By Emily Moorhead
Do you usually show up on time? Do you finish tasks within time limits? Do you finish your day feeling accomplished? Are you able to achieve what you want to complete before deadlines? Are you good at managing your time?
If you answered “no” to one or more of the questions above, you might not be as great at time management as you want to be. Conveniently, February is National Time Management Month, so there’s no time like the present to polish your time management skills.
Create a daily outline
In the morning, or the night before, preferably, create an outline for your day with specific tasks, goals, and times. Feel free to schedule in lunch and breaks too so it’s easier to stay on track with each segment of your day. The more specific, the better! This way, you can hold yourself accountable for your tasks that day and make the best use of your time.
Use a calendar
Planning out daily tasks is important for short-term goals, but for things you have planned for later, be sure to use a calendar, both physical and digital. A physical calendar, both at home and at your office, is a great way to visually remind yourself of a task. A digital calendar can be synched across your work computer, home computer, tablet, phone, and any other electronic device, so it is very convenient to reference any time. Pencil in activities and tasks with as much detail as you know at the time; you can always fill it in more as it draws closer.
Learn to differentiate between the important and the urgent. What’s important is not always urgent. What’s urgent is not always important. Assign tasks in this order: First: important and urgent. Second: important but not urgent. Third: urgent but not important (try to delegate these tasks to others). Last: not urgent and not important (you can do these later or decide they don’t need to be completed). By prioritizing, you ensure the majority of your time is spent on timely things that matter.
Keep the time
This may seem obvious, but a major trick to managing your time is to know it! If you find yourself frequently being late or stressed for time, you should train yourself to keep an eye on the clock. Wear a watch and display a clock prominently in your office, home, kitchen, living room, and other places you are frequently. Get in the habit of checking the time every once in a while so you’re sure to know the status of your day.
There’s nothing wrong with helping yourself out a little. Set reminders in your phone and your email to complete tasks you might otherwise forget. This can be a meeting or even just paying your cell phone bill. You can also use your reminders to remember to switch projects. Sometimes when you’re working on something and concentrating very hard, it can be difficult to pay attention to what is going on in the world around you. Set yourself a reminder on your phone so you can complete your other important tasks.
It’s very hard to get into the groove when you’re distracted with other things. To remove yourself from outside disruption, shut the door, put on some music that helps you focus (try classical), turn off the ringer on your office phone, set your away message on your email, delete apps from your phone that distract you, or better yet, turn off your cell phone if it’s helpful to you. By giving yourself no other option but to work, you can more easily get in the correct mindset and have no distractions.
Cut big jobs into workable chunks
If you have a task that will take you several hours, it can be very easy to get overwhelmed and distracted. Identify milestones within the larger task and split them up, putting breaks and other more accomplishable tasks in between your sessions. This will help you feel alert and focused instead of bored and worn out, helping you to make better use of your time.
What time management tricks will you try? Do you have any suggestions?