If you don’t have time to read this… you probably need to read it! Time is your most valuable commodity, after all, it’s the stuff life is made of. It’s time to get a handle on your time, reduce your stress and score yourself some more free time. There really is no better time than NOW to learn how to manage your time.
1. Write your daily tasks down and prioritize
If you are running from task to task all day long, working solidly from beginning to end, and then reaching the end of the day with important jobs still needing your attention – something is wrong with the way you manage your time Never say you are “too busy to waste time planning”, planning is how you guarantee getting things done. Write a to-do list at the start of the day and mark things according to urgency. Having a list helps clear your head, and checking items off a list is as blissfully therapeutic as bubble wrap.
2. Be realistic and learn to say “no”
Taking on extra jobs and activities can be good for you. It can stretch your abilities and help you learn to manage your time and your schedule, but you should be picky. Don’t be a “yes man” and cram your days up with unnecessary activities that aren’t going to help you in the long run. You are one person. It is okay to not be able to do everything, in fact, it is impossible, and it’s quite liberating when you accept that. Don’t feel bad to say “no”. Saying “no” in the beginning is better than saying “sorry, I couldn’t get it done” in the end, or “sorry, I didn’t have time to do my best”.
If you want people to respect your time, you have to show that you respect your time – sometimes this means saying, “no, I don’t have time for that”.
*Can you think of one regular unnecessary task that you can eliminate from your schedule? If yes, do it! Cut that time sucker out right now.
3. Pinpoint your distractions and focus
It could be a relationship, a PlayStation, or your Netflix subscription, sometimes you’ve got to “be your own parent” and create clear boundaries for yourself. If that doesn’t work, you may need to completely eliminate the distraction from your life. On a less extreme level, when you sit down to focus on a task, it helps to put your phone on silent and in another room, lock out the dog, turn off the tv, make sure you have something to drink and snacks on hand, close your other browser tabs and get to work! Devote your entire focus to the task at hand.
4. Optimize your travel time
If you take public transport, use your transit time to plan your day, study, reply to emails, or make the phone calls you need to make. Make it a habit. Resist the urge to zone out or waste time on social media, get a head start on the day so you can hit the road running. If you regularly spend time in traffic, you should do all you can to reduce that time wastage. See if you can reschedule your day in a way where you are not on the road during peak traffic, and always check your gps before you leave home for the route with the least traffic to cut down your travel time.
5. Set time limits
Instead of saying you’re going to sit down and work on something until it’s finished, allocate a certain amount of time to the task, and be strict about your deadline. This will keep you motivated, and ensure that the day doesn’t end up being absorbed by just one task. Even if you have to come back to the task later, this habit encourages you to be mindful of your time and use it efficiently.
6. Get an early start
None of us like to hear this one, but there’s no denying it’s true. If you start tasks ahead of time, or wake up just a little earlier each day, you will cut out the rush and get much more out of your day.
7. There’s an app for that
Get digital help with your time management. Apps like RescueTime track the time you spend on different tasks and websites, and block sites which distract you. It gives you an accurate report of how you’ve used your time on your digital devices, allowing you to identify distractions and see where you need to improve.
8. Allow for buffer time
Don’t schedule every task and meeting back to back, give yourself 15 minutes to half an hour extra in between tasks to wrap things up properly, otherwise you’ll find yourself chasing the clock and often falling behind schedule. Also, be realistic with how long it will take you to get to places… because honestly, how often is traffic kind to you?
9. Track your time with a clock and counter
Clocks – obvious, but often forgotten. Don’t just rely on the clock on your phone (which comes with a porthole to endless distraction) wear a watch or put up a big clock in your work space. During your most intense part of the work day, use a timer to track your time and keep you conscious of the clock. Without reminders, it’s easy to get distracted and completely forget that you are working according to a plan. You can use simple apps like Egg Timer which allows you to set a time, ie. every 15 minutes, which it counts down in the background, and beeps when the time is up.
10. Turn reoccurring tasks into habits
Instead of re-planning each day and week over and over again, identify your reoccurring tasks and try to build a routine around these activities. This saves you the stress, time and mind space spent on planning, and will also help you slowly identify the best times to do things, which in turn will help optimize your time. Picking up your laundry, buying food, and checking the mailbox… these are things which will always feature on your schedule, the trick is to find the best ways and the best time to do them.
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr.