If you find yourself saying that, keep reading. We are all given the same amount of time in each hour, each day, each week, each year. Some people have mastered how they spend their time, and some of us need reminders. Effective time management involves setting priorities, creating a schedule, honoring it, delegating tasks, and avoiding distractions. By managing yourself and your time well you can reduce stress, increase productivity, and achieve a better work-life balance.
Here are some strategies that will help you use your time more effectively for more productivity and better results.
First Find Out Where All Your Time Goes
Before you do anything else, do you know how you are spending your time? The first step to managing your time effectively is to figure out how you’re currently spending it. You can do this by keeping a time log for a week or two. Track how much time you spend on each activity. Break it down to 10-15 minute intervals. That quick check of the news? You may find out that you spent 20 minutes scrolling the feed. Once you have a good understanding of how you’re currently spending your time, you can start to identify areas where you can make improvements.
Once you have a good understanding of how you currently spend your time, here are some key steps to becoming more effective:
- Set your goals and priorities. Prioritize based on importance and urgency. What are the most important things you need to accomplish? Why are those important? Once you have a clear understanding of the priorities that support your goals, you can start to schedule your time accordingly.
- Break down what needs to be done into tasks. 20 hours to “Create Proposal” can be intimidating. Start with small steps: research client, review requirements, discuss pricing and timing with team members, etc. Then schedule each task.
- Plan your day. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to plan your next day. This will help you stay focused and allow you to get a productive start to the day. Put your most challenging task at the time of day when you are the most focused. When planning your day, be sure to include time for breaks and meals. Color code your calendar and add recurring items so those times are reserved. Once your schedule is set, stick to it!
- Don’t try to multitask. Do one thing at a time, do it well and complete it. Multitasking can often impede your productivity.
- Take breaks. Take breaks to rest, hydrate, nourish, move, and recharge, even if it’s just for a few minutes. A ten minute walk or stepping outside for some fresh air allows you to come back to a task with renewed focus and energy.
- Avoid distractions and time wasters. This might be social media, news sites, even emails. The most common one has become unnecessary meetings. All meetings need to have an agenda and a time limit. Otherwise, it’s an email stream. When you’re trying to focus on a task, turn off your phone, close your email, and find a quiet place to work.
- Delegate and Eliminate. Hand off those tasks that other team members can do. You should focus on those items that only you can do. Not only will this free up your time and energy, you will also develop and empower your team. When delegating tasks, be sure to give clear instructions and deadlines. Eliminate those things that are not supporting your goals.
- Say no. If a request does not align with your priorities or schedule, say no.
- Take care of yourself. It’s important to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly. When you take care of yourself, you’ll have more energy and focus to manage your time effectively.
Effective time management is really self-management. Be thoughtful about how you are spending your time. Do you really need to respond to every email the second it hits your in box? Are you truly the only person who can follow up on customer requests? Do you need to attend that meeting, or can you just read a summary of the action items?
There is one final step to effective time management. Reward yourself and acknowledge your accomplishments. Take a minute to look back and see what you achieved. This will help you stay motivated and on track. Rewards don’t have to be big or expensive. Even a small treat or activity can be a great way to celebrate your success.
It isn’t a matter of having enough hours in the day. The secret to success lies in how you use those hours.
Author: Sandy Merritt, Business Coach in Louisville, KY