Whether it's trading, working out, finding time to catch up with family and friends or just ticking off that never-ending list of chores you rarely get round to, making sure you’re spending your time productively is absolutely key to making the most of your day.
But in a world where we’re surrounded by distractions, it’s not always easy, so we’re helping you out by rounding up some productivity tips and advice for time management from some of the biggest names in trading, business and finance - people who really know how to get stuff done…
1. Make a To-Do List
Okay, it’s an obvious one. But one of the best ways to make the most of your day is to take a few minutes on a morning to come up with a list of things you need to accomplish that day – and keep the list close by, so there’s no escaping it! Ticking off each item on the list as you get through them will help give you a sense of accomplishment (anyone else guilty of adding things you’ve already done to a list just for the satisfaction of ticking another item off?!)
If you’re not convinced that making a to-do list is vital to a productive day, you might be interested to hear that it’s a technique billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson swears by. The Virgin mogul starts each day with a ‘to-do list’ instead of formulating strategies for the business, and believes that his lists are responsible for pushing the Virgin group in the right direction.
Okay, we can’t promise that to-do lists will make you billions (sorry) but it will help keep you focused and give you a little sense of achievement with every tick.
2. Cull the Interruptions
Today, probably more than ever, our days are peppered with distractions: from the mobile phone that won’t stop beeping to the overflowing inbox to the ever-updating Twitter feed. And it’s impossible to keep on top of everything while still getting through your important tasks.
So don’t. Set yourself a time for checking emails, a time for answering calls, a time for scrolling through Twitter – and the rest of your time is free for concentrating on the task at hand. Taking “a minute” here and there to check your emails can really eat away at your time, and the chances are, whatever’s in your inbox isn’t so urgent that it can’t wait half an hour until you’ve finished what you’re doing. Being perpetually available to other people just means you’re never 100% available for yourself and your own goals and tasks.
This tip is particularly important in the Forex world, because trading frequently requires your undivided attention, and distractions can lure you away from your carefully planned trading strategies. Stick to your trading plan and stay focused – you don’t really want to miss an entry point because you were answering a phone call that could have waited, do you?
3. Own your Time
Remember that every day, you have a limited amount of hours, minutes and seconds to get things done. That time is yours, and you have to decide how to spend it. Don’t be influenced by friends, family or whoever else to spend that time on things you don’t particularly want to do, or that aren’t helpful.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett believes that learning to say no is crucial to productivity, though he admits it is not easy. Most humans are natural people pleasers, and that makes us inclined to say yes to everything. But saying no guards your time – and that, more than anything, will help you make the most of your day.
This ties in nicely with our to-do list tip above. If you start the day by deciding what you need to accomplish that day, and roughly how much time you need in order to do so before the inevitable impromptu meetings and appointments spring up, you’ll know if you need to put your foot down and say no in order to achieve what you want to that day.
4. Stop Wasting Time
A very simple way to make the most out of your day is to look at areas where you’re wasting time and think of ways to make them more productive.
A great example is commute time: if you sit on a train for 30 minutes every morning and 30 minutes every night, can you use that time to read something useful, catch up on the news or write your to-do list, so that by the time you get to the office, you’re ready to go? Billionaire writer and brains behind the Harry Potter franchise J.K. Rowling dreamed up the Harry Potter series while sitting on a train – so there’s proof that your commute can be productive. Or how about cycling to work so you don’t have to make time for a workout later?
Having time to relax and look after yourself is critical to spending your days productively – and we’ll get on to that in a minute. But by cutting back on wasted time, you’ll give yourself more time to concentrate on the things that matter. So think twice before the next time you spend half an hour mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed.
5. Outsource Chores
Following on from the last tip, a great way to save some wasted time is to see what personal chores you can outsource. Ordering your groceries online and getting them delivered can save you hours of traipsing through supermarket aisles, while services like I Hate Ironing will collect, launder, iron and return your clothes. And if you don’t have time to leave your desk to buy lunch, let Lunch Box London bring lunch to you.
Outsourcing chores, particularly those you hate or those that are most time-consuming, will free up some more time for you to use productively, whether it’s dedicating more time to the charts or simply having more time to relax at the end of a busy day. Taking time to relax and do things you enjoy is crucial to productivity – all work and no play will eventually burn you out. Saving time on personal and household chores means you’ll have more free time to enjoy without taking minutes away from your trading day.
6. Take Breaks
The key to productivity is not constantly sitting at your desk – sometimes, your brain just needs a break. Stopping to grab a cup of tea or coffee is generally a lot more productive in the long run than trying to battle on when you know you can’t concentrate. In fact, studies by social networking company Draugiem Group proved that the most productive way to work is to take 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work. This rest time allowed their brains to rejuvenate and prepare for the next period of work.
The study also showed that spending these breaks on the computer also lowered productivity. Taking a walk, chatting or reading a book were found to be the best way to spend breaks in order to achieve maximum productivity. So the message here is not to be scared to step away from the charts – we’ve told you before that taking a well-timed break from the charts rather than watching every move can actually be good for your overall trading strategy (and it's the reason we keep you updated with plenty of Trader Life features for an oft-needed distraction from the charts).
Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, swears by this technique, pointing out that not scheduling breaks can lead to people holding their productivity back in fear that they’ll run out of energy by the end of the day. If you know you’ll have a chance to rest, you’re more likely to work harder – so leave your desk, get some fresh air, and come back ready to go!