Time is something you can never have enough of. However, you can make more of the time you have by using time management tips and techniques.
Table of Contents
- Set up a routine
- Proven time management tips
- Tip 1: Plan
- Plans help motivate you
- Plans allow you to do your best work
- Plans let you recharge
- Plans help you “fight fires”
- Tip 2: Set Goals
- Tip 3: Structure your time
- Do a time audit
- Blocking out your time
- Tip 4: Track your performance
- Tip 5: Prioritize
- Tip 6: Delay, delete and delegate
- Tip 7: Rest
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Set up a routine
Setting up a routine is the best way to make sure you maintain your time management process. You will need to invest some time to set up your time management framework within which your time management process will operate. But once it is done, it will stand you in good stead for as long as you use it.
Initially, you will also need to set reminders to make sure you actually carry out the planning you need to. But this will only be temporary.
Within a few months, the process will become a habit and you will find yourself planning your days and weeks without having to remember to do so.
Proven time management tips
People just like you have used these proven time management tips for decades to get the most out of their time.
Tip 1: Plan
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
This quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says it all. We all know that wishes are great in fairy stories, but in business, they are caustic and eat away at the time we have.
Time management is all about action, about getting things done. It’s about filling the time you allocate to a task with focused work.
By planning out your time, you can allocate tasks to specific blocks of time so they don’t just run on endlessly.
Plans help motivate you
Having a start and end time for each task makes it far more manageable, and increases the chance that you will actually finish it. Finishing your tasks gives you a sense of achievement that will motivate you to accomplish more.
Plans allow you to do your best work
Planning your time also allows you to allocate tasks to times of the day or week that you know you will be more productive. So, if you are a morning person, allocating tasks that require focus and perseverance to a block of time first thing in the morning will lead to better results than leaving them for later in the day. You can then leave less important tasks for the times you are not at your best.
Plans let you recharge
Planning your time also allows you to ensure that you can rest so you can recharge. Breaking your days up into blocks of time allows you to not only take one of more blocks of time for yourself, but you can also take refreshing breaks between those time blocks. More about that later.
Plans help you “fight fires”
Importantly, it also means that you can set aside time to deal with unforeseen events that will inevitably crop up – so called “fire fighting time”. These unexpected events are often urgent and come out of the blue, scuttling the plan you have for your day.
However, with some “fire fighting time” built into your daily plan, you can handle all but the biggest problems.
Tip 2: Set Goals
Goal setting and time management go hand-in-hand.
By formally setting goals, you can determine what you are trying to achieve and then work out all the steps that will be required to reach that goal, along with how much time each step will need.
After setting your goals, you can lay out a path from where you are now to where you want to be. This makes the goal far more achievable. And by breaking the path to the goal up into manageable tasks and assigning each task to a block of time, you make them easier to complete.
You can then map out the sequence of steps you must take to move you from where you are to your goal.
After that, it’s simply a matter of taking the steps and persevering until you reach your goal.
Tip 3: Structure your time
Structuring your time means breaking your day up into manageable blocks of time that are long enough to get things done, but not so long that you lose focus or end up with health problems.
Do a time audit
To start with, take a look at how you are spending your time. Make a note of everything you do over a period of a week. Be honest and accurate. You will most probably find that you are spending way too much time on social media, at lunch, drinking coffee and a host of other unproductive activities.
Use this audit to determine when and where you are most productive. This is important so you can optimize your productivity.
The audit will also let you see what you like to do during your workday. These things should not be abandoned, but moved to rest periods or after your productive blocks of time.
Blocking out your time
You can then start to organise your work day. Do this by breaking each day into fifty-minute blocks, with a ten-minute break between blocks. You can then assign types of activities to each block.
Here is an idea for a schedule that is both effective and efficient:
- 4 blocks of productive time (from 8:00am to 12:00pm). The first half an hour should be used for planning and correspondence.
- 1 block for lunch (12:00pm to 1:00pm). Be sure to get away from your desk during this time. The break will help refresh you and may even help you figure out work-related problems.
- 1 fire fighting block (1:00pm to 2:00 pm). If nothing urgent crops up, this can be another productive time block.
- 1 block of productive time (2:00pm to 3:00 pm).
- 1 rest block (3:00pm to 4:00pm). This is time to take a nap or a walk or do some exercise. If you are very busy, you could cut this town to half an hour, but try not to skip it.
- 1 final block of productive time (4:00pm to 5:00 pm). This time should be used for review of the day, planning for the following day, and correspondence.
Total work time: 5 hours and 15 minutes. Total rest time: 2 hours and 45 minutes.
That may sound like you are including too much non-productive time, but studies suggest that the average worker in the US does actual work for less than three hours per day. If you can be productive and focused for over five hours per day, you will be surprised just how much work you can get done.
If you can, try to split each block of time into one twenty-minute sub-block followed by a five-minute break and then a twenty-five-minute sub block. The five-minute breather between sub-blocks will allow you to go to the bathroom, grab a drink, or just stand up and move around.
The template laid out above is just a suggestion and yours may be different. It’s best to try out a few schedules and see what works for you.
And your daily schedule should be flexible so you can deal with any big emergencies that crop up while not having your routine work derailed.
Tip 4: Track your performance
At the end of each day, review your performance and transfer incomplete tasks to subsequent days. Try to set up your schedule so that you can complete all the work you assign to your time blocks as often as possible.
You can also review your week last thing on Fridays to see what you managed to complete, what you didn’t and to figure out why.
It’s important to determine why you weren’t able to complete tasks within the assigned time blocks so that you can adjust your task assignments in subsequent days and weeks.
Tip 5: Prioritize
Before creating a time plan, be sure to list the tasks you need to complete in order of importance. Tasks should be graded as follows:
- Urgent – these are tasks that must be completed ahead of everything else.
- Essential – these tasks are very important but there is no time pressure as there is with urgent tasks.
- Important – these are tasks that must be completed if at all possible, but they can be put off.
- Optional – these tasks are those that don’t have to be undertaken, but they will have a positive effect on your business if you do.
Add your tasks to your weekly and daily plans in order of importance, starting with the urgent tasks, followed by the essential tasks, and so on.
One of the most common reasons for ending up having to “fight fires” is when urgent or essential tasks are not completed on time, or are overlooked.
It’s worth keeping a to list of tasks, arranged according to priority and crossing them off as you complete them. This is best done using spreadsheet or word processing software so that you can easily make changes.
Tip 6: Delay, delete and delegate
There are a few tricks you can use to help streamline your workload so that you can get more done. These include:
- Delay – when you are making your time plan, don’t be afraid to delay non-urgent tasks. You may be afraid that you will run out of time to complete them, but that is the entire point of your time plan. If you plan well, there will be ample time to get everything done, even if unforeseen tasks crop up.
- Delete – Get rid of anything that you don’t need to do, especially things that will have no benefit for you. You need to do a cost-benefit analysis on any task that you are evaluating. If there is nothing in it for you, ditch it. And don’t be afraid to say no to people. However, be careful not to lump favors for people who are part of your network in this category. Favors for people in your network are important and should be worked into your schedule.
- Delegate – By setting up business systems, you can delegate a lot of your mundane work to personal or virtual assistants, freeing up your time for tasks only you can do.
Tip 7: Rest
Business, athletic, or academic success can only be achieved by those who can maintain sustained effort over the long haul. However, that success is not possible without rest to revitalise and recharge.
The time you need to set aside for rest so that you can perform at your peak is not insubstantial. Thinking that you can burn the candle at both ends will result in burn-out, so rest is a non-negotiable.
Rather than seeing it as wasted time, embrace it and get the most out of your rest periods as you can. Not only will it refresh your body and mind, but it will enhance your quality of life.
The suggested schedule in Tip 3 offers a substantial amount of rest each day, but you still have ample time to get everything done.
Time management can have a significant effect on your productivity and the time management tips discussed, above, can help you do more and enjoy life more.
Through the planning, setting goals, structuring your time, tracking your performance, prioritizing, deleting, delaying, delegating and including rest, you will be able to streamline your workload to get more done in a shorter time.
Why not try these time management tips out and see if you can up your game and achieve more with the same amount of effort?