We have all had experiences with bad time management. We have days where we are full of motivation. We tell ourselves that we will meet all our deadlines, that we are going to eat healthy for every meal of the day, and even go for a run in the evening. However in the evening, you find that you weren’t able to do half the things you said you would do. You feel like you just didn’t have enough time to do what you wanted to do.
If you have an honest look at the past 24 hours, you would likely discover an enormous amount of inefficiencies during your day. You’ll quickly realize that you manage your time very poorly. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to improve that skill. This means that you will have time to do all the things you want to do in a day, and even more.
So lets delve right into the 5 methods you can use that will improve how you manage your time.
1. Prioritize Wisely And Plan
Ever heard the saying that 10 minutes of planning will save you an hour of doing? If not, you have now, and it is really true. If you wake up in the morning and just start working on whatever comes to mind without a structured plan, you are doomed to be wasting a lot of time. But how exactly do we plan and prioritize properly?
The way I like to plan my day, is to write all the tasks I have to do in a simple to-do list. You can do this in the morning to plan your day, but I prefer to do it the evening before hand. Then I will start to prioritize them and put them in a list composed of four categories. These categories are as follows:
- Important and urgent
- Important but not urgent
- Not important but urgent
- Not important and not urgent
If you have tasks in the “important and urgent” section, it is best you prioritize them. They are the tasks you should start with and finish no matter what. For the tasks in the “important but not urgent section”, you have to schedule a time to do them. You shouldn’t focus on them just yet, but you should know when their deadlines are and make sure they are completed before that.
For tasks in the “not important but urgent” section, I suggest you try and delegate them. When I say delegate, I am for example talking about a teamwork environment. They are tasks that need to get done, but they provide no real benefit for you, hence they are not important to you. If you are able to find someone else to do that task instead, you have more time to focus on the tasks that are important to you.
If you find yourself writing down tasks in the “not important and not urgent” section, you have to ask yourself what the purpose of those tasks really are. Are they really worth pursuing then? If you still find some relevance, I would set these tasks aside and complete them when all the other sections are finished.
Now that you have been able to separate all your tasks, how do you prioritize them within each section. Say that you have put 5 tasks in the section “important and urgent”, how do you know which one to do first? I prefer to start with the easiest one of them, simply because I know that I will complete them faster. Having successfully completed an important and urgent task will give you a big motivational boost to keep on working on the next ones.
2. Set Time Limits And Deadlines For Your Tasks
Setting time limits and deadlines is very closely related to the previous section because they make it very easy to properly plan your day. They will help you determine whether or not a task is urgent or not!
I am of the opinion that you should always set a personal deadline of a few days before the actual deadline. For example when I was working on projects during my engineering bachelor, I would always tell myself that I had to finish the work 3 days before I had to hand in the work to my professor. I simply knew from experience that I always had some sort of question at the moment I finished.
Giving myself 3 more days allowed me to ask for feedback and improve my work. I always saw my friends stress a lot just hours before the deadline, while I already finished a long time ago. It is also a great way to decrease your stress levels!
Setting time limits for tasks is not something I have had a lot of experience in, but is something that I have recently adopted in my study regime. I will give an example from my personal life to demonstrate the usefulness of setting time limits for certain tasks.
At the time of writing this article I had many other projects for university to complete. I simply told myself that I had to work on this article, and gave myself 2 hours to work on it. Now I know I won’t be able to finish it in 2 hours, but that is all the time I allowed myself to work on it. So after 2 hours I simply stopped, and continued to work on another task. This way I was able to make a lot of progress in many different areas of my life in a day.
The problem that I sometimes encounter when working on one task for an entire day, is that I see my productivity decrease significantly in the afternoon. So limiting myself to a couple of hours per activity actually allows me to get more work done in a day, simply because I work more efficiently.
3. Take Enough Breaks
It is crucial that you also plan enough breaks into you schedule! If you are constantly running around from tasks to task, you will sooner or later burn out and lose all motivation to keep working. Remember life should be about enjoyment as well. I can guarantee you that if you you don’t plan for spending time with friends, relaxing by yourself, or any other form of relaxment that your time management skills will be used in vain. You will likely see your productivity plummet and won’t be able to get much work done at all. Resting is crucial for your productivity!
For example, after lunch I plan a small 20-minute nap. Instead of going straight back to work after I finish eating lunch, I take 20 minutes for myself and have a short nap. Sure, I miss out on 20 minutes of work. But I know that I will be working much more efficiently for the entire afternoon and evening. Overall I get a lot more work done, even though I spend less time working!
This is just a personal example! Some people don’t respond well to 20 minute naps, but will for example benefit more from a 20 minute walk listing to music. Find out what works best for you!
4. Make Sure That Your Tasks Are Attainable And Useful
A lot of times we plan to complete very big tasks by the end of the day. It all seems very doable, but once we actually get started and are working, we quickly come to realize that we might have bitten off more than we can chew. I always try and break up my tasks in 30 minutes to 1 hour chunks. Lets say I have to do 100 questions before I am done studying for an exam. From experience I know that it might take me roughly 1 hour to get through 20 questions. I will simply plan to do 3 hours of that course today, and another 2 hours tomorrow. That means I should get through all the questions by tomorrow.
I don’t plan to try and finish everything today, because it might become too overwhelming. That is why I prefer to break large tasks into hourly attainable sections. It also keeps my daily schedule more realistic, and prevents me from feeling stressed that I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted to do.
I am also a firm believer that we should pursue task that provide us some future benefit, and to avoid living an aesthetic lifestyle. I am incredibly grateful for all the hard work that I have put in 5 years ago. Because without that effort, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Using the same reasoning, I know in 5 years time I will be just as grateful for all the work that I am putting in today. That is what drives me to keep pushing hard. Make sure you are working for your future self, and not your present self. You will not regret it I promise you that!
5. Increase Your Productivity When Working
You can have amazing time management, but if you have low productivity, you will see no results. If you are very productive when working on your tasks, you will likely finish your work before deadlines. As you continue to manage your time, you will get more experienced and knowledgeable about just how much you can get done in the time you allow yourself to work.
Being productive allows you plan your days better. You won’t have to abandon your schedule or re-plan work because you were being unproductive and didn’t work on the tasks when you planned to be working on them. We have many articles here on SimplyLifestyle that will help you to increase your productivity!
Productivity is the final personality trait that will set your time management skills apart from the rest of the world. If you are able to adopt all of the above methods into your daily routine, you are setting yourself up for success!
Good luck on your Journey, I wish you all the best!