Is there a worse way to start your day than running late, stumbling out of the front door with half a piece of toast in your mouth, getting tangled in your keys and paperwork for the day and running to your car, stressing over the time and cursing any slow drivers or roadworks that make you even later?
Does this sound like your average morning?
Time is precious; it is finite and cannot be borrowed, saved or backtracked. How your time is used up is down to you; if you’re not managing your time well, even with good intentions, it’s likely that you’ll struggle to achieve your goals both in work and in your personal life.
Victor Hugo once said: ‘He who every morning plans the transactions of that day and follows that plan carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life’.
On this basis, for all those out there who are struggling with time management, we have put together a list of our 5 top tips to help you become more organised, more self-aware, less stressed, and more in control of your personal and professional life:
- Overcome over-estimating time
Do you suffer from time estimation bias? Research has found that some people are better at estimating time than others. Optimistic people are especially at risk of time estimation bias. These ‘time optimists’ believe that they can fit in more tasks into a limited amount of time than they can and thrive when multitasking.
The best way to overcome time estimation bias is to assess your time for a week, making a note of how long each element of your routine and activities takes you. Add 10% onto these times to allow for any variations or anything unexpected and you should find yourself in a place where you aren’t stressing about timing.
In your job, this can help you see if what you can realistically fit into your day, and back you up if you need helping saying ‘no’ to any work-related requests. It can also help to restore a work-life balance if that’s something you are struggling with.
- Know your goals and commit them to writing
A professional goal should be a specific, have a work-related end result to be achieved within a stated timeframe and to a pre-determined level of quality or quantity. We believe that all goals, no matter how big or small, should be SMART. They should also be written down and kept in a prominent place:
Specific: The goal clearly defines the outcomes required to achieve the goal
Measurable: It is made clear at what point the goal will be achieved
Achievable: You have the resources and time to allow you to achieve the goal.
Relevant: The goal aligns with the bigger goals of the team, department or company
Time-Bound: The goal clearly specifies a completion date
Make sure you’re regularly engaging in activities that support your goals, both short and long-term.
- Prioritise wisely
One of the biggest issues that people have with prioritising is that they begin too late in the process to make any real and lasting changes. By looking closely at your task list, you might find that it contains items that should’ve never made it on there in the first place.
Another common mistake people make with prioritising is putting a focus on getting more work done; prioritising begins with ridding yourself of tasks which hold little or no importance. Following on from this, you should evaluate your remaining workload and complete the most valuable tasks first and spend the majority of your focus on these. Spend 5-10 minutes at the beginning of your working day planning what you need to do that day to set your priorities for the day.
- Maintain a focus and eliminate distractions
No matter what you’re trying to do, there will always be something or someone else vying for your attention. It’s often not easy to cancel out all the background noise and concentrate on the task at hand, but focus is an imperative part of time management.
Try dedicating yourself to one task at a time in its entirety, regardless of how big your ‘to do’ list is – you’ll find focusing much easier when you aren’t multitasking. Rather than overpromising yourself and trying to get as many things as possible done at once, work on each task individually in order of importance.
If you find yourself getting distracted by social media, turn off your phone; if you are distracted by colleagues or phone calls, explain that you are taking time to focus and put headphones on and listen to music that makes you feel motivated; if you are distracted by the amount of work you have to do, go back to the previous step and prioritise your activities.
And also, importantly, take care of yourself. By making sure that you get plenty of sleep and exercise, you will have an alert, high-functioning mind which is less tolerant of time-wasting activities and less tempted to partake in them.
- Give yourself a break
Think of this as ‘putting your own oxygen mask on first’. To maximise your productivity, you need to recognise when to take a break and choose to do something that works for you. This could be as simple as taking two minutes out to have a glass of water and a stretch, especially if you have a desk job. Prioritising yourself is as important in time management as prioritising your task list.
If you or those you manage need help with time management, give us a call for more information on the courses we offer: 01437 721879.