time management

By Maren Kate Donovan

When you walk a half hour to your next meeting, break up the day with yoga or nap in a lawn chair for 20 minutes in the afternoon, you’re being far more productive than most people. However, the world has been misled into equating productivity with hours worked. We’re supposed power walk around the office, guzzle coffee when we’re tired and look as busy as possible. While this may impress corporate managers, this type of “productivity” is not conducive to creative thinking, complex problem solving and the stress of entrepreneurship.

To be productive, you have to reorganize time to prioritize the quality of work over the amount of time you work. You also have to delegate activities that drain time and mental energy without giving you any satisfaction or material reward in return. To start you in the right direction, here are three practices that will help you accomplish more in less time:

1.     Start Your Day With a Ritual

You need a morning routine that sets up your entire day for success. Every morning, I spend 30 minutes decompressing notes in my notebook from the day before and setting my priorities for the day. I look over my calendar and then focus on how I want the day to go, the way baseball players visualize  before they step up to plate. I have also allotted myself an hour of creative reading time every other morning.

It’s easy to let one email throw off your entire morning and leave you wandering aimlessly throughout the day. Ritualize your morning so you start from a position of choice.

2.     Work in Intervals

Carve your day into sprints punctuated with rest periods where your brain can recover. To be an elite worker, you have to treat yourself like an elite athlete. If NBA stars practiced for 12 hour a day without breaks, they’d all be injured within a week. Likewise with entrepreneurial work, your brain needs rest to perform well.

During the workday, I move locations at least every 2 hours to stay fresh and avoid distractions. I also turn meetings into walking meetings so that I can use that time to recharge. These types of ‘working’ breaks stave off burnout and give my mind the energy to tackle tough problems.

3.     Delegate Whatever Drains You

 If you run a business, don’t do things that eat time without giving anything back. If your time is worth $500 per hour, why spend $1,000 per day managing your calendar, planning trips and sifting through email? Dollar-wise, it makes no sense.

If you dislike doing something and someone else can do it, delegate it. You can train someone to manage email or research for you. Giving up control will free you to focus on tasks that matter more.

If you routinize your morning, force yourself to rest and offload draining tasks, you will get more done in less time. Instead of measuring productivity in time, measure it in choice. The more you can choose how you spend your time, the more productive that time will be.

Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual, a virtual assistant placement company.