Time Management Tips (‘Secrets’ Edition)

Recently, I completed Martin Manser‘s Secrets: Time Management. I picked up the book at a book fair for just half the price and I must admit, it was worth it. Martin Manser pens down various practical tips to manage your time effectively and be intentional with your productivity. So, after reading the book, I decided to put out those tips in a nutshell for further use.
If this still interests you, then read on…
Martin Manser starts his book by indirectly debunking the popular notion of “not having enough time” to do/start something. He mentions, “Every world leader only has 24 hours in a day!” Thus, it is not how much time we have but how we make use of it. While we like to easily excuse ourselves by saying that a little more time would probably have solved the dilemma of doing more in a day, we forget that most of the times, we end up spending more time on frivolous matters that would not benefit us in the long run.
In order to combat this age old notion, Martin Manser puts forward 2 basic ideas:
  1. To work efficiently, i.e., develop an effective and orderly action plan that helps in initiating a systematic workflow, and
  2. To work and live effectively, i.e., to enjoy your time and to make your life count.
The author then goes on to substantiate his claim of ‘know thyself.’ The one thing that helps us towards achieving productivity is our clarity of the self – Manser urges us to ask the “hard questions”:
What do I want out of life? What do I want to achieve? What kind of person am I? How can I develop as a person? How do I want to spend my time? How should I value my time?
Thus, with these questions answered (hopefully), we move on to the underlying points that Manser puts out for effective time management:
Know Yourself
As stated earlier, having a clear vision on one’s life is important to unravelling the secrets of effective time management. Be clear about your values. This will ultimately lead you to prioritise the right thing at any given moment and help in the process of productivity.
In order to have a clear vision of life, Manser proposes the five D’s to think about:
  • Drive
  • Dream
  • Develop
  • Discuss
  • Define
Knowing your best hours is crucial in the process of being productive and efficient. Tackle your greatest tasks during that time. Plan your smaller and less significant work at other times. Be strict with it. Learn to say ‘no’ to anything that acts as an obstacle in this case and fulfill the task with least or no interruptions, if possible!
You shouldn’t be using your most productive time on routine tasks.
Know Your Work
Knowing your work is as important as knowing yourself. Knowing your role provides you with better focus and clarity. It helps in the prevention of putting off work till the last minute by overcoming poor motivation and making good decisions.
Break a huge task into small manageable tasks and tackle them head-on. It is always better to start with the hardest part first (cf. to Brian Tracy’s “Eat the frog” metaphor). The system of rewards after completing a particular task boosts your mood in the long run. It is also important to do your routinised tasks during your least productive time.
Manser puts forward a definitive list, which can help an individual with productivity when working from home (it is sure an important topic with respect to the current circumstances):
  • Be disciplined.
  • Set up your own support system.
  • Avoid possible distractions.
  • Set up your own office space.
  • Arrange professional help, if needed.
Get Organised
Being organised helps a ton when it comes to productivity. Physical clutter can bring about mental clutter, too, that can reflect in your actions. It slows us down and prevents us from working effectively. The first and foremost rule is to clear your desk/work-space. Get rid of the things that you don’t need during your work and organise and label the things that you do need. Have your own filing system. Arrange your stuff regularly and make it work the very best for you!
Use a planner. This can be a physical one or a digital app. Or it can be both. Go with whatever works the best for you and schedule and plan accordingly. Be sure to be sensible with your planning. Set S.M.A.R.T goals. You can set up systems according to your timeline of events and/or goals:
  • Daily tasks
  • Monthly tasks
  • Yearly tasks
After you’ve identified the core areas, pen them down in the form of a checklist and tackle them accordingly. Checklists can take you a long way.
Work Better
When Manser advises us to “work better” he means to actually “work S.M.A.R.T.E.R”
We all know the meaning of setting a S.M.A.R.T goal.
  • S = Specific
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Achievable
  • R = Relevant
  • T = Timed
Manser adds ‘E’ and ‘R’ to get across two important actions.
  • E = Evaluated – Check your progress as you move along to ensure effective completion of your goals.
  • R = Reported – Record your progress every now and then in order to reflect on it later.
The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Be proactive, not reactive. Take responsibility and always think about the implications of your goals and plans. And then, take initiative(s) accordingly.
In this fast-paced world, we tend to overlook our own health most of the times. However, it is significant to take breaks between work in order to function at the optimum level. Not taking breaks can make you prone to illness and exhaustion.
Manser mentions 2 basic spheres of activities that contributes to your well-being:
  • Social activities, such as going to the cinema, meeting up with family and friends, visiting a museum or even spending time on a hobby such as reading and pottery.
  • Physical exercise, such as going out for a walk, running, jogging, swimming or working out at a gym.
Work Better As A Team
Manser talks about the collective effort needed for goals to become achievements. A good team works collectively, combining their efforts to produce beneficial results. Developing a balanced team is important for any organisation/company. By working harmoniously, we can reduce stress and trouble in the long run.
Here are a few pointers for encouraging team spirit:
  • Communicate effectively.
  • Clarify roles.
  • Be positive about colleagues.
  • Learn to listen.
  • Discuss differences.
  • Develop trust.
  • Value different opinions.
  • Avoid blaming others.
  • Believe in the collective identity of the team.
An important aspect of effective team management is to delegate properly. Delegation of duties and responsibilities among different team members helps in the development of effective team spirit. It not only fosters trustworthiness but also saves time and energy in the long run.
Learn to say ‘no.’ Yes, it can be difficult. Saying ‘no’ can be considered rude at times. However, we can easily become stressed if we don’t learn to assert ourselves properly. Be firm but positive.
Communicate Effectively
Nowadays, our most preferred form of communication is digital in manner. While this can be reliable at times, it is not always an effective form of communication. The most effective way, if possible, is communicating face-to-face with other people. If not, a simple phone call can also be an effective way of interaction.
Use the internet effectively. We live in an age where we are blessed with the abundance of technology. Communicating and networking effectively can lead to the development of your work and business. However, if we don’t control ourselves, it can be one of the biggest time-wasters.
The internet is a wonderful resource, but make sure you don’t spend more time on it than is necessary.
Take Control Of Your Time
Time is truly a limited resource. Once lost, we cannot get it back. So it is advisable to use your time efficiently, so that it can benefit you in the long run. The best way to control your time is the concept of time-blocking.
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
– Parkinson’s Law
Thus, in accordance to Parkinson’s Law, create blocks of time and dedicate each block to a specific work. Stay focused and give yourself considerable deadlines. Learn to deal with interruptions effectively. Always have buffer-time in hand to deal with unexpected events, if any.
It is also advisable to combat tiredness. Exhaustion can compromise our focus and have a negative impact on us and our work. In order to combat exhaustion,
  • Refrain from excessive consumption of caffeine.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Take breaks.
  • Unwind before going to bed.
  • Exercise.
  • Use your most productive hours wisely.
  • Delegate your workload, if possible.
Control the way you work and spend your time and see it reflect on your life as well.
Managing your time well ultimately means managing your life well.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

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