Want to become more productive? Work in slots

Human physical and mental abilities have not changed much for thousand of years, yet you are required to be tens or hundreds of times more productive than your parents were. And the pace of the demands on our time are not likely to slow down in the future.

So we have invented the discipline of time management, knowing all too well that it is not time that needs managing, but rather our attention. We need to adapt the way we work to squeeze out more output out of each unit of time and build a moat to stem the tide of (digital) distractions.

The single most effective change that has worked for me is also one of the easiest to implement. I have divided up my time in slots. There are vertical slots (i.e. days of the week or of the month) and horizontal slots (i.e. hours in a day).

Vertical slots are allocated to work projects, domains or themes. For example Mondays are for Project A, Tuesdays are for Accounting, Wednesdays are for Sales and Marketing, Thursdays and Fridays are for Project B, etc.

Horizontal slots are for individual tasks, routine or one-off. For example 7-9 am writing and editing, 9 to 11 am phone calls and email, 11 to 1 pm meetings, 1 to 3 pm project management, etc.

The resulting matrix helps me allocate activity more effectively, procrastinate less and, crucially, stay focused and away from distractions. Try it!