If you’re bad at time management, don’t feel bad. Most people struggle with it, and those who seem to be juggling everything aren’t always as good at it as they seem to be. More importantly, there are proven techniques you can use to improve your time management no matter how good you are. These techniques can improve your productivity, reduce stress, and create a better work-life balance. Here are the top 7 best time management techniques.
Plan Your Day in Advance
This is where a little time and effort invested at the start of the day dramatically improves your productivity. Create a short to-do list of things you want to get done that day. This increases the odds of you actually getting these things done.
Also, make it a habit to fill out a schedule. This ensures that you won’t forget an appointment or a meeting. It allows you to plan your work and personal activities so that you aren’t late, and you can prepare properly for each activity. You can use anything from apps to personal organizers to track your schedule and to-do list.
Limit the Digital Distractions
We don’t realize how much time text messages, instant messages, and emails take up. However, studies suggest the average person spends thirty hours a week checking email and other correspondence.
One solution is to limit how long you spend responding to messages and don’t interrupt activities to check your email. Wait until after you’re done with important tasks to check your messages. However, you should dedicate some time to blocking spam, unsubscribing from newsletters that aren’t value-added, and marking things as unimportant so you can focus on important ones.
This is one of the most important if underappreciated time management techniques. Always plan the most important tasks and events first. Everything else will either have to fit around it or get dropped.
On the flip side, you need to distinguish between urgent and important tasks, though something can be both. For example, an urgent and important task is an angry customer in your office. These can be described as fires you need to put out.
Ideally, you should work on important tasks before they become urgent. Don’t distract yourself with “urgent” but unimportant tasks like responding to social media status notifications, coworkers showing up to chat, or trivial tasks. Schedule your important but non-urgent tasks. Either put them on the schedule and work around them or have a plan to take care of these things when there are openings in your schedule.
Take Pareto’s Law into Account
Pareto’s Law is also known as the 80-20 rule. It is estimated that around 80% of your time is taken up by 20% of your tasks. This is why you should take some time to focus on these key activities. If you can find ways to automate or simplify these tasks, you’ll dramatically reduce the amount of time you have to spend on them.
If we apply Pareto’s law to business, around a fifth of your clients or products account for eighty percent of your revenue. Prioritize these, and leave the rest of later. Conversely, about one-fifth of your customers will account for most of the issues you deal with. Perhaps it isn’t worth it to keep a customer who is constantly demanding status updates or filing complaints.
Learn to Say No
Society encourages us to be selfless. Unfortunately, others will take advantage of this, while others don’t know when they’re asking too much.
The solution is to learn to say no. Learn how to clearly and calmly refuse to take on an additional project. Don’t feel bad about refusing to volunteer for someone’s pet cause. Be willing to push back on impossible deadlines or adding to the project’s scope.
Use the 4D System for Procrastination
Procrastination is something most of us have to deal with. If you’re a constant procrastinator, use the 4D system. You can either delete tasks, delegate them, do them now, or defer them. Delete tedious tasks that are too time consuming and unnecessary. Delegate or outsource tasks you can’t do now. Defer tasks that are not a priority, or muster the courage to do urgent work that needs to be done.
Eat the Frog
This term was originated by Brian Tracey in his book called, you guessed it, “Eat the Frog”. In it, he figuratively says that you should start each day by eating a frog. This way, you’ll feel confident knowing that this is probably the worst thing you’ll have to do all day.
What this means is that you should always start with the most difficult and strenuous tasks. If you push them towards the end of your day, you will only build up stress until you eventually have to perform them.
There are only so many hours in the day, and you cannot work 24×7. However, you can control what you do and how you do it so that you can get the most out of every day without burning out.