Efficient time management enables a person to complete more in a shorter period of time, it reduces the amount of stress, and it can lead to career success. This is done by planning and controlling how much time to spend on specific activities, which sounds easy enough… but you like many of us may struggle to implement a good time management strategy and STICK to it. Below are some ideas and tips to help you find a rhythm that works for you.
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” ― Mother Theresa
You are probably going to be in shock when you realise how and where your time actually goes. Apps like Timely and Toggl are awesome to audit how you spend your time.
If you work Monday – Friday, take an hour out on a Sunday to plan your upcoming week. Break your weekly goals into manageable daily tasks – with them scheduled already you need only to glance at your list while working to check what to do next. It is a great way to get into the work frame of mind on a Monday morning. Remember that your energy and creativity levels do fluctuate during the week. For instance schedule planning and networking on Fridays if possible and high concentration work for Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Each morning take your list and revise it for the day. Mark tasks as URGENT or IMPORTANT and tackle those first.
Prioritise and match tasks to blocks of available time – instead of trying to do difficult work in the ten minute gap between meetings, complete a minor task. This frees up larger blocks for projects that are more demanding.
Use a calendar or planner to schedule all your tasks into. Add all relevant information to the entry, such as time, location and attendees to save yourself time later trying to look up an old email with this information.
Having a clear purpose in mind stops procrastination and prevents time being wasted.
For all tasks that take longer than expected (due to procrastination or unscheduled breaks etc) set a time that the task must be completed in.
Your first hour of work is your most productive. Use this time for your most important and demanding tasks each day.
Don’t leave things to the last minute – if something urgent crops up you won’t be able to squeeze it in without losing out on sleep.
If you are prepared (either with a book or your phone), any time you are kept waiting can be an opportunity to either catch up on emails or correspondence, book appointments, relax, read or organise your week ahead.
Cell phones, social media, and co-workers are all distractions that can sap your time. You need to eliminate as many distractions as possible so that you can utilise your time efficiently.
Do it NOW! Sometimes you may not feel like doing something but you just have to acknowledge this lack of interest and start the task anyway – trusting that your motivation will follow.
Researchers have proven that by multitasking you are actually taking up more time and more likely to have slip-ups in your standard of work.
It isn’t possible to be perfect all the time – by trying to achieve perfection, nothing will ever be good enough AND you spend countless hours stressing yourself out trying to get to perfect when good enough will do.
Your brain can only focus for about 90 minutes at a time – schedule breaks to step away from your desk at this time to recenter yourself.
By exercising often you reduce your stress levels and increase your energy levels. Set time aside for short workouts every other day.
Good sleep is essential to your health and concentration. When you are tired you are more likely to procrastinate and get distracted.
You-time is THE most important time in your schedule. If you burn-out your schedule is null and void. By scheduling time to relax and focus on you, you can avoid a burn-out or getting sick down the line.
I say yes all the time without considering the impact on my schedule – a very dangerous thing to do. All of a sudden you may land up with a over-full schedule and lots of missed deadlines. By only agreeing to spend time on people and projects that align with your mission and goals you will free up time and feel better about how you are utilising your time. If someone asks you for something – check your schedule before giving them an answer.
Most important though is to enjoy every minute. We only get one life. The idea of time management is to make the most of our lives while we are able to enjoy them. It does take effort and a bit of time to set up a time management system, but the end result is worth it.
By Debbie Taylor