I'm constantly jumping from task to task without making much progress.
I'll never forget the time when I landed my first professional job. The girl training me would teach me a few tasks than observe me while I worked. After a few moments of observation, the asked me to stop jumping from one task to another so I could actually finish what I was doing. Being all over the place feels like I'm busy but, in the end, I found myself rarely getting the most important things done.
To solve this problem, I tested out a variety of time management strategies. Most of them produced positive outcomes. But one strategy, in particular, improved my results by leaps and bounds.
I almost forgot about this technique until recently. While watching Instagram stories, one woman talked about how great of a day she had. She's a celebrity stylist who eventually launched a successful online fashion boutique. I've followed her for years and witnessed entrepreneurial growth first hand.
While describing her amazing day, she let us in on the strategy that allows her to produce massive results.
Simply put, she manages her day on an hour by hour basis.
Each hour she takes a moment to look back and asks herself if she made good use of her time.
I first learned the concept of managing each hour in 2005 while looking for a solution for my unproductive days. The answer came in the form of using a daily time log. My first few times using a time log was a disaster. Hours would go by and I'd forget to document my activities. When I did remember, I had to think hard on what I actually accomplished in the past 3-4 hours. Sure, I was busy doing a bunch of stuff, but was I actually being productive? Most of the time, I was shocked that I allowed a couple of hours just slip by without even realizing it.
After a few days of tracking my activity by hour, I became hyper-aware of how quickly time would dissipate if I didn't take ownership of it. My activity changed drastically because I wanted to log something meaningful at the end of each hour. Even if I didn't complete an important task in an hour, I'd still be satisfied as long as I was working on something of value. The point of the exercise is to bring awareness to our subconscious action.
Most importantly, hourly time management raises the level of accountability, intention, and focus of our daily activity.
Once I got used to tracking my hourly activity, I took it to the next step by building my daily to-do list using this format. Simply put, I tried to plan my day on an hour by hour basis (before the start of the workday) then challenged myself to maintain this schedule. A-list celebrities and successful individuals are so busy that they plan their day using the same (hour-by-hour) format. I heard that Ryan Seacrest plans his day 15 minutes at a time. They don't allow half a day to slip by without accomplishing something critical.
People throw around the term time management loosely but, to me, this is the true definition of managing your time.
First, decide what's most important (and what will provide the most impact), then design your most optimal day. One that you would classify as amazing. Then create a daily schedule of how you will execute this day (hour by hour). Things will pop up and your schedule will change. Chances are, you won't be able to perfectly ahere to that schedule. But, if you start with a solid plan, you'll likely have one of your most productive days ever. The more you implement this technique, the better you'll become at executing it to your satisfaction.
For fun, try printing out an hourly time log and track your time this week to see how powerful this technique can be.
(*Another way I apply this technique is to simply set an hour countdown on my phone. Each time an hour passes, my phone buzzes, I reset the timer and I log how I used the hour*).