3 Time Management Tips That Are Improving My Productivity

written by Dan Silvestre
Time Management

time management tipsToday, I want to share 3 time management tips I’ve implemented in the last few months that are changing the way I work.

They are the basis of my productivity system. They help me complete my most important work while still having a lot of free time for play and rest. My stress levels have never been lower.

If you’re here to finally empty your to-do list, these time management tips won’t help you. I’m not interested in doing everything. I want to get the right things done and skip the rest. To still have energy after work.

Here’s the truth:

Time management is all about focusing your energy on the most important items.

You see, it’s not the number of things you get done that matters. It’s the importance of them.

When you embrace this mindset shift, you see time management differently. You start to look for ways to simplify your days, rather than adding more complexity.

If that’s what you want, then I can help.

You’ll discover how to:

  • Plan your work so nothing falls through the cracks
  • Have enough time for your most important tasks and projects
  • Model how athletes train for your work so you become a superstar
  • Finish your days happy and with plenty of energy left for your hobbies and family

Here are my 3 time management tips to make it happen.

#1 Calendar Over To-Do Lists

time management tips calendar

Everything — and I mean absolutely everything — goes into my calendar. I keep it open at all times and set reminders for the most important tasks.

Here’s why:

Everything takes time.

  • Writing a new article for my newsletter​ takes time
  • Meetings with coaching clients take time. Preparing for those meetings and writing notes after also takes time
  • Preparing a time management workshop takes time. So does running the workshop
  • Processing my email and getting to inbox zero​ takes time
  • Personal errands and recreational activities take time

Because everything takes time, everything needs to be on my calendar.

Time is my bottleneck, not motivation. And because I — and you and everyone else — have limited time, I can only do so much.

To be more effective, I need to make time the main resource.

And that’s why working from a to-do list is not effective. Because to-do lists don’t make time the main resource.

But calendars do.

I ​time-block​ my tasks on Monday (see time management tip #2 for more on this). I give myself buffer time between big tasks. And I add breaks as well.

Sometimes, I adjust my day as necessary. The only thing that’s expected is that unexpected things will pop up. That’s ok. I move things around or schedule them for open slots later in the day or week.

No open slots? Then I need to ​prioritize​ again.

Finally, the greatest benefit of working from my calendar? Nothing slips through the cracks. And I can see everything at once with my calendar open.

How to Apply This Time Management Tip

Open up your calendar app. I use the default Calendar app on Mac but any calendar app works.

Start by scheduling time for your biggest projects. These are your big “rocks”. When are you actually going to sit down and work on them? And how much time do you need? Budget accordingly.

Remember to add more time than what you think you need. We are notoriously bad at predicting how long tasks take. We get better with practice so calibrate as you go.

Then, add other tasks you need to do. These are your “pebbles”. Smaller tasks, personal errands, and activities.

Finally, add the smaller tasks. These are your “sand”. Remember: the clock is always ticking.

A few small tasks can add up to 1 hour of your time. ​Batch​ these small tasks together in one block.

For example:

I like to batch admin and finance tasks. Because I’m not ​context-switching​, I can get them done quicker.

With time, you’ll start noticing your patterns. Maybe you’re low on energy after lunch. And you notice your biological prime time​ is from 9 am to 11 am. Or that you always end up making spontaneous plans for lunch on Saturday.

Plan your patterns. Schedule low-energy tasks after lunch and your most important task from 9 am to 11 am. Keep Saturday lunch open.

With practice, this will only take a few minutes.

This leads me to time management tip number 2.

#2 Strategy Mode Then Go Mode

time management tips strategy then go mode

I used to spend most of the day switching back and forth between strategy mode and getting stuff done. This constant multitasking was bringing me down.

Now, I do things a bit differently.

Every Monday morning, I have a dedicated block of time for strategy mode. I plan all my tasks (using time management tip #1) with such detail that I won’t have to think about them while doing the work.

For example:

I want to run a workshop in two weeks. That’s my end goal.

So first I start by breaking down this big project into smaller sub-projects:

  1. Outline of what I want to cover
  2. Expand the outline
  3. Create slides/presentation
  4. Write emails to promote the workshop
  5. Test workshop: do it once and make sure everything is working
  6. Run workshop
  7. Send the recording to everyone who joined

I’ll also add details on those sub-projects as I’m planning things. This includes notes, links, and reference materials.

Then, I’ll add a timeframe for each task. I take into account how hard the task is and my experience level (something new vs “I know how to do this already”). Because I’m an optimist, I add some buffer time — I add 25-50% to my time estimate.

Once I’m done, I put it in front of me. This is my roadmap for next week and I don’t have to think about it.

How to Apply This Time Management Tip

Start by scheduling a block of 1 hour first thing on Monday morning. This is your strategy block. The goal of this block is to create a detailed plan for your week.

For big projects, go with what I like to call “Z to A Planning”. Start with your end goal. What are you trying to achieve?

Now ask yourself:

  • What’s the last step of this project?
  • And the step before that one?
  • And before that one?

Keep going until you get to the first step of your project.

Add as much detail as possible for every task:

  • Do you need to reference your notes? Include a link to them
  • Are you working on a specific platform? Add a link to the login page
  • Sending this report to a colleague after you’re done? Add their email to your task

Once you’re done, put your plan in front of you. If you want, you can even print it. This is what you’re working on this week.

With this detailed plan, you don’t have to think about what your next step is. You’ll eliminate decision fatigue, increase your energy, and get a lot more done.

Plus, when you go into the weekend with everything done, you feel good and you’re motivated going into the next week.

#3 Sprint. Rest. Repeat.

time management tips sprint rest repeat

Over the last few months, I noticed a pattern: the more I worked, the less I seemed to get done.

This is a conundrum most of us face that can be explained by ​Parkinson’s Law​. Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”:

Parkinson's Law

Which means that working longer hours was actually hurting my productivity. Weird, right?

The key to breaking free from this paradox is to adopt a more strategic approach to work.

To give my absolute full attention to the task at hand for a fixed period and then rest. Give my body and mind time to recover and get ready for the next sprint.

Look at athletes:

Athletes don’t train all the time. Apart from a few outliers, most of them only train a few hours per day. They spend the rest of the time in recovery mode. Eating well. Sleeping enough hours. Taking ice baths, getting massages, and doing all sorts of recovery work.

It’s this rest period that allows them to train and perform at their fullest the next day. And the next. And the next.

We can take a page of the athlete’s playbook and adapt it to our work. Work to your fullest AND rest until you’re ready to go again. Then repeat.

Sprint. Rest. Repeat.

How to Apply This Time Management Tip

Here’s one way I am applying this:

I work for 90 minutes straight in the morning on my most important task. I give it my absolute focus and attention.

I push myself to the limit during this period. But I also have a clear stopping point. And that’s what makes it work.

Just like in running, when you see the finish line, you start to run faster. Because you know you’re almost done. Your well-deserved rest lies just after the finish line.

Then I take a long 30-minute break. No phone, no distractions. I drink some coffee and wander around the office.

And only when I am rested and ready to go I start another sprint.

The great thing about the Sprint/Rest/Repeat feedback loop is that you can apply it to small or big intervals.

For example:

  1. Daily: work for 90 minutes and then rest for 15 minutes. Repeat 2-3 times per day
  2. Weekly: sprint for 4 days and rest on Friday
  3. Quarterly: sprint for 10-12 weeks and rest the rest

Go into your calendar and block time for rest immediately after a sprint.

We skip rest because we fear we’re not being productive. If we’re not doing anything, we are falling behind. We gotta be “always on” and “hustling”.


Here’s the reality:

There is no growth without downtime.

You need both. Yin and yang. Constantly working without any adequate rest is a recipe for burnout.

And here’s more: the quality of your rest determines the quality of your work. Read that again.

Discover the different types of breaks and start incorporating them into your day:

Go hard and then go easy.

Give your body and brain a chance to recharge.

Time Management Tips That Actually Work

The most effective effective and practical time management tips are simple.

I’m at my best when I focus on using these 3 time management tips:

  1. Calendar over to-do lists
  2. Strategy mode then go mode
  3. Sprint. Rest. Repeat.

Choose the one that resonates with you the most and apply it to your work right now. See it as a 2-week experiment. You would try anything for just two weeks, right?

Then, after 2 weeks, assess your results. How did it impact your time management? Do you feel more or less in control of your time?

Tweak if needed to make it work for you. Until it becomes so natural to you it’s something you now do. It’s part of your routine.

Because that’s how you become better at managing your time.

Thanks for reading!

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