Anyone who’s been in charge of any kind of responsibilities knows the importance of time management; we truly mean any kind of responsibility. Whether it’s at work, at school, in the kitchen or planning a vacation, ensuring you properly allot your time can be extremely challenging.
While it’s true that everyone has 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, people have extremely varied ways of managing their time. Some prefer to get up early and bang out their work; others do their best work in the early hours of the morning. No matter what your preferred method of work is, mastering effective time management is key. Keep reading for tips and tricks for mastering time management.
Why is Time Management Important?
It may seem like a no-brainer, but effective time management can make all the difference in both the short and long-term. Here are the main benefits of time management:
Easier to achieve goals: have you ever looked at your workload and doubted you could get it all done? We’ve all been there and time management is key to achieving your goals.
Reduces stress: have you ever felt overwhelmed and stressed out over everything you have to do? Stress can be reduced or even eliminated with time management.
More energy: all of that energy wasted on stress will be yours once again; your free time is all yours.
Improved focus: your time dedicated to tasks will be just that; there’s no concern about other things to do or if you’ll finish on time.
Increased confidence: when you dedicate your full attention to your task, the final result will be much better and increase your confidence in the work you produce.
10 Steps to Effective Time Management
Review your time
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s impossible to improve if you don’t know where you have room for improvement. Take a look at your tasks or responsibilities over the past month or two months and try to highlight exactly where you missed deadlines or had to pull an all-nighter. Are there patterns? Are you always rushing to meet due dates towards the end of the week?
Pro tip: highlight these problem areas to focus on them later on
Now that you understand where problems arose in the past, take a look at your current workload. Are there certain dates that have a lot of work due? Or a family event that you know will take up lots of your time? Make sure to write these important dates down so you can pay special attention to them later on.
Pro tip: Make a note of these high-traffic dates to plan ahead.
Alright, you have your previous issues and your upcoming tasks highlighted. Now it’s time to choose where to place your attention and decide which tasks are most important. Although it might be ideal to accomplish a long list of tasks in record time, the truth is that isn’t quite realistic.
Pro tip: choose the most important tasks with the strictest deadlines to take on first.
With your priority list clearly defined, it’s time to start making your schedule! Take a look at those priority tasks and make sure you allot the time needed to complete them. Once those are clearly scheduled, start planning the less crucial tasks to fit around the ones you must absolutely accomplish.
Pro tip: try to estimate the time you’ll need to complete each task. This will help you accurately determine the number of tasks you can finish.
5. Combat procrastination
It’s an annoying reality that we’ll have to do tasks that we don’t want to do. But leaving those unwanted tasks for the end of your day will just make the day drag on and actually slow your process. Do those heavy, tough tasks first and you’ll find that your productivity will actually increase throughout the day.
Pro tip: if you’re really having trouble getting that task done, try motivating yourself with a reward: a quick stop at your favorite coffee shop or an extra 10 minutes on your lunch break.
6. Be realistic
As much as we’d like to think we’re capable of achieving anything we put our minds to, the sad truth is that we all have limitations. And part of managing time effectively is setting realistic and achievable goals; if you put too much on your plate, you’ll find it negatively affects both your mental state and the quality of your work.
Pro tip: err on the side of caution and conservatively estimate how long you need per task. Once you establish the actual time needed later on, you’ll be able to add more tasks comfortably.
7. Minimize distractions
Everyone’s ideal work environment is different and you have to find the one that works for you. Do you need complete silence and to be alone to get a task done? If you work at home, are you distracted by household chores or roommates? Figure out what you need to be productive and create that space.
Pro tip: every day is different and you might just need a change of scenery every once in a while. If you have an office, co-working space, local cafe or library nearby, try heading there with the specific goal of completing one task.
8. Build in breaks
No one is capable of working 8 hours a day straight, no matter what you might read! And studies show that those who take breaks are more productive and produce better results. We don’t just mean your lunch break, by the way. Take a break to walk the dog, get fresh air or grab a coffee. It will help you feel more refreshed to take on the next task.
Pro tip: try scheduling your breaks directly into your calendar. This will help both you remember to take them and avoid co-workers scheduling meetings during your breaks.
9. Say no
It seems easy but it might be the hardest point on this list. The idea of outlining your priority tasks is to ensure you get done what you need to get done. If people are continuously adding tasks to your plate without taking into account your existing tasks, you need to set boundaries.
Pro tip: if coworkers are adding too much to your plate, talk to your boss about limits or set up a request system that can help you manage a realistic amount of work.
Even if you take the aforementioned 9 points into account, there will still be times when your workload seems too heavy to handle. This is the ideal time to try to see if any coworkers can take on your tasks or delay due dates. Remember, being realistic with your workload and availability can make all the difference.
This may seem like a lot, but once you start putting these tips into practice, you’ll see both your mood and workload improve significantly. Take it day by day and soon you’ll be a time management expert!