We all have 24-hours in a day. But, why does it seem that some people are able to get the most out of every minute of the day? Believe it or not, they don’t have the power to slow down time. They do, however, know how to properly manage their time.
Want to know how you can become a master of time management as well? Start by using these 20 super-powerful time management tips.
1. Create a time audit.
When it comes to time management, the first step you need to take is finding out where your time actually goes. You may believe that you only send 30 minutes on emails, but in reality that task is eating-up an hour of your day.
The easiest way to keep track of your time is to download an app like RescueTime, Toggl or my app Calendar to track everything you do for a week. You can then access a report to find out what’s stealing your time. With this information, you can then make the appropriate adjustments.
2. Set a time limit to each task.
I’ve found that setting a time limit to each task prevents me from getting distracted or procrastinating. For example, if I want to write an article for my blog, I give myself two hours. So if I started at 8am, I try to get it written by 10am.
In a way, it becomes game.
Since I put buffers between tasks and activities, if I don’t complete the task on time, I can still work on it without eating into the time reserved for something else.
3. Use a to-do-list, but don’t abandon tasks.
“All goals and projects are made up of smaller parts that need to be accomplished in order to achieve the goal, or complete the project. Create to-do lists for each goal and project, listing all the measurable steps that need to be accomplished,” suggests William Lipovsky.
“Aside from keeping you focused, this also motivates you as you are able to see what you have already achieved, and what remains.”
At the same time, there will interruptions that may prevent you from completing a task. William recommends that you “make a point of always returning to and completing these tasks once you are able to. This may require you to set a limit on the number of tasks you are working on at any given time.”
4. Plan ahead.
One of the worst things that you can do is wake-up without a plan for the day. Instead of focusing on what needs to be done, you wander aimlessly and take care of more trivial matters.
That’s why you should always plan ahead using one of these options;
- The night before. Before you leave work for the day, spend the last 15-minutes organizing your office and composing a list of your most important items for tomorrow.
- First thing in the morning. During your morning routine write down the 3 or 4 most urgent and important matters that need to be addressed today and work on those when you’re most productive.
5. Spend your mornings on MITs.
Mark Twain once said, “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.”
Gross? Sure. But, the point that Twain was making that you should take care your biggest and most-challenging tasks in the morning, aka your most important tasks (MITs) of the day.
There are a couple reasons why this such an effective time management trick. For starters, you usually have the most amount of energy in the AM. So it’s better to tackle these tasks when you’re not drained. Also, you can use that feeling of accomplishment to get through the rest of the day.
6. Learn to delegate/outsource.
Delegation and outsourcing can get a bit tricky. For some it’s hard to let someone else do work that they used to do. For others, they don’t have the time to train someone else to complete certain tasks.
The thing is, delegating or outsourcing are real time-savers since it lessens your workload – which means you have more time to spend on more important tasks or doing less work. Either hand over responsibilities to team members who are qualified or hire an experienced freelancer. And, if you do decide to do in-house training, the initial investment will be worth-it in the end.
7. Eliminate half-work.
“In our age of constant distraction, it’s stupidly easy to split our attention between what we should be doing and what society bombards us with,” writes James Clear.
“Usually we’re balancing the needs of messages, emails, and to–do lists at the same time that we are trying to get something accomplished. It’s rare that we are fully engaged in the task at hand.”
Clear has dubbed this “half–work” and here are a couple of examples;
- You’re writing a report, but stop randomly to check your phone for no reason.
- You try out a new workout routine, but switch to a new program a couple of day later because you read about it online.
- While talking on the phone, your mind wanders to your email inbox.
“Regardless of where and how you fall into the trap of half–work, the result is always the same: you’re never fully engaged in the task at hand, you rarely commit to a task for extended periods of time, and it takes you twice as long to accomplish half as much,” adds Clear.
Clear has found that the best way to overcome half-work is by blocking “out significant time to focus on one project and eliminate everything else.” For example, he’ll pick one exercise and only focus on that exercise while working out. He’ll also carve out a few hours to devote to an important project, but will leave the phone in another room.
“This complete elimination of distractions is the only way I know to get into deep, focused work and avoid fragmented sessions where you’re merely doing half–work.”
8. Change your schedule.
If you’re reading this article then it’s obviously because you want to discover some useful time management – and I’m more than happy to help you put. But, if you’re struggling with time management, the solution may be as simple as changing your schedule around.
For example, instead of sleeping-in until 6:30am, wake-up an hour earlier. Personally, I find 5:15am to be the most productive time of the day since it gives me time to exercise, plan-out my day, go through my emails, and even work on side projects without being disturbed.
Also, consider waking-up earlier on the weekends and maybe cut-down on the amount of TV that you watch.
9. Leave a buffer-time between tasks and meetings.
Jumping immediately from one task or meeting to the next may seem like a good use of your time, but it actually has the opposite effect. We need time to clear our minds and recharge by going for a walk, meditating, or just daydreaming. After all, the human brain can only focus for about 90-minutes at a time.
Without that break it’s more difficult to stay focused and motivated. Scheduling buffer-time also can prevent running late to your next meeting. I find 25-minutes between tasks and meetings an ideal amount of buffer-time.
10. Get organized and single-task.
The average American spends 2.5 days each year looking for misplaced items. As a result, we spend over $2.7 billion annually in replacing these items. Instead of wasting both your time and money, get organized.
Start by having a home for everything and making sure that items are put back where they belong. As the end of the day clean your workplace and create a document management system.
And, start single-tasking. Most people cite multitasking as the main culprit for misplacing items.
11. Follow the 80-20 rule.
“The Pareto Principle also known as the 80-20 rule suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of the effort put in. This is commonly used in sales as 80% of sales typically come from 20% of the customers,” writes Renzo Costarella in a previous Calendar post.
“When it comes to how you should manage your time this principle can also be applied. 80% of your results comes from 20% of your actions.”
Renzo suggests that you start by looking “at your schedule or to-do-list every day. For the sake of simplicity try to get down five tasks you need to accomplish. Using the principle you can probably eliminate the majority of the items on your list. It may feel unnatural at first but overtime this will condition you to scale up effort on the most important tasks.”
12. Use an online calendar.
Calendars have long been a fundamental tool for time management. However, online calendars have taken this to the next level. That’s because you can access it from multiple devices, easily schedule meetings and appointments, set up reminders, create time blocks, and schedule recurring events.
Personally, I use Google Calendar. I think it’s the best. But Outlook and Apple Calendar also work well.
13. Stop being perfect.
When you’re a perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough. That means you’ll keep going back to same task over and over again. How productive do you think your day will be as a result?
So, stop being perfect. It doesn’t exist. Do the best you can and move on.
14. Just say “No.”
I know that you don’t want to upset anyone. But you can only handle so much. If you already have a full plate then decline that dinner invitation or helping your colleagues on a project until you have the spare time.
15. Instill keystone habits.
Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” coined the term “keystone habits.” But, what are they? Simply put, they’re habits that can transform your life, such as exercising, tracking what you eat, developing daily routines, and meditating.
These habits replace bad habits and solicit other good habits. As a result, you’ll be healthier, more focused, and better suited to manage your time.
16. Don’t waste time waiting.
I’ll be honest. I can’t stand waiting. It’s not that I’m impatient. It’s just that I know that this is time that could be better spent elsewhere.
However, instead of wasting this time, I’ve found ways to make the best of it. For example, while sitting in a waiting room I’ll read an inspirational book, listen to a podcast, or blueprint an upcoming blog post.
Did you know that the average American commute is over 26 minutes? And, to make matters worse, that daily commute is getting longer. Add on-top the amount of time it takes getting ready and you can easily see how much time is wasted getting to and from work.
While not possible for every job, telecommuting even twice a week can end-up saving you several hours per week.
18. Find inspiration.
When I’m dragging, I use inspirational sources like a TED Talk or biography. It’s a simple way to reignite that fire to get me motivated and back-on-track.
19. Batch similar task together.
When you have related work, batch them together. For example, don’t answer your emails and phone calls throughout the day. Schedule a specific time to handle these tasks.
The reason? Different tasks demand different types of thinking. By batching related tasks together, your brain isn’t switching gears – which means you cut out that time reorienting.
20. Do less.
This is a tactic from Leo Babauta. He started the blog Zen Habits and it’s definitely a must read. So, what does Leo have to say about doing less.
Doing less doesn’t mean “less is more.” It means “less is better.” This is achieved by slowing down, being aware of what needs to be done, and concentrating only on those things. Once you do, make every action count. As a result you’ll be creating more value instead of just fodder.