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Stop wasting time: 4 steps to take back your day

We all have more work to do than we can actually get done. It takes some practice to master the art of spending your time productively on the right things, in a satisfying way.

As a product manager, I learned early on how important it is to purposefully choose how I spend my hours and days. I work closely with engineers and designers who depend on me for prompt feedback. If I’m not responsive, the team slows down or stops asking my advice on decisions. On the other hand, it’s easy to get caught up in reactive work and forget to put aside time for more strategic planning.

Stop wasting time: 4 steps to take back your day

I recently gave a talk to my teammates about the steps they can take to manage their time better, and thought I’d share the highlights here.

Make a pie chart of where you ideally want to spend your time.

What distribution would make you happy? Remember to set aside time for strategic thinking and being available to help. If the allocations add up to more than 100%, accept that you won’t be able to do it all and then adjust until it feels right.

Understand how you’re spending your time today.  

Look at your recurring meetings and spend a week tracking your time more closely. Then compare your ideal and actual pie charts to see where you’re out of sync.

Remember the 4 D’s: Delete, Defer, Delegate, or Diminish.

Get closer to your ideal allocation by taking less valuable work off your plate, deferring work to a time when you’ll be less busy, handing some responsibilities over, and finding ways to spend less time on the responsibilities you keep. Shortening or removing recurring meetings is a great way to diminish work.

Choose work based on your ideal time allocation pie chart.

Stick to the principle of big rocks first: tackle the important tasks before moving on to the small stuff. Do this by proactively blocking off time on your calendar, and setting due dates for important tasks that aren’t urgent.

For more actionable advice on how to better allocate your time, head over to the Guide, where I’ve expanded on these points with ideas and examples of ways Asana can help. Give this process a try, and see how much your time management improves.

I’d love to hear how you’ve become better at managing your time. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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