Time Management Tips for Busy People
The quintessential skill that is required to be productive, while maintaining a good work-life balance, is good time management ability, especially for busy people. Depending on your situation, certain things will apply to you more easily, while others may be less practical, but there are general guidelines that you can always follow.
If you are good at time management, you will find yourself more productive, less stressed, and with more free time. Here are seven tips that can help you with managing your time.
1. Plan Ahead
The most essential aspect of good time management is planning ahead – without a good plan in place, you will find yourself scrambling to get things done, and wasting precious time that could be used much more productively in the process.
How far ahead you are going to plan is up to you, but it is advisable to, at least, have a setup for the coming week; ideally, you will have a plan for the entire month. The month ahead of you, or even the entire week, doesn’t have to be too specific or detailed, but the upcoming few days should be.
Start by making a general outline of the coming month. First, put down the most important tasks that need to be accomplished and mark your upcoming events, and plan around them. Set deadlines for tasks and do your best to rigorously follow them. As time goes by, you may find that you were either overzealous with your planning, or unambitious enough – adjust accordingly.
Make detailed daily plans that will include your work-related activities, chores, events and leisure activities, but always leave a bit more time than necessary for each, and try to leave at least a few hours free – you can never know what might come up.
Remember – plans change, don’t let it discourage you. Be ready to make changes and adjustments on the fly, but still try to keep to your original outline. Nothing is so cataclysmic that it cannot be incorporated into the plan, but only if you remain collected and prepared.
After a few weeks, you will see what activities consume more or less time than originally anticipated, so continue planning with that in mind.
2. Write Things Down
It is quite easy to forget what activities you have planned, so the smarter solution is to always write things down, with the plans kept in a clearly visible place, so that you can easily check-up on how well things are progressing.
Depending on your preferences, you can write your plans on a piece of paper or post-it notes that you will stick to your fridge, mark things on your calendar, or put them on a computer or smartphone – just make them easily accessible.
The most important events can be marked with a different color, or you can set up regular alarms and reminders to tell you when something is coming up. Having a physical reference that you can keep an eye on will help you stick to your schedule and not forget anything.
3. Work When at Your Most Productive
We all know the feeling when things are just not happening as they should be, but the work needs to be done, so we push on. This not only takes up more time than necessary, but it also increases your stress levels, as well as drains your energy and motivation, making anything else that you need to do a hassle at best, if not outright impossible.
It may take some time and trying out different options, but attempt to find the right circumstances when you are most focused, and thus, most productive. Do your most important tasks at that time. For most people, mornings are when they are at their best, while as the afternoon turns into evening, they gradually become slower and less efficient.
Even if you are not a morning person, try it out for a few days – you may find out that you actually do work best before lunch. If this system does not work for you, tinker with the schedule until you find the right solution – late afternoon, early evening, whatever time of day helps you stay focused, and do your work quickly and correctly.
When you complete the harder and more important tasks easily, you will find yourself less stressed and with more time on your hands, allowing you to finish everything in the schedule, and possibly get a head-start on tomorrow’s work!
People have a tendency to start with easier jobs when they are rested and relaxed, and leave the harder tasks for later. This often leads to procrastinating until the very last moment, and then the work is rushed, the quality suffers, and it takes up more time than necessary. Try to avoid this – save yourself the headache and do the most difficult tasks when you are at your very best.
4. Avoid Multitasking
Multitasking can seem like an efficient way of saving time – multiple tasks are being done simultaneously, obviously leaving you with more free time. Unfortunately, it rarely works out like we’d want it to.
You are at your best when concentrating on one thing and not dividing your focus. It will take you more time to complete the tasks when doing them concurrently, than it would if you did them one by one, leaving you stressed. Also, you will use up more energy, making everything that follows that much harder to accomplish, and thus taking longer.
Use to-do list and follow deadlines, starting one task only after finishing another. Unless the tasks are simple and do not require your full attention, it is not recommended to work on multiple things at once. Multitasking decreases your productivity and makes things take longer. Save yourself some time and do your tasks one by one.
5. Wake Up Earlier
As was mentioned previously, most people are at their most productive in the morning. You are as rested as you will be for the rest of the day, and thus the most efficient. As the day progresses your will only get more fatigued, even if you take an afternoon nap.
Obviously, maximizing the time that you have in the morning will help you do more work. A simple solution to achieving this is to wake up earlier. It doesn’t have to be very early in the morning – half an hour or an hour earlier than you usually wake up will be enough to get you into the habit.
Being well-rested requires getting enough sleep, so if you intend to wake up earlier, you should make sure that you adjust your daily schedule so that you can also go to sleep earlier. Changing your sleep pattern may be difficult for a few weeks, but you should quickly get used to it.
Give it a try, and you may be surprised by how much easier everything will get once you start getting up just a bit earlier in the morning!
6. Block Distractions
Once you start working, do your best to block out all distractions around you. Even if it seems minuscule, emails, calls and messages eventually add up and can take up a good chunk of your day. Not only that, but once you are concentrating and something takes you out of the zone, it takes time to regain the focus.
If these distractions are happening often enough, you may end up getting barely any work done. Put your phone on silent, turn off notifications on the computer, and get to work. It is unlikely that anything is so important that it can’t wait for thirty minutes, or until your next break.
As working from home becomes more prevalent, it will come with a new set of challenges – quite possibly, even more distractions. Depending on your daily tasks and your home situation, it may take additional effort to block them, but it is manageable.
7. Don’t Overburden Yourself
It is very important to learn what your limits are – you can slowly push them, but strive not to overburden yourself. When it becomes clear that you won’t be able to accomplish what you have set out to do, stress levels will rise and motivation will drop, leading to even less efficiency.
An important part of not overburdening yourself is managing the workload – delegate and learn how to say no. Many people fear that refusing to do certain tasks makes them seem unconscientious, and while this may be the case for some people, not knowing when to unburden your schedule is more than likely to result in biting off more than you can chew.
Knowing when to ask for help and how to say no is a sign of a reasonable person, and one that can be trusted with important tasks. If you work within your limits, the work you do will be better, it will take you less time, and people will know that you are able to meet the deadlines you set.
A counterintuitive aspect of time management is taking breaks. The breaks shouldn’t be too long, but a ten, or fifteen-minute break every couple of hours won’t be detrimental to the amount of work being done, while helping you remain relaxed and focused.
Taking a break every couple of hours will help you clear your mind and maintain focus. Go for a quick walk, have a chat, order a drink to-go, or send a text, and you will notice an increase in productivity once you get back to work. Just make sure your short breaks don’t turn into procrastination.
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