Time management may seem like a simple skill to master, but it’s actually quite difficult to do well. While it’s not easy to focus on everything you need to do at once, if you don’t manage your time efficiently, you could find yourself stuck without enough time in the day to complete everything that needs doing. You can fix this by following these 10 tips on how to master your time management skills, so you can get everything done and have time left over to enjoy your life!
1) Keep Organized
Keeping your workspace organized makes it easier for you to be efficient and productive. When you’re trying to accomplish a lot of tasks, have lots of deadlines, and are running from one meeting or project to another, being organized can become a challenge. One way around that is by keeping two lists—one with all of your current projects and deadlines; another containing larger, long-term goals (both personal and professional). When you start losing focus on what needs to get done to achieve those goals, refer back to them—it will remind you why it’s important not only to get everything on today’s list done but also how much there is still left on tomorrow’s list.
2) Create Daily To-Do Lists
One of life’s greatest lessons is learning how to manage our time. When we don’t, we often feel like we are not getting enough done. I suggest creating a daily list of things you need to get done for each day. Keep it at hand and complete them one by one when possible so you can stay on track with your tasks and projects. Try using a simple notebook or even an app such as Evernote; it will help you stay organized!
3) Use Your Calendar Wisely
Writing down all of your commitments, big and small, can help you avoid overbooking yourself. If you make a point of recording every single appointment, meeting, event, or anything else on a daily basis, it’s much easier to spot times when you might have too many things on one day. Time-management guru Peter Bregman says that trying to keep track of only three big priorities per day is enough: In my experience, most people try to manage too many goals at once. Once they start working toward something they want—whether it’s going on a diet or starting a business—they add more and more objectives (read: excuses). This makes them feel busy but not productive. When I work with executives we agree on three goals per quarter.
4) Stay On Track By Tracking Your Time
Time management is all about creating a schedule. Once you have that in place, write down what you plan to accomplish every day (here’s a template for doing just that). The best way to ensure you stay on task is by writing down your list of tasks and setting a timer for each activity. If it’s something relatively easy or quick, set it for 10 minutes; for more involved tasks, set it for 30. Research shows our brains can only handle one or two high-difficulty activities at once, so stick with what works.
5) Set Priorities
Make a list of everything you have to do. Prioritize that list and put an A next to those things that must be done, a B next to important tasks, and a C next to optional items. Then figure out what can be grouped together for efficiency. And schedule specific times in your day for different things, using alarms or other tools as reminders if needed. For example, don’t let one meeting hijack an entire afternoon; break it up into blocks of 15 or 30 minutes whenever possible. A good tip: If something doesn’t get done today, reschedule it for tomorrow with a reminder attached so you won’t forget again.
6) Know When You Are Productive And When You’re Not
Time-management expert Laura Vanderkam recommends that you start tracking how much time you spend on each activity, whether it’s related to work or not. How many hours did you spend watching TV? How long did you spend exercising? Knowing when and where your productivity levels dip can help inform which activities may be taking up too much of your day. Once you have a sense of what steals your time, it’s easier to cut out distractions and focus on productive tasks.
7) Break Down Large Tasks Into Smaller Ones
Break down large tasks into smaller ones. If a task takes you two hours, try breaking it up into two 30-minute chunks. If something takes you two weeks, divide it into two seven-day parts. We all tend to overestimate how much we can get done in one sitting, and underestimate how long projects will take us when broken down over multiple sessions. If a task requires several steps or stages, divide it by those stages as well—you’ll be less inclined to procrastinate if you have immediate subgoals that are easier and less overwhelming than accomplishing an overarching project goal.
8) Don’t Procrastinate!
Waiting until you feel like doing something is a good way to never get it done. Use small motivators (like a chart or a group challenge) to keep yourself on track. Give yourself small rewards along the way, but only if you actually finish what you set out to do. And remember that just getting started is half (or more) of being productive. You’ll likely end up completing your task even if you aren’t feeling up for it—as long as you actually do it in real-time rather than putting it off for another day!
9) Budget Your Time Wisely
While you can certainly dedicate a certain amount of hours each day and week to productivity, it’s just as important to consider how you’re actually spending those hours. Oftentimes, we spend more time on items that aren’t our highest priorities. When working with clients, I challenge them by asking them what percentage of their tasks add 80% or more value toward their goals. Most people say less than 20%, meaning that they could get away with cutting out almost 80% of what they do in a day and remain completely productive.
10) Try Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a great way of managing your time. It allows you to break tasks into intervals of 25 minutes, with five-minute breaks between each one. You work on whatever it is you need to accomplish, then rest for five minutes before starting again. This keeps you going for longer and prevents fatigue or boredom from setting in – which, as we all know, makes us far less productive and able to stay on task. An added benefit is that Pomodoro helps you feel accomplished every 25 minutes or so, as opposed to at an arbitrary endpoint like 1 pm. Those little accomplishments are helpful when trying to manage stress and anxiety while working.
The tips provided above are a great starting point for mastering your time management skills. Now, it’s up to you to take action and actually follow through with them. What’s your biggest challenge with time management? Leave us a comment below! We would love to hear about it. You can also connect with us on Facebook if you want some extra help. It never hurts to have extra support on your side when trying to master your time management skills. Good luck!