Time Management: 15 Ways to Get More From Workdays
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Think you have great time management skills? Terrific — stop the clock for 10 minutes to read this article. Of course you can’t because we don’t manage time at all. Time is indifferent: it moves forward whether you can keep up or not.
Time is a resource, just like any other. At work you have hardware, software, and assistance to get your job done. Time is another tool you have at work (and at home) to accomplish tasks that need doing. We often think there’s never enough of it, or it’s breathing down our neck.
Managing time requires recognizing it’s a finite resource. You can use it wisely, or let it fly past. It’s not about how much time you have, it’s about how you manage your work (or yourself) in the time allowed.
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15 tips for managing your time and workday effectively
1. Conduct a time audit
Time audits can be very revealing — you may be able to figure out where you’re wasting time and where you can recoup. Use your phone, calendar, or scraps of paper to track what you do during the day, and how much time it takes.
Be honest — include the time you spend on personal tasks at work. Audit for a full workweek, then go back and review. Are you spending time on high-value tasks as much as distractions or low-value duties?
2. Reserve the first 15
Schedule the first 15 minutes of your day for planning. Whether it’s a review of your calendar for the day or time spent prepping for the 1st meetings or tasks, make sure the beginning of the day is ‘me time.’
Don’t schedule meetings for the minute you hit your desk — you probably haven’t decompressed from the commute yet. Fifteen minutes isn’t a lot of time for others to wait for you, but it can translate to starting the day smoothly.
3. Scan and schedule
A great use of your first 15 is taking time to scan and schedule. Look through your inboxes — email or paper — with a quick eye to decide what you have to do today, tomorrow, and what goes in the trash.
Don’t pore over every detail — a quick scan will let you know if it’s something that needs immediate attention or if it can wait. The majority of your inbox is probably trash. Weeding it out and prioritizing the rest organizes your day and takes the pressure down a notch.
4. Structure the day
Whether you’ve done a time audit or not, creating a structure for your day is a great way to manage time. Create a list of the tasks you have to perform on a daily basis. These ‘must-do’ responsibilities take priority over everything else. Schedule when they can/should be completed.
Build the schedule around those responsibilities. There may be tasks you only do weekly, or monthly: build them into your structure as well. Once these are scheduled, everything else fits in around them.
5. Do the worst first
If possible, get the worst tasks over with and done as soon as possible. These may be the tasks you hate the most; the ones that are the most time-consuming; or the ones that require the most focus. Whatever your ‘worsts’ are, get them done before anything else, if possible.
Once they’re done, they’re not hanging over your head like a dark cloud. You’ll be motivated to complete them and happy (and less stressed) when they’re finished. If you have to do them, get them done and move on.
6. Take out the clocks
If you’re a clock watcher, take them out of your office or workspace. You have a clock on your computer, and one on your phone. The analog or digital clock staring you down isn’t necessary, and it can be a distraction.
If you routinely meet with people in your office, taking down wall clocks can be particularly helpful. If your guest sees they have plenty of time to gab, that’s what they’ll do. Without the clock, they’re not sure if time is running out, so they’ll get to the point and get moving.
7. Schedule like a shrink
8. Break down projects into small bite-sized pieces
The larger the project, the more likely you are to put it off — sometimes until crunch time, when it’s a mad dash to get it done. A better option is to review the project and see where it can be broken down into parts.
9. Focus on 1 task instead of many
Multitasking is great, unless you want to get something done the right way as fast as possible. Rather than divide your focus on 2 things, hone in on 1, get it done, and then move on.
10. Plan for time-drainers
Whether it’s a person who never stops talking or a task you have to drag yourself to accomplish, there are time drains in every day. Schedule these smartly to motivate yourself (or your talkative coworker) to get it done.
Place these tasks or meetings right before your lunch break or before the end of the day. If you’re hungry or want to get out of there, you’re more likely to focus and get it done. If your colleague hears your stomach growling (or theirs), or sees you checking your watch to catch a train, they’ll move faster, too.
11. Miss the meeting
If you spend time in endless meetings where nothing gets done, consider asking for the notes instead. Meetings are a huge collective time drain that are often as easily replaced by an email than not.
If someone from your department has to show up, consider sending a staff member in your place. They can take notes and report anything interesting, or request anything that was needed.
12. Get rid of it
Think about how much you earn and how you, if you owned the company, would consider the tasks you perform in relation to your pay. Are you spending time on rote, low-value tasks that you should outsource or delegate?
Work Breaks Help Your Brain Reboot
Chances are that some of your work as a freelancer is “think work,” which is done in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of your brain. This is the part of your brain that keeps you focused on your goals, allows you to think logically, and helps you exercise willpower. During your work hours, your PFC is functioning at a high level — it needs a break, too!
Take a Break From Work & Make Better Decisions
Have you ever heard the expression, “Sleep on it”? When you’re trying to make a difficult decision at the end of the day, your brain is fatigued. You’re not ready to make a wise choice. “Sleeping on” your decision allows your brain to rest overnight and helps you potentially make a better decision in the morning.
You probably don’t have the luxury of going to sleep in the middle of your workday, but you can walk away from your work for a few minutes and give your brain a much-needed opportunity to recover from so-called “decision fatigue.” Ultimately, you’ll be able to make a better decision before sending off that email, setting a rate for a new client, or deciding on a title for your next presentation.
Generate More “Aha” Moments
“Aha” moments are instances of inspiration and clarity that help you make progress and achieve breakthroughs during your workday. If you’re a creative, you need inspiration to design a book cover for a client, generate website copy, or cut a new promo video. If you’re a CEO, you require inspiration to shape the vision for your team. If you’re a manager, you need inspiration to problem-solve.
Psychology professor Alejandro Lleras points out a phenomenon called “Troxier Fading” — continual attention to a stationary object in your peripheral vision will actually cause the item to disappear. He believes the same applies to our thought life: Too much focus on one task, and the task will “disappear,” making it more difficult to resolve or move forward.
We can conclude that, for effective time management and effective scheduling we need to note down our tasks, prioritize them, and learn to delegate tasks, should be able to say “NO”, fix time leaks and keep some extra time with ourselves. Try all three methods of schedule planning and continue the one that suits you the best.
If you want to be productive then time management is the most important skill you need to learn.
It helps you in being focused and get things done in a short amount of time with low stress. Can
help you improve your self-discipline.
Time management helps in preventing stress by giving you the exact direction in which you have
to go. In time management you are required to prioritize your tasks. So being aware of the tasks
needed to be completed first reduces a lot of stress.
Yes, time management leads to success as it results in more productivity. And more productivity
leads to timely completion of tasks. So it becomes really important in order to achieve success.