Do you feel as if you are always running late? Or maybe that you are always missing deadlines for work?
If either of these sound like you, this could be because you have poor time management skills. And whether you realize it or not, your poor time management abilities may be what is standing between you and success, in both your personal life and your professional career.
Time management is critical when it comes to balancing a schedule filled with a job, staying healthy, socializing with friends, and hobbies. And if you have a family and kids on top of that, then it may be even more difficult to manage your time properly.
The good news is, there are several techniques that can help you learn to manage your time more effectively, and help you to get a head start when it comes to staying on top of your busy life.
You can use just one technique, or you may find that you need all of them on this list to help manage all the tasks that you have in your life. And once you master time management, you will be surprised at how much less hectic your day-to-day life will feel.
Not to mention you will likely also experience a reduction in overall stress, which will be a nice relief after months of struggling to keep up with never-ending deadlines!
Whether you feel you are spread thin, or think your life is just slightly too busy, time management techniques can help you to regain balance.
So keep reading to find out more about how you can learn to effectively manage your time and add some extra time for peace and quiet into your busy schedule.
1. Don’t use an alarm clock in your smartphone! It’s better to set an alarm in your radio – this way you will avoid the temptation of checking social media or your emails once you grab the phone to turn off the alarm. Important tip: hide the remote control to your radio far away from your bed, as this will force you to get up out of bed to turn off the alarm or music. And remember not to go back to your bed once you get up.
2. Pomodoro is one of the most popular techniques of time management. All you need is a timer, or an app on your smartphone, for measuring progress as well as a list with tasks. In this method you work for a short period of time (25 mins) after which you will take a mini break (5 mins). You repeat this cycle 4 times, then take a longer break (30 mins) once the 4 cycles are over. Pomodoro technique works because in the time designated for work you fully focus on the work at hand and the passing of time motivates you even more. The short break on the other hand serves as a quick body recovery. This doesn’t mean that during this short break you should check your emails or social media – just the contrary. Use it to have a walk or to stretch instead.
3. Eliminate the tasks that bring nothing to your life. Each time you do something unimportant, you are missing out on doing something important. Have a close look at your daily activities and figure out which of them are pointless. Do you need to watch TV every day for a few hours? Do you need to spend a few hours a day on social media? How about shopping or meeting your friends? Maybe you spend too much time on reading your emails and deleting them? Answering these sort of questions will help you to become aware of time consuming and often needless activities in your daily routine so that you can get rid of them. This will give you more time for what you consider important in life. Always try to find a way to do something quicker and with less effort. For example talking to someone via Zoom is more efficient and saves time than if you were to travel to a different city to meet that person.
4. Perform tasks slowly but surely. Whatever you want to do, such as learning new skills or starting a new habit, do it systematically by taking small steps. Slow consistent progress is better than short lived enthusiasm. Whatever you want to do, e.g. start a new project—think about what first small step you can take to get closer to your goal. Let’s say you want to start doing push-ups systematically because you want to get stronger. Don’t start with doing 100 or more push-ups on your first day, especially if you haven’t done push-ups for years—because the pain in your arms the next day will only discourage you from doing the exercise again. Instead, try to do 4 rounds of 5 push-ups each. Train like this for a week or two and later you can start doing more push-ups as you progress. Small steps are the key to consistent progress. If you try to implement changes in your life too fast, you will get tired and you will burn yourself out.
5. Always set the time you will need to finish the given task. Limited time will have a motivational effect on you. It’s better to write the time in minutes rather than in hours. This is because 60 minutes will seem to pass by faster than 1 hour – so you will be more aware of the melting time. Tip: You can try to up your productivity by reducing the time you need to finish the given task. For example, if something usually takes you 60 minutes to complete, next time try to do it in 45 minutes. Even if you won’t be able to do it by your new deadline, maybe you will save 5 or 10 minutes this time around. But don’t give up, because the next time you try to save 15 minutes you might succeed! Use this process to gradually reduce the time you need to finish different tasks and monitor your results.
6. Multitask, but only if you can combine physical tasks with mental tasks. Physical tasks include working out, driving a car and other activities where your physical body is mainly involved. Mental tasks include activities that require you to be more focused, such as listening to conversations on the radio or tv, learning something new, or talking to someone. For example, if you’re an experienced driver, you can drive and listen to an audiobook at the same time. Or while you are vacuuming, put on your headphones and try learning a foreign language. Another idea is to try running on a treadmill while listening to a podcast. Generally speaking, focusing only on one task at the given time will yield better results. But in certain cases, you can do two different things simultaneously to manage your time better.
7. Delegate. Time is very precious, and as you know, you cannot get it back. Once it has passed it has passed. That is why you should delegate as many tasks as you can. But this may leave you wondering which ones? The answer is, the ones that you don’t like that also don’t help you grow, but you have to do them anyway (e.g. tidying up, working in the garden, picking up fruits, cooking etc.). If you earn per hour more than what you would have to pay for an hour someone else for doing these things for you – delegate these tasks. Remember to always delegate only those tasks that according to you are unimportant for you and the price for doing the given task is smaller than what you earn per hour. The time that you will save this way can be spent on developing your business, or on anything else that is worthwhile for you.
8. The 3-minute technique. This technique is helpful when you don’t feel motivated, and don’t feel like doing anything on a given day. Now, the question is: Will just 3 minutes be enough time to finish what you need to do? Most often not, but these 3 minutes can give you a good start. For example if doing the given task seems to be too much for you, then spend only 3 minutes on it. After 3 minutes, it may turn out that the task isn’t as bad as you had thought, and you’ll find that you can work on it much longer now. This technique can be applied to many different things in your life, not just to doing stuff that can help your business grow. For example, if you don’t feel like working out today, try to do it for just 3 minutes first. If after the first 3 minutes you’re still not motivated to train, maybe you should let it go for the day. This may not always work, but if you have the right mindset, and you’re the person who doesn’t like wasting your time, then 3 minutes can be enough time for you to spur you to action.
9. 5-second rule. Why 5 seconds? Because within these five seconds you should make up your mind and start working on your task immediately. If you have a list of things to do and you don’t know where to start, pick the task that seems to be the most difficult for you, and without thinking too much, without analyzing – get down and start working on it. And if it happens that you don’t know which task to choose from the list, because all of them may seem to be unappealing, then within 5 seconds pick a random one and start working on it as soon as possible. Why act so quickly? Because too much thinking breeds problems, you start to create obstacles for yourself. Make up your mind fast – this way you will save not only time, but also energy. If you stick to the 5-second rule consistently, over time you will notice that you start to work on new tasks quickly without analyzing them too much.
10. Do your tasks once and do them as best as you can on the first attempt. Why on the first attempt? Because when you come back later to fix or correct the same task, you do it twice essentially. By working on a task a second time due to errors, you need to get involved in it again and this wastes your time and energy. Example: if you’re supposed to write a short article for your blog, finish it on the first attempt, don’t create a draft version. If you create a draft version first, then later, e.g. tomorrow, you will need to go over it again and you will probably make some corrections, some of them unnecessary. If it’s a short task, then do it once & move on. If it’s a long task, then this technique of time management doesn’t apply because you may need a few days to complete it.
11. Divide your daily tasks into 4 categories. Important & Urgent; Important & Not Urgent; Not Important & Urgent; Not Important & Not Urgent. Important and Urgent tasks are the ones that you need to do immediately, e.g. fix something that is not working because you need it for work. Important & Not Urgent tasks are the ones that you don’t need to do immediately, but at the same time you shouldn’t put them off for too long, otherwise they may become urgent. You can decide whether to do them now or some other time, such as arranging a meeting with someone who can help you grow your biz, or hiring new employees. Not Important & Urgent tasks are the ones that you may delegate because they’re not important to you, but they need to be done. Not Important and Not Urgent tasks are all the tasks that bring no value to your life and you can eliminate them altogether or at least to some extent, like playing computer games or watching TV on a frequent basis.
12. The 4Ds system. What does it stand for? Delete, Delegate, Delay & Do. DELETE means that you should delete all tasks from the Not Important and Not Urgent category. You don’t need to bother with these tasks because they bring no value to either your private or your business life. Delegate tasks that you don’t have to do yourself. This way you can focus on more important things for the development of your business. For example, if you need fresh content for your website, instead of writing it yourself you can hire a freelance writer, or a designer if you need a nice cover for your book. Delay – some tasks may be important, but you may not have time to deal with them right away. In this case, you should just put the task aside for later until the right time comes to do it. Just don’t delay it for too long as this may lead to procrastination. Set a deadline for yourself and stick to it. Do – this category includes tasks that have to be done immediately, so no excuses. Usually these are tasks that are both urgent and important. However, if the given task is not urgent but still important, and you can get it done quickly – do it.
13. The Pareto principle states that 80% of output results from 20% of your inputs. So 20% of your work is responsible for 80% of your results. An important thing to do is to decide which 20% of your work generates which 80% of results. This rule applies to both your personal and professional life. In business pick 20% of jobs/clients that bring you 80% of income and stick with these clients. In your personal life, stay in touch with 20% of friends who bring you the most joy that you feel the most comfortable in their company. The Pareto principle helps you to manage your time better because thanks to it you will be focusing only on the essential tasks. Of course sometimes you also need to do not so essential tasks in order to get your business going. This is unavoidable.
14. Goal Reminder Technique. It’s natural from time to time for anyone who is working on achieving their goals to get distracted. This is when the goal reminder technique comes in handy. This technique is very simple. Just put a sticker on something, it could be your laptop, smartphone, or even a piece of furniture with the sign “remember your goal” or something similar. While working on the task peek at the sticker from time to time - it should help you to get back to your work and continue realizing your goal whenever you get distracted.
15. Another technique that can help you better manage your time is setting reminders. For this you can use small sticky pieces of paper or your smartphone. It’s important to combine the type of reminder that you’re going to set with the goal that you plan to use it for. For instance, if you need to do some errands in town tomorrow set a reminder in your phone. You may need to go to the hairdresser, to meet someone, and to buy some stuff. So if you know that around noon you will be close to the hairdresser’s set a reminder in your phone that you should drop by and get a haircut. If you have few things to do, then probably you can do them without reminders, but if on the day in question you have to do a lot of things, then reminders may be very useful. This way you won’t have to remember every little thing in your head. Setting reminders in your phone will help you remember other small things like your friend’s birthday, picking up your car from a mechanic, or swallowing your pills at 2.45 p.m. As for sticky pieces of paper, you can always stick them to your laptop, to your wallet, or to your bank card. For example, on a sticky paper that you will carry on your wallet you can write “take out $500 from an ATM machine” or “buy a new mouse for my laptop” etc. Then you will see the note every time you go to use the wallet and remember to make the specified purchases.
16. Time audit is a time-consuming task, but it can bring a lot of benefits in the long run. So, what is it exactly? During the day we do different things, and the goal of time auditing is to find out how much time it takes us to do each task. Do you know how much time you spend daily watching TV or reading newspapers? Pick one day of the week, like Tuesday or Wednesday, and write down on a piece of paper how much time you spend doing different things that day. Maybe you spend one hour preparing dinner, and it takes you 20 minutes to get dressed to leave house in the morning. Write down every activity with the time it takes to the minute. Although time audit is a time-consuming task, its results can show you where your productivity is failing. This will help you to manage your time better. For example if you work at home 10 hours a day, you may find out that you’re really productive for only 5-6 hours. This means that may be it's better to spend the additional 4 hours you usually spend working on some other activity that will bring you more benefits.
17. Always have something to do when you know, or you suspect, that you will have to wait for something or for someone. Such as when you go to the dentist and you know that you probably will have to wait 15-30 minutes because your dentist is always late. You should be prepared so that instead of staring at the wall or scrolling a Facebook feed, you can try to study new vocabulary in the foreign language that you’re learning. If you have a meeting with someone, but the other person is running late, don’t waste your time sitting idly. Always have a plan B to use your time as best as you can. If you’re driving a lot, audiobooks should be your best friend.
18. If you’re trying to grow your business and you have a lot of ideas on how to do it, the best thing you can do is to write your ideas down in a notebook. At first don’t do anything with your new ideas, just let them sit in your notebook for a while. After a few weeks, when you open your notebook, you may want to act on some of these ideas while others will seem unimportant to you. That is why you shouldn’t do anything with your ideas at first, but just wait, otherwise you may be wasting your time doing something that may not bring you the benefits that you expect. However it’s important to write down all of your ideas regardless, even the ones that may seem to be run of the mill at first, because you never know what may really work out for your business later on.
Ready to conquer your time management problem? Then pick a technique on the list and apply it to your life! Don’t be discouraged however, if you try one technique and it doesn’t seem to work for you. Instead of struggling to make it fit in your life, don’t be afraid to toss it to the side and try a different technique from the list. Everyone’s life is different, and therefore the techniques that will work for you will be different too.
You’ll know you’ve found the technique for you when your work flow seems to go smoothly, and you are less stressed than before you started using the time management technique. You will also notice that you are more productive at your tasks than you were before you tried the time management technique!
No matter what your career path or life may be, you should now have ideas on how to maximize your time to balance your schedule. Whether you decide to delegate tasks, or work using the pomodoro technique, you are well set up for whatever tasks may come your way!