We all dream that we had more time to do things love. But today it’s easier than ever to become overwhelmed with incoming notifications and emails, or planned tasks and meetings. All these small things pile up, leaving us feeling stressed and incapable being creative.
However, there are several strategies and tools you can use to take back the control over your time.
Time management starts with you thinking about your personal and professional life regarding time dedicated to different tasks. Once you know that, you will be able to manage your time efficiently.
Here are 7 essential time management rules to help you take full advantage of your time and get into the mindset of an efficient time manager.
1. Track it
The first step you need to take to boost your time management skills is to understand your current habits. All it takes is measuring and tracking the time you spend on different tasks. For example, you can carry around a notepad and jot down what you’re up to every 15 minutes or so.
Consider using time tracking apps like Toggl, Harvest, or Timely to get an in-depth view of your activity on the web and beyond.
After a week of tracking, you will have a resource that will help you understand where you’re potentially wasting your time. Analyze your time log and check where you could be more productive and where you are already killing it.
2. Set the right goals
Now that you understand your time management habits better, you can outline the bigger picture (for example, a project at work) by setting out goals. The trick is to establish the right goals for yourself – they will provide you with a sense of direction and ensure that you take full advantage of your time.
A well-formulated goal is:
- Specific – regarding what you would like to achieve
- Measurable – your goal needs to have a time measure
- Achievable – with the resources available to you right now
- Realistic – make sure that your time frame allows for accomplishing that goal
- Timed – your goal needs to be breakable into smaller, short-term objectives that lead you to accomplish medium and long-term goals.
3. Prioritize and organize tasks
Break down your project into smaller tasks. Now see whether these can be broken further into even smaller tasks. Once you do that, create a master to-do list for your project. It’s essential for the next step which is prioritizing tasks you would like to accomplish every day, week, and month.
Spend more time on essential tasks, rather than on urgent tasks.
Many of us forget about that and lose a lot of time during the day trying to put out fires that arise spontaneously. If your days are filled with low priority urgent tasks, and you feel that these activities are blocking you, you need to pay extra care to prioritize your tasks accordingly.
Even though the small fires may keep you busy, at the end of the day you will catch yourself feeling that you haven’t accomplished as much as you would like. Break this habit and start focusing on important tasks by following your to-do list.
4. The 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your effort brings about only 20% of the results. But it also means that 20% of your energy will generate 80% of your results.
So what can you gain from knowing this?
The 80/20 rule will give you a push to identifying the highest value activities that you predict will have the most substantial impact on your success at the end of each day, week, month, or even year. When prioritizing tasks on your master to-do list, make sure to accomplish them first before moving on to the other 80% of activities that bring you only 20% of the final results.
5. Plan time in a flexible way
By now you probably know your daily routine and understand that emergencies or unexpected events may change the course of your day at any moment. Prepare yourself for that type of situation by creating a buffer system in your schedule. The buffer will allow you enough time during the day to deal with these unexpected circumstances.
Be flexible, but also set a limit time limit for yourself that regulates how much time you spend putting out fires. Focus on the bigger picture and keep moving forward. Return to your most important activities without dwelling on the emergency you just dealt with.
You need to focus on what’s more important, not on what’s urgent.
It’s important to be flexible in your schedule, but be inflexible when setting time limits for tasks. Once you know how much time you want to spend on a particular activity, stick with that time frame until time has elapsed. That way you will avoid spending hours procrastinating on the task just because you don’t feel like doing it.
6. Here’s how to deal with unappealing tasks
Sometimes you just need to finish a task you don’t want to do. You might find yourself in a cycle of procrastination as you put away your tasks endlessly and get stressed out because you can sense them looming before you.
That’s when the 10-minute rule comes in handy.
The idea is to work on the task for 10 minutes. Once you get started, the chances are high that you will keep working on it. However, motivate yourself by knowing that you are going to work on the task for 10 minutes only. If you do that over some days, sooner or later you will get the job done.
7. Plan for tomorrow at the end of each day
The best way to end your day is making a short list of the things you want to do during the following day. As you finish your work, everything is still fresh in your mind, and your goals are clear.
The next morning, you can arrive at your desk without having to remember what you were up to and what’s needed to be done next. That shortlist will give you a headstart every morning.
It doesn’t matter what your job is – we all have a limited amount of time on our hands and need to learn how to spend it wisely. Follow these rules, and you’ll be on your way to making the most of the time available to you.
Looking for more advice on productivity? Check out these 7 productivity tips and tools from our team.