The phrase time management can be quite scary. It brings to mind the looming deadlines and list of tasks left to do. Time management should not evoke such a feeling if you organize your day effectively. The chances are a lot of people need help managing their time.
Effective time management can boost your productivity, and help maintain mental alertness in your work. Some people go the length of takrecording time management classes, use electronic planners or read books on the topic in a bid to better handle their day-to-day tasks.
In practice, time can be physical or mental. The physical time deals with time as a unit of measurement. The mental time is relative, and can fly or drag depending on what you are doing, or whether you are anxious or expecting. It flies when you are having fun, and drags when you are doing something boring.
Time is precious and should not be wasted. Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, the only thing standing between you and your goal is time. The tips below can help you manage your time more effectively.
1. Plan your work ahead
The only way to stay ahead of time is to plan. Make a record of your schedule which should include your thoughts, activities for the day or week, and conversations. This will help you to predict how much work you can do in a day. It can help you track both your unproductive and productive time, so you can alter your schedule if the need arises. When you have laid out a plan for the day, make sure you stick to it.
2. Prioritize your schedule wisely
Your to-do list should focus on the urgency or importance of the task, according to an organizational tool in First Things First, by Stephen Covey. After prioritizing your tasks, align them with the demands of your job or goal. Your day-to-day activity should fall into one of four categories: important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but unimportant, and both not urgent and unimportant. Start with the important and urgent task. Map out three to four tasks that are important and urgent, and start with them. Once you get done with any task, check it off your list.
3. Learn to delegate where possible
You have to realize you cannot manage the entire workload yourself. Delegation is hard, because it is difficult to trust another person to be as effective as yourself. No matter how small your business is, running a one-man-show will wear you down eventually. Several resourceful articles are available online that might help you determine which tasks would be better delegated or outsourced. You tend to achieve more when you delegate, because you are left with more time to invest in other activities. When opportunities arise, pass specific tasks to other team members.
4. Stop leaving tasks unfinished
The ghost of unfinished tasks will continue to haunt you. When you start a task, make sure you complete it before moving on to the next. Advice you normally hear is that you should learn how to multitask. There are activities where you cannot multitask. For example, if you are entering data into an Excel sheet and decide to combine it with reading and answering emails, you will discover the data entry task will take twice as long to do. Learn to set time limits for a task and endeavor to finish it within the stipulated limit.
5. Choose to be effective over being efficient
Life is not a race, and you should not try to please everyone. To be effective, you must learn to say NO. When a friend approaches you to assist in a task which will eat the time set aside for your urgent and important tasks, learn to tell them no politely. To improve your effectiveness, you may need to take up tasks which you are not familiar with. Unfamiliar tasks will take you more time to complete, and there is the danger you may not do it well which will affect your reputation.
6. Organize your desk and working environment
Have you ever found yourself in the situation where you are looking for a pen, and you cannot find it because the desk is cluttered? It happens all the time if your task list and in-tray are left untidy. You can save tons of time by being organized. You don’t need to be the most organized person in the world to reap this benefit, because a system is not hard to create. File documents, map out a particular place to store items, and unsubscribing from irrelevant mailing lists can be a perfect start.
7. Focus on the vital few
The aim of your business should be your ultimate goal.The activities that consume most of your time should be those that are in line with your business goals. Treat everything that is not part of your short- or long-term goal for your business, as a potential time-waster. Pay attention to the number of times someone distracts you in the middle of an important task, and track distractions that are self-induced. It may take a great deal of willpower, but shutting the door on the source of your distractions will improve your effectiveness.
8. Treat urgent and important tasks equally
Procrastination sets in when you put off the difficult tasks in favor of the easier ones. All important and urgent tasks should get accorded the same priority. If you have a to-do list, stick to it. The problem with piling up difficult tasks is that it makes it more difficult to handle them in the long run. Being a perfectionist can make you procrastinate. You begin to pay attention to unnecessary details, and make tasks seem harder than they are. You don’t need to be perfect, just get it right. One way to avoid procrastination is to get a head start.
9. Change personal habits that consume your time
You should have a time-management goal which focuses on changing your behavior, rather than altering time. The perfect start is to eliminate self-imposed time-wasters. For example, you may decide to set a goal to ignore non-work related calls or messages during work hours. Those minutes you spend answering personal calls or reading personal messages quickly eats the time better used for being productive. Identify those behaviors that can interfere with your time management, and root them out.
Making use of time pockets when you are supposed to wait can help you conserve time and get the job done. It is unlikely you would schedule a meeting with a client, or book an appointment with a dentist without spending valuable time waiting. Thanks to technology, you can now work on the move.
The end of one calendar year provides you with the best opportunity to look back and take stock of what you have done with your time. Ask yourself if there are areas that need improvement. Compare spending time to spending money, and it will give you a clearer picture – whether you have invested or simply wasted it.
In what ways have you been wasting time, and how have these tips helped you see it? We value your opinions - let us know in the comments below!