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Productivity series: Five different systems you can use to manage your time better

There are many different techniques you can use to manage your time better, but these are some of the most effective and easy to follow. They’re simple rules you can apply to all aspects of your busy lifestyle, from work and study to household chores and even social and family commitments.

The prioritisation system

Sometimes it’s overwhelming when you have a seemingly endless to-do list and you just don’t know where to begin – it can even put you off starting anything at all! One productivity technique that can be used to overcome this problem is to write a to-do list to help you order and prioritise your most urgent tasks and those that can wait. But how do you decide? Try ranking your tasks by high, medium and low importance. Then rank them by high, medium and low urgency. Do the tasks that are both important and urgent first, and so on.

The 80/20 system

Another great system for prioritising is the 80/20 rule, that states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. This means that you should focus most of your efforts on tasks that achieve your most important goals.

The 4D System

The 4 Ds are a great way of categorising tasks. Apply them to your to-do list and be amazed at how quickly it starts to disappear.

Do it now – avoid stress and anxiety about your most important tasks by doing them immediately.

Defer – if there are tasks that can be done later, or are less urgent, or require more concentration, schedule time to do them when you’re less busy.

Delegate – is the task something that needs to be done by you? Or is there someone else who can help who may be better for the job? Or both? Then don’t be afraid to delegate so you can focus on more important things.

Delete – Would the sky fall down if you don’t do that task? Would anyone even notice if it got missed? Then maybe it shouldn’t be on your to-do list in the first place!

The Eat the Frog System

“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long,” says author Mark Twain. This isn’t a diet tip, but a system you can use to get your most difficult tasks, or the ones that have the most impact, out of the way first. You’ll have a sense of achievement and relief that spurs you on through the rest of your tasks.

The No System

By far the simplest technique, this calls for saying no to things you just don’t have time for. This can, for some people, also be the most difficult technique, especially if you don’t like saying no to people or letting people down. However, for the sake of your own stress levels, it may be a good idea to learn to say no to things on other people’s high priority list that aren’t on yours. If you do need to say yes, negotiate a deadline that doesn’t get in the way of your own goals.

Also in this series:

Which of these popular productivity hacks will work for you?