Always Racing Against Time? Bring Order to Your Life by Implementing These 6 Time Management Strategies
Always late for work or meetings? Struggling to finish jobs on time? Procrastinating? If you have answered yes to one of these three questions, this article is for you! We will give you practical tips on how you can improve your time management skills, drawn from 6 excellent books on this topic. If you find the tips of any of the books to be particularly insightful and you consider getting yourself a copy, click on the book title, which will then take you to the book’s page on Amazon.
1. Prioritize Your Tasks and Do the Toughest Ones First
“Let your ego out of the way and focus on the common goal – getting the work done.” – Julie Morgenstern
Prioritization is one of the most important tools you can use to manage your time better. Robert Bly in his book, Make Every Second Count, says we can better prioritize by taking breaks as needed, beating procrastination (which we will elaborate on below), and working first on the tasks which are most important.
Prioritization also often links to the importance of delayed gratification. We should train our minds to refrain from doing the easiest tasks first, but that which is most important. We will talk about the issue of scheduling in one of the following paragraphs.
Morgenstern mentions in her book, Never Check E-mail in the Morning, in the context of business, that priorities should be based on the effect they have on profits and sales.
2. Set SMART goals. And Smaller Goals to Achieve Bigger Goals
“Yet you can solve most of your time-related problems – not enough time, too much to do, deadlines too short… simply by increasing the productivity of the one source you can control: you.” – Robert Bly
Bly suggests that in order to accomplish a lot, goals should be ambitious but also “achievable and realistic”. These two prerequisites for goal setting are part of the so-called SMART system. The other three SMART-elements are “specific, measurable and time-framed”.
Although goal setting is critically important, we have to be weary that it doesn’t overwhelm us – which will ironically lead us to failing in the reaching of our goals. The purpose of goal setting is then defeated! We should thus strive to have an adequate balance between focusing on our goals and focusing on the small steps that need to be taken each day to accomplish them.
3. Delegate Work to Save Time and Stay Clear from Micro-Managing
“Time is a non-renewable resource that’s consumed at a constant and relentless rate. Once an hour is gone, it’sgone forever; you can never get it back.” – Robert Bly
According to Bly one should entrust more responsibility to staff members in order to free up time. He also suggests that one should avoid micro-managing employees to whom the tasks were delegated. Morgenstern refers to the importance of avoiding the negative effect of isolating oneself in the work environment. He also believes it’s vital to ensure that employees understand their role in the organisation.
We often find it hard to delegate work as we’re afraid that the work won’t be done on time or to an adequate standard. Effective leaders, however, know how to delegate and inspire others to complete tasks with excellence and on time. Delegating is hard to do at first, but the more you practice it, the better you will become at it. Make sure that you inspire trust in your subordinates by working to the same standards that you expect from them!
4. Schedule Your Tasks and Avoid Taking on Too Many Responsibilities
“You must separate what you need to do today from what you don’t need to do today.” – Laura Stack
In What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do, Stack writes about the importance of scheduling. She suggests that apart from assigning realistic deadlines to your commitments, that you do most of your work when your attention is the sharpest and when you feel energized. She also says one should learn how to say no.
Scheduling tasks will reduce the problem of worrying about multiple tasks at once. Once a task is scheduled, your mind will think less about that priority, which means you can use your mental energy on the tasks that you have to do now. Saying no may disappoint some people, but you ultimately have only 24 hours in a day. People generally understand when you decline to do something or delegate a responsibility, but we sometimes give ourselves a much harder time about it than is necessary. Rather say no and delegate than do a below standard job or fail to finish it at all!
5. Stop Procrastination through Goal-Setting and Eliminating Distractions
“You have a choice. You can delay or you can act.” – Jane Burka & Lenora Yuen
Burka & Yuen write in their book, Procrastination, that rewarding yourself, setting realistic goals and making a “public commitment” to overcoming procrastination may all help to overcome this challenge.
Jeffery Combs lists various habits in The Procrastination Cure that you can cultivate to beat procrastination. They are, among others, “set small goals, write things down, eliminate distractions, and learn the skill of self-evaluation”.
Beating procrastination can sometimes be achieved by simply just starting, even when it feels impossible to do so. We often create a false perception in our minds before starting a task of how challenging or bad it will be. Once we have started however, we become immersed in the task at hand and our mind shifts from the “enormity” of the challenge to solving it bit by bit. Remember that your feelings are just that: feelings. You have the power to overcome them through choice. Start practicing today!
6. Multitask Less to Improve Your Concentration
“The more multitasking we do, the worse we get… at everything.” – Maura Nevel Thomas
Thomas, in his book, Personal Productivity Secrets, mentions that our brains are wired as such that we can only handle one conscious thought at any given point. According to Thomas the process of “cognitive switching” is hampering our ability to complete our work at a high standard. She also suggests that we take control of possible distractions, for example avoiding checking e-mails at very regular intervals.
In this modern era where we are bombarded with information and have access to multiple communication mediums, it becomes increasingly difficult to “switch off” and focus. Simple strategies such as turning off E-mail and Facebook notifications on your phone and closing one tab in your internet browser before opening the next, can lead to big increases with your daily productivity.
We trust that these strategies will take you on a journey to solve the challenges you have with managing your time. To facilitate the transition from the intention to improve your time management to implementation, we suggest that you start with implementing one strategy each week. Remember not to be too hard on yourself – change happens one step at a time!
*For summaries of business books, visit getAbstract.