20 Time Management Tips That Actually Work
Sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Instead of lamenting your lack of time, make the most of the time you do have with these time management tips.
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Making the most of your time
If your task list just keeps getting longer and longer the number of hours in the day isn't always to blame. If you know how to manage your time properly, you'll start checking things off your list more frequently. Read on for some time management tips that actually work to help you get all of your tasks completed.
Time management tip: Use Post-it notes to organize tasks
Before you begin your work for the day, it’s important to take a moment and consider everything that you are hoping to complete. A great way to do this is to visually map out your agenda using Post-It notes. “I arrange items based on priority/deadline and add other agenda items I would like to try to accomplish before the day ends,” Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, told Reader’s Digest. Each time that Sweeney finishes a task, she crosses out the corresponding Post-It note. “The act of physically crossing off makes me feel even more accomplished and keeps me encouraged to tackle more assignments as the week progresses,” Sweeney explains. Hanging Post-It notes above your desk is an efficient way to maintain a sense of urgency and stay focused on a task—one of many productivity tips incredibly busy people always use.
Time management tip: Wake up at the same time every day
Adopting a steady sleep schedule really does improve productivity. “I make it a point to wake up every morning at the same time so I stay on schedule. This is on the weekends, and holidays, too!” Kristin Marquet, CEO of FemFounder, told Reader’s Digest. While everyone knows that getting seven to nine hours of sleep strengthens our cognitive abilities, you may be surprised to learn that it’s important to sleep the same seven to nine hours each night. Experts have found that irregular sleep patterns can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms, which prevents biological processes from working favorably together. In turn, this can negatively impact our cognitive capacities, productivity, and health. By maintaining a regular wake up time, Marquet says, “I can think clearly, which means I can meet deadlines and get more stuff done overall.” Bottom line? Committing to a consistent sleep cycle is a great way to optimize your efficiency and manage your time.
Time management tip: Set a goal for every meeting
If you're leading a meeting, make sure to set a goal before you step into the meeting and let your team know the desired results beforehand as well. It's easy to waste time in meetings if no one is aware of the result you want. This can also help to cut down on the time you're actually meeting for allowing everyone to get back to their desks and start working sooner.
Time management tip: Don’t multitask
When you have a busy schedule, it can be tempting to open multiple tabs on your computer and flip back-and-forth between assignments. However, while it may seem as though tackling several projects at once improves your time management, it actually has the opposite effect—an insider tip that career coaches won't tell you for free. Multitasking weakens our attention spans, makes us prone to distractions, and increases our processing times, according to researchers at Stanford University. As a busy CEO, Marquet has been tantalized to improve her time management through multitasking, but ultimately found that it is “just not effective.” Now, rather than responding to emails as they emerge on your screen and working across numerous projects, Marquet says “I only do one thing at a time with laser focus.” Concentrating on each task separately enables Marquet to manage her time well, move quickly through her schedule, and produce thoughtful, quality work.
Time management tip: Use a "do not disturb" function
Many companies use messaging applications such as Microsoft Teams or Slack to quickly communicate with each other. It can be convenient, but it can also be super distracting when you're getting ten notifications every 30 seconds while people discuss something in a group chat. If you have an important task you need to focus on, utilize the "do not disturb" feature, and leave a status message saying that you're working on a project so that people don't get offended when you don't respond right away.
Time management tip: Record how long each task takes
Tracking your time might sound like one of the extremely obvious time management tips. However, if you’ve ever misjudged how much work you could accomplish in a day, week, or even month, chances are you didn’t really know how long each task would take to complete. John Breeze, the Founder and CEO of Happysleepyhead, advises that you “write down the time when you start your task and the time when you finish it,” in order to “determine your working pace.” After spending a week tracking how long it takes to complete a range of different duties, you will be better equipped to estimate how much time future assignments will take. Additionally, this time management tip can also help you “find out where exactly you are wasting time” so that you can improve your working methods and optimize your productivity, says Breeze.
Time management tip: Schedule breaks throughout your day
The human brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes at a time before it needs a break. Make sure to schedule in breaks throughout your day in between tasks. It will help you get more done in the long run. Take a break to refill your water bottle, grab some lunch, or just away from your desk for a few minutes. Let your brain unwind from the last thing you did, and get ready to focus on the next task at hand.
Time management tip: Assign themes to each day of the week
When your profession requires you to work across divisions or contribute to many different operations, switching gears can be the most time-consuming part of your day. It’s hard to jump between assignments, trading a marketing hat for a sales hat—and then fumbling to grab your marketing hat again. That’s why Laura Hertz, CEO of Gifts for Good, suggests assigning a theme to each day of the week. “Theming” our days “helps us become much more efficient because we are grouping similar tasks together,” and “it establishes a rhythm of attention and focus,” says Hertz. Plus, this time management tip completely eliminates the long, wasteful minutes that you would otherwise spend shifting your focus between departments. Mondays might be dedicated to marketing, Tuesdays to administrative tasks, Wednesdays to meetings, and so on. “Theming” your days is a quick, easy, and organized way to improve your time management and efficiency.
Time management tip: Don’t send the same email twice
If your job requires a lot of outreach or communication, chances are you spend a lot of time writing redundant emails. An easy tip to reduce the amount of time you spend emailing and increase the amount of time that you have for important projects is to standardize your communication process. Put simply, never write the same message twice. “If you write the same email more than a few times, save it as a template. Even if it’s just in your 'Drafts',’’ suggests Hannah Attewell, a success and business coach for Force of Nature Coach. Even if your emails do not follow the exact same format, you can save time by creating a template introduction that you copy and paste into every email. You'll also be more productive if you check your email less often! While personalizing your emails can be important to fostering professional relationships, creating messaging templates will greatly improve your time management techniques.