Time is all around us. It is the sum of every small moment, and it is the unit we use to measure life. Time moves forward at a constant pace without any visible beginning or end, and though we cannot see it, time is all that we have. Mastering time management is crucial so that not a single second slips away from you as you pursue your goals. Here are the most effective time management strategies so that you make the most of your time.
What are the best time management strategies?
This post will help you understand how to use time effectively so you can achieve goals faster and with less stress.
1. Determine Your Optimal Productive Times
The first step towards effective time management is determining which periods of time during a typical day you are the most productive. This process involves observing your own behavior and making note of the patterns that come into light. You may find that certain times of the day are more conducive to work than others. For example, if you tend to be most creative in the morning, then mornings might be the best time for you to focus on tasks related to creativity. If you're most productive after lunch, then scheduling the heaviest projects around that time would ensure that you get your most important tasks done as efficiently as possible.
2. Use Time Management Tools
Now that you've identified the times of day when you find yourself to be the most productive, using tools to efficiently schedule and space out your tasks will help organize your day, so all your focus can be placed on the work itself. Useful tools include calendars, daily planners, phone apps, wall charts, and notebooks. Timers can also be useful to keep yourself on track to finish tasks within the internal deadlines you set. No matter your preference of types of tools, the key is to find one that works for you – helping you to keep track of time, and save time in the end.
3. Prioritize Your Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Tasks
Looking ahead, the approaching onslaught of deliverables may be overwhelming, and even at times paralyzing. Transform your packed to-do list into a manageable calendar day by prioritizing your tasks, and breaking them down into their smaller compartments that can be completed in short increments. By sorting your tasks into ones that need to be done on the day, in the week, and in the month, the order of attack falls into place naturally. Now, instead of being torn between starting your most intimidating projects, unsure if you will be able to complete any of them, you will know exactly which smaller goal to start with, worry free.
4. Tackle the Most Important Tasks First
“If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
- Mark Twain
Mark Twain’s quote lifts the importance of facing your biggest hurdles head on, focusing directly on the projects that are the most important and consume the most time. By starting your morning with the task you most dread, you’ll realize that you are more capable than you thought, your fears around it will dissipate, and you will end up being incredibly productive, sustained by your increased confidence. Oftentimes, the projects that we fear are actually entirely do-able, but when we avoid them, not only do they not get done, but the projects that we do in the meantime stall are hindered as a part of our focus is permanently latched onto the bigger undone project. Once your most important tasks are completed and out of the way, you will feel fulfilled, and be able to complete the rest of your tasks with confidence, focus, and direction.
5. Time Block Your Tasks
Similarly to prioritizing your daily tasks based on their importance and due date, and adding them to your calendar accordingly, you may find it helpful to block out times slots in your daily calendar for each activity, based on how much time you estimate it will take. This way, you will have a good idea of what the day ahead of you will look like, and create realistic goals for what you will be able to accomplish. One caution to be aware of is Parkinson’s Law, which states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” so be sure not to allocate too much time to your tasks, or they may end up taking up more of your time than necessary.
6. Make a To-do List at the End of Each Day
Taking time at the end of each work day to make a list of what is left over, and the immediate next steps will save you time the following morning, no longer having to try and remember and pick up the pieces. In addition to this, you can also review your to-do list from the day before, and see just how much you accomplished.
7. Do Not Multitask
Multitasking is a trap. By definition, multitasking entails tackling multiple tasks at one time. Working on two tasks at once, instead of just one, however, is not the efficient hack it appears to be. When you are dividing your focus between tasks, your mind and focus are splintered, curbing your productivity, taking up more time than if you had done them in sequential order. Doing your work one piece at a time allows you to put all of your resources into that one piece, and unlock just how powerful a moment of focus can be.
8. Block Out Distractions
The biggest threat to productivity and time management are the distractions that leech valuable minutes from us throughout the day. Phones have an ability like no other to make hours pass without notice, derailing your planned schedule. There are plenty of apps available to keep you accountable for the time spent on your phone, but developing the self discipline to put it away and not check your phone during working hours is what will help you in the long run, so it is imperative to be exigeant now with how you are spending your time.
9. Learn to Say No
Unsurprisingly, a great way to complete all of your tasks in a period of time is to reduce your number of tasks. When there is a project or task that falls at the bottom of your list of priorities, or is actually under someone else’s responsibility, it can be essential for the sake of your important tasks that you accept that you will not be able to complete it, and say no. While it is tremendously rewarding to help others and be collaborative in your workplace, you want to make sure that you are not extending yourself beyond the scope of your capabilities, and damaging your own ability to get your work done. Striking a careful balance is key, and you should not be scared to know and share your limits.
10. Goal Setting
An important lesson to know when trying to maximize the potential of every second, is to be clear on what you are working for. There is no better recipe for productivity than motivation, and when you are intentional about your dreams and goals, short and long term, you will find that all of the tips on this list come even more easily, and your work will be done before you even know it.