10 Steps for Effective Time Management
Do you struggle to tick things off your To-Do list or fail to complete all the tasks that you set out to do during a day? Do you often feel that you are not making any progress toward achieving your main life goals or that you need 48 hours a day to get things done?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you need to improve your time management skills.
Let us make it clear from the start that it is not actually about managing your time; it is more about managing your mind and organizing your efforts within the daily time frame. Time flies, and you cannot control it! The key to achieving your goals is to be more productive and exploit every minute of your day.
If you are serious about getting the most out of your day, you need to develop a plan, or what we can call a roadmap, toward achieving your short-term and long-term goals. The plan should include everything, from your life goals right down to your daily tasks.
You need to wake up every day knowing what needs to be accomplished during that day and then work hard on completing the planned tasks until it’s time to go to bed again.
- Prioritize: Look at the Big Picture. What do you want to accomplish in the long term on personal and professional levels? What do you need to change in your life? What aspects should you prioritize? What are your goals? Answers to these questions will put you on the right track. Try to set smart, clear, attainable goals on par with your capabilities by drawing up a detailed plan, with consistent phases and a specific time period allotted for each. Determine daily, weekly, or monthly tasks that you need to complete in order to achieve each goal.
- Break Up Tasks: Enthusiasm is required, but be realistic—there is a limit to what you can achieve every day! If the task is large and takes a lot of time and effort, you need to split it into smaller, actionable tasks within the time frame you specified. Know that if you make enough effort to achieve one percent of your goal every day, you will achieve more than 90 percent of it within three months!
- Plan Your Day: Review the tasks you need to accomplish throughout the day and spread them across a schedule. There are many apps that allow you to create To-Do lists: Google Tasks, Microsoft To Do, and To Do List, to name a few. These apps will help you manage and complete those tasks, and they will increase your efficiency and long-term productivity. You might also use a paper and a pen instead. Set a time frame for each task based on your estimation of the time needed to complete each one.
- Group Similar Tasks Together: While planning your day, try to group similar tasks together within a single time frame. For example, you can work on your emails, messages, and phone calls in the same hour. Completing these similar tasks during one interval will save you a lot of time and effort.
- Take a Breath: Planning time for breaks between tasks will reduce stress, as some tasks may take longer than you think. Twenty to thirty minutes may be enough. You can take advantage of a break to catch your breath, do the less important tasks, or perhaps attend to any urgent matter.
- Difficult Tasks First: You might think it is better to perform the easy and quick tasks at the beginning of the day and leave the tedious and more demanding tasks for later, but the opposite might be a much better choice. Every task you undertake, even if it is just reading a post on social media or responding to a message on WhatsApp, consumes mental energy. You should work on the most difficult task associated with the most important goal of your life during the first hours of your day, when your mental and physical abilities are at their best. Getting the toughest jobs done will lift your self-confidence and give you the energy needed to complete easier tasks during the rest of the day.
- Start: You have planned your day, perhaps your week, or even month. Now, it is time for implementation. It might be the most difficult step, but it is the most important one. Do not procrastinate or reschedule. Be confident and start while focusing on your ultimate goal. When the wheels are set in motion, it will give you more energy to keep going.
- Focus: Focus completely on each task while performing it. Don’t work on more than one task at the same time, as this might affect your productivity and the quality of your work. Isolate yourself from any external influences during the period you have specified for the task. Don’t look at your mobile phone every few minutes! Learn to say no to any unplanned task unless there is an emergency.
- Complete the Tasks: Do your best to complete as many daily tasks as possible. You must reach the finish line! This will boost your confidence. Accept the fact that results might not be perfect in the beginning. The desire to achieve perfect results from the first attempt is one of the top reasons why many people procrastinate.
- Monitor Your Time and Adjust Your Plan: You might fail to complete all the tasks you planned for a day, and this is normal. Keep a record of what you have done throughout the day and the time it took to complete each task. This will help you understand where you spent your time and how much time you spent on tasks that did not serve your goals. It will also let you know the exact amount of time you need to accomplish each task and the times of the day when you are most productive, which will help you better plan in the future. Based on this analysis, you might consider reducing the number of daily tasks or even delegating some of them. Sometimes it is simply not possible to do everything by yourself.