Good time management has always been such a hot topic. Obviously, we all want to get more done in a day, we all want to be productive. And so do I.
No matter how you look at it, the more (of the not so fun) stuff you can get done, the more time you have to do what you really love.
For me, that is obviously DIYing, crafting and decorating, but also going to my yoga class or having drinks with my friends. Those are reasons enough for me to learn about good time management.
There are several ways to improve how you manage your time and in today’s post I am sharing the tips that have worked for me in the past. These ideas focus mainly on your work life but can be easily applied to your personal life as well. Once you learn how to plan your days wisely, you will be able to enjoy more leisure time as well. So it’s a win-win.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
13 Tips for Good Time Management
Learn where your time goes
The first step to managing your time better is having a clear overview of your current time management. To get a better understanding of where all of your time is going, consider doing a time audit.
For one week, track all of your activities and write down exactly how much time you spend on each of them. At the end of the week, analyze the results.
Which activities take up most of your time? Is there any way you could do them more efficiently? Are there any activities that take a short amount of time, but happen very frequently (checking email is an obvious candidate)? Could you maybe do those all at once to save the prep time?
Choose a good time management system
Based on your current time management you probably have some preferences in how you want to plan your days. I am a paper person all the way, so I use a printable paper planner. The feeling of writing something down makes me feel like I have a bit more control over it (probably purely psychological).
If you’re more of a digital person, consider something like Google Calendar or the calendar in Microsoft Outlook. And obviously, there are many many more out there. Just remember, more complex isn’t necessarily better. Look for something that will allow you to schedule your activities easily. Sometimes the fancy time management apps with all their bells and whistles turn out to be too complicated and you just end up giving up on them altogether.
Know your goals
Before you start planning your activities, think about what your goals are. Write them down on a piece of paper and put them somewhere you can see them at all times.
When you plan your activities, think about what role they play in reaching your goals. If they don’t help you get any closer to your goals think about eliminating them altogether. This might be hard at first, but really, what’s the point of doing something that isn’t helping you get to where you want to be?
Get in the habit of planning ahead
I’ve been doing this since even before I realized it’s a time management hack, and it has helped me immensely in being on top of my to-dos.
Take the first and last 15 minutes of the day to do a bit of planning.
This means before you finish work, take 15 minutes to write down what you have to do the next day. If there are any tasks that you planned on doing, but didn’t manage (hey, it happens!), write those down too.
Then, the next morning start by reading that list and make a plan of action. To learn how keep on reading.
You know you can’t do everything all at once. So when there is so much on your to-do list, prioritize wisely. Consider using a rating system to arrange your tasks by priority:
Priority 1: Tasks that absolutely must be done and cannot wait.
Priority 2: Tasks that should be done, but can wait for a little.
Priority 3: Tasks that you would like to do, but are not very important.
Priority 4: Unimportant tasks.
Schedule the tasks rated 1 first, then 2 and 3. Only schedule tasks rated 4 if you have time left in your day. Those are postponable.
Know your deadlines
Deadlines are a part of what makes a task rank higher on the priority list. Obviously, if you have a deadline for something at the end of the day, that task will be high on your priority list.
However, don’t wait so long that your deadlines start to haunt you. Know your deadlines and mark them clearly in your long-term schedule. That way you can always see what deadlines you have in the weeks ahead. And you can prioritize and plan accordingly.
Start your day with your biggest task
When you start planning your schedule by priority you may see that often more than one task gets the top priority rank. When you have so many important things to do and only so much time to do it, that is only normal.
To make tackling your tasks easier, try focusing on your biggest task at the beginning of your day. The task that you don’t really feel like doing or you feel like it will be really energy-consuming.
There is more than one advantage to this approach. Firstly, you are still rested in the morning and that extra energy will make you much more efficient. Secondly, if you start your day early you can catch those few quiet hours before the world seems to go mad and emails start coming in and fires need to be put out. And lastly, once you get that one big annoying task out of the way you will get that amazing feeling of accomplishment to carry you through the rest of your day. Win win win.
Simply put, time blocking means assigning a limited amount of time to a certain activity on your schedule. You think about how much time a certain task is going to take and schedule it at a specific time frame in your calendar.
This sound super simple (and it is, really). We do this all the time with things like meetings and appointments. But those are all tasks that we do for or with other people.
With time blocking you schedule all of your tasks (including the ones you do on your own, without anyone else involved).
So for example, I have a time block for writing a blog post, a time block for doing a DIY project, one for checking and answering emails and so on.
By doing this, I allow myself to only focus on one specific task at a time. When I am writing, I don’t allow myself to check emails. And when I am answering emails, I am only doing that and not thinking about three other things at the same time.
This makes my day much more efficient because I am not jumping back and forth between tasks. This saves me the prep time and allows me to do more deep work.
If you’re interested in time blocking, we have written a whole article about it here.
Schedule a buffer time in-between tasks
When you are planning your schedule, the length of your time blocks will be an estimate of how much time you think you’ll need. Obviously, sometimes the dedicated time won’t be enough to finish everything.
To give yourself a bit of room for maneuver always schedule a buffer time in-between tasks. About 10 minutes should do the trick. This lets you finish the previous task and move on to the next one without too much stress.
Track your time
Sometimes when you work on something really hard the time flies by without you even realizing it. So to avoid your current task eating into the time you have scheduled for something else, try using a reminder. If you know you are going to work on something for 2 hours, set a reminder at 1h 45 to start finishing up before you go overtime.
Calendar reminders work well for this (setting a reminder 15 minutes prior to the start of the next task). Some people prefer an actual time tracker, like the one on your phone or an app like egg timer.
If you are diligent with your time blocking this shouldn’t be a problem. You can absolutely dedicate 15 minutes for checking social media during lunch for example. Just don’t do it while you have something else planned.
If you think it is too easy to cheat, consider using an app blocker. We have read great things about Freedom, which works on all your devices and lets you block apps, websites or the whole darn internet. Sometimes that is necessary too. They let you do a free 7-use trial to see if it works for you.
This depends on the type of work you are in. Obviously, if you are a one-man-band, this doesn’t apply.
But if you work with other people and find yourself doing things that are really somebody else’s job, start delegating.
At first, it might seem like extra work. It will probably take up some of your time to explain everything and properly pass on the work. But in the long run, it can save you a lot of your time and energy.
Know when to say No
Good time management can only serve you well if you are mentally and physically up to the tasks on your schedule.
If you are one of those people who think they have to say yes to everyone and everything, stop for a second. Go back to #3 in this article and think about your goals. Think about why you are doing what you are doing.
Next time a colleague asks you to do her a favor, think whether you can fit it in your schedule. If not, explain to her that unfortunately, you don’t have the time. Soon this same colleague will learn to only ask you for help when it is something important.
Same goes for taking up new projects. Before committing to something new, assess how it fits in your long-term goals. And only accept if you know you have the time to actually do it.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you feel like you have a good time management system yourself? Or are there any areas you think need improvement? Share in the comments below!
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