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How to work effectively: the time management rules by Dan Arieli

What prevents you from achieving your goals? Rapid pace of life, wrong priorities or lack of time? Not to get lost in a pile of work cases and cope with the set tasks, it's necessary to properly and clearly organize the everyday activity, highlighting it's the key points. These skills distinguish an ordinary office employee from a successful businessman. This is where the main question arises: "How to learn to work effectively?" The answer for you will be shown only if you will learn all the secrets of the rational use of time and implement them in your professional and everyday life.


1. Dan Arieli

2. The world is working against you

3. Control your environment or it will control you

4. Note all the tasks

5. Peak productivity – inviolable time

6. The Four Horsemen of the Performance Apocalypse

7. No, you don't need a break to check your mail

8. Summing up

Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely, an Israeli-American economist and professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University in the United States. He has successfully studied the professional productivity. Using simple experiments, he obtained stunning results regarding the rationality of people, or rather, their predictable irrationality, which he successfully described in his books. Arieli is on the list of the most popular authors according to the New York Times. Here are just three exciting books from the many that now make up the ratings of top literary publications dedicated to improving productivity, time organizing and other useful skills:

  • Be honest about dishonesty. Why we lie to everyone, and especially to ourselves.
  • Predictable irrationality. Hidden forces that determine our decisions.
  • The potential for irrationality: the unexpected benefits of neglecting logic.

The professor's recent research focused on the irrationality of time using. They played an important role in the creation of the smart calendar — the Timeful app. Such task managers, as well as our simple time tracker Checkiant, help to properly organize the workflow and highlight moments that work for productivity.

Arieli shared with us the results of the research and told us how to be rational, optimize time and do more.

The world is working against you

The amazing thing is that a person works effectively as long as he is alone himself with his own thoughts. When he leaves this "secluded place" and goes out into the the outside world, his attention, concentration, time and, of course, money are trying to take away. Who? – All around. Advertising on billboards and shop windows, social networks, messages that constantly come to your smartphone with profitable promotions and offers.

The external environment has its own interests and there are quite a lot of them. We have to interact with them. These are links on the Internet, which the hand reaches out to click to go, and advertising video, and e-mail or messages, which come from everywhere. If you are distracted by every call, you can reduce your productivity to almost zero.

In one of Dan Ariely's books, this is stated as follows: "The world doesn't affect people favorably. Not anymore. Now, just walking down the street, shops on every corner will try to take your money, and mobile apps will vie with each other to demand attention from you. And they all want you to be wrong in their favor. That's why life in the modern world has become so complicated."

To listen to each such attraction from the outside means one thing – to gradually lose yourself. In fact, if you listened to all the ads, you would have long suffered from diabetes, obesity, and would definitely have gone broke.

To stand up to the stealers of our time and work more effectively, you need to have three important components: a goal, a plan, and a system.

Control your environment or it will control you

It's difficult to influence the environment, but it's quite real. Why some teams are not successful, while others are effectively working teams that create grandiose projects without time delays. Successful people are able to save themselves from distraction, understanding the importance of creating a favorable, comfortable working environment without distractions.

Dan Ariely says that eliminating distraction and keeping a daily to-do listwith all the important tasks is the key to creating the most favorable working atmosphere.

The professor gives an example of how an environment affects people: "Choosing food at the buffet, the person will be influenced by the environment. In one cafe equipped in some particular style, he will choose completely different dishes that he will take in another cafe equipped in a different way."

The person thinks that he makes the decision himself, but in fact the external environment does it for him.

Take, for example, the web-developing team. What unites them in achieving their success? This is not only the effort, time spent for work and not the amount of earnings. These are comfortable conditions that their managers have created for them without distractions.

If you want to work effectively, you need to eliminate everything that makes you absent-minded. Everything superfluous complicates the workflow, and distraction makes a person stupid.

A striking example is the decision of the Google managers at to transfer M&M's chocolate dragees from open cans to containers with lids. It would seem that it's very easy to open banks, but employees began to pay less attention to sweets, and their consumption decreased in 1 month by 3 million pieces. And all just because the terms of their placement have changed.

Note all the tasks

Our brains are really capable of storing incredibly huge amounts of information. But there is also such a factor as concentration and attentiveness. So you shouldn't rely solely on the abilities of your brain. Think about what can more stimulate to work more effectively than constantly reminding yourself that you have an unfinished tasks, the solution of which will lead to the desired result. Oddly enough, but this is an ordinary notebook. Therefore, you have some thought – write it down.

The research from the Timeful app helped Professor Arieli to draw several important conclusions:

Most people do not write down their tasks and thoughts, trying to keep everything in their head.
If a person has written tasks down, he will do it 90% of the time.
If you have really important goals, note them in your diary, in your mobile phone app, or on colorful stickers — any methods are good for this.

Research by Stanford Professor Jennifer Aaker proves that keeping diaries makes people happier. And the thing is that the noted tasks are almost always carried out, which increases a person's self-respect, gives more confidence in our abilities, makes us proud that we have has executed all the items in our to-do list.

So, if you still don't know how to learn how to work more effectively, start keeping diary in electronic or written form.

Peak productivity – inviolable time

Each time period of the day is different from one another. They are not the same and affect a person's productivity in different ways. If you think that an effective manager is a workhorse whose every minute of the day is devoted to productive work, then this is not the case. Rather, he knows how to determine the peak of his productivity and give your best during this time to the maximum. To get a great result in a particular job, you don't have to spend all day on it. Just 2 – 2.5 hours will be enough.

That's what Dan Ariely found out with his Timeful app. He concluded that the peak of human productivity occurs in the morning and begins 1-2 hours after waking up, and lasts only 2-2.5 hours. In some cases, the peak of productive time can be extended to 4 hours.

Professor Arieli says: "Everyone is most productive in the first few hours of the morning. And this time begins not immediately after the rise, but after an hour or two. For example, if you wake up at 7 am, your peak time will be at 8:00 – 10:30 hours."

During this time period it's necessary to deal with the most important and complicated tasks. They should include important projects and cases that will move the business forward.

Dan also found that most people spend productive hours on completely different tasks. They check their emails, sit on social media, watch morning shows on television.

The brain of homo sapiens is in full working swing in the morning, so the most effective person works during the first 4 hours after waking up. Throughout the day, the ability of memory, concentration, logical and creative thinking can range from 15 to 30%. If you want to get to the top of this value, then devote your morning time to important work. Make this time period inviolable, so that no one can disturb you and distract you from work.

The Four Horsemen of the Performance Apocalypse

Dan Ariely's research helps us understand how to work faster and more efficiently, eliminating the main time eaters:

  1. meetings and briefings. They are an integral part of the professional life span. And yet, if the meetings force you to change your plans, to set aside work halfway through its implementation, then you can also abandon them. To ensure that your refusal is well-reasoned, it's worth keeping records and a schedule of working days. Plan your activities in advance and then, if you are called to a meeting or meeting, you can say that you have other, more important things planned for this time;
  2. Email. Reading emails takes a very long time. At the same time, there can be a minimum number of useful messages from all received ones. Postpone email analysis until the end of the working day, not to reduce your productivity while solving really important tasks;
  3. multitasking. It distracts your attention. Doing several things at the same time, it's difficult to concentrate and work efficiency. Therefore, always choose one priority task and devote yourself to it;
  4. "structured procrastination". Solving small tasks that don't affect the implementation of the main project in any way is not a success. They only give you a slight feeling of some activity, but in fact they won't lead to any significant result.

In order not to be distracted by various secondary factors, you need an effective motivation system and an understanding of why you are doing what you are doing.

No, you don't need a break to check your mail

If you think that the distraction from workflow to check mail encourages you to work more efficiently, then you are mistaken. The opinion that such breaks help to relax and have some rest, since after it you have to spend some more time and make an effort to re-concentrate on the task at hand. If you take many breaks, the work will be unproductive.

Switching to another activity is time-consuming. Trying to join the work flow again also takes some amount of time.

Dan Ariely says that most people believe that the distraction for the mail will cheer them up. But this is not the case. If you feel that your strength is running out, it's better just to relax by closing your eyes. You can meditate, think about something pleasant, or just pull away from any thoughts.

To start working effectively, you need to finish with small tasks and move on to something really important.

Summing up

If you listen to the advice of Professor Arieli, you can work remotely effectively or in the office, as well as manage a large team and be a good leader. So, summing up everything that has been said, we will draw conclusions in short theses:

  • the world doesn't help you achieve your goals. To be passive means to lose;

  • don't let your environment control you. Create a cozy workspace for yourself;
  • make notes and write down everything you need to perform;
  • find your time peak for the most productive work and do not miss it. Protect this time from outside influences;
  • eliminate the four main time stealers from your professional life: meetings, email (messengers), structured procrastination, and multitasking;
  • you can easily get through the day without checking your email. Don't reduce your productivity by distracting yourself to secondary, unimportant things.

As you can see, working as efficiently as possible is not difficult at all, if you pay attention to details, know your time peak of productivity, avoid distractions and don't succumb to the distractions of the modern world.

See also:

Time traps and how to fight them

How can a work team use the time-tracker Checkiant? 6 simple examples

Mind Map: Easy planning and structuring

How to easily and effectively organize your workflow at home

Top 12 programs for remote work