These days, everyone is busy. We’re all rushing around trying to get stuff done, but sometimes feeling like we’re achieving nothing. Here’s a selection of ten tips to help with time management – work smarter and not harder.
These easy time management tips will help you through a busy week – planning, executing and achieving as much as possible with your time.
Unfortunately, getting shit done doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen. Nothing good ever happened while you were procrastinating via endless Instagram scrolling. It’s time to put down your phone, get your hands dirty and get into time management.
Yes, I said plan. That’s all it is. Unfortunately I’m not going to give you anything that is totally revolutionary here as there are no shortcuts to success, quick fixes or amazing hacks that will find another spare 3 hours in your 24. Time management means you have to organise your 24 hours by planning. This is a disciplined pursuit.
Ok, how do I do this?
The first stage on this disciplined pursuit of time management is self-awareness. The best way to address your lack of time is to figure out where it is being spent. Be honest with yourself for a day (even better, a week) and make a note of exactly what you do, each hour. It’s a very interesting exercise as I’m sure you’ll find that a lot of your time is actually not productive or working towards the goals that you have set for yourself. Whether that’s 20 minutes chatting with Sandra about her weekend or half an hour returning an item to ASOS, these may be things you thought you ‘needed to do’ but they’re not going to move the needle in your life.
Realisation that you’re spending quite a lot of time being unproductive should not be a depressing recognition – it’s great news. This means you can improve your time management and have some time to get back. Even if you were completely honest and there was zero free time – it was all completely spent on things you absolutely have to do – I’ll bet that some of these time management tips will help you.
Even when you think you’re working to full capacity and putting in ten hours on your business or career, being present at your desk isn’t the most important thing. Being productive is.
Let’s get stuck into these tips that have been collected over several years of combating procrastination, to-do list testing, time management software, over-booked calendars and moved deadlines.
1. Get ready the night before.
I’m talking choose your outfits, meal prep your meals for the whole day, get your gym bag ready, set up your home office desk, even go as far as making sure your shoes and coat are by the door. Make the morning easy. There is such a thing as decision fatigue. Let’s be sure not to task ourselves with too many decisions first thing.
Overnight oats make a great breakfast you can meal prep the night before. Meal plan on your Sunday and prepare some of your lunches and even your dinners prior to the week ahead. Get your weekly shopping done at the weekend, buying all the ingredients you need for the whole week. That way you won’t need to squeeze in any shopping trips mid-week, eating into your valuable time. This will allow you to eat healthy too which of course does wonders for productivity as we all know, healthy body = healthy mind.
2. Create a daily plan.
Grab a notebook, ideally the night before and write down an itemised list of how your day is going to pan out. Start from when you wake up to when you get home and move into your down-time.
This is going to seem a little forced the first few times you do a daily plan but it really helps with knowing what you’re doing and when. Include breaks, lunch and dinner on the plan. You might realise you’ve got some gaps in there that you can fill.
Here’s an example of a typical daily plan when working from home:
- 6am – wake up, get dressed and put on my gym gear
- 6.30am – make a coffee and have my overnight oats while reading news
- 7am – make a protein shake and head to the gym
- 8.30am – return from the gym, get a quick shower and change, grab a coffee
- 9.15am – work
- 11am – quick break, make a coffee, put laundry in to wash
- 11.15am – work
- 1pm – lunch break, eat lunch meal prep, watch YouTube
- 1.45pm – work
- 4pm – quick break, make a coffee, move laundry into dryer
- 5.30pm – finish work for the day
- Tonight – sort laundry, make dinner, organise plan for tomorrow, pick tomorrows outfit & organise gym bag
To some who live a pretty unorganised life, this will seem a crazy level of micromanagement of your day. Try it and get back to us.
3. Give your tasks a time limit.
Ever heard of Parkinson’s Law?
work expands so as to fill the time available for its completionParkinson’s Law
If you give yourself all day to complete a task, that’s how long it’ll take. Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 2pm and Z task by 4pm. That way you’ll make it happen.
4. Learn to say “no”.
Don’t take on more than you can fit in your day. For any distractions that come in while you’re executing your daily plan, give a firm no. Or at least defer to a later date.
There is nothing more valuable than your time – be sure to be firm about how you spend it.
5. Set yourself reminders.
Are you forgetful? Always late? Rather than beating yourself up for being forgetful, set reminders.
Nowadays it is very easy to set phone or calendar reminders. Plug tasks, appointments, calls and all other time-essentials into your calendar and set up reminders 15 minutes before you have to attend or take action.
6. Stop multitasking.
Wait, isn’t multitasking good for getting three things done at once?
Unfortunately multi-tasking is bad for you. Switching between tasks actually makes you less productive, not more so. The truth is that there’s actually no such thing as multitasking. Yes you heard that right.
Multitasking makes us more stressed and perform worse than those who single-task. This is because your brain cannot work on two things at once. Therefore, when multitasking you have to switch between tasks which causes anxiety, inhibits creative thinking and can causes more mistakes.
Here’s a good article to learn about why multitasking is actually a myth.
7. Block out distractions.
Everyone has distractions while they’re trying to work. We’re not just talking the usual messages, social media notifications and texts. There’s in disorganised work spaces, barking dogs and the doorbell ringing.
Minimising distractions is important for productivity and making the most of your time. It is important you get a little forceful with your time. An important step would be to let everyone around you know that during work time, you’re unavailable. Work time means that you’re not available for a coffee, pick up the kids or help a neighbour. You’re busy.
The first stage towards blocking distractions is to put your phone into Do Not Disturb mode. With this, you can always add important numbers to your Favourites and allow them to call…in an emergency. This will block out social media notifications and other activity that can easily distract you.
8. Use a calendar. Properly.
Yes you with the paper diary, calendar on your phone and a load of scrappy paper with notes on. We’re looking at you.
Use one calendar only – put all your appointments in there, everything from your nail tech appointment to your business Zoom call.
I personally prefer using Google calendar for my Diary as I can have several calendars for different parts of my life and it synchronises immediately with my PC and my phone. This means I can plan everything, where ever I am. As of now, I have a Work Schedule calendar, Personal calendar and a Hobbies calendar.
9. Track your time.
I suggested tracking your time to figure out where you’re spending (or wasting) it. Tracking time is definitely an ongoing pursuit and is essential if you’d like to get really granular about being productive and making the most of your day. A benefit of tracking your time is that you’re acutely more aware of how you spend it. Without even referring to a time tracker, that awareness will make you look at tasks and what you’re up to with a much more critical eye.
The good news is that there are now tools on the market to help you track your time efficiently while you’re working. The good news is Zapier have compiled a list of the ten best time tracking apps – check that out here.
We all know that we can’t do everything. You must learn to prioritise the important and let go of the rest.
Applying the Pareto Principle – the 80:20 principle – to your life is a great way to figure out what to prioritise, painlessly.
Essentially, the 80:20 principle demonstrates that 80% of the results will come from 20% of the action. Applying the 80:20 principle in your life will take a strong sense of self-awareness but if you’re aware of how to leverage it, you can narrow down the 80% to leave you with the priority 20%.
Here’s some interesting articles on the 80:20 principle and how they can help you organise your time and work smarter, not harder: