Ever feel like you just don’t have enough hours in the day?
Or, even worse: that you are constantly working, but you’re just not getting anything done?
Whether you’re a student, business owner, or a stay at home parent, learning how to manage time effectively is critical if you want to boost your productivity and cut unnecessary stress from your life.
Here’s how to do it in three simple steps.
How To Manage Your Time To Get Things Done
1. Determine your goals
Setting goals is an excellent practice for life in general, but is especially important in developing proper time management skills.
First, make a list. Create a list of all the things you need to accomplish. Put everything on it, even the small stuff.
Then, prioritize. Once you have an idea of the items you have to accomplish, list them in order of importance. Remember that not every important task is urgent, and every urgent task may not be important.
Now that you’ve figured out what it is you want to accomplish, it’s time to understand how you’re spending your time so you can find areas for improvement.
Related: The Brutal Basics Of Time Management
2. Assess yourself
Before you can effectively manage time and make positive changes in your work habits, you need to have an accurate representation of how you’re currently spending your time.
In general, about 20 percent of our work yields 80 percent of our most important results, so its important to identify where the opportunity is to maximize our input/output. Do this with a productivity self-audit.
Spend a few days paying close attention to how much time you assign to certain tasks. An easy way to do this is to make an activity log, and record how long you spend on tasks throughout your day.
Are there a few big tasks or lots of little ones taking up most of your time? Can you bucket them into specific groups?
When do you accomplish the most in your day? Are you most productive in the morning, or do you peak in the evening? Protecting your “Einstein Window” will help you prioritize your tasks and schedule breaks more efficiently.
Record your actions for a few days, or for as long as you feel you need to in order to form an accurate idea about where you’re spending your time.
3. Figure out your time-wasting activities
Take a look at all of your daily tasks, and make note of any that don’t help you achieve your goals. Those are the items you need to stop doing…today.
How are you wasting time? Even small interruptions can have an impact on your productivity, so it’s important to take note of when this happens throughout the day. Whether you’re dealing with talkative coworkers or checking emails as they hit your inbox, make a note of the disturbances you experience, including how frequently they occur.
Are you spending most of your time on your most important objectives? If not, find ways to spend less time on the less important stuff and more time on your most important goals. This one piece of very basic advice could do more for your time management skills than any other!
4. Get organized.
Take a few minutes to de-clutter your desk or work area. This should help keep you focused on the task at hand, and will minimize time spent looking for unimportant items or trying to recover lost documents and notes.
5. Get focused!
Years ago people thought that multitasking was the best way to manage lots of responsibilities, but studies show that multitaskers get less done than people who focus on one specific task at a time.
6. Use to-do lists.
Write or type a to-do list and place it somewhere you can see it frequently. Put your most important items at the top, and least important at the bottom.
Ideally, you should carry your to-do list with you everywhere you go, so that you can quickly access it in order to cross items off or add new ones on. Using your smartphone is a good idea if you always carry it.
7. Plan ahead.
Have a big project due in three weeks? Break it into more easily digestible chunks; do a little bit (even ten minutes!) each day. Be sure to give yourself a little extra wiggle room, in case things don’t go exactly as planned.
8. Consolidate wherever possible.
Manage your time by using those “waiting” periods to do work. For example, commuting time can be spent going over notes for a meeting, or catching up on extra work… just make sure you’re not driving!
9. Eat your “frog” first thing in the morning.
You know that one thing you’ve been dreading, and putting off, for days on end? That’s the type of project or task you should tackle first thing in the morning. By eating that “frog” you’ll get a major sense of accomplishment, and freedom, so you can get more done the rest of your day.
Learning how to manage your time effectively will make you more productive and less stressed. So figure out your goals, do a self-audit, and take action today!
Featured photo by Malena T Persson