Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed with work or even life? Feeling like you're working all day, but aren’t actually accomplishing anything?
Perhaps it’s time to take a close look at your time management skills and strategies. Going rapidly from task to task can make you feel like you’re staying busy but what are you really accomplishing by doing that? Just because you’re working every hour of every day doesn’t necessarily equate to success in the long term.
“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.” – Henry Ford
Or maybe you feel like you’re spending too much time on unnecessary activities. That can be very frustrating indeed. Shuffling numbers from column A to column B, and to what purpose? Just to move them to column C later. It can leave you with a feeling of unbearable stagnation that, if left unchecked, can develop into despair. But, this can be an opportunity. If you’re feeling frustrated or stagnant, this might be the perfect moment to look at some time management tips to help improve your overall quality of life and productivity.
Awareness can be the easiest and most crucial way to improve your time management skills. Try tracking your day. Write it down, or use your phone to take notes about what you do, and when you do it. Keep track of how much time you spend on each task, if you take breaks, who you spend your day with, etc.
Think of it like someone who’s dieting who tracks what they eat. They may not feel they have that bad of a diet, so the doctor asks them to write down their meals for a week. Turns out, they had McDonalds one night, and that salad they got at Panera turned out to have more calories than their meal at McDonalds. Add on a treat once or twice a week, and it turns out they’re not eating all that great. The same holds true for where your time goes. Keeping close track of it will help you understand how your spending it, and if the bulk of it is going where you want.
Now that you know where your time is going, it’s time to start making choices. Did you need to spend an hour on the phone with that client from Albuquerque who didn’t end up buying anything anyway? How would you rather be spending your time?
Ask yourself - Why do you do the things that you do? Can something be done more efficiently? Just because you’ve been doing it that way for years, doesn’t mean it’s still the best way to get the job done. Efficiency can be found in even the simplest tasks. Let’s say you’re getting a bowl of cereal. The pantry is right next to the fridge, but the bowls are on the other side of the kitchen. Instead of making three trips to the table, why not grab your bowl, then the cereal and milk on your way back. That easily, you’ve just saved yourself a little bit of time. Imagine if you applied this logic to your whole day, how much more effectively you could work. Time isn’t about packing as many tasks as possible into your day. It’s about simplifying how you work, how long you work, how quickly you work and ultimately making your work less stressful.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” – Ben Franklin
Planning is a fundamental rule of time management. Every day you should identify the two or three tasks that are the most essential to complete, and start them first. When you plan and prioritize, you have control and focus, eliminating outside distractions from affecting your productivity.
Once you have your plan set, give yourself permission to focus on it. This can be particularly difficult, with so many demands on our time. Phone calls, text messages, crisis, kids, colleagues, hunger, emotions and a whole host of other distractions can invade our precious time, making it difficult to be productive. But, by giving yourself permission to ignore everything but the task at hand, you can be extremely productive, and maybe even finish before you’d planned.
Setting deadlines for your tasks can also help you complete them more effectively. Telling yourself, “I’m going to spend two hours on this task, and in that time it needs to be completed,” can be very motivating. Facebook becomes a stressor instead of a relaxing way to spend time, when you’re limited to how much time you can spend on a task.
If you are busy juggling many jobs at once, maybe you should think about saying no when someone asks you for just one more favor. Could you do it? Probably. But, is it worth the stress, late nights, and anxiety? Probably not. Learning to say no can be extremely helpful when managing your time. Knowing exactly what you have time for, and when to say no are two key points to effective time management.
Meetings can easily get off track with so many people and personalities involved. Create an agenda to keep the meeting from getting off task. This is just like creating an agenda for your day, list what you want to discuss, and what you hope to accomplish with the meeting and stick to it for maximum productivity.
For a little extra credit in your quest to manage your time more effectively, try some apps.
So, now that you have the techniques you need, go out there and maximize your day!
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”- H. Jackson Brown Jr.