Let’s face it: most of us are incredibly busy. The digital age has made it easier for us to stay connected all the time and do more, faster, better. Add in family and personal life and it can be difficult to keep all of those balls in the air.
What should you do to manage your time wisely? It’s essential that you develop—and stick to—a reliable, sustainable time management system. Here are a few tips on how to do so:
Take inventory of your time. Do you have days slip by when you complete just one or two of your planned to-dos? Take a close look at where you’re spending your time. Log every hour of your day for a week or two or use a program like RescueTime, which tracks the time you spend on websites and apps (and other activities like emails and meetings) and sends you detailed productivity reports (you can use it to block those digital distractions too). This will help you identify your most and least productive times of day and the actual amount of time you spend on essential and non-essential tasks.
Find the time management tool that works best for you. Whether you use a planner or an app like Any.do or Todoist, adopt a system for keeping track of your responsibilities. Put everything on your calendar and spend a few minutes at the beginning of the day reviewing your day’s schedule. Maintain a detailed to-do list and check things off as you complete them.
Become a pro at prioritizing. Schedule your time based on your most pressing tasks. At the start of each week, update your master to-do list, which should include project deadlines and recurring tasks. Then, rank your to-dos from most to least urgent. Plan for meetings and calls and allow for any unforeseen emergencies that might arise. Re-prioritize your tasks at the beginning and end of each day.
Get into an email groove. Quickly scan emails at the start and end of each day and delete those that don’t require any action on your part. Use your folders and subfolders to keep what you need to. And develop a system for responding to emails throughout the day. For more tips, check out our post, “6 Tips for Taming the Email Inbox”).
Minimize meeting time. If you’re stuck in meetings for much of your day (leaving little time to complete your actual work tasks), it’s time to reassess. Make sure each meeting you agree to uses time efficiently and has a clear agenda or purpose and specific goals (e.g. to make a decision). Try to limit yourself to only attend meetings when your participation is important.
Stop procrastinating. Procrastination hampers your productivity and robs you of your free time. What can you to do stop it now? Break down your big tasks into manageable mini-tasks. Practice the “deal with it now” mantra, which means that you must address everything you need to as it arises (by either completing it, delegating it or making a future plan to deal with it). Create project plans with deadlines and stick to them.
Cut the digital distractions. Everyone needs breaks throughout the day but keep your social media and internet time to a minimum. If you need help, check out a program like Freedom, which lets you block certain websites.
Time management is crucial to make the very most of your days and get more done. Embrace an effective system and you’ll be more successful at work, less stressed and more productive.