Solid time management skills help you make the most of every working minute. As Zig Ziglar said, “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” While focus, awareness, and prioritization will help you get ahead of the game, there’s more to the big picture. Here are ten proven strategies for boosting your time management skills.
Audit Your Time
It’s a good idea to make an honest appraisal of your time for an entire week. Take quick notes to determine where each day’s minutes and hours go, but don’t take action until the audit has come to an end. Be sure not to fudge – you’ll only be hurting yourself. Once your audit has come to an end, come up with a strategy for eliminating time-wasters. After you’ve built new habits, consider a follow-up audit. You’ll be amazed at how much time you’re able to reclaim.
Plan Ahead,and Do Easy Tasks First
Take a few moments to create a mental map of your workday before it begins, and then get started. If possible, begin each day with tasks that feel simple and enjoyable.While many people try tohandle tough responsibilities first, you are likely to find that your productivity increases if you start with easy jobs and progress to harder ones. This article by Michael Hyatt explains how this strategy will help you build momentum and manage time better.
Break Large Tasks into Bite-Size Chunks
If you think about completing a large project from beginning to end, stress is likely to take over and your project might suddenly feel insurmountable. Using software to break complicated processes into simple project management tasks creates a process Sapho calls “microflows” that feel ultra-simple to complete. You’ll meet your goals quickly and easily with this strategy, which is so effective that many Fortune 500 companies use it to their advantage.
The average worker is interrupted 56 times per day. Find ways to stop interruptions, and you’ll get more work done in less time. Here are a few strategies worth trying:
- Check email at specific times only. Turn off email notifications if you can.
- Turn off text messages and other phone notifications if you can. If possible, turn off your phone’s ringer while you are focusing. Check messages at specific times.
- Decide where you are most productive and work there, if possible. Try a coworking space, a quiet coffee shop, or a peaceful space in your home, if you can.
Automate and Delegate
Remember that Minutes Matter
Lord Chesterfield gave excellent advice when he said, “Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.” If you have a habit of wasting time on unimportant tasks, shopping online, or even surfing social media, those little bits add up to time wasted. The average person admits to wasting a full three hours per day, which amounts to 15 hours per week and 780 hours per year. That’s a full 32.5 days – more than an entire month of 24-hour days wasted. Notice where you’re frittering time away and come up with a strategy to keep working instead of wasting those precious minutes, and you’ll get ahead.
Most of us put things off, and when procrastination becomes a deeply ingrained habit, it can get in the way of success. Planning and goal-setting are two ways to reduce procrastination, particularly if you reward yourself in some way when you meet your goals. Even more important, try to determine why you’re procrastinating and work toward eliminating the cause. Procrastination is often linked to feelings of stress and anxiety. If you’re overwhelmed, look for ways to reduce the load. The odds are good that your time management skills will improve when you attack procrastination where it lives.
Schedule Time Off
If you’re overworked and feeling drained, you are not going to be productive. Everyone needs time off to recharge and rejuvenate, and knowing that you’ve got a free afternoon, a weekend off, or a mini vacation coming can keep you focused on work during your working hours. People who workrelentlesslymiss out on the benefits of time off and are likely to suffer from burnout.
Set Deadlinesif They Motivate You
Some people thrive on deadlines. Knowing that you have a limited amount of time to complete a certain task can push you to set time-wasters aside and get into a state of flow. Deadlines don’t have to be imposed by others; in fact, you can make a personal game of setting realistic deadlines and meeting them, then treating yourself to a reward when you win. It’s worth noting that this time management tip only works for people who do well with deadlines in place. If the whole time crunch concept stresses you out, skip self-set deadlines in favor of other strategies.
Is your workspace messy? Do you have lots of apps and popups bogging down your devices? However you work, cleaning up will help you streamline the process and make the most of the time you have available. Get rid of clutter. Implement a simple filing system for documents. Delete apps you don’t use. Unsubscribe from emails that clutter your inbox. Organize your mind while you’re at it. If, for example you have related tasks to handle during the day, batching them together can streamline your thought process.
Seneca said, “While we are postponing, life speeds by.” Time is one of the most valuable resources available. Starting now, use it to your advantage. A year from today, you’ll be in a completely different place mentally – and you’ll be glad that you made the effort to improve your time management skills.