Time management is a topic that has been covered extensively for decades but many people still struggle with punctuality and planning. Poor time management makes it difficult to realize personal, professional and business goals.
Time management is not just about avoiding distractions so you can put in the hours at work. It also involves striking the right balance between pursuing your business and professional goals, and maintaining a vibrant social life outside the office.
The following tips can help you have greater control of your time habits and make it easier to realize your life goals.
- Audit Your Current Habits
Before you develop an action plan on how to better manage your time in future, it’s important to know where you stand today. One of the best ways to do so is to note down your daily routine on your smartphone or in a journal every day for a week or two.
What you’ll quickly notice is that the instances of time wasting don’t usually involve a single lengthy moment of distraction. Rather, it’s often an accumulation of numerous but seemingly insignificant nonproductive activities throughout the day. For instance, you may be taking a coffee break 4 times a day when just twice will do.
- Set Goals
It’s hard to be disciplined and work towards something if the end goal is not clearly defined. Without specific goals, you’ll be at greater risk of falling off the prudent time management wagon.
That said, the types of goals you set do matter. It’s alright to be ambitious but it helps your morale a great deal if your targets are realistic and attainable. For best results, examine how much time you have to spare for work and then define targets that can be realistically achieved within such time. Adopting the Kanban technique could come in handy in this regard.
- Do What’s Important in the Morning
It’s best to do the things that require the most effort and concentration during the morning hours. There’s nothing particularly magical about the morning; it’s more to do with your state of mind. In many ways, the human brain is not too different from your biceps, triceps, calves and other muscles in your body.
Just like your muscles require rest to re-energize after you have engaged in physically exerting activity, the brain needs sleep to reset and refocus. In the morning, your mind is fresh and thus in the best state to tackle the most difficult tasks. Leaving such tasks to later in the day will likely find your brain exhausted and therefore require more time to accomplish.
- Schedule Your Response to Emails
Email, official or otherwise, can be as distracting as social media. When an email notification pops up at the bottom of the screen any time you are working on your computer, it takes your mind off of whatever you were doing at the time. While some emails may be genuinely urgent, the majority are conversations that can wait till later.
Unless your work demands otherwise (such as customer service or sales roles), set aside specific time windows when you’ll check email. For example, you could dedicate the first hour of the morning and the last hour of the day to responding to emails. Usually, if something is truly urgent, the person will either call you or send a text message.
An office or home full of clutter will affect your time management. It creates a sense of chaos that can exaggerate the amount of work you need to do thus driving you into procrastination.
If you haven’t decluttered in a long time, start small and move everything to its rightful place over several days or weeks. Once the space is organized, plan to declutter periodically (monthly or quarterly can do). That ensures you stay on top of things before they get out of hand.
It’s important that as you adopt these tips into your life routine that you not view them as static. Regularly assess your lifestyle and be ready to make the changes to your time management technique as and when needed.