Do you sometimes wish you had more time to do stuff? Do you work overtime regularly to get things done? Or feel too busy to eat well, take enough breaks, or even sleep enough? These can be signs that you are not managing your time effectively. Learning how to manage your time more effectively has great benefits. For example, you will have a better balance between work and personal life, and more rest. You will reduce stress and be happier. And in addition, you will accomplish what is really important. So managing your time is worth it. Here are 7 principles on how to do it.
1. Manage Your Time with Planning
Planning is always important, no matter what kind of job you have. Generally, it helps a lot to use a few minutes each evening to note down the 5 most important things you want to accomplish the next day. So this should not be a detailed list of work tasks. Just the five most important things you want to accomplish the next day, both workwise and personally. It will save you a lot of time.
Check Your Schedule
At the beginning of each new week, have a look at your calender and plan the things you need to do that you have not scheduled yet. Make sure to set aside plenty of time for the more time-consuming projects and jobs you need to do, like making presentations.
Each morning, when you start working, have a look at your schedule for that day. Some find it useful to acutally schedule time to do this. Especially if you feel stressed, scheduling time in the morning to go over your calender items will help. If you have a lot of meetings that day, make sure to plan some time after each meeting to sort out new tasks. If things you need to do only take 2 or 3 minutes, like forwarding an e-mail, do them straight away. In addition, make sure you schedule time for some breaks here and there. They are essential to staying productive.
2. Manage Your Time by Prioritising
If you have trouble deciding what tasks to do first, it can help to use the The Eisenhower’s Principle. Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said that he had two kinds of problems: important ones and urgent ones. One of the most effective ways to manage your time is to differentiate what is important and what is urgent. Generally, most of us tend to work on urgent tasks first. Those are things that we feel need to be done immediately. Usually, though, those are things others have asked us to do. However, to stay in control of your time and schedule, you need to decide what to work on first.
Are you finding it difficult to prioritise, here are two things you can do. One, make a list of the tasks you need to do. Next, rank them as important and urgent. Some items will be both. Those that are both important and urgent are the ones you start working on first. If you are still having trouble deciding, you can ask your manager or colleague to help you prioritise. Present them your task list and ask which ones are the most important to them. That way, you make sure you will get the things done your manager or co-worker really needs from you.
3. The 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule is also helpful tool in time management. It means that approximately 20 percent of your work produces 80 percent results. So, you should focus on that 20 percent to make the most effective use of your time. Identify your most important tasks as mentioned above and choose the 2 out 5 that will have the greatest impact. When you finish those, you can start on your others tasks. If you apply the 80/20 rule on all tasks on your to-do list you will manage your time more efficiently. Always do one task at a time though!
4. Manage Your Time by Avoiding Distractions
Distractions happen and it’s almost impossible to avoid them completely. None of us can be focused all the time. One way to manage this is by scheduling short breaks. You can basically plan when to allow yourself some distractions. There are some things you can do to minimise distractions while you are at work though.
Go work in the environment that is best for you. Maybe sit in a quiet office for a while or a quiet corner of the open-office space you work in. Avoid getting distracted by colleagues chatting and asking you questions. If you’re working from home, make sure your family knows when not to disturb you. Also, clean you desk of all unnecessary items. Put your private phone on silent mode and maybe even out of sight. Close web browsers or tabs and programs you are not using. And if necessary, set the messenger on your laptop on do not disturb.
5. Manage Your Time by Delegating
Delegating is especially important if you manage a team. Delegation means identifying tasks that can be handled by others and assigning them to someone. Recognize the fact that many of your team members are better and faster at certain tasks than you are. It is only logical to assign certain jobs to the experts in your team. It will also free up some of your time that you can use for your own core activities. You have to keep some things in mind when delegating though.
How to Delegate
First of all, do not assume that your colleague simply knows what and how you want things done. Be specific and clear when defining your task and expectations. Be sure to give a realistic deadline for the job. But allow your colleague some freedom to personalize the assignment. If needed, you can occasionally check if your colleague is progressing and going in the right direction or needs your assistance. But that is not necessary in all cases. Some may feel like you do not trust them and are checking up on them. If you know your team members well, you will know who to avoid that with. Finally, reward the person for a job well done. Because honest compliments are part of the right kind of delegating.
6. Learn to Say No
Always saying Yes to everything will make you end up with way too much to do. It will make you feel stressed and even run the risk of burning out. If saying Yes is part of your personality, then things may be harder for you. But take a moment to think about it. Who benefits from you feeling stressed or even burnt out? Anyone at all? Of course not. The fact is that absolutely no-one benefits if you are overwhelmed with work.
Therefore, it is totally okay to say No to tasks that are not part of your responsibility. Simply point your manager or colleague to someone who is better equipped to do the task. If there is no one else, then think back about how to prioritise your tasks. Tell your manager you have a lot of assignments to do, present him or her with a list, and ask what needs to be done first. Focus your energy and time on the activities that are important and urgent.
7. Stay Healthy and Reduce Stress
You can only manage your time efficiently if you stay healthy and reduce stress. Find out at what time of day you are most energetic and focused. Plan the most important things at those hours of the day. To stay healthy, you need to eat well and exercise. This will renew your energy levels and keep you healthy. So make sure to schedule time for exercise. Even ten minutes at a time are enough to keep you going. Even though this may not sound like a way to get work done when you are busy, it actually is. You need a healthy mind and body to accomplish your tasks quickly, easily and efficiently. After each workout you will have new energy and be ready for the tasks ahead.
The Principles of Time Management
So start with planning, including some breaks. Next, prioritise your tasks. Use the 80/20 rule to focus on the most important assignments. Avoid distractions. And learn to say No. Stick to one thing at a time. If it’s part of your job as a manager, then delegate responsibilities in your team. Take care of your health, eat and drink healthy, exercise every day and get enough sleep.
If you are bad at time management, you will end up moody, tired, stressed, and maybe fall ill. So it is worth learning how to manage your time. These seven principles I use personally really help me get things done and stay focused. I’m sure they can help you too.