Best Time Management Techniques To Take Control of Your Time
We all have different strategies for getting our work done.
Some use a single task list, a daily planner, or even a combination of the above. If you’re like me, you’ve probably also found yourself trying to juggle all of the various tasks you need to complete each day so that you can focus and get your job done.
The reality is that getting your work done requires more than just a few minutes of focused effort, but rather the systematic management of your time by using the best time management techniques.
Why you need Time Management Strategies
When you do the same thing over and over hoping that something better will happen, then you are fooling yourself.
For example, if you tend to oversleep in the mornings, rush out of the house, arrive at the office, and spend an hour digging out the most important to-do tasks from a high paper pile, then you are doing the same ineffective things over and over.
If you think that you will magically have a better start to your day without changing any time-wasting behaviors, then you are definitely living in a fantasy.
The only way to improve is to change the underlying motivation of your behavior.
This takes courage and fortitude. It involves a change in perspective, a mindset that no longer allows for the automaticity of the same old, same old. “I’m not going to take this anymore!” is one of the most empowering words you can say.
In this article, we cover what you need to consider when implementing your time management strategy as well as 10 of the best time management techniques to use.
The 3 Ps of Time Management
Albert Einstein cleverly explained that “the only reason for time is so that things don’t happen all at once.” You may be thinking, “Clearly he didn’t know how things go in my life or at my office.”
Actually, Einstein’s genius for creating universal theories does work in that comment as well. While you may think that by multi-tasking you can extend your time, what often happens is that you make careless errors and forget important tasks.
The brain can only manage so much, no matter how many minutes pass on the clock. You can use time, plan time, and manage time but you can’t stretch time.
That’s why you need to Master the 3 P’s: Procrastination, Planning, Prioritizing
Nothing destroys time management faster than procrastination.
The typical procrastinator isn’t lazy, that’s a common misconception.
Many highly intelligent and capable people procrastinate because they want to get everything just right.
If you wait until all things are perfectly aligned, then you may wait a long time.
File that pile on your desk, sure you’ll do it when you have time to color code the files. Set up the client email list, yes, you’ll do it when you learn the newest software. That’s the sound of procrastination.
When these simple tasks are not done, it’s the foundation for a train wreck of work left incomplete.
Taking time to plan helps overcome procrastination.
Instead of the need to do all the work at once, create a plan that tackles those delayed jobs in thirty-minute intervals each day.
Then set up a plan to avoid starting the same problems over again.
Not every task needs to be done every day. Set up lists of daily, weekly, and monthly work tasks with an assigned day to do the weekly or monthly tasks.
Having a work plan is a sense of security that methods are in place to complete the necessary tasks.
With each complete task, the sense of accomplishment pushes procrastination farther away.
Learning to prioritize time use is vital to getting the most important tasks done even if everything does not get finished.
Unless you have a small “to-do” list, don’t expect all the items to be crossed off each day.
The best-structured work plan can be changed when new situations arise.
If you don’t have practice in prioritizing regular work tasks, then you will be unable to make the fast break necessary to change the priority of today’s schedule when something more lucrative or imperative happens.
In simple terms, you prioritize anytime you decide that one task is now more important to do than the other one. Of course, you have to set up some basics for making this choice.
What is the priority in your business or your day?
If you are a firefighter, then dropping everything and racing to the emergency is the priority. If you are a real estate agent, you may have to give up a Saturday afternoon out with friends when a good prospect wants to see a house.
Whatever type of work you do, you know which tasks are genuine priorities and which can be done at another time.
Be careful not to make everything a priority because then nothing is the priority and your time use is so crowded that nothing gets done well.
Einstein was right, don’t try to make everything happen at once. You’ll get frustrated, make mistakes and start to feel that time is your enemy.
Top 10 Time Management Techniques
1. Get a day planner and use it faithfully. No more sticky notes with reminders and appointments scattered around your desk, car, and refrigerator at home. Keep all appointments and reminders in just one place, your day planner.
2. Create a daily “to-do” list. If you do this on your computer, you can easily move around items as you prioritize the day. If on paper, you can code the items with numbers or letters for: Urgent, Need to Do Today, Can Do This Week.
Get Your To-Do List Under Control
Is your to-do list almost too long to read every day? Or have you simply given up trying to keep a current to-do list? Don’t give up; get your to-do list under control to complement your time management strategies.
To begin, you need to understand that a to-do list is a “hot list” not a planning pad, wish list or long-term idea starter. Your to-do list is for tasks that must be accomplished in 48 hours or less. For anything further ahead, use advance planning list or add the items to your day planner for the appropriate due date.
Start by writing down every task you need to complete on individual index cards. Arrange the cards in three piles: Must Do, Need to Do, Want to Do. The “Must Do” pile is the tasks that have to be completed in 24 hours.
Take any “Must Do” items that could wait an extra day and place them on the next day’s to-do list. These are what some time management systems call the “A” level tasks. Next sort the “Need to Do” or “B” level tasks. These are important to do in the next day or two but not as imperative as showing up for a presentation or catching a plane.
Finally, deal with the “Want to Do” or “C” level tasks that could be done any time in the next several days. Some time management systems suggest that you toss out the “C” tasks or add them to a “Someday” list for when you have extra time.
Of course, that’s humorous since you need a time management system because you are already overscheduled. If you want to include these, just make sure they don’t serve as a distraction from necessary items. For example, you might enjoy surfing the net for collectible books but you don’t need to do that “C” item when you have an “A” list report due in four hours.
How many items can you manage on a daily to-do list? It depends on whether each item is a one-step process or a multi-step process. With complex tasks, you may only be able to reasonably complete 3 or 4 “Must Do” items in a day. As you are adjusting to this time management technique, make a note by each item about how much time you expect to spend on this task.
You can create a paper to-do list or one on your computer, just as long as it’s easily accessible during the day. When an item is done, cross it off, make a checkmark beside it, or in some way be able to see what’s done from what needs to be done.
If you use an electronic to-do list, you can add a color background for each level. The advantage of color-coding items is that you can quickly see how many yellow highlighted Must Do items are left compared with the green highlighted Need to Do items.
At the end of the day, transfer any remaining important items to the proper category on the next day’s to-do list. When you finish the day and see most or all of the “Must Do” items finished and crossed off your list, it’s a great sense of relief and motivation to keep your time management system working for you.
3. Read your To-Do list first thing in the morning. Don’t touch the newspaper, open an email or answer the phone until you see the road map for your day.
4. Review your To-Do list at mid-day and end of the day to see what was accomplished and what remains to be completed.
5. At the end of the day, transfer the items remaining to tomorrow’s or Monday’s list. If possible, remove any items that are not significant.
6. Delegate as much as possible to an assistant, colleague, or associate. If you work independently, consider hiring a Virtual Assistant for a few hours per week. The price is right and there’s no obligation as with hiring an employee. This is particularly effective if you travel or spend a lot of time outside the office.
7. Attend only the meetings that are absolutely necessary to do your job. Avoid any meetings that you can. Unless a meeting is run well with an agenda, there is usually wasted time chatting.
8. Close your door when you are focusing on a task or put up a sign on your cubicle asking people to stop by later when you are finished with this work.
9. Let voice mail answer your phone while you are focusing on an important task.
10. Say “no” as often as possible when you have reached your work limits. That means saying no to overtime or taking work home. When you are mentally or physically exhausted you don’t do your best work and you need to say so.
Summing Up Time Management
It’s easy to stay on track with time management once you commit to changing your daily habits. Just put the above 10 time management tips into action and you should see more free time throughout your day.
Best Time Management Techniques To Take Control of Your Time