In the last two chapters, you’ve learned why you must take regular breaks from your work and focus on other aspects of your life while working on projects to ensure you stay mentally engaged and focused on your work to produce the best-quality work possible. In order to stay mentally engaged and focused to ensure you have time for breaks and focusing on other aspects of your life, it helps to make a “game” out of getting things done promptly.
You may be wondering, “How do I make a ‘game’ out of getting things done promptly?” Well, one way you can do this is to keep track of how quickly you get things done. In other words, you should track how long it takes you to accomplish various tasks associated with a project and even how much time it takes you to complete overall projects, then compare them with other tasks and projects to see if you are improving your efficiency or not.
If you are an entrepreneur or any employee who uses a computer and/or mobile devices regularly, you should be able to easily monitor your time by utilizing the computer or mobile device’s clock that is usually present on the screen. You can just open a Notepad (.txt) file, record the start time of when you begin a project or task, then note the time that you stop. It can also be a good idea to make a separate notation of how long each break is that you take and compare it to the recommended 15 minutes of every 60 minutes you should be taking breaks. You should also give a brief description of each task, as well as what the overall project entails, to give you an idea of the work you need to do and to evaluate how effectively and efficiently you are doing that work.
Over time, you could transfer that information from the .txt file and put it into an Excel (.xls or .xlsm) spreadsheet file (or equivalent spreadsheet program file) and see how well you are managing your time and how efficiently you are working over the course of days, weeks, and months to see if you are improving or declining in terms of your productivity.
Granted, not every project will be the same, and there will be varying tasks from project to project, but you can at least get a general idea of how efficiently and effectively you are working, as well as seeing what tasks and parts of a project you are really efficient and effective in and what tasks and parts of a project slow you down and where you need to improve your efficiency and focus.
As mentioned above, you can do this by hand (i.e. typing it out in .txt and .xls or .xlsm files) and track everything yourself, including how much time is spent on each task and part of a project. Alternatively, you could use an online timer; there are many to choose from if you input “free timers” into your favorite search engine or your app store (including the App Store, Google Play, or Amazon AppStore).
Whichever one you choose, learn how it works, then activate it when you start a task. If you take a break, pause that timer (most timers have a pause button), then resume it when you come back and begin work again. You can use your computer or mobile device’s clock to record how much time you were on break if the timer doesn’t record how long it was paused. Again, input that information into a .txt file and/or a .xls or .xlsm file as described above to keep track of how effective and efficiently you are working.
As mentioned above, see how efficiently and effectively you are working via the data you collect. Before each project or task, estimate how long you think it will take you to complete that project or task; consider even writing it down somewhere so that you don’t change your initial estimation later.
Then, when you have the task or project completed, check to see how long it actually took you versus the initial estimation. If you beat that estimation, consider rewarding yourself – you could choose to do some leisurely activity you’ve been wanting to do, spend more time with family/friends, purchase something you’ve been wanting to, buy, etc. In essence, treat yourself to doing better than you expected when it comes to being efficient and effective in your work.
Note that you should NOT inflate your initial estimation just to ensure you finish ahead of it; be honest with yourself when you make that initial estimation so that you get the most benefit from this “game.” If you wind up missing your initial estimation, you don’t have to punish yourself for missing it, but don’t reward yourself for it either. Instead, look back through your log of the times you recorded for each step of the project and see where you fell behind so that you can learn what is hindering your efficiency and effectiveness and learn where you need to improve so you can beat your estimation the next time.
Note that you want to try to avoid inflating your next estimation after you miss an estimation just because you think you need more time to complete a project. This is why it’s imperative you provide an honest estimation of the time you think it will take to complete each step of a project and the overall project itself. If you don’t provide an honest estimation at each step, this “game” will not help you to improve your efficiency and effectiveness at working, which is the main point of this “game.”
Therefore, you have learned how you can turn your work efficiency and effectiveness into a “game” where you can improve that efficiency and effectiveness and even reward yourself when you “beat” your estimation of when you finish a task or project. In the next two chapters, you will learn how to overcome distractions that can hinder your work efficiency and, effectiveness.