If you want to finish your to-do list while keeping your work-life balance intact, you need to manage your time effectively. In other words, you need to boost your time management skills. So, to help you make the most of your workday, here are eight simple time management tips.
1. Plan your day
As time management tips go, this one’s probably the most important.
Start the day with a clear idea of what you plan to achieve. Write a to-do list the night before so you can get started right away the next day. Set specific, measurable and realistic goals.
The more specific the goal, the easier it is to track – and tick off the to-do list.
2. Turn off distractions
Don’t let messages distract you from the workday, even if you’re working from home.
- Check social media and messages during allocated breaks.
- When you’re working on something important and urgent, close your inbox and mute your phone so that nothing can distract you.
- If you’re tempted to read emails and messages as they come in, turn off notifications and set aside a block of time to check them.
3. Designate a workspace
Here’s a time management tip that might surprise you. Whether it’s the kitchen table or an office, it’s important to label a certain area as your workspace. Over time, your brain associates that space with work and mental focus, so it’s easier to concentrate and get work done.
- Don’t work somewhere you associate with rest or leisure, like the sofa (unless it’s all you have available, of course).
- If you can, make sure you work in a space that you can walk away from and turn your devices off until the next day. This helps create a clear separation between work and life (turning off standby can sometimes save you money, too).
4. Prioritise tasks
Prioritise tasks based on how important and urgent they are rather than how easy they are to achieve. For example, if something’s both important and urgent, make this the first job on your to-do list.
- If it’s an important but non-urgent job, do it as soon as possible.
- Is it urgent but not very important? See if someone else can handle it.
- Place the non-important and non-urgent tasks further down your priority list.
5. Set time limits
Did you know that work essentially ‘expands’ to fill the time we have available? It’s a concept known as Parkinson’s Law, and it basically means your workload adjusts to suit the time available. Here’s an example.
- You have one week to write an essay.
- There’s a whole week available to you, so you write one page per day.
- You tinker with the essay multiple times and it feels like a week isn’t enough time to write it properly.
The time management tip? Set clear time limits for each task and stick to them. Otherwise, you could end up spending much longer on a job than is strictly necessary.
6. Track your time
Wonder where your time’s going during the workday? Start tracking it. Set a timer and check how long it takes you to complete specific tasks.
Once you know how you’re spending your time, you can:
- See which tasks consume most of your workday
- Check for patterns
- Identify ways to work smarter
Time management tips aren’t just about setting time limits. They’re about understanding how you’re actually spending your time so you can set time management goals.
7. Know when you’re most productive
While some of us can blast through multiple tasks first thing in the morning, others prefer burning the midnight oil. Don’t fight these natural tendencies – embrace them instead.
- Use your ‘best’ hours to tackle complex tasks.
- Handle smaller admin tasks, like phone calls and emails, during periods in which your productivity might naturally be lower.
- If you’re obliged to work traditional office hours, think about when you’re at your most productive and structure your day accordingly.
A word of caution, though. If you’re working non-traditional hours, make sure your manager knows when you’re available and when your most productive hours are.
8. Take regular breaks
Yes, time management tips include times when you’re not working!
Whether you go for a (socially distanced) walk around your local park or curl up with a book, don’t forget to step away from your work from time to time. Regular breaks give your mind a chance to ‘recharge’.
- Get up and walk around at least once an hour.
- Give yourself a 5-10 minute break between tasks so you can switch your focus to the next project.
Time management tips: takeaway
Time management is crucial to feeling in control of your workday, whether you run your own business or you’re working from home right now. The best part? It’s something everyone can learn, and you can start right away.
Begin with small changes to your daily routine, build on the improvements you make, and find out what productivity hacks work best for you.
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