You know that feeling. You get to the end of the day and realize you haven’t scratched one item off your task list. All you recall is that you got roped into attending an impromptu meeting, took a phone call from a customer, and chased down answers all day. You know you have to do something to rectify the situation because every day seems to end with you asking yourself, “Where did the day go?” Since you can’t add hours to the day, learning how to effectively manage the time you have is the best way to ensure you can complete your work on time. Need some help on figuring out how to do that? We’ve outlined some steps below.
Clear your world from distractions.
- Clean off your desk. A clean desk gives you the space to focus on one item and one item only: the task at hand. File, throw away, shred, or otherwise get rid of anything that could serve as a distraction.
- Turn off notifications. How many times are you working on a project and a notification pops up telling you that you received an email response from a client or an invitation to a party that you can’t NOT open right then and there?
- Use apps to keep you away from social media. You know how you just can’t seem to resist checking your Instagram account or looking at Snapchat? Well, help yourself maintain focus on your work by using apps like Flipd and Offtime that lock you out of your phone or disable certain functions for a period of time.
Get your task list in order.
- Start by listing every to-do item you have on your docket, however daunting or menial they may be.
- Break the larger, time-consuming projects down into each task you have to complete for that project.
- Prioritize based on importance or due date.
Plan your day every day.
- Once your list is prioritized, make a list of tasks you want to complete that day using SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound) and be realistic. It feels a lot better to check off every item on your list than only checking off two tasks out of ten.
- Keep a notebook handy to write down your daily tasks or use electronic tools like Evernote and Trello.
- Set a time limit for each task and account for inevitable interruptions.
- Start your day off early. Which would you rather say: “Boy, it’s 10am and I’ve already accomplished A, B, and C!” or “Wow! It’s already 10am and I haven’t done a thing!”?
General tips for time management success.
- As difficult as it can be, learn to say no. Obviously, if your task list is short and you find yourself with spare time, taking on additional tasks is a no-brainer. However, if you’re having a hard enough time keeping up with your workload, respectfully declining additional tasks is essential for optimal time management.
- Exercise and eat healthy to help your mind focused, give you energy, and fuel your concentration.
- Work wherever you are. Think about how much time you waste sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office or driving to and from work. Use that time to brainstorm or respond to emails or even sort out in your mind how you’ll tackle that project.
- Take breaks. According to the Pomodoro Technique of time management, you should take a five-minute break for every twenty-five minute’s worth of work to maximize productivity.
- Make yourself accountable by setting deadlines and sticking to them.
Learning how to effectively manage time not only helps you produce work in a more efficient manner, it lessens your stress level and improves how others see you at work. Once you get the hang of it, try using your newfound time management skills in your personal life, as well—you’ll be amazed at the improvements you see!