“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent” said U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower in one of his speeches. And he did have a point. Most of us don’t seem to know how to manage our tasks and our time properly in order to get the important (and less important) things done.
Luckily, we’ve asked around and came up with some effective time management tips that will help all of us to boost our productivity, complete our tasks, and make the most of our time. Let’s take a closer look!
Time management tip #1: Organize your tasks with Post-it notes
Before throwing yourself into work, take a couple of minutes to figure out everything you need to finish by the end of the day. And what better way to visualize and organize your tasks than on Post-It notes? You can stick them above your desk or on a whiteboard to give you a better perspective of what your priorities should be.
“I arrange items based on priority/deadline and add other agenda items I would like to try to accomplish before the day ends,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation. “The act of physically crossing off makes me feel even more accomplished and keeps me encouraged to tackle more assignments as the week progresses,” Sweeney adds. It’s like having a “done” list to your “to-do” list.
Time management tip #2: Be consistent with your wake-up hour
Consistency is the key to a healthy and productive lifestyle. Waking up at the same hour every day not only helps your circadian rhythm and sleeping patterns, but it can also boost your productivity in terms of getting things done. “I make it a point to wake up every morning at the same time, so I stay on schedule. This is on the weekends, and holidays, too!” said Kristin Marquet, CEO of FemFounder.
The more hectic your sleeping patterns, the more disrupted your biological processes. In turn, they can adversely affect your cognitive capacities, productivity and even overall health. A consistent wake-up time will work wonders on your life. “I can think clearly, which means I can meet deadlines and get more stuff done overall,” added Marquet.
Time management tip #3: Avoid multitasking
Contrary to popular belief, if you want to get more done in less time, you need to stop multitasking. I know it can be difficult to avoid, especially with the busy schedules we all have but according to experts, handling several tasks at the same time is stressful, limits productivity, and decreases creativity. Not to mention it takes much more of your time.
Multitasking affects your attention span and prevents you from fully completing your tasks and, according to Marquet, it is “just not effective.” Now, instead of replying to emails as soon as they pop up on your screen and juggle other tasks as well, Marquet says “I only do one thing at a time with laser focus.” If you also want to get a good job done without distractions and interruptions, try to do the same and avoid multitasking.
Time management tip #4: Track the time of each task
Working at a constant pace can help you complete your tasks sooner rather than later. If you don’t know how much work you could accomplish in a day, week, or even month, it’s time you start tracking your time allocated to each task. According to John Breeze, the Founder and CEO of Happysleepyhead, you should start by “writing down the time when you start your task and the time when you finish it,” in order to “determine your working pace.”
After a week of recording how long various tasks take, you will be better prepared to deal with future assignments. More than that, you can also discover “where exactly you are wasting time” and take the appropriate measures to optimize your working habits and efficiency.
Time management tip #5: Theme each day of the week
If your job requires you to switch between assignments, an efficient time management tip is to assign a theme to each day of the week. Instead of jumping from marketing tasks to management ones in the course of one hour, group similar tasks together in a single day. Make Monday the day for administrative issues, Tuesday for marketing assignments, and so on.
According to Laura Hertz, CEO of Gifts for Good, this strategy “helps us become much more efficient because we are grouping similar tasks together,” and “it establishes a rhythm of attention and focus”. More than that, you stop wasting precious minutes of your time by shifting your attention between tasks.
Time management tip #6: Create templates for your emails
If your job requires you to send and receive a lot of emails, there are ways to turn emailing into a productivity multiplier instead of a productivity killer. A simple but efficient tip to spend less time on emailing and focus more on other, more important tasks, is to create templates for your emails. In other words, avoid writing a message from scratch over and over again.
“If you write the same email more than a few times, save it as a template. Even if it’s just in your ‘Drafts’,’’ recommended Hannah Attewell, a success and business coach for Force of Nature Coach. Even if the content might vary, the introduction and ending can still be the same for every email. Once you have decided on a few templates, you can safely use them to answer messages that would normally take up unnecessary time. Standardizing your emailing process will also prevent you from checking your emails all the time and manage your time better.
Time management tip #7: Prioritize your tasks
Prioritization is key to achieving long-term goals and success. But sometimes filling the jar with large rocks first and then small pebbles is easier than filling it with small pebbles first and larger rocks second (the important tasks), according to Jason Patel, former career ambassador at the George Washington University and founder of Transizion. It’s the same thing with your tasks. “Prioritize and give your energy to the most important tasks first,” advises Patel.
According to Manuel D’Souza, director HR, Serco Global Services, prioritizing is also useful in maintaining a proper work-life balance, “Time spent on planning activities saves sufficient time in execution. On a regular basis, prioritizing not only makes a person more efficient at daily work-related activities but also gives them the latitude to focus on their personal goals. It helps strike the right balance to handle both, their professional and personal life.”
Time management tip #8: Plan your day the night before
If you want to avoid feeling overwhelmed the minute you step into your office, plan your whole day the night before. This will prevent you from wasting time in the morning with constructing a schedule, which can be extremely time-consuming and counterproductive.
According to Romy Taormina, CEO and Founder of Psi Health Solutions Inc., “working out the logistics and priorities in advance will minimize last-minute changes, rushing, and frustration, increase your chances of getting done what is most important,” and help you “start off the day on a positive and productive note”. Much better than sifting through tasks even before your morning coffee kicks in, right?
In addition, there’s nothing more gratifying than waking up in the morning to a neatly planned outfit, already prepared meals and already organized tasks. This tip also helps you arrive on time, should you struggle with this aspect, and gives you the opportunity to find some time to relax throughout the day.
Time management tip #9: Leave your cell phones out of the bedroom
When you’re sleeping, your body can finally relax while your brain continues its job of organizing and filing your memories and thoughts. When you wake up, you are in the perfect condition to find new solutions and solve matters efficiently, as your subconscious has already sent you all the guidelines. However, your creativity and productivity might be affected if you start browsing on your phone the minute you open your eyes.
“There is nothing on the internet that cannot wait for 20 minutes while you do some mindful breathing and think grateful thoughts,” writes Samantha Bennett in Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers, and Recovering Perfectionists.
Time management tip #10: Start the day with the most important task
As soon as you arrive at the office in the morning (or settle into your desk at home), start working to solve your most important task, something it’s only up to you to complete. Don’t check your social media newsfeed or any irrelevant emails, unless you want to waste at least half of your morning. “The next thing you know, two hours have gone by, you haven’t gotten to any of the important stuff, and the rest of your day is crowded with meetings and calls,” says Bennett.
“Being able to distinguish between `urgent’ and `important’ tasks is one of the best-known ways of dealing with a flood of emails, projects and presentations, the former being less critical than the latter. The focus should, therefore, be placed on `important’ work, which is usually more strategic in nature; losing focus of the same can be the undoing of an up and coming executive” explains the head HR of Freudenberg India.
If you do need to check your emails first thing in the morning, don’t spend more than five minutes to skim your inbox for pressing matters. If there’s nothing urgent in there, be productive and get started on your most important work. Successfully completing it will set the tone for your entire day.
Time management tip #11: Write everything on your calendar
“I hear from people all the time, ‘I wish I had time to write a book,’” says Bennett. “You do. You are just spending that time on other things.”
Just like important meetings or deadlines, less important activities like organizing your desk or taking an afternoon stroll deserve to be put on your calendar and carried out at some point. Otherwise, you’ll just find other things to get in their way and never give them the time of day. This strategy will not only help you procrastinate less but also complete all the things you’ve planned to do.