Do you currently suffer with bad time management? Are you looking for ways to improve your time management skills? And want to get more out of each day?
If you answered yes, then you are like millions of other people across the world who are looking to improve the way they manage their time.
Time is our most precious commodity. Once you have used it, you can never get it back. Therefore its only natural to look for ways to improve your time management skills. But where should you start?
In this article we run through 11 effective things you can do to improve your time management capabilities. Not only will these tips help boost your productivity but they will make sure you make the most of your time outside of work as well.
Create A Schedule
If you’re an active professional, it is easy to get stuck in endless meetings, constant interruptions, and last-minute revisions. In many instances these situations throw you off your game plan and make it harder to meet your high-priority goals.
While navigating these situations can seem daunting the solution is surprisingly simple. Creating a schedule for your day / week, as well as individual tasks allows you to block out time in your calendar that you can dedicate to specific tasks or areas of your business.
Another way of scheduling your tasks is by acknowledging when you are most productive during the day. For instance, if you’re really active in the mornings, try scheduling the high-priority tasks at the beginning of the day. This will help ensure that tasks that require a greater level of critical thinking and insight are tackled when you are at your best.
The afternoon can then be left for more routine tasks such as answering emails, following up on tasks/projects that you had assigned to other people and tackling other ad-hoc and lower priority tasks.
Delegating tasks is yet another way to improve your time management skills and boost your productivity. Delegating tasks is all about helping you make the best use of your time and the skills/experience that you can bring to your role or organisation.
Where possible you should look to delegate tasks that take up a lot of time but don’t add significant value to your organisation, as well as tasks where there are other people more capable of completing it than you are.
While it can often be hard to let go of tasks or projects you are passionate about you need to prioritize your time and where you can have most impact.
Depending on the size of your organization and you may find that there are not enough internal resources to help handle some of the workload. In this instance hiring a Virtual Assistant can be an effective way of delegating lower value and highly repetitive tasks.
Whether you delegate tasks to staff internally or look to outsource work to freelancers it is important to provide a clear set of instructions and an expectation on timing.
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Prioritize Your Workload
At times, when your work starts piling up, it might seem as though you will never be able to catch up. In times like these, it becomes incredibly difficult to figure out where exactly you need to start, and this alone leads you to waste your valuable time. But fret not, for there is a solution and this solution is all about prioritizing your workload.
Prioritizing your workload forces you to rank all of the tasks that you have to do during the day / week in order of priority. Once you have this list ready, you automatically know which task deserves your maximum time and which one can be dealt with later.
This reduces the time you waste “thinking” about what to do and also ensures that if you do run out of time at the end of the day or week that your high priority tasks have been complete and only those that were lower down on your list of priorities remain.
Utilize A Task Management Tool To Clear Your Mind
Utilizing a task management tool or a to-do list can help improve your time management skills and productivity in a number of ways.
First of all writing things down helps clear them from your mind. As a result you can focus on your work without constantly having to stress about whether or not you will remember everything else you need to work on after.
In addition by getting things out of your mind and into a task management tool its easier to prioritize tasks and keep track of changes as they occur. This is especially important if you are collaborating on a task with multiple people or colleagues.
Finally one other advantage of a task management tool such as Task Pigeon is that you can categorize tasks. This makes it easy to break up a large project into smaller, more manageable chunks, will still associating them with the wider project. Being able to mark off tasks as compete helps give you a sense of satisfaction and can make the bigger, overall project, appear to be not so daunting as you first thought.
Work In Small Chunks Of Time
Having effective time management skills also means recognizing when you are your most productive and how you can maximise the portion of time you spend working at a high level.
While you may think it is best to plug away at your computer for hours on end a more effective way to manage your time is to work in small chunks.
This essentially means that you break up your day (or individual tasks) into smaller sprints.
During each sprint you focus solely on that task and don’t let other distractions get in the way. After a set period of time you step away from work for a short break before returning to complete the next sprint. Fortunately there are a number of methods that you can use to chunk your day and work load, including:
For the ABC method, you’ll have to divide your tasks in small chunks labeling them as A, B and C. The A tasks are of maximum priority and have to be done right away, the B tasks are tasks that need to be done but can wait for now, and the C tasks are the tasks that can be done but don’t have any consequences if you fail to complete them on time.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique that breaks up your work into 25 minute chunks of time. During this 25 minute period you work exclusively on the task at hand and avoid distractions.
After every 25 minute period of work you take a five minute break. For example, get up from your desk, take a short walk or grab a drink. After your five minute break you then complete another 25 minute period of work. You do this a total of 4 times (or 2 hours of work) before taking a longer break of around 15 to 30 minutes.
At this day and age, almost all of us are busy with our specific tasks. Our schedules are hectic and no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to find any time for ourselves. But guess what makes our lives even more difficult? Well, it’s none other than our frequent distractions. Whether it is office chat, social media or practically anything else – most of us end up being distracted despite being in the middle of an important task.
But how do you even get rid of these distractions? Is there a viable way? Well, its not always easy but you need to set boundaries. If you have a nosy co-worker who constantly interrupts you, then you need to be polite, but firm and say that you can’t talk at the moment as you have an important task to complete.
Alternatively, if you really want to remove yourself from disruptions you can book a meeting from in your office and lock yourself away from others so that you can focus.
While both of these tips will help you avoid external distractions you also need to have the will-power to avoid picking up your phone, checking social media or getting distracted by checking your email. All of these distractions add up and you would be surprised by how much time you can waste in a day if you don’t eliminate them from your work life.
As much as we hate deadlines, none of us can deny their relevance. When you have a specific deadline you are naturally inclined to complete the job faster than you would have if you didn’t.
Deadlines can be best defined as the budget of your time. Just like budgeting money compels you to prioritize your purchasing behavior, using deadlines will help you complete your task faster. They give you an end date that you need to work towards and if there is a “penalty” of not completing it on time then you have further incentive to ensure the task gets done.
One way to set deadlines for tasks that don’t naturally have them is to make a commitment to the other part or person interested in the outcome. For example, instead of saying that you will send a proposal to a customer, say that you will send the proposal to them by 12 noon on Wednesday. Write it down and stick to it.
Learn The Power Of No
We know it’s hard to say no, and harder to learn the art of saying no, knowing when to say no to something can seriously improve your productivity and available time.
There is a subtle art to learning how to say “no” and it certainly isn’t something you can use in every situation you find yourself in. However if you are asked to perform a task that is not core to your role or responsibilities and genuinely don’t believe you can add a decent amount of value then turning down the task and suggesting alternatives is often the best course of action.
Alternatively, if you find yourself in a position where a superior has handed you a task that you don’t feel like you can take on the best approach is to be honest. Inform them that given your current workload it isn’t realistic to expect that you can complete it in the time required and suggest the deadline is adjusted or the task passed onto someone else.
Procrastination is one of the biggest threats to both your personal as well as your professional productivity. So if you’re sitting around thinking about something you need to do, either get it done or avoid it completely, because sitting there is only going to cost you time.
In case you’re wondering how to avoid procrastination you can use some of the tips above, such as prioritizing tasks or creating a schedule. Both of these ideas “force” you to work. So if you are sitting wondering what to do, just start at the top of your list and work your way down.
You often just need to get started in order to get on a roll and putting on a task until later isn’t going to make it any easier to do.
In addition to getting started you can use a technique such as the Pomodoro Technique to build in breaks to your work schedule. That way you know that you don’t have to work constantly for hours on end and small breaks are scheduled throughout the day.
Focus One Thing At A Time
Many of us consider ourselves to be excellent multi-taskers who can handle several kinds of tasks at the same time, but the fact is multi-tasking doesn’t work.
Not only does multi-tasking hamper the overall quality of your work but it reduces productivity. Every time you switch from one task to another you waste mental energy and time in the process. That’s why its better to focus exclusively on one task at a time. Complete that task first and then more onto whatever it is you have to do next instead of trying to juggle multiple things at the same time.
Find a Time That Works Best For You
Although we have also touched on this above it really does deserve its own heading. According to a study conducted by WebMD, most of us are at our productive best for only 1.5-2 hours a day.
The time during which we are productive however can be different for all of us. Some people find themselves at their productive best during the morning, others at night and some in the middle of the day. Being conscious of this and structuring your day around when you are most energized can help you tackle large or more complex tasks when you are at your best.
It is also important to take into account your own personal circumstances. For example if you work part time as you have to pick up and care for kids in the afternoon then you need to build your day around doing as much as possible in the morning. If you leave important tasks to after lunch you may find that you have insufficient time to complete them before you have to finish for the day. The result is that, that task is now something you also have to work on the day after.
Improving the way you manage your own time is an ongoing process. Though these time management tips will give you a head start part of the process is about finding what works best for you and then turning your actions into a habit over time.
Try Task Pigeon Today!
It's the straightforward task management tool for teams who want to get things done!
Also published on Medium.