“It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”—Henry Ford
One of the most commonly used phrases heard on a daily basis is: “I don’t have enough time.” We claim we don’t have enough of it and wish we had more. Realistically, everyone has 168 hours of time in his or her week. Every week. Time is our most precious resource, yet so much of it isn’t used efficiently to accomplish what’s important to us—both professionally and personally.
We would all love to have an extra couple of hours in every day. Seeing as that is impossible, we need to work smarter on things that have the highest priority, and then create a schedule that reflects our work and personal priorities.
How you choose to use your time defines your priorities. In other words, when you say, “I don’t have time,” what you’re really saying is “it’s not a priority.”
Enter time management—the ability to plan and control how you spend the hours in your day to successfully accomplish your goals. It’s amazing how much time you can find when you minimize the things that aren’t important to make room for the things that are.
Managing time isn’t about squeezing as many tasks into your day as possible. It’s about simplifying how you work.
It’s about effective scheduling of your time, goal setting, prioritizing, and choosing what to do and what not to do. It’s also about delegating tasks, analyzing and reviewing your spent time, organizing your workspace, keeping your concentration and focus at your work, and motivating yourself to work towards a goal.
The following are tips to help you become more productive and better manage your time:
- Create a plan – Use the first 30 minutes of your day to set goals and plan out your time. A little time and effort put in now saves an enormous amount of time, effort and frustration in the future.
- Prioritize. Use your time for things that are worth it. Prioritizing what needs to be done is especially important. Without it, you may work very hard, but you won’t be achieving the results you desire because what you are working on is not of strategic importance. Work on the most important, highest value tasks.
- Assign a time limit to each task. Assign realistic time limits to each task, keeping in mind that we regularly underestimate the amount of time things take. Make sure to factor this in so you don’t eat into other task’s assigned time. Any activity or conversation that’s important to your success should have a time assigned to it.
- Take inventory. Do a time audit for a week to see exactly where you’re spending your time and how you might want to redistribute.
- Use a calendar. Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. Sync it with mobile devices so you can access your schedule anywhere. Most calendars have a reminder function—be sure to use it, setting reminders 15 minutes in advance for important events.
- Use an organizer. The organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects and other miscellaneous items.
- Know your deadlines. Clearly mark and review your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish your tasks.
- Batch similar tasks together. Group like tasks together and do them consecutively. Different tasks demand different types of thinking so it makes sense to allow your mind to continue to flow with its current zone rather than switching unnecessarily to something that’s going to require you to re-orient. Keep the synergy going.
- Delegate. Take the opportunity to allow tasks to be done by others who can effectively help. This takes a load off and you can focus on important tasks.
- Use pockets of time to your advantage such as waiting in an airport, being stuck in traffic, sitting in a reception room. Disciplined use of the time everybody else wastes can give you an edge. The now rich and famous writer of legal thrillers, Scott Turow, wrote his first novel using only his morning commutes into New York City on the train.
- Reward yourself for getting jobs done. Rewards are important to keeping the motivation alive. Make a list of rewards that motivate you and congratulate yourself for a job well done.