Managing your time is essential to getting things done quickly and effectively. In today’s fast-moving world, time wasted can be expensive, both financially and in terms of achieving your goals. The time management techniques listed below have stood the test of time when it comes to helping people take control of their schedule and optimize their ability to manage a busy schedule.
Keep an Accurate and Detailed Calendar
If an activity or event of some type is important enough to plan for, it should be assigned a time in your schedule book. As your life gets busier, you will likely find it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to productively manage your time without making a schedule.
Avoid trying to manage your schedule by scattered notes containing appointment details or by using to-do lists. Your scheduling notes can easily get lost or misplaced, while to-do lists are an inefficient substitute for a calendar or date book for scheduling purposes. These lists exhibit a propensity for getting longer and longer as new items are added, making them too unwieldy to also serve as a date book or schedule.
In addition to planned events such as meetings or other events, you can also use your schedule to plan for activities such as conceptualization, general planning, or prioritizing. These activities work on the macro or meta level – they help you consider processes, goals, and procedures to allow you to perform your day-to-day duties more effectively.
Write Down or Record Ideas as They Come to You
Oftentimes, our best ideas come when we are least prepared to pay attention to them. They might come while you’re attending a sporting event or out on a date; they could also come while you are driving, talking on the phone, or taking a shower. To prevent good ideas from slipping away from you, you should be prepared to record them whenever they occur, or as soon afterwards as possible.
To do this, your smartphone’s audio recording or note taking functions can be handy. Good old pen or pencil and paper will do as well. When an idea occurs to you, record it in some fashion immediately. If you can’t do so in the moment make it a habit to do so as soon as the opportunity arise. Recording new ideas in this fashion helps make you more efficient by cutting down on spent consciously thinking up ideas. An idea that comes to you spontaneously might take hours of conscious thought to discover, if you even think of it all.
Block Out Distractions
When you are working on a project or task that must be completed in a timely fashion, take whatever steps are necessary to avoid interruptions and block out distractions. This could include placing a do not disturb sign, turning off your smartphone or other communications device, or closing your office door or drawing the shades.
Another important step to take when you need to focus intensely on the work you are doing is to find a location conducive to getting the work done. If you are at work, consider moving to an empty conference room or a more secluded workspace. If you work from home and are unable to secure a quiet workspace, consider moving to another location, such as a coffee shop or a virtual workspace, until your workspace at home is once again quiet or you have completed the urgent task.
While it can be tempting to skip a regularly scheduled workout to get other things done, this is counterproductive in the long run. Studies have shown that regular exercise such as walking can increase creativity and otherwise improve your ability to perform a number of functions. Skillfully managing your time requires focus and effort, both of which are aided by being in good health.
Exercise can encompass forms of healthy activity designed to improve well-being such as meditation, yoga, and Pilates in addition to more active pursuits such as jogging or engaging in sports. The key is to keep your mind and body in the best condition possible. Studies have shown that as little as 20 minutes of vigorous exercise a day can make a significant different in terms of a person’s health. To improve your ability to manage your time, make sure to schedule time for exercise.
Take Time to Plan Your Day
Planning for long-term goals and events is valuable, but it should be complemented by making short term plans to help deal with immediate issues and the events you have planned for the day. Given how busy people’s day-to-day lives are in this day and age, trying to make it through your day without a schedule of events and activities is akin to flying blind; such an approach can be counterproductive in that it can cause you to spend precious time trying to remember exactly what needs to be done. Mapping out your day in advance helps you to more efficiently do what you need to do during the course of the day.
It is said that no plan goes exactly as planned. To avoid making plans that consistently fail to pan out, expect that interruptions or unplanned occurrences will happen during the course of your day. Meetings may go long, you may be called aside by the boss to work on another project, a kid may get sick and have to miss school. The permutations are endless. By planning to encounter interruptions during the day you will be better prepared to estimate the actual amount of time you will have to complete the day’s tasks.
Plan to Spend a Majority of Your Day Productively
If you take the time to map out what you’ve done over the course of a day, you may be surprised to find that a majority of your time was spent doing non-productive things. This is not to say that you need to be working every minute you’re awake, that approach would quickly result in burn-out for almost anyone. However, you should make a conscious effort to spend the greater part of the day, 51 percent or more, productively.
Productive activity doesn’t refer strictly to doing things that make money or require engaging in physical activity. It can also mean thinking, or engaging in conversation, as long as doing so relates to things that are important for you to get done. If you are able to spend at least half of your time working constructively to achieve your goals, you should be able to productively achieve your goals, while still having ample time to destress and take time off during the day to recharge your batteries.
Keep Your Email Inbox Clean
A crowded email inbox is a sure way to sap your efficiency. If emails stack up it means you are likely not taking care of all the things you need to take off in a timely fashion. This is compounded by the fact that when facing a crowded inbox, you may be tempted to try to quickly clear it, which could cause you to miss or accidentally delete important emails. To avoid this, practice proactive inbox management and endeavor to reduce your unread emails to 0 on a daily basis if at all possible.
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