Be clear about your goals. The first step is getting clear on what it is you really want, and then aligning your ultimate goals with the actions you need to take today. When you’re clear about what you want to do, how you want to do it, and when you’re going to do it, you’ll be much more efficient at getting things done. Having more than three goals is unmanageable and goals should never be more than a year. Set SMART goals. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Anchored within a defined Time Frame. Be clear with the outcome you plan to achieve and designate the time needed to reach your goal.
Learn to say NO. One crucial element of learning how to improve time management is getting comfortable with saying “no” to things that don’t help you grow. It’s just two letters, and yet saying ‘no’ can feel really hard — even complicated. For many of us, saying no doesn’t just feel awkward. It feels wrong. Saying no is one of the best forms of self-care we can engage in.
Minimise distraction. Often we allow ourselves to lose focus and be interrupted. The whole world is working towards distracting you. Emails. Social media. Messages. The first step is to stop all notifications. The Harvard Business Review recommends designating certain times of the day to batch check email, social media, instant messages, text messages, etc. than checking things sporadically throughout the day. “Just quickly checking anything, even for one-tenth of a second, can add up to a 40% productivity loss over the course of a day, and it can take us 23 minutes to get back into the zone after task switching.”
Cut back on instant answers. Avoid responding to texts/mails instantly. One of the best ways to improve time management is to stop answering immediately. Take time and ensure that you commit only to tasks or activities that support your core values and goals. If something someone asks you to do, doesn’t align with those values and goals, be bold and politely decline.
Hold yourself accountable. What is time management worth if you don’t hold yourself accountable? Nothing. As Tony Robbins writes in one of his blogs, “Suppose that you want to strengthen your relationship with your partner, and you decide to use an hour of your day to give that person the attention they deserve. But as you’re sitting there, your phone vibrates in your pocket. What do you do?” Instead of checking your phone, stay committed to your targeted outcome – a healthier, more passionate relationship with the person you love – and give your partner the attention they deserve. By staying focused on your end goal, and letting the phone conversation wait for an hour or more, you’ll attain the outcome that speaks the most to your core values – and gives you more fulfillment than checking your phone ever could.
Multitasking. Successfully multitasking is a myth. Focus on one task at a time. That way, you’ll produce higher quality work. Multitasking seems like a great way to get a lot done at once, but research has shown that our brains are not nearly as good at handling multiple tasks as we like to think they are. Focusing on a single task is a much more effective approach. Multitasking is distracting. Multitasking slows you down. Multitaskers make mistakes.
Outsource & Automate. Outsourcing tasks is a critical skill that every successful person needs to know. When you can delegate tasks, do it. As they say, the best value for your money is, if you can buy time with it. It’s also worthwhile to remember that by delegating whenever possible, you help yourself grow because you give yourself space to take on the newer, more challenging tasks yourself, and can delegate someone else to handle the routine tasks on your to-do list.
Take a break. It’s nice to think that you can work for 8-10 hours straight, especially when you’re working towards a deadline. But it’s impossible for anyone to focus and produce really high-quality work without giving their brains some time to rest and recharge. Taking break seems counterintuitive. It isn’t. If it’s hard for you to stop working, then schedule breaks for yourself, or set an alarm as a reminder. Go for a quick walk, grab a cup of coffee, or just sit and meditate at your desk. Try to take a five minute break every hour or two. And make sure that you give yourself ample time for lunch.
Author Alan Lakein writes, “Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.”
Learn to manage yourself, and enjoy a fuller, more productive life. With the right time management framework, and excellent time management skills in place, you can live a life of meaning, purpose and happier and fulfilled life.