A Simple yet Powerful Time Management Combo

simple time management combo

Today we are going to look at two simple time management strategies that can work together to help you create more time in your life the the things you want to do. The first is eliminating clutter and the second is increasing productivity through applied focus.

As basic and obvious as these two topics are, the truth is that clutter and lack of focus can be serious time thieves capable of robbing us of our most valuable and irreplaceable commodity, time. It’s happened to me and I am guessing it has also happened to you.

The burden of too much stuff

Quite often, less really is more. With regard to time management, less clutter in your life translates into more time for important things.  It’s amazing how much “stuff” we can accumulate because we think it will somehow contribute to our lives. Most of the time the exact opposite is true.

Sure, we all gain some enjoyment from our material possessions, but the more things we accumulate the more burdensome they become.  If we continually accumulate without a genuine need, we will eventually find ourselves living under a cloud of confusion and stress. I realize that reducing clutter and letting go of material possessions my not seem like an effective time management tactic, but these things really can weigh you down.

Easier said than done

Admittedly, staying organized is a time management skill that I have not totally mastered.  It seems that every time I get things sorted out and organized, the experience is short-lived.  One of the problems comes from not taking a little time every day to put things away when I’m done.  This is one of those areas where a tiny time management effort can make a huge difference in how long things take to accomplish.

My desk is a classic example.  I’ve been known to let it get so bad that I can’t even see the wood underneath the paper piles.  Why am I telling you this? Because I understand from personal experience how clutter actually equates to the exact opposite of time management. I waste way too much time looking for things because I didn’t put them away.

Getting a grip on clutter

There’s no reason to go into great detail about this because it really comes down to common sense.  So here are a few simple steps that you can take right now.

Begin immediately to clear out material possessions that you no longer need or want. If they are useful items you can give them to a friend or donate them to a local charity. This will accomplish two things:  first, you’ll feel lighter and less cramped in your home or office; and you’ll also feel good about giving these items to people who can actually use them.

As far as the clutter goes, try to set aside a little time each day to tidy up.  If you do this regularly it will never get out of hand and you’ll never feel overwhelmed.  I know that after my wife reads this article she will be watching me to see if I put this suggestion into practice. We call that accountability, right?

Take breaks to increase focus and productivity

One of the best ways to gain more free time is to get more done in less time. We call this productivity and it truly is a vital key to time management. Distractions are like mental clutter that can derail our productivity, and there are plenty of ways to get distracted these days. Is there an effective way to eliminate this mental clutter and increase our productivity without increasing our stress levels? Absolutely!

Using applied focus sessions is a simple time management strategy I teach my coaching clients to quickly multiply their productivity. This strategy involves working for 45 minutes with total focus followed by a 15 minute focus shift. The whole process is explained in the article Using Applied Focus Sessions to Boost Productivity. There is also another version that involves 90 minutes of focused effort followed by a 30 minute focus shift. Both work extremely well.

It’s a powerful time management combo

Giving attention to these two areas of life really can give you more time for things that truly matter. So often it’s the simple, obvious adjustments that pay the biggest dividends. What if implementing these two time management strategies gave you an extra hour or two every day? What kind of effect would that have on your life?

When we stop to consider how valuable our time really is, we are motivated to make sure we are spending it wisely. Trust me, it goes by faster than you can imagine. How foolish it would be to waste something so precious. Remember, the primary reason that time management is so important is because time is life. So in essence, time management is really life management.

How good are you at keeping clutter under control?
Do you have a time management tip to share with us?
The lines are open!

This is part 2 of a 2 part series on time management. Here’s the link to part 1
in case you missed it: How Better Time Management Improves Your Life

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  1. steve December 10, 2010 Reply

    Time is a constant – there’s never any more or any less than 24 hours in a day – however much we ‘try to find time’, or ‘find time dragging’. Trick is how we spend what we have and what choices we make. You’re spot on in saying that de-cluttering allows us to focus, and spend time on what’s important. It also provides us with the opportunity to do what we do do well – rather than rushing around getting nothing really done. Thanks for posting this.

    • Jonathan December 12, 2010 Reply

      Hi Steve, I like your summation, “Trick is how we spend what we have and what choices we make.” That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

  2. Stephen December 10, 2010 Reply

    Hello Jonathan. I tend to clutter and still struggle with it though I’m getting much better. I think I’ve reached some compromise state that works pretty good for me. I do think it helps a lot.

    • Jonathan December 12, 2010 Reply

      Hey Stephen, sometimes (for me at least) the clutter happens just because my focus is mostly moving forward, so it’s easy to forget to look back at the mess I’ve created.

  3. Joe Wilner December 10, 2010 Reply


    A wonderful combination for managing time. I really like the idea of applied focus sessions. We only have a limited amount of attention, so instilling breaks is crucial part of maintaining productivity. I think this would also help to focus and make sure we give it all we have until taking a break. I also agree about the distraction clutter causes. When my home starts to get cluttered it truly impacts my overall stress level.

    • Jonathan December 12, 2010 Reply

      Hey Joe, thanks for drawing our attention to the fact that clutter causes stress. The connection might not seem obvious on its own, but it certainly is a contributor.

  4. Stuart December 11, 2010 Reply

    Yeah! Great series on time Jonathan, once again a brilliant post. As mentioned in the comments, there’s always 24 hours in a day, no matter what you do in those hours. It’s important to keep things simple and effective, and value our time for what it truly is: precious :-)

    • Jonathan December 12, 2010 Reply

      Hey Stuart, learning to “value our time for what it truly is: precious” really does influence our perception. For example, think of how much of their precious time people spend watching TV commercials over the course of a lifetime. It’s mind boggling.

  5. Chris December 11, 2010 Reply

    I can relate to your clutter challenge! I’ve found it quite cathartic to clear out the old things that seem to always “have value” and yet stay in boxes for years.
    Chris’s last amazing blog post … How To Speed Read: What Is Subvocalization?

    • Jonathan December 12, 2010 Reply

      Hey Chris, glad I’m not the only one!

  6. Amanda December 11, 2010 Reply

    I also really like the part about de-cluttering. Too much stuff around can definitely feel burdensome. Lightening up on clutter creates a lighter life!

    • Jonathan December 12, 2010 Reply

      Hi Amanda, that’s an excellent way to look at it: “Lightening up on clutter creates a lighter life!”

  7. Sandra Lee December 11, 2010 Reply

    I love this combo! I confess I wasted a big chunk of time the other day looking for notes for a blog post. I couldn’t remember where I wrote them.

    The habit of tidying up each day is not one that I’ve not mastered. I am going to take your advice to heart and really give it a try. The applied focus sessions do really work for me.

    Brilliant as always!

    • Jonathan December 12, 2010 Reply

      Greetings Sandra, as well as applied focus sessions work it’s hard for me to take a break after only :45, even a short one. I like the :90/:30 structure better and time wise, it is the same ratio. I feel like I get more done in the :90 and a :30 break allows me to do something completely different without feeling rushed.

  8. Debbie December 11, 2010 Reply

    Time is precious and needs to be used wisely. That is how I try to think of it, so it is not wasted.

    When it comes to using something and putting it back, I have to say the hubby has to taught me this one. It really does save time and then next time you need to use it you know right where it is, so your not wasting time trying to find it.

    Now I’ll post this comment and start working on that clutter. Maybe I’ll start with my desk first. Thanks for the reminder Jonathan and soon I’ll see my desk again.

    • Jonathan December 12, 2010 Reply

      Hi Debbie, maybe you could do my desk when you get yours all straightened up!

  9. Debbie December 13, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan I am giving that some thought! One question; hope you will be able to find things when I get done. lol

  10. jonathanfigaro December 13, 2010 Reply

    I think if we just use our time wisely, by keeping busy from sun up to sun down. If we lose ourselves in our dreams and work. Then we will always be in the moment, where most find there lives surrounded by bordeum. Yet again, Dreams. Hard work. etc. Is personal development cliche’s. We”ll see who gets there in the end.

    • Jonathan December 25, 2010 Reply

      Hey Jonathan, I am always amazed when somebody says they are bored. I am always so engaged that I never feel that way.

  11. Andrzej December 14, 2010 Reply

    My fav way of getting more is to ask myself “Will I get back to it?” and after that another one”O reallly?”. This question usualy makes me throw it out or even resigning at the start.

    It’s incredible how much time can be gained by that :D

    • Jonathan December 25, 2010 Reply

      Hi Andrej, that’s a good way to avoid taking on tasks that don’t really matter.

  12. arina nikitina December 14, 2010 Reply

    I had a swell time reading this, finding myself nodding in agreement at all points discussed. Then I got to the question at the end. Uh-oh! LOL! After a very long time, I still have difficulty throwing out any book from my collection of hundreds. Every now and then, I do de-clutter and hear my heart breaking as I say goodbye to a dozen or so books. I know, I know. I need to give over half of them away, and keep just about thirty really important ones. But I already hear the broken pieces of my heart just thinking that! Well, I’ve really got to work on this one. Maybe the next best thing would be to find a local library or a school in Southeast Asia or Africa where they’d take my choice of books. Doing good, I think, would keep my heart from breaking. Oh, well.

    • Jonathan December 25, 2010 Reply

      Hi Arina, sharing those books certainly seems better than tossing them. If you really feel that attached though, maybe you should keep them. Especially if you plan to read them again. There is no downside to a personal library!

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