That growing pile of work in your in-tray is best tackled with the right time management skills.
By Jane Hosking
Do you ever feel like you’re not getting as much done with your time as you should? With so many online distractions, and with schedules so tightly-packed, it’s hard to find the time to fit everything in. As a result, you may feel as though you’re constantly reacting to what life is throwing at you, instead of proactively planning out your daily schedule. Here are six strategies to help you get things together and take back control of your time.
1- Identify your weaknesses
Each person’s struggle with time management is unique. As a result, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s therefore important to identify your individual weaknesses so that you can address them with strategies tailored to you. For this, you’ll need to analyze yourself and think about what’s stopping you from getting those tasks done. These obstacles may be external situations, such as a busy workload and a hectic family life, or they may be internal psychological obstacles, such as a desire for perfection or a fear of failure, both of which can result in procrastination. In identifying these time management weaknesses it may help to write them down.
2- Make it visual
Some people have a natural grasp of time, while for others the concept can appear abstract and hard to pin down. For these people, it can help to make time more visual. First of all, this means having a tangible daily to-do list. Next, a clear weekly schedule that connects what you need to do to a specific time is essential to give your time more structure. You should tailor this schedule to your own specific needs and work out what works best for you. So, for example, instead of allocating a whole day for drafting reports and a whole day for meetings, mix things up a little to help you stay more motivated.
3- Eliminate distractions
Being focused is the most effective way to master your time and be efficient with your work. It may sound simple but it’s easier said than done. We are prone to both external and internal distractions, which can often mean something urgent pops into our head when we’re in the middle of a task. But switching between tasks kills productivity. So instead of constantly jumping from one thing to another, it’s important to practice the skill of focusing on one task at a time. In addition to these internal distractions are the many distractions of the Internet and social media, which make it harder than ever to stay focused on one task at a time. If you find you’re unable to resist these temptations, using tools to eliminate these distractions can help. For example, Google Chrome has a number of extensions that you can download, including one which blocks Internet browsing for a specific period of time.
4- Calculate your time
Having a time limit for tasks can be helpful. However, one of the main causes of poor time management is the miscalculation of the time that it takes to complete tasks. This can lead to our day getting all out of sorts and can prevent us from sticking to our weekly schedule. Some people possess a natural ability to assess time. For others—especially idealists who are over-ambitious with their time—this is a skill that can be acquired through practice. To do this, it helps to estimate how long a task should take, then time yourself and take note of how long it actually took. Doing this for a couple of weeks will help you learn to be more accurate in assessing time and make a more realistic plan for your days and weeks.
5- Maintain your energy
If a lack of energy is stopping you from getting as much done as you’d like to then you need to think about why this is the case and what you can do to boost your energy levels. One of the biggest factors preventing people from working efficiently is a lack of sleep. Getting a proper night’s sleep is probably the easiest thing you can do to help you become more productive. Eating healthily is also similarly linked to your energy levels. Think about whether your diet is refueling you the right way and remember that while sugary food and drinks may give you a temporary boost of energy, the sugar crash will leave you feeling more fatigued than before. Regular exercise, at least three times a week, is also essential to maintaining healthy energy levels. In addition to this, scheduling more difficult tasks at a time of day when you’re feeling energized and at your mental peak will help.
6- Clarify your goals
While most of us have at least a vague idea of what we want and where we’re heading in life, clarifying your goals is essential to being more motivated and getting more out of your time. The best way to do this is to write your goals down. Many people will cringe at this idea, but putting pen to paper is a really important step in making your goals clearer and more tangible. In doing this, try to visualize what you’d like your life to look like in five or 10 years time in as much detail as possible and ensure that you include work, family, and other areas of your life when you do this. The next step is to align your daily tasks with your long-term goals. This will not only make you feel more motivated, but it will also help you stay on track so that you can actually make progress in achieving these goals.