In today’s society, most of us are looking for ways to be as productive as possible. Unfortunately, we find ourselves reading an article about 10 tips for time management instead of doing work that is required.
We all have control over what we do and when we do them. Therefore, there is always room for improvement in how we manage our time.
If you follow these tips, you will start to see an increase in the amount of work you get done each day. Give it a try!
1. Complete the most important tasks first
You will hear many people call this “the golden rule of time management”. It doesn’t matter if you got 10 hours of work done if you forgot the important task of clocking in! When planning out your day, or even your week, prioritize your tasks and focus on completing the most important ones first. Once you have those checked-off, move down the list to tackle the small stuff.
2. Work smarter, not harder
We have all heard this one, but what does it mean? Focus on efficiency: For example, taking 10 minutes to list out and prioritize your tasks may feel like you’re wasting 10 precious minutes, but it allows you to more quickly tackle your to-do list so it’s well worth the time.
It’s about making the best use of the effort and time that you put into each task. It can be as simple as scheduling yourself to run three errands at the same time instead of taking three separate trips.
3. Sleep at least 7 hours a night
No matter how many tasks you need to complete, make sure that you give yourself at least 7 hours to sleep. A recent study by Penn State, found that getting less than 7 hours of sleep can lead to impaired memory, difficulty solving problems, and trouble focusing. Yikes… these are not side effects that you have time for!
I understand that going to bed at a consistent time is much easier said than done, but do what you need to hold yourself accountable for bedtime. Set a calendar reminder if it helps. I listed this item at number three, but it easily could be the most critical item of these 10 tips for time management.
Get an early start
Almost every single one of us has the impulse to wait until the last minute to get things done. Why do today what you can push off to tomorrow, right? Wrong. Don’t fall into that trap! It adds stress, and believe me, something else urgent will pop up and usurp the time that you set aside “tomorrow”.
It is much less stressful to get things done before the deadline. One way to start on this is to break the task at hand into bite-size chunks and set deadlines for each piece of the task. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can move through those smaller tasks, plus the act of crossing something off the to-do list can be very motivating!
5. Focus on one thing at a time
We live in a world where multitasking is expected and required. Guess what? We’re not meant to multitask, and in reality, it will slow you down. Not only will you get more done, but the quality of your work will also be higher if you focus entirely on the task at hand. If you need help staying focused, check out this great video from Whole U.
6. Set a time for each task
This is hugely helpful for larger projects: change your view of productivity from having to work on one task through completion, to making progress on a number of tasks in one day. To do this, you need to set time slots for when you will work on each project; this allows you to focus 100% on that particular project since it’s a definitive amount of time.
Even if you have to add another time slot the next day, your attention to the project during that allotted time will be much stronger and thus will take you less time to complete the project as a whole. Speaking of time slots, the next item on my list of 10 tips for time management also falls in this category.
7. Leave yourself a buffer between tasks
We all need a little rest between tasks throughout the day. If you don’t account for that break, your mind and body will subconsciously check-out whenever it wants to with no regard for the important call you’re on, test you’re taking, or essay you’re writing.
The best way to control when you are going to stop thinking is by leaving yourself a small window between tasks. You can go for a walk, call a friend, work on a side project... do whatever you need to do to clear your mind and rejuvenate for the next task on your list.
8. Put your phone away!
In the words of Eric Thomas, “there are some of you, if you give up your cell phone, you will be successful. But your cell phone is more important to you than your success.” Have you ever tracked the amount of time you lose to your phone each day? Cell phones can be a very effective tool and key piece of your daily life, but it can also take control of your life if you let it.
Turn off notifications for all apps except the most critical (i.e. your calendar app, perhaps), and keep it face down on your desk. If you have to, leave it in another room or closed drawer while you tackle your critical tasks of the day.
9. Don’t let the unimportant things bring you down.
If you are anything like me, you will get hung up in the details of tasks because you want them to be perfect. This can waste a lot of time that could have been used to make progress on larger tasks that are far more important than those tiny details.
Don’t skimp on quality, but recognize (using your prioritization skills) when “done is better than perfect”. This will help you get the bulk of the important work done faster. You can always go back and put on the finishing touches when at the end.
10. Commit to a plan and reward yourself
Write down your to-do list, write down the time you dedicate to each task, state your action plan out loud to yourself in the morning. Do something that takes your plan out of your own mind and makes it concrete: Stating your plan out loud or seeing it on paper as a visual reminder can help you stick to it and follow through.
And remember to reward yourself for a job well-done! Celebrating the little successes and victories along the way keep the momentum going and will make you want to keep being productive.