A person’s “PQ”, or Productivity Quotient, is one of the important factors to determine their efficiency in managing their time. Your “PQ” is measured by the amount of effort you put into completing tasks per unit of time. In this context, I am focusing on tasks that dictate a significant amount thought process, analysis and input from other individuals, and not tasks that involve repetitive steps which could easily be evaluated by using simple time and activity measurement techniques.
One constant constraint that is applicable to all humans is that there are only 24 hours in a day to manage all aspects of your life, including spending time with loved ones, time for yourself, sleep, eating and work. Typically, for successfully-driven individuals, there always appears to be more things to accomplish, both on the personal and professional side, than time allows. Setting goals, and the priorities to reach those goals, is essential in order to manage your time within the constraints of available hours in a day. This isn’t a new phenomenon. The laws of nature have forced humans to live, and succeed, within the boundaries of time since time began. How you manage your time is up to you, and how to accomplish more within the available hours is dependent on your ability to increase your PQ.
“Time management” is defined by Dictionary.com as “the analysis of how working hours that are spent and the prioritization of tasks in order to maximize personal efficiency in the workplace”. It is all about setting up goals, identifying priorities, and creating a plan of activities to address the each item on the priority list. The key is to organize your activities each day to focus and successfully complete the tasks on hand in the most efficient manner.
The expression “day tight compartments” was coined by Canadian physician Sir William Osler in his speech “A Way of Life” delivered to students at Yale University in 1913, when he encountered this life-changing quote from Thomas Carlisle, “It is not our goal to see what lies dimly in the distance but to do what clearly lies at hand.” Rather than look to the past or more than 24 hours ahead of the present, Sir Osler focused the tasks at hand. This concept, and other tips, are further discussed in Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”.
I have summarized below a few useful time management tactics and rules that you can follow that will help you unleash time into your hands, and increase your Productivity Quotient. It’s all about doing the most amount of productive work in the shortest amount of time.
Plan your day – At the end of each day, make time to create a list of tasks to tackle the next day, and follow it. List all tasks and identify the priorities and any time urgency associated to each task. At the start of the day, set up priorities, focus on the highest priority task and move down the list from there.
Complete the most important and urgent tasks first -Don’t bother with unimportant tasks. President Eisenhower managed his time based on priorities using the principle of importance and urgency. He stated “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
Manage priorities not time – Focus on one task at a time and finish it. It is vital to stay focused on a task from start to completion. Any time slicing or multi-tasking will be a waste time and will take you longer to accomplish. As John Wooden the legendary basketball team coach of the UCLA said, “It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it”.
Limit your commitments by saying “no” – As a leader your direct reports rely on you, but at times when you need to complete your tasks, you may have to curtail the amount of time you allocate to supporting their needs. If you are up against a deadline, block a chunk of uninterrupted time in your day. You may close your door, virtually if working in an open space, or physically if situated in an office environment. However, given that your direct reports rely on your input in order to accomplish their tasks, schedule an equal amount of down time during the day for interruptions to help them accomplish their priorities.
Know how to delegate – If you want to accomplish more throughout the day, you’ll need to trust and grow the capacity of your team. Have faith to delegate to your team. Doing so serves a dual purpose, as the individual learns new skills and you can focus on more important priorities that cannot be performed by others.
Curtail the email and social media trap during work – In today’s environment we are continually connected 24/7. Though it may be difficult to break the addiction at first, it is necessary to limit the amount of “virtual interruptions” that stem from asynchronous events related to phone, email, slack, texts and other social media tools. I’m not suggesting that you go dark and abstain completely, but instead, try scheduling windows of opportunities to respond and you will realize significant gains in your productivity.
Set up time limit and deadline to complete task – The origin of the term deadline is a line drawn across the prison and any prisoners crossing it will be shot dead. A “forcing function” is defined as “any task, activity or event that forces you to take action and produce a result”. The value of a setting a deadline, that creates a forcing function, is to make one to work harder in order to accomplish the goal on time.
Meetings are a productivity killer if not managed properly – While meetings are a requirement, it is important to follow meeting etiquette. Without etiquette and structure, meetings can result in being the single most wasted time activity you have during the day. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group recommends the use of stand-up meetings to minimize the time spent in meetings. In terms of meetings cadence, don’t over-schedule yourself to the point that your calendar looks like “Swiss cheese”. Set up meetings in the early morning or late afternoon and leave open chunks of time in the day. Here are a few guidelines to help set a structure for your meetings:
· Have agenda for the meeting
· Take minutes
· Record Actions items
· Set time limit of meeting
· Don’t solve problems during meeting
· No interruption; full attention – no phone or emails
· Arrive on time
· Finish on time
Everyone strives to be as productive as possible when executing tasks whether at work or home. By following the above guidelines, you will be able to accomplish more in less time thus increasing your overall productivity/PQ.