All of us have exactly 24 hours a day. Yet why does it seem like some people have the power to slow time down or somehow create extra hours for the day? No, these people do not experience any magical phenomenon or have a time-travelling device but they do, however, have great time management skills.
Fortunately, we have compiled ten tips to help all of us become the bosses of our time so we can be the ‘some people’ with fulfilling days.
1. Inspect and record your time
The first step to great time management is to be aware of where your time actually goes to. You might imagine that you would only take one hour on a certain task like a video conference but in reality, the video conference might drag on longer than expected. Same for that 30-minute turned hour-long email check.
Toggl and My Minutes are a few great software out there that can help you keep track of the actual time spent on a task. Take account of the way you spend your time for a week and at the end of the week, access a report to find out what the time-consuming tasks were. With the new information, you will then have a full picture of your weekly tasks, thereby allowing you to make effective adjustments to your schedule for the coming week.
2. Create TO-DO lists
Oftentimes, our main goal is made up of many smaller sections and tasks that need to be achieved before tackling the ‘main boss’. It is good to create a to-do list as a checkpoint for each step leading up to reaching the main task objective.
The to-do list will help increase your focus as you do not have 100 other tasks to worry about forgetting to do. Moreover, it gives you a sense of accomplishment for the tasks you check off and as you get closer to reaching the final checkpoint.
3. Allocate a set time to complete your task
When we set a time limit for the completion of a task, we tend to feel challenged, much like one would feel if they were in a race. This will give some additional adrenaline rush and help put the ‘game-on’ face on, allowing us to put most or all of our attention to the task at hand.
A good example would be to put a two-hour limit to maybe article writing, then start the time count with a stopwatch with a ‘minutes left’ reminder to aid in keeping to the time limit.
4. Put in buffer time
Of course, even with step three in place, there are likely to be times when we cannot accomplish our task. This is exactly why we should not be planning back to back schedules, which would become a setup for a disappointing day of missed tasks and unachieved deadlines.
Planning buffer time is very important as it gives some breathing space should a task take longer than expected to accomplish. It also helps to account for mishaps like a traffic jam or another faulty train issue so that other people who are involved in the task or appointment are not as affected.
5. Spend the start of the day on priority tasks
Famous American writer Mark Twain once said that “Ïf it is your job to eat a frog, it is best to do it first thing in the morning. If it is your job to eat two frogs, then it is best to eat the bigger one first.”
Though this is an unpalatable imagery, the main point he makes is that we should do the most challenging tasks at the start of our day. For starters, we tend to have more vigour at the start of our day, so chances that we can properly finish the task is at its best. Moreover, upon completing the task we would feel a great sense of achievement that spurs us on for the rest of the day.
6. Eliminate half-tasks
Here are a few examples of a half-task:
- While writing an article, you stop from time to time to check on your phone for any notification.
- You find yourself looking at emails during a video conference.
- You start a diet plan but abruptly switch it out for something else because a famous influencer suddenly endorses it.
Do any of these seem familiar?
In modern times, distraction is a norm and it's so easy to split our attention on multiple things at a time, especially when we do not mean to do so and the only real way to eliminate this half-task problem is to consciously tell yourself to focus on the most important task at hand.
For some of us, this means switching off our phones completely and for others, it could be drowning out all background noises with an earplug. Though these are a little more invasive, it gets us to stay present to the task at hand.
7. Stop being perfect
Perfection is idealistic thinking and ideals are virtually unattainable. When one is a perfectionist, they will always find a flaw in something and will continue to revisit the smallest of details to try getting it to a perfect T. As a result, it is really hard to move along with the task and the finishing line will just get further and further away.
The real advice here is to catch yourself when you start spending more time than necessary on a small detail, like spending 30 minutes on an opening speech, stop overthinking on the details, move on with the next task and just know that you did your best.
8. Just say ‘No’
One of the toughest things to say is ‘no’. Many of us are afraid of offending or hurting the other party’s feelings and we end up taking more than we can chew off. In the end, we end up disappointing not only the other party, but also ourselves when we do not deliver the expected quality of work.
To stop ourselves from such negativity is to make the difficult decision to say ‘no’ when we know that we are too busy for the task and give an alternative suggestion like a later deadline or a different person who would be better able to tackle the assignment.
9. 80-20 rule
The Pareto principle states that for many of the events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Management consultant Joseph M. Juran then integrated this principle to the sales principle where 80% of the sales come from 20% of your customers. Similarly, 80% of the results you want comes from 20% of the actions you do.
Using this principle, cut down your task list, usually five to six of them in a day and make sure to do each of them to the best of your abilities. This keeps you from feeling overloaded while conserving stamina for the later part of the day (when we usually lose much of our focus).
Albeit being the last, rest is probably one of the most important tips in this list. Us humans were not made to be a machine. If we do not take breaks from time to time, we will end up being too tired and too overworked. This will result in bad work quality and taking more time than needed to complete future tasks.
Generally, a ten-minute break is advised in between tasks so that the brain can recalibrate itself and sharpen its senses, and give you a boost up for the incoming task to tackle.
Hopefully, these ten tips help make us spend time more consciously so that we may make the time count instead of counting the time left in a day.