Time Management Skills and Strategies
The Time Management Challenge
No matter how you look at it, each of us has the same 24 hours in every day. This is irrespective of our race, rank, intelligence or bank account balance. It is the same 24 hours for everyone.
Much may be said concerning successful people, but one thing they have in common is that they are deliberately careful with how they spend their time. We all have the same 24 hours, so it stands to reason that the critical difference lies in how wisely we use our time.
In this article, we will cover some of the ways in which you can become much more productive by effectively managing your time.
We all have the same 24 hours. The critical difference lies in how wisely we use them.
1. Assess the Current Situation
To begin with, you need to stop and take inventory of how you have been using your time lately. This is a personal self-assessment that will give you a picture of exactly how you use this irreplaceable resource.
You may have noticed that your day seems to slip by rather quickly and before you know it, the 24 hours are gone and you have hardly been able to achieve what you set out to do. If so, you need to start logging your daily activities.
Once you identify the activities that occupy your time, you will be able to isolate and focus on those that yield the most returns. Sit down and calculate how much time you spend on each task right from the moment you wake up.
So how do you go about tracking your time? There are useful apps available that you can download to help you track your time each day. For more information, check out this list.
2. Maintain a Schedule
Prepare a simple template that you can fill in with the tasks that need to be done for each particular day. This to-do list needs to split into categories - personal activities, family activities, business activities, and so on.
It is necessary to break down big projects into smaller, actionable tasks so that they are not so intimidating and are easier to complete.
Arranging tasks according to their priority will enable you to devote time to the issues that matter the most in your life.
If you feel you always have more to do than the hours there are in a day, then you need to prioritize. Arranging tasks according to their priority will enable you to devote time to the issues that matter the most in your life.
Here you can perform some experiments till you find the arrangement that works best for you. With document processing software, you can use colour coding to distinguish the categories in their order of priority.
Alternatively, you could simply label them as A, B, and C activities, with A being the top priority tasks, B the moderate priority tasks and C being the lowest priority tasks.
When determining how to prioritize the tasks, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Which tasks need to be done today?
- Which tasks can be rescheduled?
- Which tasks can be delegated?
- Which tasks are central to my personal goals?
- Which tasks can be eliminated?
4. Set Limits
Realize that you do not have to consent to everything or everyone's requests. Learn to say no. If your to-do list is way too long, it is likely that there are things that you are devoting your time to which are dispensable.
Become firm in your resolve and establish clear boundaries in your life. Before you agree or consent to something, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I truly have the capacity and time to deal with this?
- Is it going to be profitable?
- Is it in line with my priorities, mission and goals?
- What would be the cost of not doing this task?
The average person has approximately 70,000 thoughts per day. If you are going to get things done in your life, you will need to manage your mind.
5. Eliminate All Distractions
Everywhere you turn today, there are time suckers. Distractions abound. Stop and consider for a moment the unexpected things that occur in your everyday life which are unplanned and consume your time.
It could be anything... ranging from emails and text messages on your phone to unplanned social encounters. You can resist this trend by ensuring that you turn off your email when working. If a family member or friend gives you a social call, politely ask them if you could return the call at a later time.
Interruptions can be disruptive when you are working on time management, especially when those interruptions are neither urgent nor important. Here is where you need to practice the discipline of sticking to a task from start to finish. If something else comes up which needs to be taken care of, note it down in your list, and continue working on the project or task at hand.
6. Control Your Thoughts
However, not all distractions are external. A lot of them are internal and have to do with our thought life. It can sometimes feel like your own mind is conspiring against you and sabotaging your efforts.
You may be trying hard to devote your attention to a task, but then thoughts concerning something that happened in the past, or some awful news you have recently received, or an emotional exchange you had with someone, creep in and derail you from your goal.
The average person has approximately 70,000 thoughts per day. If you are going to get things done in your life, you will need to manage your mind. Immediately you find yourself dwelling on a distractive train of thought instead of focusing on your project, stop and ask yourself:
Is this thought relevant? Is this thought useful?'
Practice doing this and you will notice that it will be easy to eliminate distractive thoughts and refocus your attention on what really counts in the present time.
Learn to differentiate between what a true emergency is and what is simply going to set you back.
6. Stick to the Plan
This is so important, it needs a section on of own. Once you have created your time management strategy, you need to stay true to it no matter what happens.
Realize that plenty of people who are not interested in managing their time will have emergencies that they will expect you to deal with. In other words, things go wrong in their lives due to their mismanagement of time, then they turn around and want you to fix the problem.
Learn to differentiate between what a true emergency is and what is simply going to set you back. Assign yourself deadlines for the projects that you have in your list and organize yourself to meet those deadlines. When distractions occur, have a filtering system in place to avoid wasting time.
7. Find Your Most Convenient Place and Time
When going through the activities that you have planned for the day, perform the tasks that require the highest level of thinking at the time when you are freshest.
Are you most productive in the morning, or are you a night owl? Schedule your plan such that you will be able to deal with the most demanding tasks when you are most productive.
Ensure the space you designate for your work that is clear of all clutter and distractions. As far as possible, the setting should have an inspiring feel that motivates you to create results with your time.
The more you get into the habit of monitoring, measuring and managing your time, the more you will begin to see successful results in your life. The rewards will be worth the efforts.
8. Combine Similar Tasks Together
Review the list that you have created. If there are activities which are similar in nature, or belong in the same sub-category, group these together and do them in one sequence.
This will actually save you more time shifting in between various tasks in the sub-categories and you will be able to process your activities faster.
When you combine tasks in this way, your brain will find it easier to navigate through and over time, you will start conditioning yourself to work systematically, as opposed to the common scatter-brained approach to life that is so prevalent in our modern age.
9. Become Organized
When everything is in its right place, you save time and make room to concentrate on the task at hand. Personal organization varies from one person to another because we are not all the same when it comes to how we approach situations.
This is why employees in a company may feel trapped and stifled to counterproductive levels when management implements a blanket organizational process which is too specific and does not allow them to establish their own rhythm.
So how can we become organized in our personal lives?
A lot of time in our day is spent in various forms of communication. One way to be organized is to arrange your phone lists or contacts into groups and label them according to how you use them, for example, Family, Relatives, Friends, Co-Workers, and so on.
Group your emails into categories and create folders for each. If you regularly receive a lot of emails from certain sources, it would be best to set up an inbox rule that automatically transfers all such messages into the relevant folders. Instead of using multiple calendars or planners to track work appointments, other events and meetings, schedule them all in one.
As stated before, declutter your workspaces to ensure nothing impairs your concentration. Make a habit of preparing everything you need for the day the previous evening before retiring.
When you manage your time properly, you will accomplish more with less effort. Never allow time to simply slip by. Rather, take charge and control.
Become selective in how you spend your time. Devote your focus to the activities that are in tune with your vision and goals.
It will not be easy at first, but the more you get into the habit of monitoring, measuring and managing your time, the more you will begin to see successful results in your life. The rewards will be worth the efforts.