5 Productivity Tips from Time Management Pros

In the constantly changing world of communications, and particularly when working with busy, fast-moving clients, time management and prioritization are vital skills. At Mission North, we’re proponents of the mantra “work smarter, not harder.” And because we manage priorities professionally, we’re masters in the art of getting things done. We also love to share productivity tips– we even have a Slack channel dedicated to our favorite time-saving Chrome extensions, keyboard shortcuts and hacks. (Did you know there’s a “Priority” view in Google Drive that allows you to create workspaces?)

“Work smarter” is easier said than done, but we’ve found some simple ways to get better at both saving and managing time. We gathered up five pieces of advice that you can put in place right away, whether you’re already a bona fide productivity pro or just getting started.

  • Overestimate how long things will take. The most productive people we know are able to quickly (and realistically) estimate how long a project will take and work backward from the deadline. Importantly, they add buffer time for things that come up, because something always comes up. Before you start a project, figure out how long it will take, what contingencies are involved in finishing it, and how much of a buffer you’ll need. For instance, if you know you’ll need a copyedit before finalizing an article, bake in extra time not just for the review, but also for the uncertainty of another person’s schedule.

  • Take advantage of your golden hour and your in-between time. Do you write best in the morning? Do you get your best ideas after going for a walk? Observe the times of day you do your best thinking and try to block off those times for priority projects. Schedule the blocks on your calendar and try to preserve that time as best you can. When you do have odd bits of time, use them strategically–for instance, to respond to emails, reset your priorities, or do other small tasks that don’t require much context-switching.

  • Set your focus and write it down. From Kanban to GTD, there are tons of prioritization and project management systems out there. Find the one that works for you and the tool you’ll use to keep track. Some folks at Mission North swear by handwritten lists, while others are Todoist or Asana diehards. No matter your preference, it’s important to use your list strategically– set a focus for the week and prioritize specific items every morning based on deadlines and importance.

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. Whenever possible, find existing resources to use as a starting point. It could be a template, an example or words of wisdom from someone who’s done it before. Even if you don’t end up feeling inspired, often these resources can spark your own thinking and help you get over the inertia of starting a new project.

  • Talk to someone IRL. We all love Slack, but nothing beats walking up to someone’s desk (or picking up the phone) to talk through a challenge or assignment. You’ll save time and reduce the chance of miscommunication.

Love productivity hacks? Follow us on Twitter at @missionnorth to share your favorite tips for getting things done.