5 theory-backed ways to improve time management during lockdown
Whether it’s a cat on your keyboard, a child stuck on a home schooling sum, or a home internet connection that’s as reliable as a wet paper bag, there are a lot of non-work related things that can place demands on your time when you work from home during lockdown.
In fact, it can be easy to feel like you’ve lost all control over your schedule.
So, we’ve put together a round-up of time management theories to help you keep your plates spinning over the coming weeks or months of extended isolation.
The Ivy Lee Method
The Ivy Lee Method is said to help you both focus and to work more efficiently.
The technique requires you to set aside 15 minutes at the end of every working day. During these 15 minutes, you should write down a list of six – and only six – tasks that you intend to complete the next day and then organise them in order of importance – not just how easy they are.
The following morning, you dedicate all your attention to the first task on that list and you only move onto the next task when the first is completed.
If any of the six tasks remain, you add them to your list for the next day.
The Focus Funnell
The Focus Funnel requires you to filter each item of your to-do list through a funnel.
This funnel looks like an upside-down pyramid.
At the top and widest section of this pyramid there’s a section called Eliminate. Beneath that there’s a section called Automate. Below this there’s a section called Delegate.
Finally, at the bottom point of the pyramid, there’s a section called Me.
Essentially, the pyramid gets you to ask the following questions about every item on your to-do list.
1) Can I/ should I say no to this task? Is a client asking for something that’s not included in their contract, for example, or is a colleague asking you to do something outside of your remit?
2) Can I automate this? For example, would it be quicker to use dictation technology to write an email/brief/provide feedback? Can you use a voice assistant to help you schedule meetings?
3) Can someone help me with this? This could be a member of your team, a colleague, or an outsourced company or contractor. If you’re a web developer, for example, would it be better to switch to managed hosting services so you can stop spending time on chores like OS updates and security patches?
Eat your biggest frog first
Mark Twain once said:
“If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.”
What the American author meant by this is that you should attend to your biggest and most challenging tasks first thing in the morning.
Multiple psychological studies have suggested that will power is a limited resource. One of the most famous of these studies was carried out by Baumeister.
In his experiment he made participants sit in a room that smelt of cookies. Then he brought a plate of cookies and a plate of radishes into the room and requested that the participants choose the radishes if they were hungry and to resist the cookies.
Next, Baumeister presented the participants with a persistence-testing puzzle. He found that the participant who had resisted the cookies gave up on the puzzle earlier than those who had indulged. So, ‘eating your biggest frog first’ simply means investing your finite supply of willpower and resolve on your most challenging task before it runs out.
Covey’s Time Management Theory
The main resource in Covey’s Time Management Theory is a grid with four squares. It looks a little like a window with four panes.
In the top left box (box 1) of the matrix you write down tasks that are both important and urgent. In the top right box (box 2) you make a note of jobs that are important but not urgent.
In the bottom left box (box 3) you write down tasks that are important but not urgent.
In the bottom right box (box 4) you list tasks that are neither important nor urgent.
Once you have evaluated the importance and urgency of every task, you can start work on them. The theory goes that you should work on box one first, schedule a convenient time to complete box two’s jobs, delegate the jobs in box three if you can, and ignore the jobs in box four for a while, or ditch them entirely.
Still wondering where all your time goes?
If you try to implement these theories and still find that you’re scabbling for time every day, it could help to carry out a time audit.
Don’t worry – this isn’t another task for you to add to your to-list. You can put this one in the Focus Funnel and it’ll be taken off your hands at the automate level.
You can download apps to your computer such as RescueTime and Toggl that will track everything you do on your computer for a week and show you where you spend your most amount of time.