I often get asked what my secrets are for staying productive. Between traveling, teaching, blogging, marketing, speaking, writing, and oh yes, family too, my schedule is pretty packed. In spite of this, I’ve managed to keep all the balls up in the air. This week I thought I’d share my philosophy on time management and also let you know what tools I find most valuable for staying productive.
Life is made up of multiple pockets of time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How much you use and how much you waste is up to you. Here are my rules:
- Eliminate junk that fills those pockets.
- Equip yourself to take advantage of time pockets.
- Be more efficient to create more pockets.
Eliminate junk that fills those time pockets.
As my good friend Bruce Johnson says, “You can’t add anything in unless you take something away.” Think about what you do when you have downtime. If you’re like most people, you’ll probably waste more time than you’ll use. Take note of what you do when you’re standing in line, waiting for an appointment, or sitting in traffic. Most people reach for their smartphone and check in on Facebook (yes, even the ones sitting in traffic!). Ask yourself what intrinsic value you’ll get from the activity you do. If it’s junk, begin a systematic approach to eliminate it. Try shutting off the data signal to your phone. You’ll still get calls and texts, just not your social media apps. Keep a book handy with you. Keep a small notebook where you can write down your thoughts or ideas. Use your commute time to either reflect in silence or listen to some audio books.
Equip yourself to take advantage of time pockets.
Since I spend an inordinate amount of time on airplanes or sitting in airports, I’ve learned to always come prepared. Here are some things I recommend.
A light laptop. I have the Macbook Air which has that SSD drive that boots up in 8 seconds. It’s worth the price. Think about how long it takes for your PC to boot up. New tablets and PCs have that SSD. You can work, save, and then quickly shut down or fire up with this.
A mobile hotspot. I have the one from Verizon and it’s great if I’m someplace with no or slow WiFi. It’s also a whole lot more secure. If you have some time to get work done, use it wisely. Don’t let Internet access (or lack thereof) be an excuse.
A good cloud account. I use Dropbox and Google Drive which enables me to access and keep files safe. One I forgot my Macbook on a road trip to Connecticut. I had to buy a cheap PC laptop but with Dropbox, I was able to access the files I needed to teach my workshop.
Good productivity Apps. My favorite is Evernote. It syncs up to the cloud and lets me type out or do audio notes. I often come up with good ideas when I can’t easily write them down. Having Evernote allows me to speak them and access them later. Otherwise I know I’ll forget what I was thinking.
Books or a device that lets you store digital books. I have a Kindle and an iPad Mini with the Kindle App. When I have downtime, I’ll read. It also helps to have my library with me at all times especially if I’m doing a workshop and need to cite a particular concept. What you read is important too. For a list of books I recommend, click HERE.
Be more efficient to create more time pockets.
Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment. Take some simple steps to maximize the productive times. Start with shutting off email. Check it only a couple times a day. Turn off your phone if you need to focus. Find the best place to work. You’ll get more done, more efficiently with the right environment. If you’re an introvert, find a quiet spot or go to a library. If you’re an extravert, go to a busy Panera or Starbucks. Work in your zone when you’re in the zone and you’ll get more done. Make good use of your time. If I’m waiting for a flight at the airport, I can find a table, boot up my Macbook and bang out a blog post. Use downtime to check in with your network…by phone! My good friend Fred Allan makes it a point to call me to check in at least every couple of months. “Malcolm,” he says. “I know you’re busy but I just wanted to call and check in and see how you’re doing.” He’s a great example for all of us!
I don’t profess to be an expert but this is what’s worked well for me. Remember, we all have the same amount of hours in a day. How much you use and how much you waste is all up to you. Take some time this week to evaluate your workday and start making some changes.