Get Your Time Back With Better Time Management Skills
Time, one of our most precious commodities…both finite and infinite at the same time. It shouldn’t be a surprise at the end of the day that you didn’t get everything done. But if you are constantly overestimating how much you can accomplish, read on for ways to improve your time management skills.
Years ago, planners and time management training were common in workplaces. Day planners started as paper-based systems and evolved to electronic formats, but as smartphones have taken over our lives, some of the fundamental discipline in using these tools may have been lost. As you go through the skills below, think of where you are ‘losing’ in your time management pursuits.
You Have To Manage Your Energy, Not Just Your Time`
According to an article in Entrepreneur magazine, “Time management is really life management. How we manage our time is a direct correlation to how we manage our lives.” The key is pair time management with mastering where you place your energy. As you prepare to start your day, write down the goals that you want to accomplish and the tasks you need to complete to achieve those goals. Now focus your energy in order from the high-value (most important) tasks down.
Just Say No
Not everything you want to do can fit within your schedule. Sometimes it is best to acknowledge this at the start, rather than accepting a job or project that you don’t have time to complete in a quality way. The added pressure of trying to squeeze in something that you don’t have time for can also compromise the quality of work you do on other projects. When asked to collaborate or work on a new project, pause, take a breath and answer with “Give me some time to think on this and I will get back with you asap.” Try not to give an immediate yes. That way you won’t have to circle back to announce a change of heart or stretch yourself too thin.
Once you accept responsibility for a task or project it is good to organize the work required. Do you need to break the work down into smaller to do lists? Do you have the resources on hand to complete the job? Are you able to estimate the time required to complete everything? Being organized will allow you to quickly work through a task to completion without distractions and delays. We all have different ways of keeping up with what we have to do. Find a way to create a routine checklist for each of your projects. Try this project management app Trello to help you stay within deadlines.
Prioritize & Avoid Procrastination
As soon as you have more than one task in front of you, you will need to prioritize. Determining priority of what you should do first may be based strictly on due dates or may include other considerations like time to complete, need for other resources or people, return on completion (i.e. does this task earn money?). What you don’t want to do is prioritize all the easy, fun tasks first and save the difficult, challenging ones for last. This is a setup for stress and risks not completing important work when needed.
The “procrastination struggle” is real, and even successful people face it on a regular basis. Part of the struggle is anticipating a task will take longer than you think; putting tasks off thinking you don’t have time to finish. If you really don’t have time, consider breaking large tasks into smaller chunks. Also, pay attention to how quickly you can get something done if you are prepared when you start and stay focused to completion...as Nike says, “Just Do It”. Avoid procrastination like a bad boyfriend. Please.
Plan Ahead & Work When You Work Best
Planning when you will do your work is key to mastering time management. If you have estimated a project will take two hours, schedule those hours on your calendar in a slot not needed for meetings or other tasks. Understanding your workload is important to get things done in a timely manner. If you find a task not completed in the planned time, adjust the plan and priorities as needed. The better you get at this skill will ensure reliable results in time management. Ten minutes at the start and end of each day to fine tune and adjust the plan will keep you on track.
A great trick is to block your time on your phone calendar on a routine basis and name it after the tasks you do all the time. If you're a photographer, you can block your schedule to say “Edit Fashion Shoot 10am - 12pm”.
Are you an early bird? Or a night owl? Cool. Determine when is the best time throughout the day that you feel the most energetic and productive. Schedule your day around when you work best and keep that in consideration as you plan for upcoming projects.
Execute Your Vision
Follow your plan! If a task is estimated for two hours, to start at 10am, be ready to dive in at that time… resources available, time and space blocked out. Another key to execution is to avoid distractions and interruptions. This may be the biggest drain on your time management skills. If it’s phone calls, messages, emails…let them wait or dispense as quickly as possible. Being able to stay focused can yield great traction in time management.
You’ve Got Your Time Back...
Once a task is done, it is important to notify whoever was expecting the deliverable and closeout whatever tools, documents, etc. that were used…clean up after yourself, in readiness for the next task. The satisfaction of finishing and checking items off your to do list can be a nice reward, along with knowing your time management skills are delivering the right results.
Now that your time management skills are improving, there are a variety of smartphone apps available to support you. Look for one that is strong in skill support areas where you need improvement…and get your time back!