Time management makes it possible to work smarter, not harder. But it takes planning – and then discipline to stick to the plan.
Here are some tips to consider if you're looking to improve how you manage your time:
It’s important to know what your short-term and long-term goals are – this will help you separate what’s important from what’s not. Once you’re clear about your goals, you can plan and prepare a sequence of actionable steps to achieve them.
To-do lists can be your best friend. They can increase your productivity, help you clear your mind and save you energy and stress.
Try starting your day by spending five to ten minutes planning your activities for the day – better still, prepare your list the evening before. Write out your tasks either on paper or on your phone or computer. Break down large or complex tasks into smaller pieces and then focus on them one at a time. Crossing off the tasks as you complete them can be very satisfying.
There’s a good chance you won’t get everything on your to-do list done, but make sure you get the most important things done. This means you have to figure out what is the most important versus what is the most urgent (not necessarily the same thing). It’s helpful to number your tasks by assigning them a 1, 2, 3 status – giving the most important tasks a ‘1’, the next most important ones a ‘2’ and so on.
Using your to-do list as a base, make a schedule for the day and week ahead, including time for breaks and other possibilities. The schedule needs to be realistic, with time built in for interruptions and unscheduled events. The added time you build in will depend on the nature of your work.
Having a schedule means you won’t waste time and energy thinking about what you have to do next – just follow your schedule.
Everyone is guilty of procrastinating but, for some, it’s a chronic problem that is a major obstacle to success. It’s important to look at the causes of your procrastination – is it because you’re waiting for the ‘right’ time or mood, underestimating the time required or difficulty of the task, or do you have a fear of failure? The only way to break a habit is to act opposite to it, so stop putting things off and just do it.
Emails, texts and phone calls constitute the single biggest obstacle to effective time management. Try to avoid continuous email and text notifications and let your phone go to voicemail – doing so can save time and keep you focused on the task at hand.
Read and respond to emails and texts in blocks only a few times a day. You may have to train your family and friends not to expect an immediate response, but indicate that you will respond at specific times of the day.
It’s useful to track your daily activities and how much time each takes. This will give you a realistic understanding of how you spend your time. You may be surprised by how much time certain tasks take.
Breaks will keep your mind fresh and focused. If you decide to work straight through, you may be putting in more hours, but it’s likely you’ll work less productively and potentially putting your safety at risk.
You probably don’t have time to do everything yourself. If you can, delegate less important tasks or tasks that would be better performed by someone else.
Your time and resources are limited, so you can’t say yes to everything. You have to stick to what’s important and know when to just say ‘no’.
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