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Effective time management

Time management is all about making the most effective use of your time and working smarter, not harder. It requires planning, and then sticking to the plan – this will take discipline.

Here are some tips to help you maximise your time!

1. Set clear goals

It’s important that you know what your short-term and long-term goals are – this will enable you to separate between what’s important and what’s not. It’s only when you know where you want to go and what you want to achieve that you can figure out exactly what needs to be done, and in what order. Once you are clear about your goals, you can plan and prepare a sequence of action steps to achieve them.

2. Make a to-do list

To-do lists are your best friend. They can increase your productivity, help to 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 – or, 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 – chunk them down into do-able, manageable units that don’t feel too big or daunting, then focus on one at a time. As you complete your tasks, cross them off – it’s a very satisfying feeling!

3. Prioritise

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 will mean you have to prioritise the tasks on your list and figure out what is actually most important, as well as 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.

4. Make a schedule

Using your to-do list and prioritisation as a base, make a schedule for the day and for the week, 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 have to waste time and energy thinking about what you have to do next – just follow your schedule.

5. Stop procrastinating and just do it

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, fear of failure (or success), or have you just developed a very bad habit? The only way to break a habit is to consistently act in other ways – so stop putting things off and just do it.

6. Manage your emails, texts and phone calls

Emails, texts and phone calls constitute the single biggest obstacle to effective time management. Try to avoid continuous email and text notification and let your phone go to voice mail – these things can suck up untold minutes and hours, and make you repeatedly lose focus.

You need to give yourself solid chunks of time to concentrate on your work. Read and respond to emails and texts in blocks only a few times a day so you’re not constantly chopping and changing what you’re doing. You may have to train your family and friends, so they won’t expect immediate responses, but will know that you will respond at specified times.

7. Keep a time log

It’s useful to track your daily activities and how much time each takes. This will give you a realistic view of how you spend your time, as well as what interruptions there are, and you might be surprised by how much time certain tasks actually take or how much time is wasted in ways you don’t even realise.

8. Take regular breaks

Breaks will keep your mind fresh and you will be able to return to your work with better focus. If you work straight through, you will put in more hours but work less productively. Try to stick to allotted break times.

9. Delegate

You probably don’t have time to do everything yourself, so if you can, delegate less important tasks, or tasks that would be better performed by someone else.

10. Learn how to say no

This is extremely important; your time and resources are limited, so you can’t say yes to everything and agree to every request. You have to stick to what’s important and know when to just say, ‘No’.

Learning how to squeeze more into your day & knowing how to make the most of your time is essential to your career & work/life balance!