I always lack time.
Don’t get me wrong. I know the ropes when it comes to time management. Just like you, I do my best to prioritize, plan, delegate and automate. But still, I could use much more time.
Being a marketer at Chanty, I’m responsible for delivering some high-quality content to the potential clients. As our team chat tool is getting closer to the public launch, my responsibilities are multiplying and getting bigger. So I keep questioning myself: how can I be more productive at work?
The following tips are based on my personal experience, as well as my training in Gestalt psychology. They may sound bizarre, but, hey, check them out! You might be surprised by the results.
1. Slow down
Wait, what? Slowing down helps to save more time? Don’t we need to hurry to overrun our competitors? Of course, we do. The other day, I was amused to learn Xiomi stole Samsung’s thunder with a folding phone video teaser. That’s the obvious example of a snap marketing effort.
There are times we need to hurry. But we also need some moments to slow down.
Remember, when you were knee-high to a grasshopper, your closed ones told you: ‘Haste makes waste’? This simple truth is often neglected in our breathless world. The balance between speeding up and slowing down is awfully off. There’s no balance, actually. And this inevitably gobbles our work time.
First, being in a constant get-a-move-on-mode, we easily lose the meaning of our work. What’s even more ruinous is that we don’t notice how it happens. Our vision, mission, our honorable goals become stealthily stolen by a never-ending array of chores. And when we don’t feel like we do something important, we are most likely to procrastinate (losing tons of time!).
Slowing down can help us recover (or find) the meaning of our work. Do we really serve ourselves and others? Does it nourish us?
Second, do you often find yourself in the ‘seeking’ mode? If you are constantly searching something for something – be it a critical email, an important receipt or a last-month report – you might need to slow down. Breathe. Get things in order wherever you have a chance to do it.
As Forbes Council writer Ajit Nawalkha puts it, ‘the chaotic workspace adds extra hours to the day’. Whereas restoring the quiet and knowing that everything is in the right place makes us much more productive.
The success stories about saving time by slowing down are silent. They don’t hit headlines, being the secret victories of businesses that actually flourish. And once again, don’t get me wrong. Timeboxing works great too. I’m totally for it! It’s all about right timing – sometimes we should hurry up, while in other situations slowing down is the right choice.
2. Resetting your brain
In the city I currently reside we have a famous cutting-edge advertising agency. A guy who works there once told me about their queer dinner breaks. Before having meals, the whole staff descends to a Woodstock-decorated basement facility. They turn on some loud hippie music and give a go to some loose dancing movements. It looks like this.
I’m serious. A bunch of well-respected ladies and gentlemen with income well over $100,000 perform some shamanic dances with gawky faces.
So what are they really doing? Taking a break? Yes. It’s been repeatedly proved how important breaks are for our productivity and health. But what’s also important is that during this period of rest they are resetting their brain.
Remember Albert Einstein’s famous quote?
Taking a break is an attempt to change our level of thinking. The subconscious, which is much more powerful than our conscious mind, is getting a chance to work on your tasks. Once it worked on our problems, it’s very likely we’ll solve them faster and save time.
For resetting your brain, you may do something similar to the guys I mentioned, but the weirdness is not the point. The point is to take breaks that feel beneficial for you so your subconscious mind will do some great work.
What should the breaks look like? Of course, an extra cup of coffee or a cigarette is not that healthy. But maybe you can come up with a better option. I do some tai-chi or yoga in the yard secretly when no one sees me. Guys from our next-door office shoot each other with toy guns.
Explore what works for you to feel refreshed. Use your intuition to reset your brain. It can work miracles, really.
3. Change your mental approach
Cognitive psychologists know awfully a lot about this, but let me put it short. If you expect a task to be difficult, it most certainly will. But if you think it’s going to be easy-peasy, chances are you’ll be absolutely right.
Your attitude works as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It’s not about unbridled optimism. Intuition might tell you are going to have a hard day (or a task on the agenda is actually difficult). But even in this case, we shouldn’t be burdened by this thought. The easy and light-hearted attitude may turn the tide, serving as a tuning fork to face challenges with ease. When you need to eat a frog or do a two-minute task, can you try to do it cheerfully? You might be surprised by the results.
There’s another trick for setting up your mental approach. I’ll introduce it with a story.
At one of my previous jobs, I had a colleague – a beautiful and petite QA manager. She was underpaid, stuck on the career ladder, bullied by her boss. Depressed would be the right word to describe how she felt. Once we had lunch together – me, her and a developer from our team. I didn’t take the picture of three of us, but here’s a place we sat in. I put it here to recapture the moment.
A piece of sky over our city
She dared to open up about her challenges. Tears were running down her face. She looked so tiny sitting at the big restaurant table, and that image didn’t seem right. For a couple of minutes, we didn’t know how to react and kept silence. Suddenly, my companion managed to find the right words. He said: ‘You know, I think that you are bigger than any of your problems. You are bigger than the company you work at, bigger than any of your routine challenges.’
In a few moments, her face shone. She believed what my companion said because it was actually true. Half a year later, she’ll be doing great – earning twice as much, freelancing and moving up.
The point is you are bigger than your tasks too. I’m not saying you should downplay the importance of your challenges or underestimate your competitors. It’s just that you are ‘big’ and capable enough to handle anything on your agenda. Understanding this can make you tremendously productive.
Wrapping it up
Hope these tips didn’t sound too bizarre. I assumed you already know a bunch about time management and mentioned what works for me besides well-known techniques.
I reiterate the key points here:
- Slow down whenever it’s appropriate and beneficial for you. This will give you a strategic advantage. Recover meaning of what you do and get out of the seeking mode. This will help in dealing with procrastination of any kind.
- Reset your brain by taking beneficial and enjoyable breaks. Let your subconscious mind work on challenges. This will boost your productivity and eventually save you time. Some fresh unexpected decisions might arise.
- Do your tasks with an easy and light-hearted attitude. Even when you need to eat a frog – dare yourself to do it with enthusiasm. And remember that you are bigger than any of your challenges.
Do you have any unusual time management tips? Let us know or in the comments.
Aleksey Chepalov is a part of the marketing team at Chanty — a simple AI-powered team chat. This powerful and free Slack alternative is aimed to increase team productivity and improve communication at work. Aleksey is keen on such topics as marketing, SaaS challenges, and personal growth.