5 no nonsense time management tips for busy people

We've read tons of time management tips over the years, but rarely find anything that's a rare game changer. Sure, the apps are great -Evernote helps capture new ideas, and CamCard saves time off of converting business cards to contact list. But telling us to delegate where we can, prioritize a to-do list and only check your mail twice a day just doesn't seem to work that well, even though for some it may makes total sense.


I guess it's because I want an epiphany - a real light bulb moment - that's going to help me up my game and reach my goals. And a few years ago I found it - a great piece by Etienne Garbugli, "26 Time Management Hacks I wish I had known at 20". It's filled with great advice that really makes you think. It was even the most liked and commented Slideshare of 2013.

In my opinion, his tips are some of the best around. Here are 5 of my favorite:

1. Work more when you're in the zone. Relax when you're not
Okay, so at first glance this one sounds like wishful thinking: you're drowning under a pile of work that you just can't seem to "get into" and this guy is telling you to take it easy! What?! But taken together with Etienne's other tips about productivity and balance, this really made sense to me and in a way, made me feel less guilty.

I think where this one is coming from is recognizing and making the most out of balance. On a day when you're absolutely killing it, squeeze every last drop out of it - have 20 minutes for lunch, work until midnight, or 3am, miss that dinner with the in-laws (you wanted to anyway!). Basically elongate that day and make the most of your productivity.

On the days where it's just not happening - and we all get them - sure, I need to get some stuff done, but getting stressed-out and trying to force myself to be productive can actually be counterintuitive to getting the task done. So I cut myself some slack. I finish early and better use that time by spending it with my family, going for a run, or checking out the (work-related!) articles I've been meaning to read.

2. Stop multi-tasking. It kills your focus.
It's possible that I like this tip because I'm not a great multi-tasker! I'm not quite sure why I feel I need to multi-task - maybe I think the art of multi-tasking is the perfect way to get lots done - but it rarely turns out that way for me. I find when I try to multi-task I rarely get into the zone and it seems to take 3 times as long to finish anything. Switching back and forth between tasks means I have to keep reminding myself where I was when I left off - it's exhausting.

Linear activities are definitely the way to go for me. If you need more persuading, take a look at this blog post on Health.com that gives12 reasons to stop multitasking.

3. Work iteratively. Expectations to do things perfectly are stifling
This one really struck a chord with me. I can't tell you the number of times that I've spent far too long on something - from presentations to the first draft of my website - in the pursuit of perfection. Okay, these things are important, so it makes sense to give it your best shot, but not at the expense of taking ages to do something, procrastinating, or, worst case, never getting something done. I still kick myself for how long it took me to launch my website, simply because I wanted it to be 100%. Silly, when I knew that I could change it after it went live. But hindsight's a great thing.

I still struggle with this one, but I now try to focus on getting something down, and then improving on it day after day, or week after week, rather than spending an eternity getting it perfect first time. Because, often, it's not actually perfect anyway. As the Facebook company motto says "Doing is better than perfect".

4. Organize meetings early during the day. Time leading up to an event is often wasted.
Have you ever had one of those days where you had meetings scattered through-out the day? If you're like me, it was probably one of the most unproductive days you ever had. I'm not saying meetings aren't useful, but the time in between them often isn't as focused as I would like.

Maybe it's going back to the multi-tasking point, but I now try to arrange meetings before 1.00 pm. Of course, it's not always possible so I'm not rigid about it, but where it does pan out I've found I'm much better able to concentrate on the tasks in hand for the rest of the day.

5. Turn the page on yesterday. Only ever think about today and tomorrow.
This is, perhaps, my favorite piece of advice because it helps remind me to keep one eye on the present and the other on the future. Focusing on the past, whether it's failures or achievements, leaves you in danger of becoming stuck in a rut. Had a bad day? Dust yourself off and focus on the new day ahead. It's hard to be productive when you're focused on yesterday.

There you have it - my favorite tips that help me keep focused, align my goals, and ensure I get the most out of every day. Well, most of the time!

If you liked these, it's worth checking outEtienne's latest 25 hacks. Do you have any top time management tips?

Let us know in the comments.