15 Dec Time Management Tips
“If only I had more time.” Do you ever find yourself saying this? Chances are you have more time available than you think you do; you just need to learn how to manage it. Entrepreneur magazine says, “It’s time to remove any self-sabotage or self-limitation you have around ‘not having enough time,’ or today not being ‘the right time’ to start a business or manage your current business properly.” Time management skills are learned. Often, developing these skills requires breaking old habits.
Figure out How You’re Spending Your Time
People trying to change their eating habits sometimes keep food diaries; those trying to budget better track their spending. Follow this same principle and track how you spend your time. Record what you do each hour, or even more often if your day takes you in many different directions. Choose an easy way to record it, such as using a voice recorder, so you won’t give up.
You may need to try tracking yourself for several days or weeks. Then, look at your patterns. See what you can change, eliminate, or delegate. Don’t beat yourself up for “wasting” time. First, seek to understand what’s going on. For example, are you a multi-tasker? Here’s why you should change…
Multi-tasking is so 2010
In recent years, a flurry of studies has pooh-poohed the once respected habit of multitasking. Forbes reported on one such study, from Stanford University, saying that multitasking actually reduces productivity. What is more, “The researchers also found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.” So if multi-tasking is one of your habits, stop. Adopting a mindfulness practice can help. Read on to learn how.
Mindfulness simply means paying attention to your thoughts. And, it can help with time management. Keeping a physical record of how you spend your time, as described above, can provide an important introduction to mindfulness. Once you pay attention to what you do, you’ll become more aware of what you think. Does your mind jump from worry to worry as you attempt to focus on the task at hand. Gently and politely tell it to shut the heck up. Again, avoid self-judgment. It’s normal, in our fast-paced world, to feel you mind bombarded with a thousand thoughts. It takes practice to tame them.
When you stop multi-tasking and become more mindful, you will be fully present in your current activity. Whatever you are working on, fully immerse yourself in it.
It’s tough to stay on task when people are knocking on your office door or Outlook keeps telling you that new messages have arrived. Build these distractions into your schedule. For example, let co-workers know that, during certain hours, you prefer not to be disturbed unless there’s an emergency. Carve out email checking time, perhaps for 20 minutes three times a day, depending on the amount you receive. If you are expecting a message or phone call that you know you’ll need to take right away, avoid immersing yourself in a major task. Check smaller things off your to-do list until you hear what you’re waiting for.
You can even schedule “worry” time. Worrying is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to overshadow your more productive thoughts. Actually schedule a time — a short time — to dwell on whatever is bothering you and brainstorm solutions. Then, tell yourself that worry time is over and you need to return to other tasks.
Contrary to your impulses, skipping breaks doesn’t make you more productive. Health magazine is one of many that has reported studies showing the importance of breaks. They wrote in 2015, “Office workers who take short, frequent breaks during the workday have more stamina and fewer aches and pains when they return to work, a new study suggests.”
Your break can take whatever form works best for you. Take a short walk. Grab coffee. Look at funny cat memes on the internet. Punch a punching bag. You will return to work more energized and productive.
Turn Off Social Media Alerts
Do you really need to know every time a friend posts a photo of his dog to Instagram? Social media has conditioned us to keep up with everything that happens in real time. We jump at every “bing” of our phones as new posts and comments pop up. This reaction distracts us not only from our work, but from people we spend time with in person. Check your social channels at set times, and for a limited amount of time. Perhaps you incorporate it into one of your breaks mentioned above, or even save it for the weekend. Chances are, you’ll find yourself more clear-headed.
Keep a Schedule?
You may notice that we haven’t mentioned keeping a schedule or calendar. It should go without saying that you need to keep track of important dates and meetings. That doesn’t mean you have to schedule every moment of your day. It works for some people in some situations. For others, it’s yet another distraction. You may become irritated when things change and there is no flexibility in your day. If you’re in the middle of writing a proposal, and it’s going really well, stopping to return a phone call just because the clock says to can cost your more time. It will be harder to get back into the flow later. Naturally, you don’t want to be rude. So, if someone is waiting to hear from you, gauge the importance of the conversation and the feasibility of rescheduling.
As you get to know yourself and your habits, you’ll learn what works for you. The first step is to believe that you do have enough time, and you are capable of managing it.
IMAGE: CC0 / Public Domain