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How to make better decisions by filling in your timesheet

estimated reading time: 2 min 

Leona works as Senior Architect at Farnsworth Group.

Some days Leona works on 5 to 6 different projects and juggles any general office administration tasks in between. It was difficult for Leona to know exactly how much time she spent on these tasks and to decide which ones to optimize. She knew that timesheets would help to get clarity, but she had to instantly fill them in as otherwise, she forgot how long it took her.

“It’s not always easy tracking how much time I’ve spent – that’s where Timeular comes in.”

Timeular makes it easy for her to prioritize and fill in timesheet

Leona starts her workday by selecting the task which has the highest priority due to schedules or deadlines. She chooses one for the first half of the day and maybe another one for the second half.

Tasks for other projects or administration tasks pop up and need to be taken care of instantly. Once they are done, she goes back to her prioritized task.

She tracks each task she is taking care of and then compares billable vs non-billable hours and re-evaluates her priorities based on this accurate information. To know if it is billable or non-billable time, Leona simply tracks her projects (which are paid) and general office administration. “If there is a specific billable item which needs to be tracked for a project I usually just add a note to the logged time.”

“The billable hours I am entering on my timesheet are more accurate and providing a better value to the clients for my time.”

Analytics help her keep administrative tasks under control

The analytics help her see how much time she has spent on a specific task for either just a day (for her timesheet) or to verify how much total time she has spent on a particular project. “This makes it easier to check if we have gone over our contracted work hours,” she says.

If administrative tasks are consuming more time, Leona reviews what she might have done that day or week. “I decide whether or not it is an issue before taking action. Some days or weeks are heavy with company-based meetings required training sessions which really can’t be helped.”

Leona’s tip: Put your Tracker where you can see it

If you use the Tracker, make sure to place it in a location where you can remember to flip it when you change tasks. It’s easy to forget if you don’t have it directly in your line of sight.

BIO

Leona works as Senior Architect at Farnsworth Group, a national Architectural, Engineering and Civil Surveying firm who provide design services for Commercial and Private Industries as well as Local and Federal Government sectors.

Block Your Time Like Elon Musk

Elon Musk is possibly the busiest man on earth right now.

The billionaire founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, spends up to 100 hours a week on both companies — whilst plotting to transport humans to mars and chowing down lunch meals within 5 minutes, before getting back to his work. Musk is also a family man who spends up to four days each week with his five children. He also finds time for regular exercise, two times a week, as well as his personal hobbies.

How does a mere human being manage their time so effectively on such a busy, hectic schedule?

Many people point to Elon Musks’ ‘superhuman’ ability to focus without distractions, or his freakish level of genius. But, there’s a better explanation for his effective time management. It’s called time blocking, a time management method used by highly successful CEOs, entrepreneurs and productivity experts, including Bill Gates and Cal Newport.

Let’s discuss more about the time blocking method and how you can use this to manage your time better, even if your schedule is hectic.

Managing Time Better with Time Blocking

From the second Elon Musk’s head lifts off his bedroom pillow at 7 a.m., his day has already been pre-planned in advance. There’s no room for random interruptions — there are no blocks of time left unscheduled. Using the time blocking method, Musk intentionally plans his day out in five-minute increments or ‘time blocks.’ Each time block is assigned with a specific task or activity. For example, Musk would use the time blocking method when responding to overdue emails, eating meals or timing work meetings.

I personally use the time blocking method daily in combination with the ‘2-minute rule’ to stop procrastinating and stay productive throughout my day. For some tasks — like writing the draft of this article — I’d use the time blocking method to create 24, 5-minute blocks (that adds up to 2 hours).

Time management expert, Kevin Kruse, also suggests through research in his book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management (audiobook), that top performers in various fields, organize their day through time blocks instead of to-do lists. Time blocking forces you to fill up free time with pre-commitments and a plan of action. By doing so, you avoid wasting precious time on a task that could be finished quicker. [1] Another benefit of time blocking is that it reduces the number of choices you’d have to make in any given day — preserving your willpower to tackle your most important tasks. Now that we’ve covered the benefits of the time boxing method, here are three simple steps to apply this in your life today.

How to Use the Time Blocking Method

Here are 3 simple and easy steps to quickly apply the time blocking method.

Step 1: Divide a piece of ruled paper into two columns. On the left column allocate every two lines to each hour or 5-minute block of the day (whichever you prefer).

Step 2: Estimate the amount of time each task is going to take to complete, then write these tasks on the left column with their respective time blocks. Optional: add commentary notes in the corresponding right column.

Step 3: Add buffer times or extra room around each time block to allow for adjustments or unexpected activities.

The image below is a quick reference on the three steps above.

sketch of time blocks

Here are four quick tips to make the most out of the time blocking method:

  1. Spend at least 10 minutes filling your time blocks. Ideally, this should be done the day before your plans are due.
  2. Accurately estimate how long it takes to complete a given task. When we’re overly optimistic about how long a given task will take to complete, we’ll fail to follow through on what we set out to do. This bias (also known as the ‘planning fallacy’) can be avoided, if you keep a timed record of your tasks.
  3. Breakdown big tasks into small chunks. If you have big tasks that require a long period to finish, break these down into small sub-tasks and slot them into your daily time blocks.
  4. Plan for unexpected interruptions. Use the right column of the piece of paper, to revise your original time blocks, should disruptions pop up during the day. Time blocking for ‘reactive’ work in this way will help you to avoid overwhelm, reduce stress and stay focused throughout the day.

Block Your Time or Lose It Forever

We all have the same 24 hours in any given day. The difference between high performers who get a lot of stuff done, like Elon Musk, versus those who don’t, isn’t intellect, skill or genetics — it’s the combination of a mindset that values time and the use of an effective time management method, like time blocking.

Time blocking is a simple, flexible and effective way to help you to manage your time better, even when your life is hectic. Most importantly, time blocking helps us to take control of our time — which once lost, we can never get back.

Footnotes

  1. Parkinson’s law states that work tends to expand to fill the time allotted for it. By restricting time, the task gets done quicker.
  2. Information on Elon Musk was found at various sources. These include: Musk’s biography by Vance and this interview.
  3. Credit to Cal Newport for some ideas on the time blocking concept.
  4. Time blocking image credit to Tony Wolski.

This post was written by Mayo Oshin and first appeared on his blog.

Mayo Oshin writes at MayoOshin.com, where he shares practical self-improvement tips backed by proven science for a better life. To get these practical ideas for better health, productivity and creativity, join the free weekly newsletter here.

Finding Productivity in an Unproductive Meeting

There’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting and thinking about all the other things you could and should be doing. Unfortunately for most employees, this often happens with reoccurring meetings.

But there are instances where a meeting is essential. For example, a health and safety training session would probably be useful for all employees, while a business development meeting might only be relevant to those that it directly affects.

Going back to basics, a meeting happens to gather ideas, solve problems, gather feedback, and move projects forward. Yet it’s become commonplace for them to be utterly superfluous. And research suggests that most staff members consider them unproductive and a hindrance to overall performance.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of reasons why a meeting might become unproductive. Plus, the steps you can take to improve the outcome.

Reasons for Unproductive Meetings

  1. No purpose
    The problem with unproductive meetings is that there’s no clear purpose or objective. It might be a good idea to go over the reason for the meeting and if it requires the attendance of all those invited. If everyone doesn’t really need to be there, consider sending out company updates and other internal communication via email to update non-attendees.
  2. Inadequate time management
    A team meeting can quickly become unproductive due to poor time management. Make sure you have ground rules that ensure each topic discussion has a slot in the agenda.
  3. Actioning
    Meetings are bound to go off the rails when there’s no clear procedure to guide the debate points. Try assigning an attendee to guide and prioritise discussion topics, as well as to make a plan for implementing tasks that need completing.
  4. Attendees
    Meetings are likely to become unproductive if there’s a large number of irrelevant attendees. It’s important to identify the key members of the team that can attend the meeting and then pass down the information to their colleagues.

How to Improve Meeting Productivity

  1. Keep an agenda
    Keeping an agenda ensures that your meeting is purposeful and that it achieves your desired objectives. It’s important to set the expectations of the meeting and to remind attendees of what they are. You can achieve this through proper preparations before the event. Send out an agenda beforehand detailing required meeting materials, aims, and desired outcomes. With this approach, staff members are aware of the requirements involved in attending.
  2. Feedback
    Asking for feedback is an effective way of improving the productivity of your meetings. Employee feedback can help reveal areas of concerns within an organisation, employees are then made to feel valued. Offering your employees, the opportunity to voice their concerns can increase engagement.
  3. Saying no to a meeting
    As employees, it’s sometimes hard to say no in the workplace. Partly out of fear of alienating yourself from your colleagues. However, if you receive an invite for a meeting you feel is counterproductive, then there are ways to decline the meeting without seeming rude or lazy. To avoid attending a meeting you feel would be unproductive, you can consider turning the meeting into a phone or conference call. This approach means you can save yourself some time. In turn, you can transfer this over to your other priorities. In cases where you feel your expertise isn’t required, you can either pass the invite onto a relevant colleague or hand it over to your boss. Finally, if you can’t recommend an alternative you can turn down the invite. You can provide honest feedback, such as suggesting your skills or time aren’t required for the meeting.

The biggest and most unusual deadline of the year

Every year before New Year we realize and wonder that a year has passed without really noticing it and very likely without having spent as much time on the important things as planned. In fact, 80% of New Year’s resolutions don’t last.

New Year is a deadline with an unusual dynamic. It’s not like all the other deadlines where we speed up and start getting done 5x as much stuff to meet it. Instead, we slow down, we look back, we recall all the exciting plans that we’ve made at the beginning of the year and wonder how few we’ve actually achieved.

And then that little sad voice in ourselves asks:

“Why did I not take care that much about my health, played with the kids, followed my passions or spent time exploring the world?”

Interestingly, the simple answer is to say that we did not have the time. But why? Well, almost always we go like: “I was too busy working”.

Turns out this is the #1 reason why as kids or elderly we have plenty of time but in between it’s a rare thing to have.

kid-adult-senior-no-time-no-energy-without-timeular

Don’t get us wrong. Work is a good thing, but the common work culture is not. When it comes down to decide between work and life, we almost always opt for work and there are good reasons to do so. Work pays the bills, gives us safety and makes us feel good. However, we at Timeular really believe, that if we do it right, we can still achieve great things at work and have a great life too.

The first thing we have to change is how we judge our performance

It’s not about how many hours we work, it’s about what meaningful outcome we achieve within those hours. It’s about saying no to all the distractions and fake-urgent things and focus on the really important tasks instead. In sports we all know that training a huge amount of hours a day is counter-productive, so why do we keep pretending it’s good at work?

We at Timeular want to change this by helping you to spend more time on your important things and keep being successful at work. We support you to understand where your time is going and to improve from there.

Imagine you could stop after 8, 7, 6 hours working very productively, then recharge by enjoying the other beloved things in life and come back the day after full of energy. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

We like to say instead of working harder and play harder, we have to work smarter and live healthier. It’s easy to be busy and it’s super hard to be not because you have to say no to many things, but believe us, once you get there, you’ll enjoy a much higher quality of life.

kid-adult-senior-with-time-with-timeular

The #1 way to get there, is to start taking control over your precious time and prioritize how you spend it. It’s time to find out what you are spending most of your time on and what to change. The key to success here is to change one thing at a time. It’s a step by step journey where it will be easy to fall into old habits and to avoid that we need to start with only one goal. One! Sorry, we can’t stress it enough.

If you want to make 2019 better, apply this loop:

  1. What’s currently your number one important thing you want to spend more time on? Trust your gut. How much time does that require per week? Common examples are doing sports twice a week, playing with the kids at least 1 hour every day and cooking a healthy dinner every day.
  2. Measure where can you take the required time from and how e.g. you find out that you spend 3h per week in unnecessary update meetings which could also be done via email and asynchronously. Time to change that.
  3. When you know that, start shifting time from that one thing to the other step by step. After you’re done start over with 1. again.

 

If you think it’s not possible to shift time because other things are more urgent and important, just look back at 2018 and at how often you or your boss thought something is super urgent and important and looking back as of today it was not.

What’s important to you personally should be your highest priority and if you manage to spend more time on those things you will see that next year in December the unusual thing will not be the New Year dynamic again. Instead, it will be you having a happy smile on your face because you and your life have both improved a lot.

And if it was us that helped you to do so, we will be smiling with you, because we want to make your time count!

 

 

P.S. If you want to increase your chances to succeed, share this article with your team members because you can’t change your team’s work culture alone.

The secret to effective time management: Manage Your Zoo

The secret to effective time management is simple: Manage Your Zoo

Eat “A frog”

Check your to-do list and highlight the tasks that you do not like the most in green. They are your frogs. The frogs are the most unpleasant, boring and exhausting tasks that you are most likely to postpone and avoid throughout the day. The best time for eating a frog, i.e. completing the least enjoyable tasks, is the morning. You need to overcome your eagerness to put those tasks off and undertake them at the beginning of the day. Otherwise, you risk having them on your to-do list forever. This simple technique will help you get done with the most unpleasant commitments in the morning and enjoy the rest of the day doing the things you love.

Split Up “An Elephant”

Each to-do list has one or many huge tasks, that are difficult to commit to. Meanwhile, they are easy to be postponed or even abandoned. When you undertake a large piece of work, it is difficult to stay focused and dedicated if you do not see a finish line. A complexity to estimate an actual progress decreases your motivation. At some point, you can no longer keep up the momentum and feel broken, down and tired. The reason is that you cannot handle an elephant at once. Therefore, you need to break down huge tasks into manageable chunks and set interim goals. It will allow you to praise yourself for small achievements and make you stay motivated and up to new wins.

Collect Your “Monkeys”

Look through your to-do list. Does it look well arranged? Or is it still a chaotic set of tasks in no particular order? Just exactly as a jungle full of monkeys. Order of tasks does matter: Your to-do list should not be a backlog of tasks. It should be your well-organized blueprint of the upcoming day. Take a look at your list of tasks for a day. Identify similar ones and consolidate them. Reorder the tasks and create blocks that consist of resembling activities. This easy step will provide you with much smoother workflow and allow you not to lose concentration when switching to the next task.

Avoid The “Cats and Pandas”

These animals are funny and super cute. They are too distracting, though. You can stare at them for hours and let them amuse you all day long. The problem is that they will never let you get done what really matters. Your environment is full of limitless distracting factors that are willing to steal your focus and interrupt your work. Do not let trivial issues hinder your productivity and ruin the entire day. Avoid social media, keep away from talkative colleagues, kill notifications and if possible go offline. Do what matters first and let yourself relax later.

Follow these steps to manage your zoo and your time management will significantly improve. Why not give it a try today?

Max Lukominskyi is the CMO at Evopaper, company behind Slice Planner – app-powered paper planner that makes your schedule look intuitive, so you can manage your time and get things done easily. His writing has been featured on Inc, Business Insider, BBC, The Independent, Huffington Post, IB Times, Thought Catalog, Medical Daily, The Muse and dozens other outlets.
www.evopaper.com