In this article I’ll share a few of the most effective time management strategies I use while working with my clients.
Often, the key to boosting time-management is simply learning the tools that professionals like myself implement when working with our clients. If you are ready to take control of your day instead of simply reacting to it, try implementing one or two of the strategies below.
Do a Time Audit
The first step to better time management is analyzing how you spend your day. In the same way that nutritionists have people start with documenting what they eat every day, tracking your time will give you clarity on what you spend most of your day doing and where you get side-tracked. Sometimes what we think we are doing, and what we are really doing, are different.
Once you have a realistic picture of what you are currently doing, you can then use this information to create a time management plan that works for you.
Tip: Before you start planning today, audit the prior day to reflect what you actually did.
Create a To-Do List
This might sound like a no-brainer, but if you want to ensure that certain tasks get accomplished during the day, create a to-do list that is NOT just in your head! You should have an ongoing list of tasks and projects that you review regularly. Ask yourself: What needs to get done today? Which items are the highest priority?
Tip: Everyday, identify the two things that absolutely must get done.
Check Your Energy
Do you know what time of day you are most productive? The truth is that none of us can run at top efficiency for eight hours straight. Human beings have different times of day where it is easier to focus and when they have the most energy. Understanding when your energy is typically at its highest (and lowest) will give you the information you need for effective time distribution when it comes to getting things done.
Tip: When your energy is at its highest, tackle the items that require the most energy or concentration. WARNING: the tasks that take more energy are typically the things we don’t want to do, but need to do.
Eat the Frog!
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
We all have things we don’t like doing and that’s typically where I see the most procrastination with my clients. We delay the undesirable. Tackle your biggest project first, during your high energy times. Each day, ask yourself what is the #1 thing I have to get done today that will take the most time and/or energy? Then attack that task first and get it out of the way.
Tip: Break down projects into sets of smaller, bite-size tasks
Use a Timer
If you have a tendency to get into the flow and lose track of time OR have a hard time sticking to a task, a timer could be the way to go. When it comes to effective time management strategies, a timer is a simple and easy solution for staying on track. A timer could also be used as a reminder to take needed breaks and a reminder to get up and move around.
Tip: The product I use is a time timer
Time blocking is one of the most effective time management strategies you can implement. This time scheduling method helps people focus by encouraging them to set aside blocks of time for each of the tasks or projects they are hoping to complete. Often times, we do not have an external force upon us setting a deadline or holding us accountable to getting the work done. If this is the case, you’ll get more finished by being intentional about what needs to be done and scheduling focused time to complete the work on your calendar.
Tip: Start small. Block off time for one thing and practice sticking to it before trying to time-block an entire day or week.
Before I have my clients time block, I’ll often start with day theme-ing. Create a theme for a day and try to schedule appointments and insert time-blocks that fit into that theme.
Tip: Start with a “Designated Desk Day” where you don’t schedule meetings. Let this be a day where you stay at your desk to work on administrative tasks and projects that need to get done.
As a Professional Organizer, one of the fundamentals of organizing is to group like with like. When looking at the things you need to do, group similar tasks together. For example, if you have to make calls, do them together. If you have to send emails, do them together. If you have to write cards, do them together…. you get the idea.
Tip: Batch reply to all new emails at the end of the day.
Gasp! A Professional Organizer recommending decluttering. Decluttering applies to your office, electronic files, networking groups…. anything. The process of decluttering is assessing the value of the things we have in our environment and eliminating or reducing the items from an overcrowded space. The less we have to process, move through, look through, etc. the easier it is to get from a starting point to an ending point.
Tip: Make a commitment to keep your desktop clutter free.
Learn When to Say ‘No’
Saying yes to every request and project may make you popular but it’s a short cut to burn out. It’s difficult to be efficient when you are overwhelmed. Accept your limitations and embrace the power of saying ‘no.’ It’s far more effective to be selective about your projects and confident in the knowledge that you can do them well with the time and energy at your disposal.
Tip: If you have a hard time saying ‘no,’ try saying ‘maybe’ or ‘let me get back to you.’
A word of caution. Don’t get so focused on productivity and efficiency that you don’t build in time for rest or innovation. Innovation is messy. Learning something new is time-consuming. Make time for trying new things or you may become stuck or stagnant in your work. While it can feel great to check things off your list and complete projects, you’ll wear yourself out if you don’t give yourself time to rest and recover. The amount of time needed for recovery varies from person to person so pay attention to your body and its signals.
If you need to, put rest and creativity on your calendar. This may ensure that you actually make time for it.
When it comes to effective time management strategies, success looks different for everyone. Be the master of your own time by implementing the method that works best for you.
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