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(gentle music) - [Jim] How do you get more done in a day? You multitask and work on lots of things at once, right? Actually, no. - [Dave] When someone thinks they're multitasking, what they're often doing, instead, is switching back and forth, rapidly, between tasks. This isn't multitasking, it's switch tasking. When you switch task, the amount of time it takes to complete things increases. - [Jim] The answer to getting more done is to get better at managing your time, and one key to that is prioritizing. - [Todd] All work is not created equal. Some things simply matter more than others. - [Jim] And part of prioritizing means knowing when to focus on the important stuff. - [Todd] The right time to work on your most important issues is a period of the day I call the Einstein Window. That's the time every day when you have your little, mental peak, where work feels almost fun. - [Jim] And as you slice and dice your day and your tasks, you've got the remember to set aside time to think. - [Dorie] We all know it's important to make time for strategic thinking, but if we're honest, most of us don't do it because we're run ragged with our day-to-day responsibilities and obligations. - [Jim] Improving your time management skills, that's the subject of this LinkedIn Learning Highlight, your curated collection of learning insights from LinkedIn Learning. Hi everybody, Jim Hyde here, from LinkedIn Learning. A lot of us would probably say we aren't very good at managing our time, and I'll bet some of us would say that it's gotten worse, lately, what with the digital distractions coming from those shiny rectangles in our pockets. One of those things those mini devices enable us to do is multitask, or at least simulate it. - [Dave] When someone thinks they're multitasking, what they're often doing, instead, is switching back and forth, rapidly, between tasks. This isn't multitasking, it's switch tasking. - [Jim] That's Dave Crenshaw, a best-selling author, speaker, and the instructor of numerous LinkedIn Learning courses on the subject of time management. In his course, "Time Management Fundamentals," he details the disadvantages of what he calls switch tasking. - [Dave] When you switch task, the amount of time it takes to complete things increases. - [Jim] The reason is that it takes time for your brain to get back on it's previous track. It's asking and answering the question, "Okay, so what was I working on," over and over again. And that's only the first disadvantage to this simulated multitasking. - [Dave] Number two is quality. When you switch tasks, the quality of your work decreases or in other words, the likelihood of mistakes increases. And the final, perhaps less obvious, but still powerful effect of switch tasking is its impact on your stress levels. Whenever you introduce switch tasking, even a simple list of activities becomes highly stressful. Even with so many time-saving devices, we are more stressed out and more starved for time than we've ever been in the history of the world. This is largely due to a cultural acceptance of multitasking. - [Jim] So what's the solution? In his course, "Time Management Fundamentals," Dave Crenshaw recommends focusing on three things: the space around you, the space between your ears, and the time that keeps on ticking away. - [Dave] In order to help you gain focus and find more time, there are three key areas we're going to cover: space, mind, and time. While this may sound abstract, these represent the critical components of productivity you deal with daily. The first fundamental principle of time management is space, meaning your work space, the physical items that are around you. How well are you using that physical space that you have? In particular, the more gathering points you have, the more switches you make. So let's have as few gathering points as possible. A gathering point is anyplace where things that are unresolved come together. I'll refer to these unresolved items as unprocessed. Typical gathering points include piles of paper, stacks of bills, drawers stuffed full of miscellaneous items, even email inboxes, voicemail boxes, and receipts stuffed in your pockets. All of these are considered gathering points. - [Jim] Later in his course, Dave provides advice for dealing with these gathering points, as he calls them. But let's move on to the second area that affects your productivity: your state of mind, which Dave Crenshaw says is a gathering point, itself. - [Dave] Many people use their mind as a gathering point. When this happens, you allow to-dos and tasks and projects to swirl around in your head. Think about the last hour. How many times did you interrupt yourself when a new thought popped into your head? Each one of these little self-interruptions was a switch and switches, remember, will cause things to take longer, cause you to make more mistakes, and will increase your stress levels. - [Jim] Dave Crenshaw's advice for clearing out that mental clutter involves a system of to-do lists and a strategy for dealing with them. But let's get back to the third area that can make or break your productivity: time. - [Dave] There are many ideas and opportunities that compete for your time, daily. Those who are most productive have mastered the skill of making conscious choices about where they will focus their time. They've also become skilled at creating boundaries that protect their attention. You can do the same. This begins with identifying your MVAs, your most valuable activities, and then creating a budget to spend time in those most valuable activities. - [Jim] This idea of focusing on your most valuable activities is something that comes up frequently in the world of time management, and it's something that's addressed by Dr. Todd Dewett in his LinkedIn Learning course "Proven Tips For Managing Your Time." - [Todd] The time management system I've created is very simple. The first step is to understand the 80/20 rule. The idea is that all work is not created equal. Some things simply matter more than others. Look at every task, every person, and every project and ask yourself these two questions. First, is this bit of work something that is so vital that it's of strategic importance to you, and/or the team? That means when completed, you're moving forward and making real progress. This is the good stuff that deserves your attention. Let's call it the 20%. The second question goes like this, "Hey, is this just work I have to do?" I'm not saying that work is unimportant, at all. I am suggesting it might be relatively less important and if so, you can't overinvest your limited time completing it. Let's call this the 80%. - [Jim] That 80% might include mundane tasks like filling out expense reports or sending off quick emails, but it can also include those conversations with colleagues in the break room. - [Todd] You also have to think about the people at work. Your interactions affect your mood and your productivity. If you're really honest, you can likely think of some conversations you're enjoying too often, and others that, well, aren't very positive or productive. Those are clearly part of the 80%. - [Jim] One of the goals of this sorting process is to make sure you're spending enough time on that all important 20% pile, those strategically important tasks that sometimes take a backseat to a cluttered inbox, or some spirited conversation about last night's game. - [Todd] The truth is we often spend too much time on issues of lesser importance. The rule of thumb for each and every task and relationship is to ask yourself whether you're looking at something in the 20% pile, or the 80% pile. If you don't think about this regularly, you're likely to miss-allocate your time. Let me give you a great overall guide. Never invest more than half of your time on things in the 80% pile. - [Jim] Okay, so I've identified which of my work tasks are in that all important 20% category. "The next step," Todd Dewett says, "is to figure out "the best time to work on those important tasks." - [Todd] The right time to work on your most important issues is a period of the day I call the Einstein Window. That's the time every day when you have your little, mental peak, where work feels almost fun. This peak typically lasts two to four hours and it happens at different times for everyone. For me, it's early in the morning. That's when my brain functions at its highest level. So spend a few minutes and identify when that window happens for you. - [Jim] Identifying your Einstein Window is only the first step. - [Todd] Once you know when your Einstein Window happens, learn to protect it. That starts by occasionally saying no, so that you don't allow interruptions to your work by anyone at anytime. That does happen often. You're working on something important and a colleague or your boss walks in and asks for help. You say, "Sure," and the interruption begins. If the issue is not really important, politely say no and tell them you'll follow up soon so you can complete the task in front of you. - [Jim] Todd's course, again is called "Proven Tips For Managing Your Time," also recommends finding a quiet place to spend that Einstein Window, an unused conference room, or some other place that's free of the distractions that undermine your inner Einstein. And by the way, one of those distractions is that shiny rectangle in your pocket. - [Todd] If you want to maximize your cognitive capacity during the Einstein Window, you've got to take little chunks of time where you will allow yourself to turn off the phone. I promise you, the world won't end. Try it for 30 minutes and see how well you focus. - [Jim] And finally, this last tip deals with a variation of the time management theme. - [Dori] We all know it's important to make time for strategic thinking. That's the big picture work that helps us identify trends, spot opportunities and makes sure we're working on the right priorities. But if we're honest, most of us don't do it because we're run ragged with our day-to-day responsibilities and obligations. - [Jim] That's Dorie Clark, a best-selling author, she teaches at the Fuqua School of Business and is the instructor of numerous LinkedIn Learning courses. Here's her advice on carving out time for strategic thinking. - [Dorie] First, it's important to put time for strategic thinking on your calendar. It might seem odd to schedule thinking, and you can call it whatever you want, if you think others might see your calendar and look askance at that terminology. But unless you protect blocks of time, they will be eaten up by meetings or phone calls, or other bothersome obligations that are anathema to big picture thinking. Schedule a block of at least a couple of hours. Protect it. - [Jim] And if an important meeting or something else comes up, and it often will, Dorie recommends moving that thinking window to a different time, rather than just canceling it. The second piece of strategic thinking advice Dorie shares is something that has transformed how I behave when I'm standing in line at the grocery store. - [Dorie] There's a tendency in modern life to fill up every spare minute with distractions. Sometimes, you can argue they're productive distractions like listening to an audio book while driving to work. Other times, less so, like fiddling with your phone or checking Facebook while you're waiting in line. So embrace the quiet of those moments and even just occasionally resist the impulse to fill up the space with stimulation. Instead, use the time to ponder big picture questions that you've been grappling with. Sometimes, letting your mind wander even briefly can lead to productive insights. - [Jim] I love that tip. It's so tempting to reach for the phone when you're standing in line or out on a walk. More and more, I'm forcing myself to keep that rectangle in my pocket and look around. Maybe make small talk with the person behind me. That may not be strategic thinking, but my brain appreciates the break, and I think the people around me do, too. Okay, we're out of time, so let's wrap up this look at time management with a few takeaways. Number one, don't fool yourself into thinking you're multitasking. As Dave Crenshaw says, - [Dave] The three effects of switch tasking, what most people are doing when they think they're multitasking, are: the amount of time it takes to complete things increases, the quality of the work you do decreases, and your stress levels increase. - [Todd] Number two, when you look at your work, be intentional. Ask yourself, "Is this the 20% or the 80%?" That way, you stay clear about what really matters so that you can get more done. - [Jim] Remember Todd Dewett's advice. Identify the most important tasks you perform and then perform them during your Einstein Window, ideally, in a quiet place, and maybe even with your phone turned off. Then number three, make time to think, even if it's just for a few moments at a time. As Dorie Clark says, - [Dorie] Sometimes, letting your mind wander even briefly, can lead to productive insights. - [Jim] We've heard highlights from three LinkedIn courses, here: "Time Management Fundamentals," "Proven Tips For Managing Your Time," and "Personal Effectiveness Tips." The LinkedIn Learning Library also has courses that look at time management from specific perspectives. For example, for managers or for remote employees. Do a search on LinkedIn Learning for the phrase time management and then set aside some time to check them out.