To live a fulfilling life, we need to learn to manage our time efficiently.
Time never waits for anyone.
Whether you are happy or sad, feeling motivated or not, time always passes.
But some people get everything done despite having only 24 hours in their day(like the rest of us) and numerous roles to play.
How do they get so much done?
Well, they don’t spend time sitting and wondering, how in the world they are going to get everything done.
They just get to their projects and do the work. They know the art of effective time management by working smart.
There are numerous time management strategies out there. You can find what works for you best and implement it.
Here, I have shortlisted a few tips for better time management that I like because I have found success with them.
Here are 20 time management tips that will help you to take control of your time wisely.
1. Start with planning
I believe the first step of time management is planning. Before starting to manage time, you need to know what your priorities are and the most important tasks that you need to do in a week.
Of course, it comes after having set a goal. If you don’t have goals, then how can you know what you want to accomplish, right?
Set your yearly goals first. Then, estimate the number of weeks (or months) you will require to achieve the particular goals.
Divide your goal into smaller steps and write down at least 3 milestones you want to achieve on the way to your final goal.
For example, if you want to make $20,000 sales per month, the first milestone could be to start making $5000 sales per month.
And now you start planning how to reach that first milestone. What do you need to do in a week to reach closer to this goal?
And what should be done daily? Write down your daily goals, that will take you to the big ones.
I recommend making daily planning a habit. It’s one of the habits of successful people and it helps in staying laser-focused on our goals.
When you write down your to-do list for the daily tasks, you are holding yourself accountable and it’s hard to let you down.
From being a lazy and chronic procrastinator, I was able to change my levels of productivity through weekly and daily planning.
After you have your goals set, let’s move on to the next step.
2. Identify time killers
When it comes to managing my time, after setting the initial goal, I like to check how I can incorporate those daily goals into my day.
Now that we know we know what to do every day, we must know where we waste our time.
Track your time for a week, and see how much time you spend checking emails, social media, and doing other irrelevant activities.
This will help you to earn more time for doing productive activities.
These tools can help you to identify your most productive hours and you can shift your work schedule accordingly.
And that’s the next point too.
3. Work during the most productive hours
If you are a morning person or a night owl, we all have some period during the day when we feel the most fresh and active.
When you work during those hours, you have more energy and thus are more focused.
If you work during these hours, you will get your work done faster than if you were to work during unproductive hours.
And this is called working smarter. Rather than sitting all day to do a single task, do the most important and heavy tasks during the peak productive hours.
If you can get at least 80 percent of your work done in 5 hours, why would you want to sit for 8 hours, right?
The benefit of this is that you will feel happier and accomplished. Now you can easily complete the low-priority tasks of the day.
But how can you identify the most productive hours of the day?
- By using productive tools like Rescue Time or Toggl or use apps that help to track daily activities.
- By experimenting. Try to work during different hours of the day and find out when you feel the most focused. For every human, there is a time during the day when we can get into the flow state easily.
Try to work according to your natural productivity cycle.
For example, I feel the freshest in the early morning (if I got enough sleep), and if I were to write a blog post during this time, I would be able to write more words than if I were to start at 2 pm.
By 2 o’clock, I feel less focused and creative. So it may take more hours for me to write the same thing.
So I try to schedule my writing time during the early morning hours and do low-energy tasks like social media, management, checking emails, etc. in the afternoon.
When I do it this way, I can take short breaks in between to relax and unwind too.
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4. Set a time limit
Another way to stop procrastinating on a task is to give a time limit for your daily tasks.
If you want to complete a project, give it a self-assigned deadline. Decide by what time you will finish it.
It creates a sense of urgency which helps in finishing the work with fewer distractions.
5. Manage distractions
The biggest hurdle to finish your work on time is distractions. If you have an efficient system to keep the distractions away, you can get more done in less time.
If you have identified your time-killers, it’s easy.
What I like to implement here is the Pomodoro technique.
The Pomodoro technique uses a timer to break down your work hours into 25-minute intervals (this interval is called Pomodoro), followed by a 5-minute work.
For example, if you want to do focused work for 3 hours, set a timer for 25 minutes. Do concentrated work during the 25 minutes, and when the timer goes off, take a break for 5 minutes.
Then set the timer again for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break after that. This goes on for 4 intervals or four Pomodoros.
After 4 Pomodoros, you can take a long break of 15 minutes.
The benefit of using this technique is that it creates a sense of urgency. You don’t feel like you have 3 long hours but only have 25 minutes each to do focused work.
It’s easy to overestimate and lose sense of time when you think you have much time to do it. But when you break it down into sessions, you can avoid distractions.
This helps to immediately stop yourself from opening another tab to google something, or call or text someone to ask something or check a social media page.
I usually keep a notepad beside me while working. So if I get suddenly reminded of the things I have to do, or I feel the urge to google something, I note it down. And I know I can do it during break time. And there is no risk of forgetting.
You need a little bit of self-discipline here to avoid the distractions. But it is worth the effort.
6. Schedule the Top 3 tasks for the day
Brian Tracy in his book Eat The Frog says,
If the first thing you do in the morning is to eat the frog, then you can continue your day with the satisfaction of knowing that this is probably the worst thing that will happen to you all day.
The biggest tasks are what nags us all day. If you start your day with low-priority tasks like checking emails, or other tasks that can be done with low focus and energy, you are wasting your most precious time there.
When you do your daily planning (which I stress should be a habit), write down the top 3 tasks for the next day.
These are your Most Important Things (MITs) for the day. Tackle these tasks in the morning hours when you feel the freshest or during your most productive hours. These tasks are the ones that you should get done no matter what.
Even if you don’t get the low-priority tasks done, you can move on with the satisfaction that the biggest ones are done.
Note: For some, mornings may not be the most productive time. If that’s you, that’s fine. Do the MITs when you feel is the best time for you. But scheduling the top 3 tasks for each day is what is important here.
7. Manage your environment
Another tip to manage your time well is to create an environment where you can work without distractions.
If your office or work desk is cluttered, it can be hard to find what you want on time. For many people, a cluttered environment affects their mental health too.
You will end up losing time and energy looking for things and thus have increased stress levels. So keep the work environment tidy. Learn to be organized and have a place for every item.
If the notifications and pings from your phone distract you, turn them off and switch to a full-focused mode.
If you tend to visit news or entertainment websites, use website blockers. If you think keeping your smartphone away from you is better, put it in another area where you can’t easily access it.
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8. Set boundaries
Our minds are not the only distractions we face.
People can also be a source of distraction preventing us from using our time well.
In the office, it may be a co-worker who stops by your desk to gossip. At home, it could be your spouse or kids wanting your attention.
The only solution here is to set firm boundaries. Let people know when you are working and when you don’t want to be disturbed.
You don’t have to be rude and at the same time, be a people pleaser either. You can excuse yourself by saying you have work to get done and that you will catch up with them during the break.
Another simple technique to use is to wear headphones. It is a universal signal for “do not disturb”.
9. Manage your energy
Like you should identify your best productive hours to work, it’s also important to manage your energy.
We all have more than enough time to complete tasks. But what I have learned is that having only the time is not sufficient, managing energy is important too.
Though as humans, we do not have the same energy levels every single day, we can control a lot of it through diet, exercise, stress management, and proper sleep.
As we all know, foods made with processed carbs such as white bread, white pasta, etc, can zap your energy levels.
And foods that have added sugars, fast food, fried food, high caffeine, etc, can cause a crash in your energy levels.
Instead of eating such foods daily, eat fresh and whole foods that are nutrient-rich.
And also if your work makes you a couch potato, you can feel more tired as well.
Find ways to incorporate activity into your days. And also sitting for long hours is harmful to your health. Take little breaks to walk around or do light stretching.
Needless to say, if you don’t get sufficient sleep in your day, it can be hard to stay focused or even feel motivated to do your job.
Another factor that steals our time and energy is stress. No matter how good our life is, we all are stressed about deadlines or relationships.
One of the most effective ways to manage stress and not let it affect your work is meditation. You can make a habit of sitting with yourself for at least 5 or 10 minutes a day to calm down your mind and improve energy levels.
At the end of the day, managing time is not only about time itself but your overall health and energy levels.
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Time batching is one of the best time management tips I have learned ever, and I implement it consistently to get more done on a daily basis.
Time batching means to dedicate a specific amount of time to do similar tasks together without interruptions.
This technique helps you to do specific tasks of the same nature to be done without going back and forth between different tasks.
It helps reduce distractions for a workflow and boosts your productivity.
It helps us to avoid multitasking which is said to lead to taking more time to finish tasks.
If you think you are being efficient by doing multiple things at a time, studies point out something else.
They show that we take up to 50% more time to finish one task if we switch between tasks.
To do time batching, think about what tasks are similar at work and home.
As a content creator, I like to batch plan blog posts to a day. I do the research, find keywords, and write down the ideas and outlines for at least 20 posts together.
After that, I can get to actual writing. That will take a few days, and then I will move on to the editing and publishing work. Then comes social media promotion and creating images and graphics for the blog posts.
This helps me to not waste days between writing and publishing a single post at a time.
If you want to batch household chores, you can do that too.
For example, you can do all the cleaning chores in the evening and cooking chores in the morning. During the cooking hours, you can get all the meals for the day at once, so you don’t have to enter the kitchen frequently to cook.
You can also do meal prepping for an entire week and freeze the food.
You can apply the batching technique to any area of your life and save time.
Let’s admit that we are not good at everything. Maybe you are, but do you have the time to do all the different tasks of your work or even chores?
It can be stressful and overwhelming to even think about.
Delegation of tasks that you are not good at or which you don’t have time for is a good way to manage your time.
You can also apply the Pareto principle here (read more in the next section) and identify which tasks you should focus on to bring more results. And then delegate the rest to people who are good at doing those tasks.
Delegation helps in doing what you are best at faster with the peace of mind that other tasks will be done by the respective people.
This actually can improve your growth at work and lead to more income as you can focus on your work more now that you have time to do it.
12. Follow the Pareto Principle
The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes.
It simply means doing more by doing less. When you analyze your work, you can understand where most results come from.
So in your business, 20% of customers may bring 80% of the revenue. Or at the office, 20% of workers may be doing 80% of the work.
Focus on what brings the most results and you will benefit more from it. So in short, instead of chasing so many things at once, the best way to get more done is to explore more on the strategies that are bringing results and focus on them.
This is why delegation is important.
13. Have the same schedule for an entire week
If you want to learn successful time management, you need to have a plan for your weekends too.
Because if you ignore it, the weekends can disrupt your weekday plans.
You can take a break and go slow during the weekends, but if you disrupt your sleep-wakeup schedule, the resulting sleep debt can get carried onto the weekdays causing low energy and productivity.
Also, what I have experienced is that if I use social media or watch Netflix too much on the weekends, I find it hard to switch off from it when the workday starts again.
My mind keeps going back to the visuals and the tendency to check the app turns on again.
So maintain your routine throughout the week and do everything in moderation so you still feel good when Monday comes.
On weekends, I don’t follow a strict daily schedule as I want to take it slow and relax with my family members during those days. But taking care of the sleep cycle is important.
14. Take breaks
Another important reminder is to rest and relax whenever you need it.
If you are a productivity machine, it can be easy to go on and on without taking breaks.
Though you get a lot done, it can lead to burnout at some point.
Keep work and play balanced by going slow during the weekends. Pamper yourself and indulge in self-care activities when you feel like it.
If you feel tired, learn to take a rest. For some people, it is something they need to learn, as taking a rest may evoke guilty feelings in them.
And also, if you properly apply these time management techniques and delegate extra tasks, you will have time to relax.
15. Stop perfectionism
Another overlooked factor that leads to poor time management is being a perfectionist.
The curse of being a perfectionist is that you want to do everything without making mistakes. Though it can lead to perfect work, it is time-consuming.
Perfectionists suffer from stress and fatigue as they don’t want their mistakes and weaknesses to be revealed. They set high standards for themselves and push harder to achieve those.
It’s hard to be vulnerable. But trying to be your authentic self and accepting your weaknesses as they are will help in reducing perfectionism.
Perfectionism is not all bad as it also helps you to get better at what you do. But when you are so terrified that you can’t even start working, perfectionism is bad and is time-consuming.
16. Stop waiting to get inspired
As humans, not all days are the same for us. We all go through the emotional ups and downs.
But not letting emotions affect your work is a skill we can aspire to learn. The key to success is consistency in whatever you do.
Even if you have set goals, there will be many moments when you feel uninspired to do the workout or complete that project.
But remember, you will waste time if you are going to wait till inspiration strikes. It is humanly impossible to be inspired every single day no matter how much you love your work.
Show up consistently despite your motivation levels. Once the initial resistance passes, you might get in the zone and finish the work.
I can vouch for this. I had completed blog posts on the days when what I wanted to do was sit on the couch and watch YouTube videos. Of course, the output levels are not the same every day. But I am satisfied if I did something to move the needle.
17. Learn to say NO
Another time stealer is agreeing to do things that you don’t want to. These could be things that don’t align with your vision.
Refrain from saying “yes” immediately to requests. Instead, tell them you will get back to them after checking your commitments.
When people learn that you are not available for worthless things or even things that matter but are in conflict with your schedule, you will be bothered less in the future.
18. Establish good habits
Establish habits that will help you to work at your maximum productivity levels.
Be it the keystone habits like doing exercise or meditation, getting hydrated, or getting proper sleep, turn them into habits that get done on autopilot.
These habits are super important to learn good time management skills, and I have found these habits are even unavoidable to achieve our long-term goals.
19. Use digital calendars
I used to be a pen and planner person. If you check my older posts, you can find that I used to plan using a bullet journal.
A bullet journal is what helped me start my way of organized living.
But people grow and change and I changed too. And have become more or less a digital planner person. I still use a physical planner or single printable planner pages for specific purposes.
But right now, I am in love with Notion to plan my daily life and work schedules.
The benefit of using digital planners is that you can download apps on different devices and synchronize them so that you can access your schedule from anywhere at any time.
You can also easily schedule events and set up reminders as you have your smartphone always handy.
20. Less is more
Another thing you can do to stay focused and avoid distractions is to define your priorities in life.
And to learn to live with less. When you easily know what you want and what you don’t want, it’s easier to live with intention.
For example, if you make it a priority to live with less stuff, you won’t feel the need to do more shopping or even go to shopping malls unnecessarily.
You will then gain more time for your favorite hobbies.
If offline interaction with friends and family is more important to you, you will find less need to spend more time on social media and prioritize social activities.
You again gain more time for your friends and family which ultimately gives way to more deep connections.