Lack of time is lack of priorities.
The more senior and the more experienced you become at your craft, the more true you realize the above quote to be. Much has been said about the best time management practices and productivity hacks, there are literally millions of those on the web. Going through every one of them is a time suck.
Currently working at a fast growing startup, iPrice and pressed for time, I was desperate for answers.
Like you, I read a lot and decided to try a few. Some articles mention 5-7 tips. Some go as far as having a collage of 20+ hacks. But I'm tired of these lists. Give me something that isn't updated a year from now. Give me the kind of methods that worked 100 years ago and will work 100 years from now. I want principles, not tactics.
Having read all the material online, I also understand that you know the difference between being busy or productive, efficient or effective and the Eisenhower Matrix.
This post serves to remind of you of just one method to be the structure that holds all the basics in place.
And that secret is scheduling.
The main enemy to scheduling is the to-do list. Try to avoid to-do lists. These lists are rarely as effective as scheduling time. All the latest smartphone to-do apps won't solve the problem either.
The reason why to-do lists are so widespread is because it is an endless reverse buffet. You can add as much as you like throughout the day when you have an idea of what needs to be done. The reason I suggest you make scheduling to be your structure is because while to-do lists tell you what you can do, scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take.
Warren Buffett agrees: “You’ve got to keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”
When you schedule things, you are forced to realize how many hours you can work with in a week. You need to make choices on what's worth doing each day. While some experts would suggest working in 90 - 120 minutes chunks (they call it the ultradian rhythm), some suggest to work for 52 minutes and break for 17, and some recommend the Pomodoro Technique for 25 minutes at a time. So which isit?
The answer is - it depends.
The author of The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene says he writes 3-4 hours at a time. Tim Ferriss recommends to work in 2-3 hour increments, so as Ryan Holiday. Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist works 6 hours or more at a time.
All the research shown is just to be an indication (not law) on what works for other people, you need to find your own magic number.
Here are a few steps I would recommend:
1. Identify your most important tasks and rank them in importance and urgency (refer to the Eisenhower Matrix)
2. Plan the night before and schedule it out. Set reasonable time frames that you know (not hope) that you are able to deliver. Do the utmost important ones before lunch time. Keep your speed a maximum without being reckless and you will achieve far more than those without structure.
Side note: Plan out a few days ahead if you can. On some days you will find that you got your work done for the day by 1pm. That leaves room for you to complete the following days work.
I hope this post has shed some light into how you do your work. There is a huge reason why successful people have their calendars neatly organized and scheduled (by the hour) days and weeks in advance as they understand that we operate in the construct of time than on a list with no clear respect for the 24 hour time frame.