The title of this blogpost is both incredibly cynical of time management as it is reflective of how the most efficient people – the masters of time management – work: by blocking out everything into time blocks and actively scheduling in tasks, not passively accepting them as to-do list items. As someone who is obsessed with making lists but sucks at executing them, this step-by-step guide is a powerful cheat sheet in fighting procrastination and getting your life together. From digital apps and Pomodoro timers to small dogs and chocolate, here’s the best way to improve your time management in twenty minutes or less!
1. Digitalize Your Workflow
I know, I know – physical planners are so much more fun, easy to organize, customizable, blah blah blah. As someone who used to be obsessed with stationary, it’s easy to fall into the trap where the idea of HAVING a physical planner – an object that manifests all your to do lists, goals, desires, and what not – makes you feel like you’re put together than you really are. Luckily, the 21st century has brought forth an onslaught of new websites and apps to eradicate this issue.
Digitalizing your time management is important because unlike a traditional planner, online time management tools can:
- Send you reminders for upcoming tasks and disrupt your scroll so you don’t accidentally waste hours in a social media distraction wormhole
- Sync with the rest of your life so you never forget anything again while writing emails, looking at your phone calendar, etc.
- Keep you accountable in interactive and even gamified ways inaccessible by traditional platforms
With that in mind, here are the three apps that will kickstart your workflow, all of which can be set up in five minutes!
1. Plan (getplan.co | Three minutes)
There’s a good reason why their platform tagline is “Organize Your Life.” Plan allows you to make lists, schedule tasks into time blocks, set timers for each task, organize your calendar, view insights on what tasks and people take the most time, and so much more. It also syncs with GoogleDrive, Gmail, iCal, Trello, and your computer so you’ll always be prompted with notifications reminding you what’s happening next.
I think TechCrunch put it the best:
The idea with Plan is to provide a single destination to manage anything that requires your time, but also one that allows you to better visualize how your tasks, meetings, and other projects can fit into the available openings you have on your schedule.
The simple but also genius trick to better scheduling is that Plan lets you drag your individual tasks from the left-side of the screen directly onto your calendar where they transform into scheduled blocks of time. And by viewing your tasks and calendar side-by-side, it’s easier to see how and where you can fit your to-do’s onto your schedule.Sarah Perez, TechCrunch (March 2016)
Here’s a look at how I use Plan:
2. Evernote (iOS, Android, and Desktop/Web | Two minutes)
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the greatest note-taking app to ever exist, but in case you haven’t, here’s all you need to know: whether it’s shower thoughts, passwords, homework responses, blogpost drafts, or anything else that requires a quick way to write and store text, Evernote is the one for you. It’s easy, super customizable, and accessible on every device. Adding this to your workflow allows you to get done notes fast especially in moments of sudden inspiration or necessity while also making sure that information is available on all of your devices, saving you tons of time and energy in the future.
3. Momentum (Google Chrome Sore| 30 seconds)
Momentum is essential because it helps you visualize your tasks and manifestations for the day every time you open a New Tab, therefore curbing your procrastination tendencies by reminding you of what you need to do in a very aesthetically pleasing way.
Every day, Plan generates a new beautiful image to serve as the background behind your in-tab clock, to-do list, and a random — but inspiring! — quote of the day. Although this may seem like a little thing now, once you install it, actually being able to visually reminded of tasks, the time, and what you’re trying to accomplish is HUGE in digitalizing your time management process.
2. Create The Right Environment and Ambiance For Productivity
While mindset is important, your physical surroundings are just as great of a factor in how efficiently you work. This breaks down to three things: sounds, cleanliness, and distractions.
First, in terms of sounds, I personally HATE working in silence.
Even though some people love it, I think the best way to work is to put on a lo-fi mix (search “Lo Fi” on Youtube to discover hundreds of videos with with minimal lyrics, as those can be distracting!), listen to ASMR/white noise, or stream something like rainymood.com (their Spotify tracks are even better – I love rain + cafe noises together).
My favorite mixes are:
Of course, you could also capitalize on the real ambiance found in a cafe, library, or other place, but for those who like to stay at home, this is the best way to set the right noise for a productive work sesh!
Again, no matter how intently you think about being organized in your brain, not seeing organization in your workplace detracts from how productive you can actually be.
To fix this, make sure your desk/workspace is tidied up before you start working.
While this is a small change, it makes a huge difference – visualization MATTERS!
Finally, eliminating distractions.
This one is pretty easy: I don’t care what you’re doing, just put your phone in a different room. “Do Not Disturb” mode doesn’t count!
3. Turn Productivity Into A Game
Whether you’re eight years old or eighty years old, I have yet to meet a human who doesn’t love a good game. What better way to be productive than to make time management an enjoyable competition with yourself? Here’s how you do it.
The premise of Forest is relatively simple: leave the app on your phone or go onto any of the blocked sites from your Chrome browser and you kill a tree. Not only while human guilty kick in, but you’ll be inspired to stay on task.
Cold Turkey is a more extreme version of this – the application literally makes it impossible for you to access any apps or websites you have blocked for the time session you set. Once you start a time session, you can’t cancel it. While there are no cute little forests to build up in Cold Turkey, there are even fewer obstacles to overcome in order to get your work done.
2. Use the Pomodoro method to regain energy/keep going
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have—rather than against it. Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks
Earlier, we downloaded Plan to help us organize our tasks into time blocks. The Pomodoro method is a good way of harnessing that in an effective way that allows for breaks and also makes sense. There are plenty of apps, extensions, and websites that allow you to do this automatically, including my personal favorite: tomato-timer.com!
3. Reward yourself!
This one is completely up to you: what’s the best way to reward yourself after a good productivity session? For me, that’s usually either an episode from my favorite show (right now, I’m obsessed with Big Mouth, Young Sheldon, and The Good Place!), a snack, or ten minutes on Snapchat. Either way, make your reward incentivizing and fun! After all, you deserve it.
Congrats! Hopefully, if you’ve been following all the steps so far, you’re leaving the post more productive than you came. Before you leave, though, make sure to comment YOUR favorite productivity method.
If this guide helped at all, make sure to share it with your friends and let me know on social media as well.