Do you ever feel like there just isn’t enough time to do everything you need or want to do? Do you look around and wonder why some people seem to have more hours in the day than you do? The answer is one of two things. Either they work more hours or they use their hours more efficiently. Since the first is not a great long-term strategy (it will eventually impact performance and stress levels), we’ll concentrate on the second.
Here are ten tips for better time management. Pick the ones you like. You may find they save you time, or help you use the time you have to greater effect.
Top 10 Tips for Better Time Management
1. Create a To Do List with a difference
First, organise your tasks into a Master List that includes all the things you need to do now and in the foreseeable future. Next, use this to create a Monthly List of all the tasks you decide need to be completed within the month. Then, use this to draw up a Weekly List with the tasks needed to be done this week. From that, create a Daily List for everything you need to complete within the day. This system will help you keep track of your priorities. Once a month, week, and day, consult the corresponding list and update your lists as appropriate.
2. Use a more flexible electronic ‘To Do’ List programme
Managing a list like the one outlined above is difficult to do in some of the more traditional programmes out there. I use a great free one called Toodledo. It lets you create the master, monthly, weekly and daily folders along with any others you wish to add. You can find it at toodledo.com.
3. Step away from the technology
You know what I’m referring to. The emails, texts, and twitters that sap your attention and time. How often have you clicked over to give a quick check to email only to find that you’ve just lost half an hour (or more) to the ‘e-abyss?’ Get into the habit of checking on these types of things only once or twice a day. This may take some getting used to, but you’ll be amazed at the time it will free up.
4. Stop multi-tasking
When you multi-task, you’re actually switching your attention between tasks. The result is that things can take twice as long to complete, and probably contain many more mistakes. Save time by ‘single-tasking.’
5. Batch your tasks
When you have a long list of things to complete, cluster them by task type. Gather your problem solving tasks together and tackle them one after the other. Do the same for your financial tasks, your emailing, and so on. This helps focus your brain and allows you to get into a groove.
6. Take regular time out
Recognise that we all have a limit to our ability to concentrate our attention and efforts on a particular task. Break your work up into sixty, ninety minute or two-hour blocks. Work hard for that period, then reward yourself with a short break. Stretch, get some fresh air, have some tea. Then return to work refreshed and ready.
7. Plan and prioritise at the start and end of each day
At the end of the day, take ten minutes to review your weekly list and decide what needs to be done tomorrow. Make a plan of action including how you will batch your work. In the morning, review the list and get focused on productivity.
8. Set time limits for tasks
Set realistic time targets for how long each task will take to complete. Plan your work blocks based on these targets. Motivate yourself to finish within the time limits. Then reward yourself with a break when you do.
9. Get a handle on procrastination
Procrastination affects us all at times. We spend too much time on lower priority tasks thereby avoiding those which really need to get done. Tag the items on your to do list as transformational tasks (those that add significant value) and maintenance tasks (those that would subtract significant value if they were to not get done). If a task doesn’t fit into either category, trash it. Each day, focus first on your transformational tasks, then your maintenance ones. This will keep you moving forward.
10. Overcome perfectionism
The need for it to be perfect can prevent you from even starting a task, or keep you labouring over a project far longer than you need to, trying to get it just right. It is likely that your ‘80% of the standard’ is on par with a non perfectionist’s 100% standard. And most of what you do in the way of tasks and communication need not be 100% perfect. Aim for top quality only where essential and settle for ‘good enough’ for the rest. Don’t waste a bunch of time trying to get to your 100% when your 80% is plenty good enough.
Most of us have it in us to be more productive than we are. It’s primarily a matter of identifying our own self-sabotaging behaviours, and replacing them with good habits that keep us working toward our goals. Try the ones listed here, and you may become one of those people with more hours in the day than everyone else.