How many times have you decided to finally start working towards your ambitious goal, only to end up wasting hours on the internet looking at everything from Wikipedia entries on the Civil War to adorable puppy photos? Despite knowing that we want to accomplish big goals, it’s easy to lose motivation if we don’t spend our time effectively.
By Daiana Stoicescu, Master Certified Coach Trainer
We all know that we should have a plan. Yet so many of us fail to act or use ineffective methods and blame ourselves for being procrastinators. Unless you were one of the lucky ones, no one taught you about good time management and business strategies growing up. But it is a lot simpler than it sounds: using your time effectively means focusing on ONE task for a defined period of time, and then taking a mentally refreshing break. Easier said than done, right?
Despite being aware that we need to focus, we keep multiple browser tabs open, keep phone notifications turned on during work, and check emails like crack addicts. As studies have shown, despite thinking that we may be great multi-taskers, doing multiple tasks at once will break down our emotional strength and ultimately our productivity. Time management does not necessarily refer to how long you work, but rather to working on the right things. No matter what we tell you here in this article, if you don’t focus on the stuff that’s truly important to you, effective time management and business strategy will not be your saviours. To-do lists are great for capturing ideas, but when it comes time to taking action on multiple tasks, you are often left overwhelmed and anxious.
In 1918, master hustler Charles Schwab (one of the richest men in the world at the time) solved this dilemma by hiring productivity consultant Ivy Lee to make his company Bethlehem Steel more productive. They agreed that if Lee’s advice didn’t work, Schwab wouldn’t have to pay him anything.
Lee pulled aside each of Schwab’s executives and prescribed the following simple remedy to increase productivity:
- At the end of each workday, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
- Prioritize those six items in order of importance.
- When you get to work tomorrow, focus only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second one.
- Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
- Repeat this process every working day.
While this method seemed incredibly simple, after three months, Schwab was so impressed with the increase in productivity at Bethlehem Steel that he called Lee into his office and wrote him a check for USD 25,000 (the equivalent of USD 440,000 today). How could something so simple be so effective? Simple productivity systems often beat complex ones. Top performers in any field – whether it’s entrepreneurship, athletics, academia, the arts – know the value of focus. If you constantly divide your attention by trying to tackle multiple tasks at once, your productivity suffers.
Though very simple, the only productivity “trick” you’ll need to learn is working on your most important task first.