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Distractions are productivity’s number 1 enemy. This is why we are constantly trying to come up with new ways to avoid them and invent new tools to keep them at bay. Noise-canceling headphones, apps to block social apps and websites, and more.
So if we’re going to be using these tools (and I do) we might as well use the best ones possible. There are plenty of options out there that will help you reduce your distractions and save you time. In this article, I will share with you a few techniques and tools I find useful to save my time and be more productive.
Rescue Time is time management software that has been around for years. I have used it for a long time, and I have to say, I am impressed with the way it has been improved recently.
As with all tools, it may not work for everyone, and you will have to try it in order to figure out if it will make you more productive. But if I had to recommend a tool that helps with tracking mobile time and keeping away from distraction, Rescue Time would be it.
If you need some intensive focus time, Rescue Time will allow you to block specific websites and apps. It will, for example, prevent you from entering your email inbox unless a certain amount of time has passed.
Additionally, you can review reports that show how much time you spent on websites and apps both at your desktop computer and mobile. If needed you can add in offline time manually. This is a great way to start tracking your time and seeing where you can make improvements without spending a ton of time manually categorizing or tracking.
Yes – as the screenshot shows, I don’t spend much time on Facebook, but I certainly do in Reddit! The goal isn’t to completely eradicate social or non-productive time, but to make sure you understand how much time you’re spending on it. So, for about 1.5 hours a week of Reddit and Facebook I’m actually happy.
Be Aware of Your Time
Beside external help and handy tools, the best way to improve your productivity is to create your own framework. The first step to have a framework in place is being aware of how you are spending (or wasting) your time. The more you know about your time management habits, the more effective you will be at improving them.
I like to dedicate some time to “time blocking” and keep track of my own activity. Checking your activity is a difficult thing to do, but the payoff is huge. I usually divide my working time into blocks of 15 minutes and analyze what I do during that time. It is one of the most effective ways to find out where I am wasting most of my time.
If you’ve never done this before it can be tough, but give it a shot. Come back every hour or so and quickly fill in what you’ve been doing. If you can stick with it for a day or two you’ll gather some very powerful insights into what you actually spend your time doing. This is a great monthly or quarterly task.
Be honest with yourself. Write down your activities on a post-it, notebook, or wherever you prefer. If you are checking Facebook, make sure to write it down; if you are looking at your email, write that down too. From the data you will gather about yourself, you will be able to come up with a strategy: maybe you need to keep your email tab closed for the whole morning, and only check it before lunch…
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a popular time management method. It encourages focus and productivity by allowing your mind to relax and get distracted during specific times. The original Pomodoro technique was inspired by a kitchen timer and is based on focus times of 25 minutes:
- Decide on a specific task and set the timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on your task (25 minutes) until the timer rings.
- Take a short break (2-5 minutes)
- Repeat steps 1-3 four times
- Take a longer break (15-30 minutes).
Everyone’s productivity and energy levels work differently, so you can use trial and error to find out what the best amount of focus time is for you.
Try to follow the philosophy behind the Pomodoro technique — if you know you have a manageable chunk of time to focus, do so intensively. No apps, no notifications, no getting up. You will have your breaks to do that, relaxing your body and letting your mind wander freely.
Make the Best Out of Your Calendar
What is better than a calendar to help you manage your time? It keeps track of it and allows you to plan what is coming. The best way to be in control of your day is to plan it ahead.
I often talk about my daily review and how it is at the heart of my time management strategy. The daily review always finds space on my calendar – it actually is the driver for the rest of my scheduling.
You can choose whatever works for you: an old-fashioned paper calendar, an online calendar, or your BestSelf journal.
I hope all of the above will inspire you to try new time management strategies. As usual, take away what best fits your needs, and shape it to your circumstances.
Or put more succinctly, Take The Best, Leave The Rest.