindful of chronofags that cause addiction by providing unexpected content (YouTube, Facebook, news).
  4. Be ready to say NO, because only you can organize your time. Divide big tasks into smaller parts. Do them in several steps. I call this "to eat elephants".
  5. Start to delegate your tasks, especially if you have a lot of them. Teach members of your team, so you will be able to rely on them. Let others help you.

Deep work is a key for productivity improvement

One of my favorite books about productivity is "Deep work". It includes immersion methods that help to achieve incredible results. Actually, anyone can work only for 4 hours a day and complete the whole scope of tasks. The most important thing here is to avoid any distractions: unnecessary internet searching, social media, private and corporate messengers, etc. You should focus on the tasks and pay all your attention, all mental energy in doing them.

You can also use a method of a "nice gesture". For example, you can work in an extraordinary, luxury place, or do something else unusual. Some writers who can't complete a novel, take a ticket on a flight or book an expensive hotel room for working there. As for me, I prefer to do my businesses not at the office, but at coworking on the other side of the city. Nobody knows me there, so nobody distracts me with the endless flow of questions, talks and unimportant tasks.

I also like one of the most famous time management methods, called Pomodoro. It's really helpful for people, who can't be concentrated on something for a long time. In a few words, you should divide your time to intervals. For example, you work constantly without distractions, during 20 or 25 minutes. Then, you have breaks of 5-15 minutes.
Pomodoro

Just like sportsmen train their physical strengths and grow muscles, you can improve your ability to keep attention on one thing. Regular practice is the most important factor in developing concentration. But except for focused work, you also need mind-wandering thinking. It's responsible for your creativity and the ability to find extraordinary solutions.

Other time management tips and notes:

  • remember that improving yourself at least 1% every day, you can get incredible results in a year
  • try the self-qualified method, which can be really helpful for analyzing different aspects of your life
  • start to write a diary or self-gratitude notes to see what you've done and how productive was the day

I should mention that all of these time management techniques are meaningless without your full trust in the system you've built. It's of vital importance. So, you should try different methods and choose the most suitable for you.
Takeaways

  1. If you want time management to work, create habits and rituals.
  2. Find and follow your global goal, the Japanese concept IKIGAI.
  3. Try to understand yourself better, analyze your life, think about values.
  4. Remember that your attention determines where you go and what achieve.
  5. Deep work is the best method to get the desired results in a short time.

I hope my article was useful for you, inspiring to make at least a small step for improving yourself. Subscribe to FreshCode blog to get more interesting articles by business owners, programmers, project managers and other IT specialists. If you already have an idea of your startup, we are always here to make it happen.
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