Easy Steps to Better Time Management
One of the most important skills for professionals is that of time management. It’s also something most people struggle with at one point or another.
The benefits of time management may seem obvious, but there’s more to it than most people realize. In addition to giving you more free time, good time management skills can help reduce stress levels, improve self-discipline skills, and help you accomplish more with less effort. Sounds great, right? So where do you start?
With so many apps, blogs, courses, books, and webinars on time management out there, it’s hard to know where to start. An overload of information does more harm than good. Trying to find a place to begin can, ironically enough, take up more time than you can afford.
Here are some easy ways to start managing your time better:
- Focus. Multitasking is a myth. According to Dr. Clifford Nass, people who multitask regularly are actually the worst at filtering out irrelevancies. They have trouble managing their working memory, they’re much more easily distracted, and even use more parts of their brain that aren’t relevant to the task at hand.
Research shows, almost unanimously, that multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be–in fact, it’s the opposite of what people would have you believe. Pick a task or a project and focus on that. In turning your mind to one thing at a time, the tasks on your to-do list will be completed faster and with better results than if you let yourself get distracted by every new email that came in.
If you work in an environment where your co-workers or employees are interrupting you on a regular basis, consider having a closed door policy. For an hour or two every day, shut your office door and make it clear that when the door is closed, you’re not to be disturbed. You’ll be amazed at how much work you get done.
- Prioritize. To-do lists are incredibly helpful tools… so long as you’re using them right. If you find yourself with too little time in a day to work on important projects and tasks, re-prioritize. If things like email and correspondence are taking up too many hours in a day, schedule a time to sort through things and reply to the most urgent emails. Then be sure not to work on it outside of the specified time.
Remember that your priorities can change from day to day, project to project. Some days, you’ll need to keep focused on specific tasks. On others, clearing out your inbox may be your number one priority. Take a look at what you need to do each day and rank your tasks. It will help you stay on the right track.
- Keep your brain fresh. The idea of taking breaks to give your mind a break isn’t a new one. There’s been research done that shows it’s actually better if you take regular breaks. If you do nothing but concentrate on one thing for too long, your performance declines along with your ability to focus. How long you can work well before you need a break, and the ideal break length, is still up for debate. Find what works best for you. If you need a starting point, try the Pomodoro Technique. Work for twenty-five minutes, then take a five minute break. Every fourth break, take a slightly longer one. If you find that’s not enough time to work or enough time for your mind to recharge, try the 52:17 ratio. Make sure that while you’re using your break time well. Don’t just tab over to your email–that’s still work! Instead, try looking away from the screen for a few minutes. Use your break time as an excuse to get another glass of water to stay hydrated, or to get up and move around. (Sitting in a desk all day without moving is bad for your health the same way never resting your mind is bad for your productivity.) Turn your thoughts completely away from whatever project or task you’re currently working on. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll be able to tackle it when it’s time to get back to work.
- Use technological aids. While smartphones and tablets can be a distraction, technology can help just as much as it can hinder. There are all kinds of productivity apps available for any and every device. A quick Google search will give you a variety of articles on the best productivity apps available for your devices. There’s everything from just-the-essentials lists that sync with your computer, to apps that turn your to-do list into a game with rewards for accomplishing tasks.
If you find that the internet is a large distraction for you, consider something like the StayFocusd extension for Chrome, or applications like SelfControl for Mac and Cold Turkey for PC that block websites for specific amounts of time. They’ll keep you from tabbing over to that YouTube video your aunt emailed you and help you stay focused on the task at hand.
- Delegate. If, after you start making changes, you discover that there is still too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it, delegate. Not every task needs to be completed by you and you alone. Employees are there to help you. Co-workers may be willing to lighten your load if you ask.
If neither employees nor co-workers are an option for you, think about looking into outsourcing. Whether it’s accounting, reception, IT help, or any number of other things, there are companies out there who are more than willing to take work off your hands for a fee, including Admin Solutions Group. Check out our services, and see if we can help free up your time.