How do you manage your time? There seems to be a limitless number of tips, tricks, and articles claiming to provide you with the secret strategy or best way to make the most of the time you have each day. In fact, a simple web search of “how to manage time effectively” will yield over 387,000,000 results. With this much information, why is it that so many people still struggle to find the time they need to achieve their daily priorities?
Perhaps the answer lies in understanding that is there is no single best way to manage time.
Each person’s life is unique, and their best time management strategy must be constructed based on realistic goals and tailored to their specific external and internal circumstances as well as work and personal demands. We’ve spoken to local efficiency experts to help you better understand what strategies to enhance, avoid, and integrate into your daily routine so that you can put together a strong individualistic time management strategy that works for you.
1. Enhance Beneficial Behaviors and Capitalize on Your Strengths
The first section of this guide will focus on those activities that promote better time management. Two of the foremost are prioritization and planning. First, go through your list of items to complete. Evaluate each one on the basis of how critical it is and how immediately it must be done. The more critical and more immediate items should be prioritized, while other tasks may be planned for a later date or delegated to others.
The next step is planning. With the widespread use of smart devices, there is no end to the myriad of different calendaring and day planning programs and apps available. These technologies can take care of much of the time-wasting minutiae of planning for you, saving you even more time. They also allow for collaboration and coordination of schedules, particularly for remote offices.
Finally, delegate those items that need to be done immediately but are not critically important or a good use of your time. This can be a hard skill to master, particularly for those of us who tend to ascribe to the approach of “the best way to get something done is to do it yourself”, but it frees up time so that you can focus on those tasks that you have prioritized and planned for.
2. Avoid Unproductive Activities and Understand Your Shortcomings
One of the principal things that gets in the way of productivity is ourselves.
Another issue we face is self-sabotaging success through procrastination; putting off the things we’d rather not do and filling the time with preferred tasks. The cycle completely upsets the concepts of prioritization and planning, leading to ineffective use of time.
There are several ways to combat and break this cycle. One common way is to proactively decide to do the thing you like the least before anything else. Make a steadfast commitment that you must do that task or activity before you can move on to any of the other things that you would prefer to do more or find easier to complete. Not only will you get the potential procrastination pitfall out of the way but the rest of your daily tasks will likely seem less arduous by comparison.
Another typical issue that damages time management is allowing interruptions. While some disruptions can be hard to manage in the remote office setting, and by no means do we intend to suggest that all interruptions are controllable (see our work-from-home article for more tips on balancing a home office environment), there are quite a few ways that we can effectively decrease our chances of being interrupted while we focus on priorities and daily plans. One of the biggest offenders is social media. Unless you work in social media management, the likelihood is that you won’t be using Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for your job. Yet, most of us have notifications from these sites come to our phones and often our primary computers throughout the day. Luckily, this can be easily managed by silencing these notifications either on the websites themselves or by using focus assisting software often native on our phones and computers such as Android’s Digital Wellbeing or Apple’s Downtime features.
3. Integrate New Effective Techniques and Maximize your Time
As you learn to enhance the time management skills that you have and avoid those activities that are likely to decrease your productivity, it can often be helpful to utilize new tools and strategies to further benefit your endeavors. Here, we will highlight two great techniques that our experts recommend you incorporate into your daily routine: using a timer and recording your progress. The former may seem simplistic but has tangible benefits. It gives you a deadline to get a task done, which statistically will improve your chances of completing the task. It also can help you fine tune your concentration by segmenting your day into manageable sections of focus. It also eliminates the possibility of “time getting away from you” and keeps you moving from task to task.
A second key technique is recording your progress, sometimes referred to as summarizing. At the end of each day, look back at your priorities and your plan. What were you able to accomplish?
Which activities could have used more or less time than you allotted to them? Write down your evaluations and refer to them when you want to make changes to your schedule or the way that you prioritize. Not only does this help you recognize your successes, it also helps you make informed decisions that can maximize your ability to manage time effectively.
Time management is a topic of much discussion and importance. It can mean the difference between success and failure while also significantly impacting the personal and professional stressors in our daily lives. As the world continues to focus on targeted results, effective time management is even more vital. Each person’s situation is different so understanding your own unique life factors, strengths, and potential pitfalls is critical. With this understanding you can examine the ways that you manage time: what behaviors and activities you should enhance or avoid, and techniques that you may not have tried that could support your skills.
Our top efficiency expert said it best: “Time is a gift, and it’s up to you how you spend it”.