February 3, 2020
6 time management tips that actually work
Time may be an unlimited resource, but when we run by a 24-hour clock, it can be all-too-easy to feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So, how can you make sure that you’re getting the most out of each and every minute? Thankfully, there are some super-handy time management techniques you can easily incorporate into your routine to ensure you smash your goals, while staying motivated throughout the day.
Take time to plan ahead
In order to successfully manage your time, you need to know where to start. Mapping out your work for the week will help you to efficiently evaluate what goals you want to achieve and determine exactly what tasks you need to complete in order to reach these goals. Once you’ve done this, take this one step further by planning out each day. Here, you will be able to easily slot your tasks for the week into the days that work best for you.
The good news is that planning out your day doesn’t have to take long; just take the last 15 minutes of your working day to set out what you want to achieve tomorrow. Setting this time aside will be invaluable to your productivity, as you will come into work the next morning with your mind focused on what you want to achieve that day – giving you that boost of motivation to get started straight away.
Time-box your tasks
Time-boxing is an effective time management technique where you allocate a set amount of time to a particular task, and then swiftly move onto something else once this time is over. For example, you could set yourself an hour at the beginning of your day to get started on a report you need to write. Then, once this hour is up, you can put this work to one side and get started on the next task on your list. This technique is designed to keep you focused by mentally putting a time limit on when you can work on the task.
Of course, if you catch yourself on a roll with a particular project, don’t let time-boxing cut your creativity short. However, this technique is particularly useful when trying to manage tasks that are renowned for eating up valuable minutes or hours of your day, such as catching up on emails.
When time-boxing your tasks, always allow yourself extra breathing space between tasks by not packing them too closely together. Give yourself a spare 5-10 minutes free between tasks to grab yourself a coffee and freshen your mind before diving into your next one.
Factor in your priorities
Considering what your priorities are is key to arranging your day effectively. As much as priorities can change on any given day, planning out your work beforehand means you’ll be able to more easily work out which tasks you have time to put to one side in order to focus on more pressing jobs.
When planning your day, be sure to also factor in the times you will be away from your desk. For example, if you have meetings scheduled, use the time you have free in between these to cross some of the smaller tasks off your list. Save your biggest tasks for when you have a couple of hours free to truly focus and dive deep into your work.
Learn when to say no
This one is always easier said than done. It’s hardwired into most of us to want to help others – and it can be all-too-easy to accept extra work requests, believing that you’ll have time to fit these into your schedule. But what usually tends to happen is that you end up pushing back the tasks on your original list, meaning you very quickly fall behind on your original time frame.
In order to avoid this, it’s important to understand your priorities and what tasks can be delayed. This is where planning out your goals for the week will come in especially useful. You should have priorities on your list that you know need to be completed that week, and then others which you can work on when you have time. When extra tasks pop up on your desk, consider how up-to-date you are with your current priorities. If you realistically can’t justify giving up this time, learn to say no for now – instead, suggest a time when you’re more likely to be able to take it on. This will help you to stay in control of your workload and avoid any unnecessary stress.
We’ve all had those days where distractions seem to be scattered around you more than usual. Distractions are inevitable – and while some light distraction can help to refresh your brain, too much of it can have a detrimental impact on your productivity. On average, it takes a person 25 minutes to refocus on a task after being distracted. If distractions are commonplace in your day-to-day life, it would be no surprise to find you’ve not had a chance to complete as much as you originally set out to.
So, how can you try to avoid letting distractions affect your work performance? Try to understand what your biggest time-stealers are. This will help when timeboxing your tasks as you will have a better understanding of how long to allocate to each task. For example, if you find you get distracted by catching up on emails, be sure to factor these into your priorities for the day.
Avoid putting off your tasks, and get started on them sooner than you think you need to. According to the planning fallacy, a term first coined by psychologists in 1977, we usually tend to underestimate the amount of time it will take us to complete a task. Getting started sooner will give you more time to put as much thought and effort into the task as you can, than if you were to rush to complete it just before the deadline is due. And as we all know that interruptions are unavoidable, ensuring you get started sooner rather than later means you can factor in time for distractions throughout your day, while ensuring you still stay on track to reach your goals.
Delegate where possible
Outsourcing tasks to others can be a huge time-saver. Without offloading your entire workload onto your colleagues, look to pass smaller tasks onto members of your team who are qualified or knowledgable to complete the work. This will give you extra time to focus on important tasks that require your dedicated attention.
If you’re a manager or own your own business, it can be difficult to release control of every aspect of your work. But the chances are, you have a talented and dedicated bunch of colleagues or employees around you, who will be able and willing to help carry the workload during busy periods. The power of teamwork goes a long way in situations like these. By trying to balance everything single-handedly, you’re more likely to experience difficulty in managing your time effectively. So, don’t be afraid to ask your team for help when you’re feeling snowed-under; by pulling together, you and your team can collectively ensure everyone is able to work to their best ability in a comfortable time frame.
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