Maximize Your Time No Matter How Busy You Get

On some level, most everyone seems to think of him or herself as a procrastinator. A lot of us may think we are, but alas, we really aren’t. I don’t think you are truly a procrastinator unless someone else has recognized you as a procrastinator multiple times. This is an article on effective time management from someone who has been labeled as such by others.

Effective time management has been an issue for me for as long as I can remember. For me it is mostly an issue of getting started, anxiety about getting stared, and not getting distracted by the other things I would rather be doing. I would like to share with you the details about a strategy/system that has been extremely helpful in making my time usage much more productive. This is something that I have developed from reading several articles and books on the topics of procrastination and time management. My mentors at Results Fitness, Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove, have also offered tons of great tips that I have implemented in my system as well. As we all know very well, they are masters of productivity and getting (a whole lot of) stuff done.

Many people have different systems that they utilize to manage their time. The real key is to utilize the strategies that work best for you and your unique situations, and create your own system. Simple strategies almost always work best, as the more complex they are the less likely you will be to use them. The simplest one that has worked the best for me is called time blocking. Time blocking is simply a matter of time allocation to accomplish specific tasks and ONLY those specific tasks. Laser beam focus on the task at hand for the time allotted. Using a formalized schedule to time block is critical to making this work. If you have ever watched the show “Super Nanny” (my wife made me) you know that the very first thing she would do is to implement a rigid schedule that was posted in plain sight. This was very important to eliminate chaos and restore order in the homes she would visit. Many of us need to do the same in our workdays so we can be more productive.

The formal schedule that I use is iCal on my Mac at work, and on my iPhone. iCal is simple to use for time blocking and I am able to sync my Mac and iPhone so they match, which means everything is in one place. I am also able to set-up the schedule as reoccurring, so that I don’t have to do any major planning each day. It is set-up ahead of time, for the most part, like a template. I highly recommend iCal, but other calendars or planners will work as well.

Here are some tips on how I use this system productively:

  • I check my calendar the first thing when I arrive at work, before I do anything else, to stay on task! I will also rearrange anything that needs to be slightly altered or moved around for the day and the next (this take about 5-10 minutes), which keeps me one step ahead of the game. I then start my time blocking.
  • I color code my two calendars. iCal will allow you to view multiple calendars in one view. I color code my work and personal calendars and keep them in one place.
  • I set a minimum amount of work that must be done in the time blocked out. I can do more of that same type of task if I have extra time.
  • Eliminate distractions. I utilize noise-canceling headphones and play classical music while I write programs or do something that requires a high level of concentration on the computer. I also make sure to close the web browser so I am not tempted to go online while working on something else.
  • I try as much as possible to keep things in one place (on my iCal). Any notes that I scribble on paper are transferred to iCal during the time I check my schedule in the morning.
  • I really only implement this system on my workdays. On my non-workdays (especially Sundays), I don’t block time. This gives me a mental break from rigid structuring of my time.

I am far from perfect, and by no means do I have time management completely mastered (yet), but this system has made a world of difference for me and I hope it can help you as well. Give some or all of this system a try.

We hope this helps you with your time management and your planning for 2014! The upcoming year should be a blast and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for all of us.

[Ed. Note. Craig Rasmussen is a former high school teacher turned fitness expert at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California, specializing in body transformations, group training, and sport-specific performance. Results Fitness was named one of the top 10 gyms in America by Men’s Health magazine.]