Whether you’re a busy student, a full-time employee, or even a stay-at-home parent, everybody feels like they need more time. And while no one can buy extra time, it is possible to learn valuable time management strategies that will allow you to amplify the time that you do have. And that’s almost as good! But before we dive into the time management strategies themselves, lets address why time management is important.
Why is it important to learn time management strategies?
Imagine if 2 or 3 hours of your day magically cleared up. Would you learn a new skill? Spend more time with your family? Or perhaps you would use it to grow your business even further? Either way, we could all benefit from having more free time in our day. Imagine all that you could do with just a few hours!
Now think about your day. Is it possible that there are 2-3 hours in your day that are being wasted? Let’s say instead of spending an hour on Instagram in the morning, you went to the gym or worked on your passion project. That time would really start to add up.
There’s a popular saying that ‘everybody has the same 24 hours in a day.’ While there are some problems with this statement (as far as extenuating circumstances are concerned) it is true in terms of time itself. People who are able to focus and prioritize their time are generally much more effective in their professional life, and their home life. Learning how to manage your time will ultimately –
- Increase productivity
- Allow you to become more focused and intentional about your work
- Reduce stress
- Free up more time for you to do the things you want to do. Work hard, play harder right?
Of course, time management is a skill, and therefore takes practice. But if there was ever a skill that was worth developing, time management is it. Here’s some time management strategies that can work for any skill level.
Time management strategies that will drastically increase your productivity
Have a Plan – for today, and for the future
It’s good practice to have a plan in place for your day. Plan your upcoming day in the morning or the night before, and watch the magic of organization happen! The easiest way to do this is by writing out a physical to-do list for yourself.
It’s also a good idea to not only have a plan for your day, but to have a general plan for your next few weeks, or even months. Try planning out your week in advance on Sunday or Monday, and planning each day much more specifically as they come. Remember, plans will change, and that’s okay. Having a list of all of the things you would like to accomplish in the week will help ease the chaotic burden of not knowing where to spend your time throughout the week.
Prioritize your time wisely
In Brian Tracey’s book “Eat That Frog” he writes about the importance of getting your very most important task done first thing in the morning. The “frog” metaphor was inspired by Mark Twain’s quote, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Determine your one task that would have the biggest impact on your goal, and get it out of the way first thing. It’s even better if it is a task you have been dreading and would usually procrastinate. Remember, the title of the book isn’t Eat that Chocolate! It’s not going to be easy.
This can be used in relation to work or your personal life. If you hate exercising but your most important goal is to improve your health, then your ‘frog’ would be working out. This is an incredibly effective time management strategy because you get your most important task out of the way while also starting your day off with a win. Use that win to motivate and propel you throughout your day.
Don’t know what you should be prioritizing?
If it is not abundantly clear to you what your most important tasks are, you can use the ever popular Eisenhower Matrix to help you determine what you should focus on. Simply fill out the matrix, that is set up like this:
The tasks that you determine to be both urgent and important are the tasks that would be considered your “frogs.” Take care of them first, and then move on to your Important/not urgent, and so on.
Determine your most productive time and utilize it
Some people are morning birds, others night owls, and some have their peak somewhere in the middle. If you’re your most productive and energized self at 5 AM, then utilize that! If you can at all avoid it, try not to work during your least productive times. Remember to listen to yourself and be your own best friend.
Use time blocking
If you constantly find yourself being pulled in a million different directions and are unhappy with your productivity levels, this one is for you. Time blocking is a time management strategy that recommends dividing your day into blocks that are assigned one specific task. For instance, instead of checking your email throughout the day, specifically designate 9 to 10 AM to be email time. After you have completed your email block, refrain from checking your email during your other time blocks. This eliminates multitasking and will significantly improve your outcomes.
You can also use “Day Theming” if your job has two or more specific aspects that take up a lot of your time. Day theming is when you dedicate full days to one specific aspect of your job. For example, if you were a novelist, Monday could be used for research, Tuesday for writing, and Wednesdays could be dedicated to sending out query letters and manuscripts.
Of course, time blocking and day theming takes planning, so make sure you follow step one and plan your time blocks the night before or first thing in the morning.
Use the Pomodoro method
The Pomodoro method is a time management strategy where you work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and repeat for four cycles. After your fourth cycle, allow yourself a 15 minute break. For the 25 minutes that you are working, you should limit distraction and focus solely on the task at hand. Use your breaks to use the restroom, drink some water, and stretch. Try not to do something during your break that will suck you in and distract you!
A close friend of the Pomodoro method is the 52/17 rule, where you work for 52 minutes and then take a longer 17 minute break. Go off of what works best for you. If you are a beginner and worry you may not have the best attention span, start with the Pomodoro method and gradually up your productivity times when you feel comfortable.
Break your larger tasks down into smaller bites
You know the classic adage “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” If you have a massive task at hand (for instance, starting a blog!) it can be easy to be swallowed by it. Instead of looking at the insurmountable hull of your task, break everything down into tiny, bite sized pieces.
Commit to 2 minutes
In one of my favorite self help books “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, the author introduces “The two-minute rule.” This rule is used as an easy way to start building difficult habits, and it’s incredibly easy too. The idea is that instead of immediately starting your new goal of taking a one hour walk every morning, you would simply make your goal something small like “putting on your shoes.” This makes your new habit fast and super easy.
Of course you will never reach your desired outcome with just two minutes a day. In regards to this, Clear writes, “The point is not to do one thing. The point is to master the habit of showing up. The truth is, a habit must be established before it can be improved.”
So when ‘read before bed each night’ becomes ‘read one page’ you are simply beginning your habit that will inevitably grow into a bigger habit, which will then allow you to reach your desired outcome.
Easier said than done, but for most people the easiest way to fix this ginormous problem is to simply put away your cell phone. When you need to focus, try leaving your phone in a different room, or at the very least out of arm’s reach. If you need to keep an eye on your texts or calls, consider getting a smart watch that alerts you when you get a text – but makes it much harder for you to get lost in the depths of technology and social media.
Other things, such as email, can be a distraction as well. If it is a necessary distraction, then block out a specific time for it, and take care of it then. If it is not a necessary distraction, like that toy car on your desk… then just get rid of it. You’ll thank me later.
This goes hand in hand with almost all of these tips, but is so important that it deserves it’s own heading. If at all possible, try to avoid multitasking. Here are two statistics about multitasking that I think you will find interesting:
- Only 2.5% of people can effectively multitask. (Psst… odds are you aren’t one of them!)
- Multitasking reduces your productivity by 40%.
Hopefully these statistics will inspire you to put away your phone and turn off your email notifications. You will be surprised how much more effective you are when you’re not splitting your attention between multiple different things.
Say no when necessary, and delegate when possible
It can be hard to say no to someone who needs your help. But let’s be honest, sometimes it’s necessary. If someone brings a task to you that is not your responsibility or is otherwise outside of your job description, say no. That isn’t to say you need to be a jerk about it, just be clear and respectful.
You should also be delegating tasks, if you are at all able to do so. If you do have people that you can delegate tasks to, start by giving them tasks that don’t need your attention specifically. You can even practice delegating in your personal life! Ask your husband to make dinner, or make your teenager do the laundry. It’ll be good for them *wink*.
Start using time management strategies today
Now that you have 11 new time management strategies added to your arsenal, it is time to get busy. Knowing all of the best strategies will not replace actually putting in the work. A major part of the battle with time management, as it is with many things, is simply getting started. Once you’ve gotten your to-do list written and your favorite candle burning, you might as well get to work! So if you have something to do (and I know you do), just whip out these time management strategies and start building that habit today.