One of the most important skills to develop, whether searching for a new career or starting a new business, is time management. When you can manage your time well, you become more productive and gain more time for the things you really love doing. Here are 11 of the best tips you can use for better time management.
Start with a Plan
Going into anything new without a plan simply won’t garner much success. You need to create a plan for each day to ensure you know what to expect. While your plan may not be perfect and each day may not go exactly according to plan, the plan gives you a safety net and a guide.
Treat your plan as an overview for the week and for each day. With a good plan, you won’t get caught off guard and you’ll have something solid to come back to when you get off track.
Make Use of a Calendar
If you’re going to manage time it only makes sense that you use a calendar. Whether you choose a physical pen and paper type of calendar or you choose software, such as Google Calendar, you need to use a calendar to manage your time.
It’s best if the calendar or planner you choose allows you to allot blocks of time throughout the day in a way that makes sense to you. Sometimes, using Google Calendar or another type of software can be difficult, if you like to plan tasks down to the minute because most calendars work in half-hour increments. However, there are still ways to work within these types of tools to make your time management easier.
Start Your Day with the Most Important Tasks
When we first awake and get into our days, our willpower is much stronger than it will be towards the end of the day. Think of it as a muscle. The more you use it throughout the day, the more worn out your willpower will become.
Starting your day with the most important tasks (MIT) will allow you to get what’s most important done first. It’s much easier to do this when your willpower is strong and you are less likely to give into procrastination or other temptations.
Get an Appropriate Amount of Sleep
Trying to manage your time when you didn’t sleep well isn’t easy. Getting plenty of sleep will make sticking to a new schedule or any new habit, much easier.
While some people really do require 8 hours of sleep, everybody is different. You want to make sure you get the appropriate amount of sleep, as getting too much sleep can be just as bad as getting not enough sleep. If you function best on 6.5 hours of sleep, plan for this amount, but not less and not more.
Handle Only One Task at a Time
Multi-tasking is for those not smart enough to figure out that we, as humans, truly cannot multi-task. Sure, you can have something running on your computer at the same time as you are doing something else, but you are not truly doing two things at once. Instead, your computer is doing two things at once and you’re participating in one of those things actively.
Focusing on one task at a time is one of the most important time management tips you will find. When we devote all of our attention to something, it gets done faster and often better than when we try to do more than one thing at a time. Choose the task from your schedule, focus your energy on it and finish it before moving on to what’s next.
While the basics of time management can be applied to any schedule with any start time and end time, starting early makes managing your day far easier. If you’re used to starting your day at 9am and you switch the start time to 5am, you’ve gained 4 hours at the beginning of your day when your willpower is very strong.
For those starting a new workout routine, this has proven to be very successful because they can get the workout done early and not have to worry about it the rest of the day. This also works great for those trying to start a new business from home while working a job, those seeking a new career or new type of training and even for those just looking for a little extra time to read or perform a hobby.
Set a Time Limit for Each Daily Task
Putting a limit on the amount of time you will dedicate to a task will ensure you stick to your daily schedule. We need boundaries and rules as humans to function at our best. If you only have 30 minutes to create a new 500-word blog post for your business blog, you’re more likely to focus on it and get it done than if it’s just the next task on your list without a strict deadline.
Allow for Buffer Time
While setting a time limit on tasks is very important and makes a big difference, it’s not perfect. Sometimes, interruptions cause us to take longer than expected or a task just isn’t as easy as we first thought it might be. Allow for buffer time in between your tasks to ensure you have enough time to complete the task.
If you don’t need the buffer time (which should be normal after a few weeks of scheduling and adjusting), take a short break.
Prioritize Your Tasks
Assigning a priority to each task makes managing your life and your time much easier. Time management requires you to look at what’s most important, complete it first and move on to other tasks later. By prioritizing each task and assigning it the labels of:
- MIT – Most Important Task
You’ll have a better idea of what really needs to be done and what can be put off.
Batch Your Tasks Together
When you have tasks that can easily be done together, it’s best to batch them. For example, if your basic tasks in a day include responding to emails, creating business proposals, making phone calls to clients and filing away paperwork, batch what you can together.
Instead of having email open all day long on your computer, you can set specific times to handle emails and close the program once you’re done. Then, when you make your phone calls, you won’t get distracted by email popping up in between your calls.
Minimalize and Eliminate
When we start managing our time wisely and looking at our schedule, we will likely realize plenty of time wasters are found throughout our day. These need to be minimalized or eliminated.
For many, the time wasters could be checking Facebook, checking email or other distractions. While you may desire time to check Facebook throughout the day, it can be kept to a minimum by blocking off a 15-minute period specifically for catching up on Facebook. This can also be done with email to ensure you’re not using it as a distraction from what you really need to be getting done.
No matter which stage of life you’re in, it’s important to properly manage your time. With the right time management tips and skills, you will feel like your 24-hour day just became a 28-hour day. What will you do with the extra time you find after realizing time management helps you become more productive?