Managing Your Time Wisely
When implemented successfully, good time management has the potential to not only change the way we structure our daily lives, but also the way that we define productivity. However, it’s easy to let time get away from us, and when we manage our time poorly, it begins to manifest in negative ways. Not only are we likely to become overwhelmed, stressed out, and miserable, but poor time management can also lead to periods of severe procrastination. This is often because we allow ourselves to become intimidated by our growing to-do lists rather than simply focusing on allocating our time in a purposeful manner. Here are the best ways to overcome the slump and get your efficiency back on track.
1) Keep a planner or a notebook solely for “Things That Need Attention” and make a solid to-do list. Write down and prioritize what needs to be completed for each day, what resources you need, and any important reminders. Allot a specific amount of time to each task, for example saying, “I am going to work on this for two hours” instead of “I am going to sit here until this is done.” Put all of your focus toward one item at a time and cross items off as they are completed or become irrelevant.
2) Get ready for each day the night before. Does it take you a long time to pick out your outfit for the day? Are there emails you can take care of quickly? Do you need to pack a lunch or snack? Can you automate your coffee order so it’s ready when you get to the drive-thru? DO these things the night before so that you are able to start each day refreshed and ready to go. The less time you spend doing nonessential things, the less time you have to talk yourself out of doing the things that really need to get done each day.
3) Write out your plan for each day. Is working out a crucial part of your daily routine? Do you have extracurricular commitments after work that you’ve signed up for? Do you make an effort to eat dinner and go to bed and relatively the same time each night? These are all things that, while we expect them each and every day, can make us feel out of sorts when we don’t have a good routine in order. Write down your typical routine for each day and post it somewhere easy to see, like on your fridge. Do your best to stick to it, and your life will begin to feel more organized!
4) Improve your delegation. Is it crucial for you to attend that meeting or reply to those emails? If you find yourself spending a good chunk of time doing what feels like meaningless or time-consuming work, consider assigning it to an assistant or an intern. They will likely appreciate the experience, and you will benefit from the extra time in your day! If letting go of control over these tasks is stressful for you, consider writing down step-by-step instructions for each task so that whoever is completing it is in-the-know and there is smaller margin for error.
5) Ensure that you are making time each day for yourself. It is easy to begin feeling overworked and stretched thin when all you seem to be focusing on is the next important thing that needs to be done. When was the last time you took a few hours to go on a nice date with your significant other or relax with one of your favorite movies? While spending time on what you want to do rather than what you need to do might seem counterproductive at first glance, this time is what keeps us sane and happy, and therefore what makes us more motivated and productive in the long run. It is important to remember that you cannot dedicate your entire life to work – you need to take some time for fun and rejuvenation as well if you want to avoid corporate burnout.
6) Learn to say “no.” Your time is valuable, and it should be treated as such. Don’t waste time on tasks that are not ultimately going to improve your life in some way. It is easy to feel like you have to take on everything that comes your way, whether it is work-based or a favor for friends or family. Remember that quality of services is almost always more valuable than quantity, and that there is nothing wrong with simply explaining that you already have a full plate and don’t feel confident taking anything else on.
7) Use your “waiting time” productively. Have you ever put any thought into just how much time we spend on average waiting on things? We wait while our car gets maintenance done, while our children have sports practice, while we are anticipating a flight, while we are on hold…the list is exhausting. Take this time that is typically spent waiting and find a way to make it work for you. Can you reply to potential leads while your car is in the bay? Can you call and make that appointment while waiting on your child? Can you write down your new ideas while you’re on hold on the telephone? By doing this, you will be drastically limiting the amount of time you spend idle and ultimately have more time in the day to focus on more important things.
Doing even a few of these things gives us a feeling of using our time in a more purposeful manner. In other words, it allows us to feel like we have control over our time, rather than feeling like our time has control over us. By practicing these steps daily, it will eventually become easier and even habitual to manage time in a productive manner and eventually achieve a healthy work-life balance. In addition, focusing on time management skills will also reduce the stress and frustration that comes with feeling like there is never enough time in the day to get everything done. The reality is that there is plenty of time available to us, we just need to be intentional about how we are using it.