What is the one thing that we all have in common; no matter who we are, no matter where we are in the world, what we do, or how much money we have? We all have the same number of hours in each day, the same number of days in each week, and the same number of weeks in each year. How we manage our time, is where we differ!
Some people manage their time much more efficiently than others and are therefore more productive. No matter if I’m talking to business owners or students in education, time management always seems to be a big issue. So here are some of my top time management tips.
- Take time to make time
- Planning is key
- Have a smarter to do list
- Stop looking at your phone
- Swallow your little green frog
- Take 5 minutes
- Concentrate on one task at a time
- Switch off time
- Learn to say no
- Stop worrying
Take time to make time
This is the hardest thing to get your head around. You need to take some time out of your busy schedule, to plan the ways you’ll save time. But once you’ve done it, you’ll see how it was worth it.
Planning is key
Find the right diary which works for you. Whether that’s paper-based, colour coded, a bullet journal or on your smartphone. We have lots of options, and we are all different, so find the one which suits you best.
Write ALL your tasks in your diary. Each work task, meeting, lecture, travel time, meal time, socialising, kids dental appointments – everything you can. We keep hearing that we should separate our work life and home life. Don’t do this when planning. This is about YOU and planning YOUR day, YOUR week, YOUR month. So you know what you’re doing and when you have gaps to tackle your to do list.
Have a smarter to do list
We should all have a to do list! However, some people have a to do lists as long as your arm and choose the easiest tasks to do. Are you quite organised and have your to do list in A, B and C (A = priority, B = important, when I get time, C = everything else). Well, my advice is to get rid of C. They are not important enough yet and may never be. Also, put a time next to each thing on your list. This way you’ll be able to tackle some of those shorter tasks when you have a 15-minute gap in your diary.
Stop looking at your phone
Avoid interruptions. So much time which is wasted through things like, constantly looking at messages coming through, then thinking ‘I’ll deal with that later’. This type of interruption takes your mind away from what you were doing, which forces a shift in gear, which then takes time to get back into the zone. If you answer the message, it then takes an average of 23 minutes to get you back in the zone.
So, put times in your diary to answer messages, emails and phone calls – for some people this could be three, 20-minute slots per day, for others, it may be 10 minutes every hour.
Swallow your little green frog
(it’s a Mark Twain quote, about this being the worst thing you’ll have to do)
How often do you put off that thing which you really don’t want to do? It may be a complaint you need to deal with and you do anything to avoid it – you volunteer to do the coffee run, or anything else, just to avoid doing that one thing. Then, what do you know, it’s time to go home, so you’ll have to do it tomorrow and the whole process starts again! So, the first task you do in your day is that frog swallowing. It probably won’t be as bad as you thought, but even if it’s worse (a great big dirty brown toad), you’ll have done it, can tick it off your list, and you can feel positive for the rest of your day.
Take 5 minutes
Before you go into a meeting, lecture or make that phone call think about what you want to achieve from it. You’ll come across more professionally and have a better chance of achieving your goal in a faster time.
Concentrate on one task at a time
It’s amazing how much you can do if you just concentrate on that one thing and don’t get distracted. We often think we can’t achieve much in 10 or 15 minutes and end up wasting small chunks of time (and they all add up). When you know what you want to achieve, and avoid all distractions, it is quite unbelievable how much you can do – try it!
Switch off time
Set start and end times to your day, otherwise, you’ll just keep working and working. If you give yourself an end time, you’re giving yourself permission to stop. Then, if you want to do more, you can do an extra hour, and give yourself a pat on the back.
Learn to say no
If you find it hard to say no, you don’t have to use that word. You can say, “sorry, but I’m really busy,” or, “when I’ve got time” or “can you ask me again tomorrow” – chances are, they will do it themselves, or ask someone else to do it. If it’s your manager or your business partner, you could say “what should I take out of my busy schedule, to do this” – if you do the previous tasks, you’ll have an up to date diary showing your schedule.
You don’t have to do everything yourself. This also works with family or friends. Try getting everyone together and have a list of all the things which need doing, say which you will do, then ask everyone to do the same – even if it’s a 5 year old making their own bed, but let them have ownership (if we make the bed after them, they’ll have no sense of achievement).
My grandmother used to tell me that there is no point in worrying, as it won’t change anything. Do what you can, then park it and move on to the next thing. Worrying will just cause negative energy. So, if you park it and move on, this should cause the opposite – positive energy – and we all know it’s much better to be positive than negative.
(Bonus tip) Take 30 minutes
At the end of each day (some people do this at the beginning of each day), to plan for the next day and get together anything you need. This way you can go to sleep, knowing you’ll not be waking up through the night, thinking “I must remember that for tomorrow”.