Time Management and the Power of Ritual

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jul 21

Managing your time is tough, especially with a manager that is constantly changing your priorities. And even if you work on your own, it is easy to lose focus and attention.

What has our attention is what gets done — and if what has your attention is surfing the Internet, that is what gets done. Not the goals you have set for yourself.

The trick with time management

The trick with time management isn’t that you will get off track. It isn’t to eliminate all those distractions, though that helps. But you can’t eliminate your manager or your family or all those significant others that can demand your time.

No, the trick with time management is that when you lose focus on your goals, you can quickly get back on the wagon and keep on going.

Piece of cake, right? Not so much.

No, getting back on track is not easy as much as we would like to trust the theory. Once “in the weeds” of something, it’s very hard to get back out.

One of the most powerful ways to get back on track is to use rituals to get focused again on our goals. Ritual, or habit, is the key to taking time management to the next level.

I’ve seen some great rituals play into making your time more focused:

  • Accomplish the “goal of the day.” I had a manager who made it a ritual to accomplish the “goal of the day.” Despite all of the other non-starters that may have happened for the day, if the one goal of the day was completed, no matter how small, it was a successful day. Accomplishing one goal a day means accomplishing 365 things a year that you want to get done, no small feat.
  • Work the “50-minute hour.” Here, the idea is to take something off your list and work solely on that one item for 50-minutes. After 50-minutes, you take a 10-minute break to get some perspective and then start another 50-minute hour. This works even better if you have a clock that is counting down the minutes of the 50-minute hour as it provides surprising incentive to yourself to get whatever done in the 50-minutes.
  • The 18-minute plan for managing your day. This method, offered by Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Publishing tells us to start off with 5-minutes at the beginning of the day to determine our goal for the day, take one minute at the end of every hour to refocus, and take five minutes at the end of the day and review what was successful and what could improve.

But no matter what your method of focus, you need a ritual to keep getting back on track with time management. Without the ritual, it’s too easy to get off track. Or entirely off course.

How do you get focus back when you get off track?