We live in a world that just gets faster and faster. More and more demands are made on our time and attention. Not surprisingly, we find it harder to concentrate and to manage our time effectively.
Time management skills are the key to success for employer and employee alike. There are five key areas to effective time management, each and every one being as vital.
Looking after yourself: Looking after yourself properly has a huge impact on your time management skills. Many of us cite lack of time disenabling our self-care. The reality is that we better state we are in, the more we get done.
This means getting 7-8 hours’ sleep a night. It means exercising first thing to bring you to full and positive mode before you start. It means taking regular breaks when you are working, around ten minutes in the hour with a good 30 minutes right away from your desk at lunch. Eating healthily makes a difference to the way we perform too.
Effective Planning: Effective goal planning makes all the difference so allow regular time monthly to check your overall goals and break them down to weekly. Write them up on one calendar or app. Too many systems just take time rather than save it.
Over 90% of people fail to achieve their long term goals so make up your mind that is not going to be you. Use SMART goal planning, giving each goal down to each chunk of work a timed deadline. Achieve them by ignoring perfectionism and keeping going, and judge yourself on the results achieved no the time taken.
Track where your time goes for a week and categorize each bit into 4 areas: important, urgent, both or neither. 80% of what you achieve will have come the important quarter. Learn to judge your tasks accordingly. This is the Eisenhower decision matrix, evolving from his famous quote “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”. Embrace Eisenhower.
Block out your time including prioritizing downtimes with the family, exercise and quiet times.
Eliminate distractions: Distractions lose us both the immediate time, but also the time it takes for us to re-focus to where we were. Distractions are the enemy of time management and need blocking. Emails are a huge source. Turn off your email alerts and block times to deal with them. Have a fierce email filter and regular unsubscribe to all junk that mysteriously still appears. Go from top to bottom of what is left and do everything you can do quickly. Diarize the remainder that need more serious time. Turn off all other app alerts too. None of them are in the important category. You always need to completely focus on the task you on and only that one.
The other distraction is clutter, clutter in your systems, your computer, your desk. Set aside an afternoon and streamline everything so you don’t waste time ever again.
Annalise where you waste time: Tracking your time will give you surprising results. Look at all those wasted hours on social media, excess videos and gaming, equally excess drinking or too many cigarette breaks. Scare yourself – add up those hours for the next 20 years and see if you would be really happy looking back having spent your life that way?
Look at the tasks you really, really hate. Delegate them. Swop some with someone else if needed but get rid of them. Not only is life too short to spend being miserable, but you will be slower, procrastinate more at things you don’t like doing.
Attack areas that are wasted time: waiting for things, ie being on the tube, or waiting for appointments or procrastination days when everything feels too much. Have back up plans for these: work you can pick up and do effectively to fill in gaps and work that you can plod through and get things done in any mood, till you recover your sense of achievement and inspiration.
Effective Use of Time: Fine tune your use of time. Start by ensuring that your new system delivers a clear list of the tasks for the next day ready the night before. Prioritize the vital, key things on that list and schedule them for the morning, so they get done without fail and while you are at your peak energy levels. Set deadlines for the task and set up reminders to ping when you are near the end so at no point do you distract yourself by worrying about time.
Plan batches of the work so you do all related work together. If you have HR and marketing tasks, for example, don’t muddle the two. Get all the marketing or all the HR done as a block. Work on through and get the bulk achieved without being too picky about your work. You can do the fine tuning at the end. Beware perfectionism which is an enemy of effectiveness.