We all have the same 24 hours in a day to work with, but how do you squeeze the most out of that time to get real time-saving results?
It’s not about working harder as that will only get so far, it’s how you plan and structure your time and then how you maximize the time you have planned.
The key for these time management tips is not to do them once, but repeat them over and over until they become habits. This is when those around will think you do have more than 24 hours in a day.
1. Plan Your Week When You’re at Your Most Organized
One of the most important time management tips is planning your week.
Doing this task at the same time each week, not only creates a time-saving habit but can have a positive impact on your mindset and wellbeing.
Let me explain.
By planning your week, you’re making a number of small positive promises to yourself. Each time you deliver and keep these promises your confidence grows, and you’ll feel better about yourself as you’re getting more done.
This approach saves you time as you’re doing the planning when you’re in a focused state of mind as you plan what’s important for you. During the week, you’re then less tempted to do something else during one of those pre-planned slots, as you can remind yourself I planned this for a reason.
So plan your week and keep those promises you made to yourself to see real time-saving results.
2. Plan the Following Workday for a Relaxed Evening
If you struggle with closure after the working day, this approach helps relax your mind and lets you enjoy your evening without the worry of work.
All you need is 5-10 minutes each day and a note pad. It’s quick and has considerable benefits for how you manage your time.
At the end of each day, write down around ten tasks you want to complete the next day.
Next, select one of those tasks you have to complete no matter what and mark it with an H for high.
Then add M’s for medium to five or so tasks. These are the tasks you need to complete, but if you can’t finish them all, it will be manageable.
The remaining tasks mark with an ‘L’ for low. These are nice to have, plus they should be easy tasks.
With your next day tasks planned out, you can leave work with all those nagging tasks in your head written down and ready for you to tackle the next day.
3. Control Your Day so It Doesn’t Control You
Planning your day is the most impactful time management tip you can do. It allows you to control your day rather than let the day control you.
This approach is straightforward, plus it has the flexibility for when your working day doesn’t go as planned.
Grab a pencil and notepad!
In your notepad, break the day down into 30-minute segments, 09:30, 10:00 etc. Add them line by line with a line or two in between each one.
Now look at your work diary and add in anything that’s fixed like meetings.
Next, take your high priority end tasks and add these into your 30-minute segments.
If you still have free time slots, don’t leave them empty.
If you’re struggling for motivation one morning, try this:
Pick some easy, quick tasks and get them done first, don’t worry if you’re putting off harder tasks. Doing easy tasks first will give you the momentum and the right mindset to then tackle the hard stuff.
4. Manage Distracting Work Colleagues Wisely
It doesn’t matter how well you plan your week, day or even the next hour if you’re continually distracted. Distractions result in loss of focus and are the doorway to procrastination.
This time management tip is all about creating the right working environment, so you can maximise the time you have to be as productive as possible.
Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable explains that if you want to become genuinely productive, you must become indistractable. One of the biggest distractions in the workplace is often our work colleagues.
For the colleagues that distract you the most, simply ask them at the start of each day, is there anything they need from you? By doing this, you’re making them plan without them realizing it, but it’s on your terms. This reduces the chances of a random request later in the day.
5. Deal with Emails on Your Terms
At times, managing your inbox can feel like a full-time job. You can also fall into the trap of feeling like you’ve got a lot done because you sent loads of emails, or got to the mystical inbox zero!
Although sending a few emails can be satisfying, the problem is emails are also used as a form of procrastination, as they’re an easy fallback task when you don’t fancy working on something hard.
So what do you do to stop these distractions and reduce the stress caused by email?
You plan when you want to read and respond to your emails, so you’re in control.
A study at the University of British Columbia revealed that you should only check your emails three times a day and by doing so reduces stress.
So at the start of each day, plan for when you’ll check your email. How often you check your email depends on your job, but less is more and ideally no more than three.
This approach still keeps you in control of your inbox, but you’re doing it at a time that works for you.
6. Remove Electronic Distractions and Become Present
How many times at work do you see someone distracted by a notification on their mobile or laptop?
Mobile and laptop notifications distract us every day, but they have also become an acceptable distraction.
In the majority of jobs, you don’t have to react immediately to a notification even when we feel we need to. It’s a habit that has been created by technology.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Go through all your notification settings on your mobile and laptop and only leave the critical ones on. In most cases, this should be phone calls only.
By turning off these notifications, you then check emails, messenger etc. at the times that work for you, not when they arrive.
You can also turn off the number count that appears on mobile and desktop apps. You don’t need to know how many emails you have in your inbox at any one time, especially if you’ve planned out when you’ll check your emails.
If you leave this badge feature on, it creates a nagging distraction that will take you away from your work and impact your time.
Try it for a few days and see the positive impact it will have on your time management. Those around will also see the change as you’ll be much more present at home and work.
7. Hit the Timer and Go Deep with Your Focus
Stopping a task usually happens when you’ve either finished it, lost interest or you’ve been distracted. It takes on average 23 minutes to refocus when you’ve been distracted so you need to do everything you can to remain in that focused state.
Unfortunately, loss of interest and distraction are the most likely results of time management struggles, so that’s why setting a timer can make all the difference.
By setting a timer, you make a promise to yourself that you will not be distracted or work on anything else until that timer ends. This small promise can have a considerable impact on your time management.
You can try different lengths of time to see what works for you, for example, 25 minutes if you use the Pomodoro Technique. 25 minutes might not sound long, but by remaining fully focused for 25 minutes, you’ll be amazed how much you can get done.
8. Find out What You Should Not Be Spending Your Time On
Every day, we spend time on things that remove us from doing what we should be doing — whether that’s distractions like social media, email or tasks that we would rather not be doing, like the weekly shop or the ironing.
All of these time-consuming activities may seem trivial, but they all add up when it comes to time management.
You may be thinking, I have to do these, but there is a technique called the Not-To-Do list that can help.
It’s not just about stopping non-impactful tasks completely. It can also be about automating or delegating the task.
So how do you create a Not-To-Do List?
First, spend 10 minutes writing down all the things that don’t really serve you or help get you to where you really want to be (e.g. watching TV, social media, food shopping, cleaning the house)
Next, place each one under the heading of either automate, delegate or eliminate.
Automate could be for your weekly shop, you now use a company that delivers the ingredients and recipes to your door.
Delegate could be getting a cleaner for your house every week.
Eliminate could be stopping putting the TV on as soon as you come back from work.
Once you’ve created your No-To-Do list, make sure you repeat the process once a month.
Each month you’ll gain hours back you didn’t realise you had.
9. Declutter Your Brain to Maximize Your Concentration
Our brain is processing thousands of thoughts every day; frustratingly, many of them are actions we can’t complete at that moment.
Having a cluttered mind impacts our time management as we can’t focus with these outstanding actions in our heads.
Here is a straightforward way to declutter your mind:
Carry a small notepad and pen around with you everywhere you go. It needs to be small enough to fit into your pocket or bag and has to be easily accessible. Every time a thought or action pops into your head when you’re out and about, write it down.
This could be an idea, something inspiring, an action for when you get home, anything.
Then all you need to do is schedule in time to make sure you action all of those notes. Every few days is enough.
By capturing tasks on paper rather than let them build up in your brain, you’re then free to work on what’s important at the time in a focused state.
10. Make Promises to Others
If you were to make a promise to yourself or to a friend, which one do you think you’re most likely to keep?
In most cases, it’s going to be that promise made to the friend.
You can use this to your advantage by sharing a commitment you have to complete a task or project with a friend.
Tell your friend what you want to achieve, why and by when. Then ask them to check in with you at various points up until you said you would complete the project.
While working on the project, you’ll have that promise you’ve made to your friend in the back of your mind. That promise you made will be the driver to focus and make the most of the time you have to get that project completed.
The Bottom Line
All of these tips require nothing more than a little of your time each day, but the time you save when using these approaches will be significant.
Put reminders in your diary to keep these tips front of mind, as once you start to practice them regularly, they’ll then become habits.
They can be used independently, but are much more powerful when used together.
Over time, those around you will be asking how do you find the time to achieve so much in a day!
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Featured photo credit: Valentin Antonucci via unsplash.com