Managing your time effectively is growing increasingly difficult in today’s world. There always seems to be more to do than there is time for. However, with a bit of organization and forethought, it is possible to get things done and still have some free time.
As the world grows increasingly interconnected, it’s naturally becoming more difficult to focus on one task. The ubiquity of smartphones and other electronic devices means that we are constantly bombarded with new information and distractions. It is therefore important to develop effective time management skills to ensure that we are able to complete the tasks at hand without being overwhelmed.
There are a number of different techniques that can be used for time management, and in this article you’re going to learn them all. In particular, we’re going to cover:
- Planning and goal setting
- Time blocking
- Saying no
Let’s get started!
The first step in effective time management is to prioritize your tasks; i.e, determine which tasks are the most important. Human cognition works best when focusing on one, single problem at a time, so it’s essential to identify which task is most pressing and needs to be completed first.
There are a few different ways to prioritize tasks:
Urgent and important
These are tasks that need to be done right away and have a significant impact on your life or work. For example, a meeting that you have to attend, a deadline you’re working against, or an email that requires a response ASAP.
Important but not urgent:
These are tasks that are important to your life or work, but can be put off for a little while. For example, tasks like scheduling appointments, doing research for a project, or writing a report.
Urgent but not important:
These are tasks that need to be done right away, but don’t have a significant impact on your life or work. For example, running errands, answering phone calls, or filling out mundane paperwork.
Generally, you should try to focus on completing the urgent and important tasks first, as they have the biggest impact on your life. The other tasks can be completed later. However, it’s important to remember that these priorities can change depending on your personal situation, so you should always reevaluate them regularly.
Planning and goal setting
The second step in developing strong time management skills is to plan each day and set goals.
Begin by looking at your schedule for the upcoming day. What tasks need to be accomplished? Which can be delegated or postponed? Focus on the next twenty-four hours first, and once you’ve developed a day plan, you can start working on your weekly plan.
Once you have a good idea of what needs to be done, set specific goals for each task. For example, rather than vaguely thinking “I need to call my mom today,” make a goal like “Call my mom for 30 minutes.” Breaking tasks down into specific goals makes them more manageable and helps you stay on track.
Additionally, it’s important to be realistic in your goal setting. Don’t try to cram too many tasks into a day if you know you’ll never be able to complete them all. Pace yourself and allow for some flexibility in your schedule.
Delegation is critical to efficient time management. The most productive people in the world, ‘the ones who get the most done in the shortest amount of time’, aren’t necessarily the ones who work the longest hours. Rather, they are good at delegation and know how to efficiently delegate tasks to others.
Delegation begins with creating a list of tasks that need to be done. If you’re following this article stepwise, you’ll already have this ready after planning & goal setting.
Otherwise, this can be done in a number of ways: by writing down what you need to do, making a mental list, or using an electronic organizer. Once the list is made, it’s important to prioritize the items on it, as mentioned before. The most important tasks should be at the top of the list and less important tasks at the bottom.
The actual process of delegation can be tricky. You need to make sure that the person you’re delegating to understands the task and is capable of doing it. It’s also important to set deadlines for delegated tasks and to follow up with the person who is doing the task to make sure that it was done properly. Very few people can effectively delegate, manage time, and keep track of all the details without a lot of help, so developing this skill will put you leagues ahead of your cohort.
Time blocking is an advanced time management technique that can help you do more faster. It involves dividing your time into specific blocks, and then assigning each block to a specific task. For example, you could have a block of time set aside for work, another for errands, and another for personal time. This technique can be especially helpful if you have a lot of things to do.
There are several methods by which productive people typically block time. One popular approach is the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working for 25 minutes and then taking a five minute break. This cycle is repeated four times, resulting in a 100 minute work session.
Another common technique is task batching, which is when you group similar tasks together and do them all at once. For example, answering emails, making phone calls, or writing proposals. This approach can be helpful because it limits the amount of time you spend on any one task, and it allows you to focus on a specific task without interruption. Task batching is routinely used by some of the most productive people in the world, and is an effective time management method by which to do more.
A note while time blocking: keep all technological distractions at bay during your time blocks so you can stay focused. Phones, games, social media, and other distractions can easily lure you away from your time block if you’re not careful, and they can result in the ‘bounce back effect’ — the phenomenon whereby you’re less productive after periods of high productivity, which cancels out any gains you may have made.
Learning to Say No
Sometimes, in life, the simplest lessons are the hardest ones to implement. Saying no is one of those lessons. For years, we’re taught that it’s impolite to say no and that we should always try to accommodate others. But when it comes to time management, learning to say no is key.
When you’re constantly saying yes to every request, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Saying yes is ‘loaning out your time’, and while it’s important not to shut yourself in your basement and work all day, you’ll never be able to accomplish everything you want if you’re always spreading yourself too thin.
Learning to say no will help you focus on the tasks that are important to you and will allow you to manage your time more efficiently. Additionally, it will improve your self-respect and your independence — two crucial characteristics in the twenty-first century.
The increased dissemination of technology has been both a blessing and a curse for productive-minded people. On the one hand, more technology means more opportunities for distraction.
Your phone is always with you, internet browsing is easily accessible, and notifications are constantly vying for your attention. All of these have a marked impact on your ability to accomplish deep, impactful work.
On the other hand, more technology means more opportunities for automating tedious or time-consuming tasks. For example, you can use scheduling software to automate reminders and tasks, or you can record your time to speed up data entry.
One of the most popular methods of automation is Google Calendar. Simply by introducing an automated notification system, people can improve their punctuality by two times or more.
The key to managing your time effectively in the digital age is to find a balance between automating mindless tasks and avoiding distractions. While difficult, it is possible — great doers like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg routinely employ automation to do what wouldn’t be possible alone.
In summary, time management is key to getting the most out of life. By taking some time to organize and plan, we can minimize stress and maximize productivity. Techniques like prioritization, goal setting, delegation, saying no, and automating your time management are pivotal tools used by the most impactful people in the twenty-first century, and you can use them too!
That said, the most important thing is to find what works best for you and stick with it. If you’re not a morning person, don’t try to become one. If you’re more productive working late at night, adjust your schedule accordingly. The key is to be flexible and always be learning.
So go out there and take control of your time! The world is waiting for what you can achieve.