These are some of the best ways I’ve found to master time management, get great results, improve your productivity, and amplify your impact:
- Monthly Improvement Sprints. Use Monthly improvement sprints to cycle through things that you want to focus on. For example, focus on getting in shape in January; use February to learn a new skill. By using a month’s chunk of time, you give yourself enough of a timebox to achieve meaningful results. By using monthly themes, you give yourself a chance to cycle through a variety of your key interests and goals.
- Balance your time across your Hot Spots. Balance your results across your meaningful buckets. For me, I use a life frame: mind, body, emotion, career, financial, relationships and fun. Each Hot Spot can be broken down into more Hot Spots. For example, my career bucket includes execution, thinking, administration, improvement and relationships.
- Build a library of reference examples. Collect working examples to learn and model from. Actively looking for the positive examples of successful people around you helps keep your mind focused on success patterns. If you want to manage your time better, model from somebody who is effective. If you want to mange projects better, find somebody with a proven track record and learn from them. Keep in mind that what works for them, may not work for you, but there is no need to start from scratch.
- Diversify your results. Think in terms of a portfolio of results. This means both producing results in different categories (such as relationships, career, and fun) as well as having some results you count on and some that are risks. Balance this with quitting when you aren’t going to get good at something, or you aren’t getting the return on investment. Diversify your results to avoid having all your eggs in one basket. For example, at work, you might have your flagship project that you can count on, but then add a couple of experimental projects to test the waters.
- Establish a rhythm of results. Don't let the tail wag the dog. Factor when you create from when you release. This frees you up to focus on creation, without the immediate burden of production or release. Your release rate should match absorption rate and demand. Your production and release can occur at different times and at varying rates. For instance, you could write your eight blog posts on Sunday, then trickle them out over the week.
- Find a way to flow value. Chunk your results down. Deliver incremental value to yourself or to others. Focus on value-delivered, not backlog burndown. Don't settle for being productive but ineffective. Focus on delivering value keeps you asking the right questions and making the right calls on priorities. Remember that backlogs tend to suffer from rot over time. If you focus on value delivered you won't miss windows of opportunity when they do appear. The other secret here is that focusing on value can be more energizing than tackling an overwhelming backlog, even if all you really changed is perspective.
- Improve your network. Who you spend time with probably has the largest impact on getting results, personal growth, your quality of life, your career, etc. Here’s a tip: build a mind map of your personal and professional networks and see where you need to tune, prune, or grow. Your purpose is your guide, whether it’s seeing others’ perspectives to keep creative juices flowing, connecting with others you can model and learn from, or simply providing you with the support you need.
- Make it a project. If you want to get something significant done, make it a project. This includes anything that takes several stages to complete or something that you know probably won’t get done otherwise. List the work to be done and estimate how long it will take.Allocate enough time, energy, and resources to accomplish the work and establish a timeline. Dedicate time to your project and see it through. It’s a simple but proven practice for achieving results. By giving something a start and an end, and by getting your head around the work, you dramatically improve your chances for success. By packaging up the work as a project, you can also look at it in terms of investment and ROI (return on investment). If you don’t think it will be worth the investment, you can make that call. Making it a project provides a lens you can both evaluate the opportunity and manage the work more effectively.
- Stay flexible in your approach. Be flexible in the "how." If you have a compelling "what" and "why," you'll find the strategies. If something's not working, change your approach. A good sanity check is to ask yourself, "Is it effective?”
- Sweeping. Periodically sweep up the mess you’ve left behind. Sometimes it’s easier to go back and clean things up than to try and get things right up front. It can be more efficient to batch and focus your time at a later point, than to try and keep things in order the whole time through. Consider sweeping as a deliberate strategy to maximize your energy by batching the work at a specific point in time. Sweeping as a practice gives you a chance to go back and improve things as well as integrate new learnings.
For more patterns and practices for improving results, see my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.