“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, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.
The sad truth of modern life is that everyone is busy all the time. People often talk in a hurry, are always in a rush to reach somewhere, over-speed on roads, look for short-cuts, forget important tasks, and frequently run late. This chronic shortage of time can lead to stress and anxiety.
Each day has 24 hours and learning to use these hours wisely can significantly enable your personal and professional success. If you can relate to this post so far, chances are that you spend most of your day in a frenzy of running numerous tasks/chores, but are unable to manage them effectively.
Here are 7 tips that will hone your time management skills and help you take control of your life.
1. Know Your Priorities
Take time to think about the tasks that are most crucial to your success. When determining your priorities, consider Pareto’s 80/20 rule, which applies to time management as well.
This principle states that only 20% of your tasks produce 80% of the results. Therefore, prioritize the top 20% of your tasks that contribute a higher value in comparison to the remaining 80% of trivial tasks.
High-priority tasks are the most complex, but the satisfaction of accomplishing them is extremely high. These tasks should appear first on your to-do list and you must allocate definite time to them.
Before you begin your day, ask yourself, “Does this task belong in the top 20% of my task list?” Once you have made a list of your key goals, spend the majority of your time on these priorities and make sure you stick to this schedule.
2. Clear Clutter
Are you spending too much time in your workday looking for specific files and stationery on your desk? Do you frequently forget where you saved your presentations and other important documents?
You’re not alone.
According to an article published in the US News and World Report, an average American spends one year of his/her life looking for lost/misplaced items. If your desk is inundated with papers, information, and emails, take control of the situation by clearing all the clutter.
Organize your computer, cabinet, and desk so that you don’t waste time looking for small things of daily importance. You can use this saved time to complete productive tasks on your to-do list.
3. Learn to Say No
Saying no can seem like a challenge if you want to project yourself as a responsible person at work or home. However, realize that saying no is about making a smart choice to focus on your current priorities.
Taking on too many responsibilities at a time can adversely affect your efficiency. You must know when to decline a request so that you can invest more of your time and energy in high-priority activities.
If you find it hard to say no, you can add an “instead” to your response. For example, if your colleague invites you to lunch to discuss a project, you must first evaluate whether or not it’s a high-return activity.
You can do this by asking your colleague several questions about the project. If you feel that the discussion can wait, you can politely decline and/or offer to discuss it at a mutually convenient time.
By using the “No, not now” or “Maybe we can plan this for later instead” response, you are not only prioritizing your work, but also offering an alternative that can work for you and your coworker.
4. Plan in Advance
If you’re trying to manage your time effectively, you do not want to start your day at work/home without a clear idea of what is to be done.
Therefore, plan not just for the day, but also the week ahead. This will help you prepare for meetings in advance and you will stay ahead of your deadlines. Of course, be flexible in case of emergencies/urgencies and prioritize them accordingly.
Scheduling your tasks in advance and adhering to your plan will keep you from working overtime and help you feel more relaxed at work/home.
Depending on your level of comfort, plan for the coming week, either before the weekend begins or on every Monday morning. Set aside 15 minutes to look at your schedule and line up the most pressing tasks that need your attention.
5. Get Rid of Distractions
The Institute for Future and Gallup states that a typical US worker is interrupted in the communications by technology every ten minutes. Social media posts, chats, and emails are great ways of connecting with the world; however, spending too much time on them can seriously affect your overall productivity.
Block distractions like social media notifications, news updates, emails, text messages, and phone calls when working on crucial projects. You can do this by deleting them from your browser’s bookmarks list and putting your mobile phone on silent mode, also there are some other applications that can help you switch to “Do Not Disturb” mode.
Once you sign up with these applications, you only need to mention the sites that need to be blocked for certain time period or the time you need for completing priority tasks. Start using such apps and you will be surprised at the amount of time saved by eliminating distractions.
6. Avoid Multitasking
Time and energy are precious resources, which must be spent on accomplishing the most crucial tasks. This means you must delegate certain responsibilities and/or outsource tasks.
Performing every task by yourself can prove detrimental to your career and can be a huge time-waster as well. On the other hand, assigning certain jobs to others will help you focus on your core responsibilities and will make you more efficient.
Use time management applications that can help you keep track of your tasks. Numerous tools are available online that can organize your to-do list, remind you of deadlines, give you a bird’s-eye view of your projects, and review how you have utilized your time.
Applications like RescueTime, Remember The Milk, Evernote, and Toggl can help you manage your time in an effective manner. A simple software like Outlook too can help you schedule meetings, and remind you of events and deadlines in advance.
7. Consolidate Routine Tasks and Allocate Time to Them
Routine tasks like browsing through and replying to emails, submitting online reports, and making calls can take a lot of your time. If these trivial tasks keep coming in the way of your priorities, work is bound to suffer.
For instance, when you reply to an email, then research for your presentation and reply to another email, your mind is switching gears repeatedly.
Segregate routine tasks and allocate a definite part of the day for completing these kinds of tasks. Make and attend phone calls, respond to emails, complete your daily reporting formats and other routine tasks within this assigned time. When you do similar tasks at one time, you can improve your efficiency and time management ability.
Be it your professional or personal life, better time management can help you become more productive, and you will feel more relaxed and in control of the things around you.
The above tips will help you sharpen your time management skills so that you can use this precious resource optimally and achieve the desired results without running late or missing deadlines.