Steps in effective time management are something that many people struggle with. There are so many distractions in today’s world that it can be difficult to stay on task and meet deadlines.
If you’re looking for amazing tips to help you expertly manage your time, the time management steps in this blog post are just what you need!
1. Set Goals
You should always have a clear idea of where you want your life or work to go. Otherwise, how will you identify if you’re on track?
Set goals that are achievable and measurable. And be specific – is your goal to read 60 books this year or learn how to play the guitar?
The best kind of goals are actions rather than outcomes.
You make action goals by listing what you need to do each day to achieve your outcome. For example, if your goal is to learn how to play the guitar, the action goals you should focus on are to practice a certain amount of time each day.
If your goal is to lose 10 pounds in the next 2 months, what should your action goals be?
Your action goals to lose 10 pounds in 2 months should be to exercise a certain amount of time every day and eat a certain diet.
If you focus on exercise and diet, you have control of your goals. If you find you aren’t losing weight, you adapt by exercising more and adjusting your diet.
Using action goals forces you to focus on things you directly control.
Once again, without priorities, it will be really hard to get anything done. Priorities are key in time management. Figure out which duties are most important and take care of those first before moving on.
Use a method like Triage or the Eisenhower Method to figure out which tasks are most important.
A method I like is the triage technique.
You can organize your tasks into three categories:
- Do essential tasks that are also urgent first.
- Then schedule essential tasks that aren’t urgent for later.
- You ignore time wasters.
The value of this technique is that it quickly decodes what type of task you are facing and then attacks the appropriate, more urgent one.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a 4-sided chart with four different quadrants.
- When allotting time, do your tasks that are important and urgent first.
- You schedule a later date for tasks that are important but not urgent.
- Highlighting nonessential tasks that are urgent, you should delegate or outsource them to another person.
- You ignore tasks that are neither important nor urgent.
3. Settle on a time limit.
If you don’t have set deadlines, it will be very difficult to get anything done. Figure out how long each task will take and add in a buffer for unexpected problems. You should set a final deadline for finishing your task or project. Still, there is another way to benefit from deadlines.
You can chunk longer work into short Timebox periods for better focus and efficiency.
Set a short deadline, like 30 – 90 minutes, to work on a task. When the time is up, you stop working. This will teach you how to focus and not be distracted when trying to do something important.
This works best if you divide a longer project into several shorter steps or chunks with a deadline to complete each step chronologically.
Shorter deadlines within a day keep you focused and working harder than a deadline that’s a few days away.
4. Take breaks between tasks.
It’s essential to take breaks throughout the day and work on one task at a time. When you take a break, get up and move around. Distract yourself from whatever you’re working on to refresh your mind.
One popular way to organize work with regular breaks is Pomodoro. It’s simple to implement and requires no special equipment.
The Pomodoro technique is a time management method that breaks up work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes of focused work followed by short (three-to-five minute) breaks. These intervals are known as “Pomodoros” or “Tomatoes.”
Once every 4 Pomodoros, you take a longer break, usually 15 minutes.
5. Get organized.
This is a lot easier said than done, but it will make your life so much better!
I use Google Keep to stay organized. I have a list of everything I want to do, and then I have a task list for today. Keep has a function for reminders that works with Google calendar.
Another really simple and effective tool to organize your time is Microsoft To Do. It has everything you need to keep tasks, priorities, and reminders with a calendar.
Keep and To Do both have mobile apps so you can carry your organizing with you.
Related: Tools for goals and task management.
6. Eliminate nonessential tasks.
How do you know which tasks are nonessential? If you prioritized your tasks in step two, then essential tasks are the ones that you need to do for your priority tasks. If you’re considering doing something that isn’t part of your important tasks, then it’s probably nonessential.
One famous method for prioritizing your work is the Ivy Lee Method.
Charles Schwab hired a productivity consultant called Ivy Lee. He was trying to improve efficiency, and he used Lee’s advice to help him. Lee asked for no payment upfront. Lee told Schwab to wait three months and then pay him whatever Schwab felt was appropriate based on the results.
After 3 months, Schwab wrote Lee a check for $25,000.
Here is the method Lee gave to Schwab:
At the end of every workday, choose six important tasks for tomorrow. Then, put the tasks in order of how important they are.
When you get to work the next day, do the first task that needs to be done.
Next, work on task number two until it’s finished, then number three, etc.
One problem with this approach is that you usually can’t finish 6 tasks in a day. Here is a solution to that problem:
- Delegate or outsource portions someone else can do better than you.
- Instead of completing each task and moving to the next, you can dedicate a time chunk to work longer tasks, then move to task two when the time is up. You then put the unfinished task at the top of the list for tomorrow.
- You can use a lesser number of tasks like 3 or 4 instead of 6.
The bottom line is that you have to decide what’s important and stop wasting time on things that aren’t.
7. Plan what to do.
Planning is really important to help you stay on top of your tasks and helps prevent procrastination. You have a plan for each day that is your tasks for the day. But, you need a long-term plan to reach your goals or finish your projects.
A great way to plan for the long term is to start with the end result and work backward, planning each step you need to complete. List all of the resources, communication, and actions you need to do.
You need to plan for possible barriers and problems. You should also keep track of your progress with milestones. Make adjustments when you fall behind or run into problems.
Refer to your overall plan weekly and monthly as you work towards finishing your project or goal.
Benefits of Effective Time Management
If you are good at time management, then you can get more done. This is good because you will have more time to relax on weekends instead of working long hours to finish your work.
It also means that you have less stress and a lower chance of getting sick from lack of sleep. You might feel better and have more time to do things when you manage your time better. You will be more satisfied with what you do. And less stress means an improved quality of life!
Excellent time management skills will give you more chances to do things. People who have good time management skills are in greater demand by employers.
Consequences of Poor Time Management
Poor workflow and the inability to complete tasks are a consequence of poor time management. You’ll also have less free time because you’re constantly trying to catch up on work that should’ve been completed earlier!
If you cannot plan ahead and set goals, you will not get things done efficiently. You should plan to do related tasks together or one after the other, for example. If you don’t plan ahead, then you are less efficient.
Weak time management can lead to a lot of wasted time. For example, it is counterproductive to talk on the phone with a friend while working on an assignment because you will get distracted and lose focus.
Loss of control
If you don’t know what the next task is, then you lose control of your work. That contributes to greater stress and anxiety.
Poor quality of work
Poor time management usually makes the quality of your work worse. It can be hard to do something at the last minute and have it still be good.
Poor time management can hurt your reputation with clients or your employer. They rely on you to complete tasks promptly. If they can’t rely on you to get something done on time, you’ll lose your job, or clients will go elsewhere.
The Last Word on Steps in Effective Time Management
I believe that the best advice for managing time is:
- At the end of the day, plan the next day.
- Use a simple system like a calendar and task list.
- Frequently ask yourself what the most important task is at the moment.
- Outsource and delegate tasks the others can do better than you.
I hope you have great success and happiness in life!
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