Author: Stephanie O’Brien


There is no such thing as time management.


We are consistently overestimating the amount of time it will take to complete a task, or we are placing self-limiting beliefs along our path – which act as barriers. There is only human management, or as I personally call it, “Steff Management”.

I was speaking with a new client yesterday and asked, “Do you have your calendar open?” He admittedly did not, and then complained that he was perpetually late. He confessed that the previous day he had a meeting at 3:40 PM and left his house at 3:35 PM despite knowing it was a 10 minute drive. He’s addicted to the adrenaline rush of being late, that feeling of panic, of never ending to do lists, and he has trained himself to love that rushed feeling.

If we are trying to decide which activities are important (and most often, which are driving the most revenue for the company) – only once we know exactly how we are spending our time, and in what achiever-state we are acting, will we be able to implement my six productivity hacks.

Achiever State
First thing’s first, let’s discuss the difference between a high-achiever and a super-achiever. A high-achiever is a person who is hardworking in many areas, and is often successful. Whereas a super-achiever has the ability to immerse themselves in the task at hand and stay completely focused until it is completed at an extremely high standard.

Which achiever-state do I spend the majority of my day in?

All humans have an opportunity to be cognizant of the time we do have, and an awareness of how we are spending it; best practice for this is to complete a time study. Every 15 minutes or less, make sure your time is being tracked for the right task. Stay on task and complete that task.


#1 Try This

If you’re new to human management, Productivity Hack #1 is a recommendation: Try using My Hours or Harvest to track your time. You will very quickly discover that your desire to jump from task to task is a real pain in the *^$ because you have to keep switching your timer. It’s also a major drag on your productivity.


#2 Start of Day RICHual

That’s not a spelling mistake. A RICHual is how you start your day and finish your day. I’m a fan of the effic planner and as such, each day I follow the same RICHual to get my day started on the right foot. If you live a ‘rich’ life filled with health, happiness, security and stability, you are living a truly rich life. It’s more than just wealth, richness is about the depth and breadth of your existence. You need to develop rituals to help keep yourself on track.

My start of the day RICHual includes: hydration, completing a gratitude journal, saying I AM statement’s out loud and looking after my nutrition.

Email me for a link to purchase an Effic Planner.

How do I start my day? Are there elements I would like to include/remove?

We lead busy lives both at work and at home. It often seems as though there isn’t enough time in the day to do the things we really want, like complete important projects or do things that make us really happy. We’re so busy with seemingly endless lists of to-dos.

Throughout my many years as an entrepreneur, I’ve sought out the best strategies to help me be as productive as possible and to achieve my goals. Unfortunately, these strategies and methods didn’t work. I never got to the end of my long to-do lists, and although I’m a disciplined person, my tasks were piling up and my projects were not progressing. I had to face the facts: I was simply incapable of organizing my time in a way that allowed me to juggle my projects, daily tasks and family life. The load of work and stress eventually lead me to burnout.

Since then, I have discovered methods that do work, and one of which is planning my year in 90 day snapshots with objectives and key results. How do I do this? By ensuring each day the work I do is laddering up to those objectives and key results. So, as I track my goals and tasks, I start with the most time-consuming or difficult task. If I don’t get it done first thing, it’s easy to put that task off until it eventually gets pushed to the next day. Pro Tip: the thing you don’t want to do is exactly what needs to get done first!


#3 Default Calendar: Block your calendar for important tasks

Block your calendar and batch tasks. Batching is grouping similar tasks together. Instead of bouncing between your various tasks, try to do them all at once. Spend a day working on business development, lead generation or recording videos. Block out an afternoon to write or respond to emails. Have a set time every day to work on social media. When you batch tasks, you can stay in the right frame of mind and churn out more quality work at once, instead of bouncing around between various tasks.

Your default calendar should also have blocks in your calendar for meetings. Having meetings scattered throughout your week can really upset the flow of your work and limit your productivity. Just when you get into the groove of a task, you have to stop for a meeting, and then spend time later getting back to that groove.

Which days do I feel the most creative? Which days do I need more space to get things done / less meetings?

I started with just one meeting-less day a week and slowly moved to three. Now I look forward to my non-meeting days because I have the freedom to focus on what I want without distractions.


#4 Limit time spent on email

Whose priority is in your inbox? Is it yours? … Are you sure?

Check email only once or twice a day. It’s easy to get sucked into email and check it every few minutes, but spending too much time in email can drain your productivity. Automate tasks that can be automated, unsubscribe to newsletters you don’t read and filter out that junk mail weekly. When you do check your email (once or twice a day) scan for important or urgent emails and tackle those first.

Am I checking my email throughout the day? What two times a day could I plan to check my email, moving forward?

I use an auto-responder to tell every person who sends me an email that I only check email once a day and that they can text me if there’s an emergency. This way, when I’m not stuck in my email, I have more time for important tasks.

Pro Tip: Do. Not. Check. Email. First thing. In. The. Morning!
Instead, save that time for creative tasks or things that you know need your attention first.


#5 Limit Distractions

Important versus urgent. What feels urgent is not always important. Remove phone notifications. And while you’re at it remove email notifications from other apps (like Facebook). Too many people have notifications on their phones for their email, social media, and other apps. No matter what you’re doing throughout the day, you’re constantly disrupted by the chime or buzz from every notification. You can reply to these notifications when you have a time set for such things. Remove extra phone notifications so that you only get an alert when you receive a call or text. I set this up once while on vacation and have never gone back.

What notifications can I turn off on my devices? If I need time, am I comfortable setting my devices to Do Not Disturb for a set amount of time?

Set Boundaries and Focus on what’s important to you.

Learn to say no. Setting boundaries is crucial to being productive. No one can say yes to all of the meeting and phone call requests they get and still expect to get their own work done. When you say no to other people, you’re really saying yes to yourself and what you want to focus on.


#6 End of Day RICHual

Personally, I adopted the The Morning Effect as my end of day RICHual.

I started developing my own shutdown rituals a few years ago to combat the work and mental overload I was experiencing. I found that if I didn’t have a structured end to my day, I’d ruminate about work in the evening, check email again, or work late to get more done.

How do I end my day? Am I able to create separation from work and home? Am I bringing my work home with me, unable to relax?

With shutdown rituals that signal the end of my day, I can report that a mind free from thinking about work in the evening reduces stress and increases productivity. Truthfully, I work harder to get more done in less time.

Create your own shutdown RICHual

You should customize your own shutdown ritual to suit your work life, role, and personal work habits, but there are some basics I recommend to include:

  • Review what tasks you completed today. Look at what you crossed off your to-do list for the day and see what, if anything, ended up getting delayed.
  • Create a plan for tomorrow. This is my number one recommendation for any shutdown ritual. If your next day is planned out, there’s no need to ruminate to ensure you don’t forget what you need to do.
  • Review what’s coming up in the next few days. As part of your process for planning tomorrow, get a handle on what else is coming up soon:
    – Review your short term to do lists
    – Review your calendar for the week
  • Ask yourself a few questions to reflect on your day. Your questions will depend on what you want to focus on, your job, and what questions you feel will best help you. You may ask what went well, what you could have delegated, or what you could have eliminated.
  • Organize for a fresh start tomorrow. Close all open windows on your computer or shut it down so that when you start your day tomorrow you aren’t distracted by your previous day’s work. Prepare your workstation so you have what you need in front of you in the morning and can immediately start executing on your daily plan.


If you are currently struggling with human management or want help in being more productive, book a 20-minute diagnostic session. We will evaluate your habits together, and help you create a plan.

Or if you’re looking to make your team more productive, book an accountability and self-management workshop.


I Want to Discuss These With a COACH