Time management is a buzzword these days, usually used by people who say they don’t have any spare time, let alone time to manage everything they need to get done. If this sounds like you, don’t worry. Here are 10 quick tips that will help you get a handle on your daily tasks at home and at work.
Balance Time Between Responsibilities
Whatever your job, you’ve got more than one responsibility to attend to. A survey of managers recently showed that people who are aware of the different kinds of tasks that they need to do—and are cognizant of how much time they should spend on each kind of task—are more satisfied with their overall time management.
Set Very Few Priorities
Priorities should be just that—priority. If you have ten red-flagged items on your to-do list, it becomes difficult for your brain to choose one over another. If you’ve got something that must be done now, don’t lump it in with the other dozen things you need to finish. For example, last minute vacations can be hard to book, so if it’s only three weeks before you’re ready to fly out for your wedding anniversary trip, book it first thing. Once you’ve addressed the priorities, then you can work your way through the less-important details.
There are times when you need to be firm and say that you are swamped. Don’t take on projects you can’t finish and don’t agree to deadlines you’re worried about making. If you’re flat-out booked already, adding more to your plate won’t help the quality of any of your work.
Divide Larger Projects Into Units of Work
Big projects often creep past the time parameters we have set for them because they seem like huge mountains that will never be scaled. Look at your Everest one step at a time and plot your course toward the summit. For example, if your task at hand is hiring a new employee, break that into the smaller bits of writing an ad for the position, placing the ad for the position, reviewing resumes, contacting short listed applicants, etc.
Examine Your List Method
Everyone has a list method these days. Whether you subscribe to the three-tiered list system, or the by-the-hour list system or yet another one, take a look at how you are creating your to-do list. If you feel stressed all the time, then perhaps you need to experiment with a different kind of productivity system that will match your own work methods better.
Use Time Limits and an Actual Timer
Assign time limits to your tasks. Tell yourself, for example, that you’ll spend five minutes only on checking your email before going to lunch. Set a timer to make sure you do this, and obey what it says. The pressure of the timer prevents project creep and keeps you focused. However, be realistic and don’t set yourself to focus on things for longer than 15 or 20 minutes at a time.
Find someone to help you out. It’s hard to ask for help at first, but it’s always worth it. A lot of bosses say that they feel like it will take more time to explain to someone what they want done than it takes to do it themselves; this is not a healthy mindset. Training someone to help you will pay off in the long term.
Are there any two things you can do at once to save you time? For example, if you don’t drive to the office, can you read your email while commuting to work?
Allow Yourself Time to Think
Booking yourself solid every day, five days a week (plus those sneaky weekend hours you end up putting in) is not the way to better time management or better productivity. Buffer a few minutes—five may be enough—between appointments or tasks so that you can reflect on what you’re doing and keep your energy levels high.
Check Email Less Often
You don’t need to answer every email that comes in as soon as it arrives. If there’s an emergency, someone will call you. Schedule a time to check your email—say, four times per working day— with enough time factored in to allow you to take care of any pressing matters that are sent to you. If you know you need to check more frequently than that, or if you’re on alert for a particular email, find out how to use the filters on your email client so you’re not distracted by the less important messages that come in more frequently.
About the Author: Lilly Acker is a productivity specialist and business coach. She has more than 10 years’ experience helping entrepreneurs and nonprofit specialists grow their organizations through improved workflow techniques and positive thinking.