Time management isn’t something I’ve had to give a lot of thought to in the past. Thankfully, for whatever reason, it’s always come easy to me. But as I get older, I’ve realized that this isn’t true for everybody. Recently, my best friend (ever so dear to me, but chronically late with everything and for everything) asked if I could help her learn how to manage her time more effectively.
To get a better idea of how she organizes her time when she knows she has to be somewhere, I asked her to describe how she prepares for an appointment 30 minutes away. I was shocked when this came out of her mouth: “I have to be there at 9:45, so I’m going to aim to be there at 9:50. That means I should leave at 9:30 (remember that it’s 30 minutes away?), and I’ll start getting ready at 9.” This equation shocked me. She started with the assumption that it was okay to be late, then didn’t give herself enough time to drive there AND not nearly enough time to get ready.
As I brainstormed time-management techniques with her and started to take a deeper look at what I do both personally and professionally, I realized that while it comes naturally to me, it clearly doesn’t to others. In this blog post, I discuss what time management is, why it’s important and practical tips that can be beneficial to your personal life and your professional life.
What Is Time Management And Why Is It Important?
Time management is simply managing your time effectively and efficiently. There’s really not much more to it than that. While it’s an easy concept to define, it’s a part of life that’s quite challenging for some.
I’ve found that sometimes the easiest way to promote a change of thinking is to fully understand WHY something is important. In the case of time management, learning how to do it effectively has numerous benefits for your personal life and your professional life.
- Effective time management shows others you care and that they are a priority. When you are chronically late showing up to something or with turning something in, the perception is that it wasn’t important enough to devote time and energy to — even if that couldn’t be further from the truth. This can affect your relationship with clients, colleagues and loved ones alike.
- Managing your time effectively gives you more opportunities for advancement. If you never meet deadlines and are late to work or meetings, it’s not likely you’ll be up for a promotion anytime soon.
- People who manage their time effectively are able to get more things done and are more productive. It’s not that they have more time on their hands to do these things, it’s that they’ve learned to prioritize and organize their schedule in a way that enables them to do so.
- Time management allows people to feel less stressed. I don’t know anyone who struggles with time management and enjoys the panicked feeling of missing a deadline or being late to a meeting. Learning how to manage your time ensures you don’t feel overwhelmed all the time.
- Learning how to manage your time can help you relate more positively to others. If you aren’t always rushing and late, you’ll have more time to devote to your relationships. Not only that, but you’ll avoid any feelings of resentment that come from offending people with your tardiness.
Clearly, learning how to manage your time effectively has many benefits. But for some people, it is a huge struggle they have tried over and over again to overcome with lackluster results. The good news is that there are many strategies to learn better time-management skills. What works for you will depend on your personality, ability to self-motivate and your level of self-discipline.
Practical Tips For Effective Time Management
- Know How You Spend Your Time
One of the best ways to learn how to effectively manage your time is to get a good idea of how much time routine tasks typically take you. Take a couple weeks and monitor which of your tasks take the most time, what time of day you’re the most productive and identify where most of your time is devoted. By pinpointing the most time-consuming tasks, you’ll be able to determine if you’re investing your time in the most important activities. Taking stock of where your time goes will help you to have a good sense of the time required for routine tasks and give you a realistic estimate of how much time you should devote to each one.
- Set Priorities
Effective time management largely depends on the ability to prioritize the tasks you need to complete. To do this, it’s imperative you understand the difference between what is important and what is urgent. While urgent tasks should take your attention first, setting aside time daily to focus on important tasks allows for greater control of your time and reduces the number of important tasks that become urgent because of procrastination.
Creating a to-do list is a great way to set priorities. You can have a daily, weekly or monthly list. The items can be ranked in order of priority, due date or you may want to color code them — whatever works best for you. Having this list of priorities helps you set boundaries for yourself and can encourage you to say no to activities you simply don’t have time for.
- Use A Planning Tool
I would be lost without my planner and calendar. They hold everything I need to do, every meeting and activity I need to be present at and even remind me when things are coming up. Having a planning tool helps me stay organized and on track with my time management. What works for me might not work for everyone, however. There are a number of highly effective planning tools out there including planners, calendars, phone apps, notebooks and voice notes. The key is to find what works for you and use it consistently (daily).
- Get Organized
This will look different for everyone, but it’s important to organize the space you work in and the tasks you need to complete each day. Design a system that works for you. That might mean creating a way to organize your emails (folders, flagging or color coding), reorganizing your physical space and setting reminders for yourself.
- Schedule Appropriately
One way to manage your time effectively is to focus on challenging tasks when you have the most energy. Block out time for these high-priority activities and protect yourself from interruptions. Don’t forget to build in time for things you want to do, not just have to do. Self-care gives you the energy and dedication needed to manage your time wisely.
- Get Help From Others
There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. If you struggle to meet deadlines because of the amount of work on your plate, ask for help or delegate some of your tasks to a teammate. One human can only do so much; no one excepts you to do everything on your own.
Getting help from others doesn’t just relate to work, however. Finding help in your personal life can have a huge impact on your time management as well. If you’re able, consider hiring someone to clean your house a couple times a month, organizing carpools to get your kids to and from activities or even signing up for a food delivery service to cut down on grocery shopping time and meal prep.
- Stop Procrastinating
I know this is easier said than done for many people, but it really is key to effectively managing your time. One of the things I do to help with this is to work on large projects a little bit at a time instead of one big chunk right before the deadline. Breaking tasks down into smaller pieces really helps to lessen the stress. Additionally, I try to complete my biggest, most important tasks as my first action of the day to get them out of the way. This not only works for me because I have more energy in the first part of the day, but it also allows more time if I find that the project is more involved than I anticipated.
- Avoid Multitasking
Many people claim that multitasking helps you save time, but in reality, it doesn’t. You lose time when switching from one task to another, and as a result, your productivity suffers. Routine multitasking leads to difficulty concentrating and maintaining focus. Instead, focus on one task at a time. You can do this by keeping your area free of distractions, turning off notifications and setting aside time devoted to specific tasks.
- Set Up Deadlines
The key to effective time management is to set realistic deadlines and stick to them. Try to build extra wiggle room in your tasks by setting the deadline a few days before it’s actually due whenever possible. This allows for time to pivot to urgent things that pop up — which they always do — and still gives you time to complete the other important tasks on your list in a timely manner.
- Deal With Stress Wisely
When we get stressed, our bodies get tired. This affects our productivity. When you start to feel anxious, take a step back and do something that will help you focus. This isn’t procrastinating; this is self-care. Things like taking a walk, exercising, meditating, calling a friend, listening to music, etc. can all help you. Even learning simple, quick breathing techniques can be beneficial. Find what works for you and devote time to it when you feel yourself tensing up — it will help immensely with your time management.
- Begin Your Day Early
I know not everyone is a morning person (I’m definitely not), but starting your day early gives you time to sit, think and plan your day. If you don’t enjoy the mornings, try getting up 30 minutes earlier than you normally do. This time can be used to work, exercise, eat or just to think. Making this tiny change in your daily routine can contribute to increased productivity during your day.
- Take Regular Breaks
Taking breaks during your day can help you stay less stressed and more able to effectively manage your time. This doesn’t mean that you should take two hours out of your day to go shopping, but a quick 10-15-minute break a few times a day when you’re feeling stressed or tired can help you stay focused when you’re completing work tasks.
- Learn To Say No
This is one thing that I’ve struggled with in the past. The people-pleaser in me wants to say yes to anything that’s asked of me, but it’s incredibly important to give yourself the authority to refuse additional tasks if you’re overloaded. Before you commit to something extra, take a look at your to-do list. Saying no isn’t selfish; sometimes it’s the best way to take care of yourself and will give you more energy to devote to important things already on your schedule.
- Block Out Distractions
Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re trying to work on your time management is to block out distractions. This may mean putting your phone in do-not-disturb mode and muting notifications on work chats for a bit. This devoted time will help you concentrate better and allow you to finish tasks free from distraction.
- Leave Buffer Time
I always try to leave some buffer time in my schedule when possible. This may be as little as 10-15 minutes between tasks or attempting to arrive somewhere 10 minutes before I need to be there. Allowing for this extra time in case something unexpected comes up or something takes longer than planned really is a fantastic way to ensure your time management stays on track.
- Be Flexible
Managing your time effectively means leaving some room for the unplanned. It’s ok to pivot when needed. Create your to-do list and schedule your time effectively, but give yourself the freedom to switch things up if something isn’t working for you. If you’re feeling stuck on a large project, for example, go ahead and move to a quick, easy task you can finish quickly. This gives you a bit of a brain break, and when you go back to the larger task at hand, you’ll be better able to focus on it.
You won’t become a time-management expert overnight. For some it comes easy, but for many people it’s a skill that needs time to develop. Use these tips to help you on your path, but don’t feel like you have to use each one all at once. Try a couple at a time and figure out what works best for you, your job, your schedule and your life overall.
Let Us Help With Your Time Management
One of the best ways to manage your time effectively is to ask for help when needed. Three Girls Media is here to take on your content marketing needs so that you’re better able to devote the time needed to run your business. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation to see what services make sense for you and your company.
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