24 hours. 1440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. These are the numbers that are universal for every single person on this planet. They represent the amount of time we are given each day. Time, if you think about it, can be considered a great equalizer because, we are all given the same amount of time each day to accomplish the things important to us. No one is given more or less time.
So why is it that some people seem to get more done with the same amount of time than others? Well, there are probably a multitude of factors that come into play, but they can all be boiled down to time management. Those people that seem to get more done in their daily time have developed effective time management skills. The good news is, if you’re someone who doesn’t currently possess these, you can learn them. With practice and consistency, anyone can develop better time management skills, reduce procrastination, and get more done during the day.
Here are some helpful time management tips I have compiled to get you started:
- Plan ahead.
Making the best use of your time requires some planning. Take some time the night before or first thing in the morning to prioritize your day. Write down the things you want to accomplish in order of importance. Tip: The more you can connect an activity or task to a reason that is important to you, the more likely you are to make time for it and get it done. So get clear on you’re the reasons why you are doing the task in the first place.
- Use energy management for better time management.
This one is a great tip from someone who was extremely successful at being productive: Steve Jobs. In order to maximize his time, Jobs would plan for his heavier tasks or those that he would normally procrastinate on for the time of the day when he had the most energy. This means you will need to become aware of your own natural energy levels and patterns. Are you a morning person? Do you tend to have most of your energy in the afternoon? Or are you more energized in the evening? Once you know, plan for your higher priority or more challenging tasks for that time of day. Tip: If you want to know more about your own energy management try an Internet search on chronotypes. There are a few good quizzes. Here is one based on the book The Power of When by Michael Breus, PhD.
- Procrastinate less.
Notice I didn’t say stop procrastinating? The reason is, I know this can be a tricky issue that can often bring up challenging emotions, such as shame and anxiety. A focus on completely changing this habit can also trigger the same emotions when we are unable or unsuccessful with eliminating procrastination altogether. What if you changed your goal from “stop procrastinating” to “procrastinate less”? Procrastination happens for the following reasons: we get distracted, we are avoiding difficult tasks we might be dreading, and/or we have a fear that we might fail (or succeed). Whatever the reason(s), understanding what is at the heart of our procrastination can help us to get a better handle on it. Setting a goal to procrastinate less also allows us to start overcoming this habit gradually. Tip: Try using a Decisional Balance tool to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages for you of procrastinating and procrastinating less.
- Eliminate distractions.
Distractions are energy vampires. Sucking our time, energy, and motivation for the tasks we need to get done. In our modern world, distractions are endless. Our phones are like Mary Poppins’s bag – full of endless opportunity for distraction. Distractions follow us everywhere. One of the best ways to get more out of the time you have every day is to use it more effectively, and this means getting rid of the things that will distract you. Tip: Set up a workspace that is clean and quiet. Turn your phone off or put it on Do Not Disturb to eliminate the temptation of checking notifications. If this still doesn’t work, move your phone to an area away from where you work and check it only during a scheduled break.
- Schedule breaks.
Our minds and bodies function best when recharged. This is essential to being able to perform optimally. Learn to schedule in time for breaks throughout your day where you do something that relaxes and recharges you. Tip: Consider that time doing nothing is also useful. Time to focus on “being” rather than “doing” is a valuable way to recharge. Simply sit in a chair and stare out the window or head outside to take a walk and observe your surroundings. You don’t have to have a goal for this time, simply being in the moment is all that is required.
- Don’t throw away that 15 minutes.
This is a great tip that actually was shared with me by a client. My client is a busy professional that worked in a job where there was a lot of pressure to maximize the workday and do more and more tasks in the same amount of time. During one session, my client shared that they had adopted a habit of utilizing every available minute. For example, if they had an extra 15 minutes that they hadn’t planned for (i.e., having a meeting that finished early) they would utilize that time to work on a larger task, even though they knew it would not be enough time to complete the entire task. This was different than their previous habit of leaving tasks until they had the entire amount of time required to complete them. Over the course of a month they discovered that 15 minutes here and there added up and they were able to complete larger tasks by whittling away at them in small pieces. Tip: If you have a meeting or an errand that takes less time than you thought it would, use the extra time to do a small amount of work on a larger task. For example, next time your Zoom meeting finishes early, utilize the remaining time to catch up on paperwork, return emails, write reports, or anything else you know you need to get done.
Have any other time management tips or strategies that have worked for you? I’d love to hear about them!