The amount of information available on time management is overwhelming. Google delivers over 373 Million sites when you search “Time Management Tips”. Amazon has over 144,000 books on the subject. I know when I started researching different time management methods to share with my clients, I found the advice, recommendations and tips endless. So many of us struggle with our time and our ability to “get it all done”, the subject of time management has become it’s own industry.
Why do we struggle with managing our time? We all have the same amount of time. We cannot gain time or make additional time, but we can manage the time we have effectively to meet our professional and personal goals. Our society has been taught that being busy is equivalent to being successful or important. It has become part of our culture to multi-task. We are all so busy and caught up in being busy, that we forgot what we were busy about. Steven Covey said, “The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.” Managing ourselves means we have to know and be accountable for how we are spending our time.
These 10 Time Management Tips are the most popular and effective ones I have used with all my clients. Depending on your work and style, some will work better for you than others.
- Write down everything – If it needs to be done, write it down in one place you will refer back to. Avoid sticky note chaos by using one calendar and one to do list with everything on it. Take it with you. I prefer to keep my calendar and to-do list electronically. However, paper works just as well as long as it stays close to you. When you start to think, “I need to call, email, go, buy, look up, etc…” – write it down on your to-do list, grocery list or calendar.
- Manage your personal time on social media and games – Set a timer on your phone to limit your time on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. I know I can kill a bunch of time on these sites unintentionally. It starts off with just a quick look on Facebook and then you look up and you have been lost in the internet for like an hour or more. Use the bookmarks and reading list apps in your browser to save interesting articles to read later when you have more time.
- Plan ahead – We all have heard this one before. Make time to review tomorrow’s schedule and to do items at the end of the day today. Plan next week on Friday. Make a conscious effort to look at your calendar and plan ahead. Visualize yourself moving through the day or week, and move appointments, errands and tasks to make your schedule reflect what is most important to you.
- Prioritize – Actively schedule time for the most important tasks in your day. If the most important thing to you is to have dinner or time with your family, schedule it.
- Schedule buffer time – Sometimes a reoccurring task will take longer than you expect. Sometimes things happen beyond your control. So, you need to plan for those interruptions, traffic jams, and last minute crises to be bumps in the schedule. in other words, try not to schedule running from one thing to the next. Give yourself a little buffer time between meetings and tasks.
- Turn off notifications & leave on reminders – The pesky reminders from social media, instant messenger and other apps take time and focus away from what you are currently doing. The instant you look at the pop-up notification, you have lost much more time than you realize, because it takes more time for your brain to focus on your current task. On the other hand, the reminders regarding meetings and action items can be a helpful tool to help you meet deadlines and be on-time.
- Do the worst task first – Completing your least favorite task of the day sets the tone for a much more productive day. Once you finish the ugly task, everything else seems so much easier. Good-bye procrastination!
- Make time to organize – Stop wasting time searching through files on your computer or papers on your desk. The time you take today to tidy up your information will save you hours in the future. Make your desk more productive by putting the items you use the most often within reach of your chair. To read more about organizing your desk and computer read How to Clean Up your Email in 6 Easy Steps and Organizing at Work.
- Focus on what you are doing at the moment. Do not multi-task. Multi-tasking means you are giving 50% of your attention and brain power to 2 things at once. You will finish both more quickly, and with better results by focusing on one task at a time. If you have a really difficult task or urgent item that needs all of your focus, turn off your phone and close email to devote all attention on the task at hand.
- Schedule “Me” time – put “Me time” on the schedule. Make time to relax and participate in the activities that bring you joy. This will recharge your batteries for what comes next.
When used correctly, these time management tips can change how you think about and use the time you have. If you start by adjusting the way you think about time and consciously working toward implementing 1-2 of them a week, you will notice a decrease in your stress level, and an increase in your productivity and effectiveness