Time may not always feel like it is on your side, but with the right tools applied with diligence, you can at least make sure you always make the most of the time you have.
While you cannot stretch or shrink time, you can learn to better manage it to your advantage.
When comparing two workers with the same skill set, time management skills can be the deciding factor to determine which worker outperforms the other.
You can easily outperform someone when you manage your time better. This is because you are more efficient at the tasks you undertake. Not only does being efficient make your task easier, but it frees up more time to accomplish additional projects. If you feel like you simply do not have enough time in your day for all the things you have to do, let alone want to do, better time management can be the key to solving your problem.
Learn to Audit Your Time
The first step to better managing your time is to find out where all your time is currently going. Until you know how you are spending your time now, you cannot accurately determine how to better manage it in the future. You may think you already know how much time you are spending on different tasks, but a true audit of your time might deliver some surprises. A task you assume only takes you a half hour per day could be taking you a full hour. This could be because the task is harder than you realize, or because you get distracted and end up wasting time.
There are many convenient and free apps you can download to your phone, tablet or computer to help you audit your time. Barring these, you can keep a simple spreadsheet, or even a list on a piece of paper, tracking your days like in a diary. List each activity you do and the times you start and end them. When done correctly, a proper time audit accounts for every waking second of your day. Armed with this critical information, you are empowered to identify where your expenditures of time can be trimmed and improved.
Learn About Time-Limit Tasks
Once you know how long every task you perform is currently taking, look at ways you can streamline those tasks to make them take less time. Then, set time limits for those tasks accordingly. Try your best to adhere to these time limits as you perform these tasks from day to day. Track your progress as you did with your time audit. The more you track your progress in pursuit of those goals, the closer you come to completing those tasks in their allotted time limits on more days. Then, you can schedule your days based on a clear awareness of your time commitments and how long each task is expected to take.
Learn How to Build in Buffers
Some tasks may take longer than you initially allotted. A project may be more complicated than you expected, or your schedule is thrown off from a new request. To combat these issues, build in buffers to your schedule. These buffers can be withdrawn like money from a bank account to add more time to any task requiring it. If you succeed in accomplishing the tasks you have set for yourself in their respective allotted time frames, you can use those buffers as a time to treat yourself to a break for a walk, a nap or a cup of coffee.
Learn How to Turn To-Do Lists Into Goal Lists
The problem with To-Do Lists is people tend to check them off haphazardly, often leaving many items unchecked. Goal lists, however, account for the fact all goals are made up of a sequence of smaller tasks. Some items on a To-Do List may represent those larger goals. Being so large and comprised of multiple steps, the item can seem overwhelming and unachievable, leaving you to skip it for a smaller, more achievable goal. In such an instance, list each large goal separately and itemize each step to achieve your goal. Setting smaller goals may seem unnecessary at first, but many people find it more rewarding to complete a series of small tasks versus a single goal, since it feels like they are making more progress. If you are frequently overwhelmed with tasks, separating the list into smaller sections also makes your goals appear more manageable.
To increase the stakes for completing smaller goals, put them in context according to their intrinsic role in completing a larger goal. For example, imagine the goal is to complete a large multi sectioned report. Simply listing completion of the report as a goal on the To-Do list is daunting and may take many days to complete. However, assigning a few sections of the report to each day will move you more efficiently toward the total goal and each day you will see you have made progress. It is much harder to put off smaller tasks when you acknowledge how valuable they are to the larger project. By transforming your random to-do lists into more efficient and context-based goal lists, you make sure no items on your list are ever left undone.
Learn How to Plan Each Day
Either the night before or first thing in the morning, plan out your day. If the night before, spend the end of each day, or work shift, cleaning up your workspace and itemizing the most important tasks for you to accomplish the following day. If it is the morning, while performing your morning routine, figure out and jot down the most important tasks to attend to that day. Pull them from your goal lists, looking at which of the tasks before you are the most urgent or those which can push you furthest toward one of your goals. If one goal seems to be getting consistently pushed to the side, assess whether this task is actually worth your time.
Learn How to Do the Smallest and Most Important Things First
Always prioritize your most important tasks. If you put these tasks off, you risk the task constantly being on your mind, making it harder to focus on your activities during the day. The value of doing the smallest things first is each task you accomplish delivers you a mental, emotional and chemical boost of satisfaction to help fuel you for the accomplishment of other tasks and the achievement of your goals. Smaller tasks, by being naturally easier to achieve, deliver you this boost sooner, helping you take on some of those larger, longer tasks with greater motivation and verve.
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