Fact: everyone has 24 hours in a day. Myth: everyone uses their 24 hours effectively and wisely. Many people can optimize the 24 hours they’re given a day to get more done, feel more accomplished, reach goals, and whatever else they desire. The secret? Conscious time management skills. With the right skills and tips, you can be on your way to making the most of your 24 hours a day too. Here are 10 of those time management tips you need to know!
Start With the Right Tools
Most often, it’s a lot easier to develop effective time management and time management skills when you have a little help from the right tools. Some people may choose to have their tools be electronic, and some might choose to have their tools on the more traditional side. Time management tools can help boost your organization, productivity, and help you keep track of what you need to be doing. What tools help with time management?
- Time Tracking Apps
- Planner or Calendar Apps
- Traditional Paper Planners or Calendars
Time management apps for your phone and computer like Toggl are great tools to keep track of your time. Or, if you’re more traditional, a paper planner like this one from Amazon can help you manage your weekly and monthly schedules, as well as your goals and to-do lists. Don’t want to go out and get anything? Chances are your smartphone has a Calendar or Planner app that you can use immediately and for free.
Figure Out How You’re Already Spending Your Time - and Where You’re Wasting It
How are you already spending your time? Do you know? Even if you think you have an idea of how you’re spending your time, it’s a good idea to do a time audit to see where you’re already spending your time and where you could potentially be wasting it. Maybe you think you’re only taking a 15 minute break to scroll through Instagram, but it’s more like 30 minutes. You might put aside an hour a day to respond to emails, but really that hour turns into an hour and a half. Auditing your time will help you figure out where your time is going and allow you to make the adjustments you need.
To give yourself a time audit, the easiest way to keep track of where you’re spending your time is through an app. You can always resolve to writing down your day in a notepad or planner, but apps allow for more convenience (and less time spent!). Apps like RescueTime and Toggl can help you perform a time audit as they run in the background of your mobile device or desktop to see where your time is being spent. If you have an iPhone, you can also visit your phone’s Screen Time in your Settings app to see how much of your time is being spent on your phone, and in what apps.
Give yourself about 4 days to a week to complete your time audit so you have a good idea of where your time is being spent throughout different days. Once you audit your time, you can get ready to make adjustments and optimize your time!
Set Time Limits for Your Tasks
Chances are, when you know you have something that needs to get done, you already have an idea of how long it will take you. However, having an idea of how long something will take isn’t the same as giving yourself a time limit. Setting time limits to your tasks will help keep you accountable and will allow you to optimize your time further. You can also give yourself some “buffer” time in between tasks in case you need a little extra time. For example, if you want to clean your living room and it normally takes you an hour, give yourself an hour time limit to clean the living room. Give yourself a 10 minute time “buffer” in case you need a few extra minutes to finish up or move into the next task.
Write down your time limits or record them in your app or planner for extra accountability. Additionally, set your time limit in a timer or alarm so you know exactly when your time is up!
Plan Ahead, Then Plan Some More
Can you tell that planning is an important aspect to time management yet? Starting the day without a plan is one of the first mistakes that can be made with effective time management. Those who really optimize their time make sure to plan to the best of their abilities!
Try one (or both) of these plan ahead methods:
- Plan your week on Sunday
- Plan your day ahead the night before
- Plan your day ahead first thing in the morning
The main point of planning ahead is to actually plan ahead, so make sure to give yourself ample time to get your plans made. Planning your coming week on Sunday is a good way to get an idea of what your week will look like. Additionally, planning your day ahead the night before is a great way to think about the coming day and keep it fresh in your mind. When planning the night before or first thing in the morning, you can also get a better idea of exactly what might come up throughout the day and how long your tasks might take to complete. Remember when you’re planning ahead to set time limits for your tasks!
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
When you’re planning ahead, make sure to prioritize! You may have 20 things you aim to get done within the day, but how many of those things are realistic? How much time will they take? What tasks are the most important? Try to think of what the most important tasks are, when they need to be completed, and prioritize them based on those factors. A good flow for prioritizing is:
- Write down or track every task you want/need to get done.
- Write down how much time each task will take, and when each task needs to be completed by.
- Number your tasks in order of priority. What’s most time sensitive? What’s most important? Usually, 1 is a top priority task, where 5 is a lower priority task.
- Make time to get your high priority tasks done first!
Complete Your Most Important Tasks in the Morning
A quote from Mark Twain featured on Forbes is "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."
You’re probably not eating frogs, but let’s not take the quote too literally. What we get from the quote is that if you have some big tasks lying ahead, it’s better to just get them done first. For most of us, the start of our day is in the morning. We’re most energized in the morning after we wake up, so it’s best to try and complete your most important or most daunting tasks in the morning! Not only are you (hopefully) not drained yet, but you can take motivation from the fact that you already completed your biggest tasks in the morning. Get up and get your important tasks completed in the AM!
It’s 2019, and technology is awesome. However, technology can also be distracting, and distractions are already everywhere. Wherever you’re trying to complete your tasks, what potential distractions do you have? Do a distraction audit and try to steer clear of distractions. At work, you could be distracted by a chatty coworker or by a fun website. At school, you may be distracted by your phone or laptop or by doodling. At home, you may be distracted by the TV, a significant other, a child, a pet, or again - your phone or computer. Do you fall prey to distractions? If you do, take the appropriate measures to keep those distractions at bay.
If you work on your computer frequently and get distracted by other websites or social media, try out a blocking app. Blocking apps like Freedom allow you to “block” distracting apps and websites so you can continue to optimize your time. If the TV is distracting you, make sure to turn it off or go somewhere you won’t be tempted to watch or listen to it.
Distractions can come from anywhere, so it’s important to know what things distract you when you need to be productive. It’s also important to escape from the distractions as best as you can!
Learn to Say “No.”
We’ve all encountered it before: you’ve got a ton on your plate, already stretching your time to the limits when someone asks something of you. “Can you cover my shift?” “Could you help me with this report?” “Will you pretty please join us for dinner and drinks?”
When you have planned and prioritized your tasks and time, you probably already know if you have enough time or energy to help out a coworker or to go see friends. Sure, you might have enough time, but there’s always a chance that you don’t - or that it will be pushing too far if you accept another task. Learning to say “no” is a very helpful trick to making the most of your time. Saying “no” doesn’t have to mean you aren’t willing to help, or that you are dodging other people, but can instead mean you are helping yourself so you’re not overwhelmed or rushing through things.
Learn to say “no” to things that don’t fit in with your time management!
Don’t Waste Time Waiting
Sitting in a waiting room before a doctor’s appointment? Being a passenger on a long road trip? Don’t waste time waiting - use your time! Chances are, while you’re stuck waiting for something or on someone, you could be doing something productive or using your time effectively. Send out an email or two while you’re waiting for your appointment at the dentist’s office. Listen to a podcast or an audiobook while you’re commuting to work. Start writing that poem you’ve been wanting to work on while you’re riding in the car on a road trip. There are tons of great ways to optimize your time and use it while you’re waiting!
Get in the Habit!
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit.” Making effective time management a habit is the best way to turn it into a large part of your life. Starting out with time management and tracking can be tricky at first, and takes some time to get used to just like everything else - but you can do it! Stay consistent, and practice your time management every day. Sooner or later, it’ll become a habit - and you probably won’t even have to think about doing it anymore.
Time to Get to It!
Ready to make the most out of your 24 hours per day? You’ve got it! Remember these 10 tips for the best time management:
- Start with the right tools
- Figure out how you’re already spending your time
- Set time limits for your tasks
- Plan ahead!
- Prioritize your tasks
- Complete your most important tasks in the morning
- Learn to say “no!”
- Don’t waste time waiting
- Get in the habit!
Warning: prioritizing your time effectively may lead to feeling more productive and accomplished. It may also lead to having more time to spend the way you’d like. Time to get to it!