Whether it’s in our job, our hobbies, or our everyday life, it’s becoming more and more important to be able to manage time effectively.
While to many, the ability to get through a long list of tasks in the 24 hours we get each day seems superhuman, all of us can be time management superheroes with the right tools and tips. So, don your capes and get ready to kapow! your old habits.
Battling our stress and anxiety enemies
A huge 44% of us say that our workload triggers or causes stress, anxiety, or depression, which is far more than any other work factor.
Whilst it’s true that good time management will likely boost your productivity, the practice should be viewed in a wider context of wellbeing. In reality, great time management strategies can go much further than just making you a more productive employee. These strategies can help you to feel more relaxed, focused, and in control.
1. Work out whether you are using your powers for good or evil
Work out what you’re currently spending your time on. That way, you can see whether you’re spending more time on productive tasks or on unimportant things.
Yes, this may sound as if you’re trying to fight fire with fire. Spend precious time tracking my time?
But this is actually an incredibly useful exercise. By finding out exactly where your time goes during the day, you can easily spot areas to improve. You’ll probably even find that there’s a big difference between your subjective time and reality – meaning that you are filling your time less effectively than you think.
Record each task you do for a day (or even a week!) and for how long. There’s a plethora of software out there if you want to do this digitally, or you could stick to the good old fashioned method of writing it down.
2. Be your own superfan
Once you know how you usually work from tracking your time and you’ve learned how to prioritise tasks, it’s time to kick start your new time management habits.
Use the first 30 minutes of your day to make a list of everything you want to get done that day. To really get you flying, word your tasks as if you’ve already completed them. So, instead of writing “Write the monthly report and send it to my manager,” you could write “Wrote the big monthly report and sent it on to my manager.” Whoosh, this extra boost of motivation just sent your productivity through the roof.
3. Pick your battles
Although you’re about to become a time management superhero, nobody has time to do everything in any one given day. The key to productivity is recognising the difference between important and urgent. Important tasks help support your goals, whether that’s business related or personal. Urgent tasks are those which need immediate attention and often fulfil someone else’s goals. We all tend to let the urgent dominate and to forget about the important.
A great way to prioritise your tasks to give equal attention to both urgent and important tasks is to follow Stephen Covey’s time management matrix.
Urgent & Important
Not Urgent & Important
Urgent & Not Important
Not Urgent & Not Important
Urgent & Important – tasks with important deadlines and high urgency. These should be prioritised first.
Not Urgent & Important – these tasks are important but don’t need to be completed immediately. This could include planning, training, prep, or exercise. These tasks should be prioritised second.
Urgent & Not Important – these tasks are not important but are imminent. This could include meetings. Try to minimise or get rid of as many of these tasks as possible as they are generally distracting.
Not Important & Not Urgent – these tasks don’t really contribute to any goals. They could include small things like watching TV. These can be the first to be cut from your list as they don’t really achieve anything.
This is a great way of focusing your time on the things that will make the most impact on your goals.
4. Set boundaries
Another benefit of tracking your time before you start your new time management habits is that you can see which tasks take much longer than you expect them to. Setting time constraints on these tasks will give you more focus and allow you to work more efficiently.
This also means that tasks can’t drag on, go over deadline, and cause untold stress. Once you’ve decided which task you need to tackle, set a time limit for the task, complete it, and then forget about it.
There will always be another baddie for Batman to protect Gotham from, and there’ll always be another task that needs your attention.
5. Don’t let distractions be your Kryptonite
It’s all too easy to undo all your heroic time management efforts by getting distracted from your mission. You could be working away at a task, and blam! An email notification distracts you for 20 minutes.
Don’t be afraid to use your computer’s ‘do not disturb’ setting to silence any emails, apps, or other distractions while you focus on your task.
You could also try only working with one monitor and only opening one window to really focus your attention.
6. Don’t use up all your power at once
Even Superman would get tired if he used all his energy at once. The same goes for you.
The Pareto Principle is a popular for time management and suggests that 80% of all results come from only 20% of effort. In sales, for example, this would mean that 80% of all sales in a month came from just 20% of customers.
How do you turn this into a superpower? Look at your work and find out what small tasks or actions are creating the biggest results. Then try and apply that to all tasks. So, if you know that having a ‘Power Hour’ in which you do most of your writing means that you can write 3 pieces of work in a day instead of in 3 days, do that Power Hour every day.
7. Even heroes aren’t perfect
Nothing is ever going to be good enough if you think everything should be perfect.
Failure is a part of everyone’s lives, and it’s impossible to avoid sometimes. If you fail, learn from your mistakes and see it as a valuable step in your mission.
Dwelling on mistakes can take up time that could be spent on other projects, whilst learning from mistakes will probably make all your subsequent projects even better.
And if you’re an imperfect time management superhero, that’s ok. Don’t get everything done on your list? Come back to it fresh the next day and blitz it.
8. Don’t wait – do it now
Just like writers waiting for writer’s block to pass or artists waiting for inspiration to strike, people often don’t want to touch important tasks until the conditions are just right.
This does more to hinder than to help you. Even if you’re not sure or you don’t feel like you’re totally ready, start tasks. Your motivation will follow.
What sets superheroes apart is their willingness to try.
9. Sometimes superheroes have to say no
So, you are well on your way to becoming the best time management superhero the world’s ever seen. You’re so productive, you have so much time in your day.
Now you need to remember that your time is precious. Don’t waste your hard-earned time on people, tasks, or goals that don’t contribute to or align with your mission and goals.
Start saying “I’ll check my calendar and let you know,” instead of automatically saying yes to any request, task, invitation or offer. This will help you buy some time whilst you work out where on your priorities list the message falls.
As already mentioned, don’t worry too much if you didn’t manage to tick off all the things that you wrote on your to-do list every day. These tips should give you the opportunity o enjoy a good work/life balance and shouldn’t encourage you to finish an unreasonable number of tasks in one day only to burn out the next.
And if your list is getting too long, it’s ok to say no.
With these time management tips, you will be more productive, less stressed, and more in control of your own time. You’re a time management superhero, it’s just time for you to fly.
About Clearfocus Training
Clearfocus Training is a mental health and communications training provider. Their qualified trainers work closely with organisations across the UK to determine barriers to growth and performance and make necessary changes.
Clearfocus offers a wide range of courses as well as bespoke packages tailored to an organisation’s specific requirements. For more information, or to book a course, head to https://www.clearfocustraining.co.uk/courses/.
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