We kill it. We save it. We never seem to have enough of it. Time! It is the one thing we can’t control. But we can control the way we use it. The author of the headline quote, Benjamin Franklin, used his wisely and to enormous gain. His biography describes him as a leading writer, printer, political philosopher, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humourist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.
Whilst we won’t all be able to match up to Franklin’s achievements, the use of good time management strategies will help you to achieve more in a shorter period of time. Get it right, and the result is increased productivity, more free time, lower stress and improved focus.
As we grapple with working during lockdown, time management is even more important. It’s all too easy to while away the hours when you’re outside of your normal working environment.
Here are our top tips for improving your time management, whether in the office or working from home.
Plan your day
Planning helps you to focus on doing the things that move you towards your goal. It is said that if you spend a minute planning a task, you will save ten during the execution of it. So use the first (or if you prefer, last) daily 15 minutes to plan what you need to achieve today or tomorrow, and it will be a great investment, saving you around two hours during the course of the day.
Write your plan down, and it’s more likely to happen. That way, you make yourself accountable, so find a system that works for you. Whether you use time management software or jottings on a Post-it, it doesn’t matter as long as it suits you. Top tip – don’t overburden yourself. In general, a maximum of 10 tasks per day is enough. If you start the day with 42 things to do, you will feel overwhelmed.
Prioritise your time
So you’ve got your list of 10 jobs for the day. But are they the right 10? Are they the most important things you need to do? And do they move you closer to your overall goal?
There are many ways to help you prioritise tasks. One is to use an importance versus urgency grid. Prioritise the tasks that fall under the important AND urgent category. Another method is to ‘eat that frog’. Under this technique, you tackle the job you least want to do first. The theory is that you get it out of the way and can stop worrying about it, leaving you free to get on with more enjoyable things. It’s best to work on more strategic tasks that require a lot of focus at the time of day that you personally feel most energised. Interject smaller, easier to complete tasks between the larger ones so that you feel you are making progress.
As you start a task, note the time and decide when you will complete it by. So you may decide “I’ll schedule my social media for next week within the next half hour” or “I’ll write a chapter of my book by lunchtime”.
If you build rewards into your targets even better. “I’ll complete my marketing campaign by 11am, and then I’ll have a cup of coffee.”, “I’ll finish my three-year plan by the end of the month, and then I’ll take a week off.” For large tasks like the last example, to manage them effectively, you will need to break them down into chunks to achieve each day.
Multi-tasking is a much-praised skill. However, psychologists will tell you that it’s far more productive to focus on one task at a time. If you multi-task, each of those jobs takes longer and is completed less accurately. It’s also been shown to lead to mental blocks and an increase in stress. So add mono-tasking to your toolkit and praise yourself for focusing on the job in hand. In order to do this effectively, you will need to follow our next tip.
This is a toughie. Our modern lives hold SO many distractions. 24-hour news, texts, WhatsApp messages, social media. And if you are working from home, you can add to that list the ping of the microwave, the delivery at the door, the dog asking for a walk. The list goes on.
There are steps you can take to minimise distractions. Turn notifications off during your workday. Using the airplane mode on your phone is a good way to do this quickly. Set aside a specific period to check your calls, emails or conduct other household tasks. This is known as batch checking and is proven to be more time-efficient than doing so one at a time. Declutter your desk and your immediate environment and consider an investment in noise-cancelling headphones to screen out background noises. If you are at home, you could unplug your doorbell and if expecting a delivery, arrange a safe place with the courier so that you are not disturbed.
Here’s another quote, this time from Steve Jobs. “It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” We can’t expand on the 24 hours we all get given each day. But we can choose how to spend it. The secret to time management is really managing yourself more effectively. If you’ve struggled with time management in the past, why not give our tips a go and let us know how you get on?
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