With planners (both electronic and paper), apps, extensions and so on, we are a culture consumed with how to fit more into our days – how to maximum our productivity in the time we have.
We have 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to get things done, and yet most of us certainly aren’t accomplishing everything we’d like to.
So, we take to Google to read up on the latest time management techniques (and there are many). But all that does is waste even more time – what is going wrong? What we really need is to find some techniques that work for us and then stick to them.
Time management is a concern for almost everybody. Even your dog is trying to devise a plan about how he can fit more walking time into his day.
Ultimately, the purpose of time management is to increase our efficiency. In doing so, a major outcome is a sense of balance in our lives – one of the leading benefits of time management.
Indeed, time management skills are among the most important things that we can cultivate. Time management allows us to experience less stress, accomplish more through the reduction of wasted time and it ultimately affords us more free time.
Entrepreneurs are often responsible for their own schedules and productivity, which requires a strong time management system compared to jobs where schedules are already clearly defined. This is exactly why we need to stress the importance of time management in the workplace.
Achieving balance in both work and life is not only necessary to appreciate life for what it is but, perhaps ironically, also to our success across all fronts – including work.
In short, achieving a good work life balance is an outcome of good time management skills but also a necessary means to an end.
So, how can we become masters of our time?
The first question is to ask yourself why you are struggling with efficiency and productivity (and ultimately time management) to begin with. Do you have these symptoms of poor time management skills?
Broadly speaking, there are likely three sources of our time management issues.
We are over-scheduling ourselves; we are simply not using our time wisely (you’d be surprised how much time an email can take up, even though we may technically count that as “working”); or we are simply procrastinating altogether.
The point is, however, once you identify the source of your time management issues, you can apply the time management tips below that specifically apply to you. Most of these tips fall into the “work smarter not harder” category, which can look different for everyone.
However, at its core, working smarter not harder means accomplishing tasks more efficiently. With that in mind, how can we make ourselves more productive?
When it comes to time management, know that it begins and ends with having a specific plan: a list of tasks to complete and a time for when you will complete them. This is the basis of good time management practice.
Next, once you identify the source of your issues with time management, you can apply the tips below that specifically apply to you.
Time Management Tips & Tricks
Time Management Problem #1: You’re Not Being Realistic
One sign that the source of your time management problems stems from the fact that you’re just not being realistic is if your to-do list is notoriously long. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones – this is the easiest one to manage.
If you find that you have implemented every possible time management hack out there and are still leaving multiple things on your to-do list at the end of the day, here are some tips.
Assign a Time Limit To Each Task
Consider that you may have too many things on your list creating a set of tasks that are actually physically possible. Is your daily to-do list a mile long?
It is important for everyone to assign a time limit to each task. Surprisingly, few people actually do this. When allotting time, be realistic about it. Account for interruptions and taking breaks and assign a time limit for each task.
This will ensure that your list is full, but that you prioritize tasks and only include what can actually be accomplished.
This falls under the “work smarter, not harder” kind of mentality. Ending your day at a specific time each day will also prevent you from working late into the night, making you tired and ultimately less efficient – one of the hallmarks when it comes to work life balance tips.
Ultimately, logging more hours at work does not necessarily equal output – in fact, studies say that long hours lead to under productivity.
It has been scientifically proven that having to do something (i.e. accomplish everything on your to-do list) can quickly de-motivate you.
Therefore, it is always better to write a realistic to-do list rather than creating a list that, although satisfying to write the night before, will mentally drain you the next day. That brings us to our second point, which is to:
Prioritize Your Tasks
If you identify the most important tasks and accomplish them first (ideally, in the morning because that is when we tend to have enough mental energy), each day will be at least somewhat of a success.
Outsourcing is always an option for those whose workloads are simply unmanageable. For example, Yocale’s reporting feature via our Business Statistics Dashboard, which keeps track of the most important aspects of your business on your behalf.
Master Your Work Perfectionism
Another antithesis to efficiency is perfectionism. Perfectionism causes us to spend a significant portion of time on insignificant details that really don’t add any true value to a given task.
While some degree of attention-to-detail is a good thing, if it comes at the cost of getting more important things done, it is time to re-evaluate.
Here are some ways perfectionism may be interfering with your time management and what to do about it.
Time Management Problem #2: You’re Letting Seemingly Insignificant Time Eat Away At Your Day
Consider that all of those seemingly insignificant moments (a few minutes to answer a low-priority call, a minute or two to check Facebook) may actually be why you aren’t accomplishing everything you want to. Indeed, these minutes quickly add up.
To get an accurate idea of exactly how much time you are spending on Email and other kinds of web browsing, download the time free management tool, RescueTime.
It runs in the background of your computer or mobile device and will give you a breakdown of exactly where your time is being spent. It also gives you the option to block out sites that are eating up a lot of your time.
If you find that you may be allowing a lot of small things to take time out of your day, here are some tips.
Block All Incoming Emails/Phone Calls
Answering emails is one of the biggest time wasters. Unless it is imperative that emails be answered as they come in, it is best to approach them with caution – the same holds true for phone calls.
This means designating a specific period of time to deal with them (perhaps 30 minutes first thing in the morning and 30 minutes before the end of the work day, or even answering them on a specific day of the week if that works for you).
For the rest of the day, ideally you would block all incoming emails with an extension. Emails are distracting and they interrupt us from accomplishing important tasks.
For example, a co-worker emails us with a seemingly simple task that we don’t think will take very long, but it takes up much more time than we think, potentially disrupting our ability to complete a high priority task. It also makes it more difficult to resume the previous task we were working on.
For those with a Gmail account, INBOX PAUSE is a simple extension that allows you to temporarily pause all incoming emails with the click of a button.
All emails will be redirected to your inbox once you unclick the pause button. In the event that someone emails you, you also have the option to notify them that you won’t be checking your email until a specific time.
This same kind of thinking also applies to incoming phone calls.
Working smarter not harder means a lot of different things, but one common theme is minimizing multitasking.
Use Negative Space
You’d be surprised how much “negative space” we have in our day – time spent commuting, lunch breaks and even weekends.
While designating several hours on the weekend to work can help to alleviate your weekly workload, the takeaway here is to utilize all of that negative space during the working week that you have.
Do you have time to send a few emails while you’re on the train to work? If so, do it. Putting this into practice puts you into the camp of those who work smarter, not harder.
If you can this turn into a habit, you won’t even have to think about it – you will automatically put yourself into efficiency mode.
Time Management Problem #3: You Procrastinate
Sometimes you may find yourself avoiding tasks altogether. According to scientific research, there are three reasons why we may not be motivated to work on a task: we feel like we “have” to do something, we are overwhelmed by the task or it doesn’t fit into our core value system.
Here are some quick tips if you frequently feel like going back to bed for the day. Before you do that, you may want to also read these motivational tips that will inspire you to success.
Schedule Tasks Into Increments + Take Breaks Accordingly (Pomodoro Technique)
One of the most popular time management tips out there is the Pomodoro Technique, which has been around since the 90s. In short, this means breaking down tasks into 25-minute tasks called Pomodoros and then taking a short five-minute break.
After 25 minutes, you can take a short five-minute break to recharge. After four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break.
This technique puts you into efficiency mode. It is motivating you to filter out distractions and commit 100% to a given task since you only have a short window within which to complete it.
If you want a digital resource to help you implement this technique, download the app Simple Pomodoro (Android) or the FocusTime (iOS and Desktop). A web-based option for Windows, Apple and Linux users is PomoDome.
At this point, the advantages of having a clear time management stategy have been laid out for you. In wrapping this all up, time management is all about making yourself more efficient to achieve work life balance, which is also cyclical and necessary to your efficiency at work.
If you can identify the source of your time management issues, turn the above time management tips into habits and your output will probably be akin to a robot in no time.