Time Management Tips can and will help you make sense of your chaotic world. When a flurry of deadlines swarm you, and you’re nowhere near completion, you may find yourself panicking and on the cusp of self-implosion.
With proper planning and time management skills, these panicked moments can become a thing of the past. Not only will you put these issues in the rear view mirror, but you will find the means to get more out of yourself, day after day. And maybe – just maybe – we can, once and for all, debunk the far too popular slogan of “I don’t have enough time”.
In this post, I will cover topics such as:
- The importance of time management
- The importance of tracking your time
- How to get more time out of your day
- How to be efficient
- How to Develop a time management system that suits you
Before I begin, I’d like you to think about a goal that you’ve had in mind – one that you’ve put off because of zero to little time in your weekly schedule. Ponder how often you think of this goal, and, if you had the time, gauge the practicality of this project coming to fruition. That said, keep this goal in mind as you read through the remainder of the text.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TIME MANAGEMENT
My time management definition is as follows: a system to increase efficiency and productivity. This system can be assembled in an infinite number of ways, as everyone’s method should differ to suit what works best for them. Your calculated spare hours (AKA your free time) can be used as a starting point to begin developing your personal time management system.
Before I discuss how and why you must track your time, it must be noted that both 1) cognizance of the importance of time management and 2) acquisition of time management skills are essential to the development of your system. In this post, I will focus on Goal Setting, Efficiency, Discipline, and Planning as the primary pillars of time management skills.
I realize that everyone’s time is limited – after all – life is short. Just a decade ago, I was 27 years of age, but the last ten years of my life rushed onward at an unrecognizable speed.
Conversely, life is also LONG. I have endured moments that seemed to have paced along, just as a motorist who rides the brake while flashing the emergency blinkers. Life is long when you study for hours or sit in traffic. That said, we have more time than we realize, and I can prove it.
TIME MANAGEMENT TIP #1: TAKE INVENTORY OF YOUR TIME
Here’s a cold hard fact: not everyone has time to spare. As stated by Dr. Donald E. Wetmore, the average working person spends less than 2 minutes per day in meaningful communication with their spouse/significant other, and, less than 30 seconds a day in meaningful communication with their children. I believe that time, or the lack of it, is the primary reason for this lack of communication with our loved ones.
Superwomen such as single mothers raising a family, working multiple jobs and going to school are an exception, as are college students who are taking a full course load while working full-time. There are others who join the ranks of men and women who barely have a minute to spare, but the majority of people would be surprised to discover just how much time they have at their disposal if they logged their activity for a week.
Your time is your greatest asset, and, like money, is it is to be spent wisely and tracked accordingly. Just as we track our dollars in our bank accounts, we should also track our time. If you’re always broke, then maybe you’re unknowingly spending your income on disposable goods and services such as clothes and trips to the movies. If your favorite catchphrase is, “I don’t have time,” then maybe it’s time to track and analyze how your time is spent?
Years ago, on a slow work day, I tracked my activity for three hours. On that quiet day in December, right before Christmas, I made an interesting discovery. On a day that seemed to crawl slowly, just as the above said stranded motorist, still, I accomplished a lot.
How did I do it? How exactly did I get a lot done? Before tracking my time, I turned to a concept called the Pareto Principle – a principle that helped me work smarter and not harder. Later in the text, I will discuss the Pareto Principle in depth and mention how you could apply it to your work regimen. For the moment, I want to provide a simple demonstrative for how I tracked my time. As I took on tasks, I did the following to log the time allotted to each activity:
- Jotted the name of the job/task
- Logged the start time
- Logged the end time
- Listed a short synopsis of what was accomplished, and if all has been resolved or is pending.
This story is not a juxtaposition to those who are deprived of time, but rather a testament to the power of Time Management Skills and how a few hours are worth more than you think. Seeing is believing. As you track your time daily, at work and in life, you’ll see just how much you do, or how little you accomplish. You can determine how much time is spent wisely, and, how much is wasted.
Is there a task or project you’ve wanted to tackle, but can’t find the time to invest in your endeavor? Maybe you wish to start your own business? If you take a look at your daily activity and find that you spend hours watching Netflix, then imagine what could be if you devoted your disposable time to that goal?
The “I don’t have time” mantra is unknowingly misunderstood by so many people. You may not have the time to design and build your dream life in one week (but who does). Doesn’t matter. Even if, after analyzing your schedule, you realize that you have, say, 1-3 hours of disposable time per week, that’s great! The question is this: how can you use your spare time efficiently?
TIME MANAGEMENT TIP #2: SET A GOAL
Having clear goals can drive us to complete our missions, for we know that achieving that goal means getting something we want. When the necessary resources to fulfill your goal are quantifiable, there is a stronger sense of urgency to finish – mainly when the assets needed to hoist your trophy won’t break the bank or demand a vast expenditure of your time. When you are privileged to see the horizon for which your glory looms, or, open your eyes to see a glimmer of light in your tunnel, you run a bit faster and work a little harder to reach what you crave.
20 years ago, I worked a full-time summer job in fast food. I loathed nearly every minute of it, but I wanted my very first car, so, I worked earnestly, sometimes well over 40 hours a week. I sacrificed spending time with my then girlfriend and hanging out with my buddies (a lot for a 17-year-old to give up) to reach my quota of $1,600. Based on my hourly pay and the number of hours worked each week, I knew approximately how long it would take to save nearly two grand.
Recently, I once again made the time to pursue something of immense value. The unprecedented demands to purchase my first home in 2014, and then to finish grad school while working full-time, were the goals that I chased with every fiber of my being. When looking at my monthly financial spreadsheet, I set a financial threshold for a monthly mortgage payment, looked at houses within my price range, saved for a down payment and went house hunting.
During my tenure in graduate school, I listed every class that was required on a blank WORD doc. As I passed each course, I’d delete them from the WORD doc. The list began to shrink, and I felt myself getting closer and closer to graduation day.
My desire to achieve fueled me. Plain and simple. I discovered what was necessary to achieve my goals, made a commitment to myself, and labored until the job was done.
I’d like you to think about the goal that was called into question early in the text. Do you know how many hours are required to complete your goal? Imagine life with and without whatever you desire. This can help. Above all, how bad do you want it? When something or someone is worth your time, you’ll find the minutes to do what is necessary to turn thought into reality.
TIME MANAGEMENT TIP #3: BECOME EFFICIENT
After honestly having audited your schedule, you should have a sense of how much spare time you have. Once you aim for a goal, you must then determine how much time is needed to reach your journey’s end. Like budgeting money, budgeting your time can be difficult – sometimes you really just can’t make do with the amount of free time you have.
When your calculated spare hours aren’t enough to help you realistically achieve your objectives, then you must consider stretching out your days, right? This might require you to sacrifice sleep. But before you respond, this is where something called efficiency comes to the rescue!
To become efficient means to accomplish goals without overuse of or wasting resources. For this editorial, we’ll focus on Time as our desired resource. Let’s say that to complete your goal, you must spend a total of 50 hours within a two-week window and your calculated total of disposable time is 15 hours/week. This means you’re short 20 hours. To accomplish this feat, you could:
- Stretch your days and sacrifice sleep to get your missing 20.
- Seek alternative methods to complete your project.
- Delegate tasks via outsourcing.
Many businesses and organizations outsource jobs and responsibilities. Realistically, it’s impossible for one person to do everything, as there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete all that must get done. Another way to understand this is to incorporate the Pareto Principle, also known as Pareto’s Law or the 80/20 Rule.
Named after Italian engineer, Vilfredo Pareto, I learned about the Pareto Principle while reading the 4-hour work week by Tim Ferris. The Pareto Principle recognizes that the majority of output comes from a minority of inputs, and recommends that one uses prioritization to sequentially execute tasks that contribute to majority gains. Again, suppose that your average time of completion for your goal is 50 hours within a 2-week window. Instead of working yourself to death, you elected to outsource the majority of the load to skilled yet affordable and reliable freelancers. End result: job finished on time, without burnout or waste of resources – this is efficiency!
TIME MANAGEMENT TIP #4: DEVELOP A SYSTEM THAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU
Everyone is wired differently, so we move and operate at different speeds. As you set a goal and determine the number of resources to complete your objective, it’ll be tough for some to jump in full throttle. In fact, there are those who may have to inch their way in to build up the callouses, discipline, and grit necessary to reach their task, sacrificing relaxation for another round of work after work.
The humorous, wise and always delightful Arianna Huffington will favor a healthy work-life balance: work hard, but get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night. Contrariwise, other public figures such as Dr. Eric Thomas and Gary Vaynerchuk will advise you to work your ass off, bottom line, no matter what.
Personally, I have adopted the philosophies of Huffington, Thomas, and Vaynerchuk – I work hard, but in 2-3 hour blocks, with a 1-hour break in between; I’ll grind it out, but in a way that works best for me. As you move towards your goal, and you’re tracking your time, you’ll want to 1) look for patterns in your work regimen and 2) track your progress.
If you recognize that you accomplish more in 4-hour blocks with 30 minutes in between, then consider this as a possible work regimen. Also, check for peak hours of productivity. For most writers, we tend to write our best material in the morning, as the mind is fresh and ready to go! What if you produce your best work in the middle of the day – if so – consider the Pareto Principle as mentioned above. Organize your most important task in the middle of the day to achieve maximum results.
If you’ve noticed that the hours you’re working have waned, think back to what was going on during that stretch of diminishing output. Netflix? Texting? Daydreaming? 🙂 Whatever the reason(s), seek to eliminate them – and fast. It can be easy to fall back into the habit of spending zero time on your goal which will curtail the progress you’ve already made and ultimately bring it to a sublet-quiet halt.
Whether you choose to work like Arianna, Eric, Gary, myself or none of us is something you must determine. Ultimately, you must customize your work/hustle method, hold yourself accountable, and in time, you’ll make progress towards your goal then you ever thought was possible.
TIME MANAGEMENT TIP #5: UTILIZE A TIME MANAGEMENT TOOL TO INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY
There are quite a few time management tools to utilize such as Scoro, Replicon and Time Camp. Above all, the best thing you could ever use is a list. That’s right, a list.
Think of everything you need to accomplish and jot it down on a list. When you complete a task, simply scratch it off the list. Using a list will help you see all that needs to get done while keeping track of tasks that are still unresolved.
According to a Charles Schwab study reported on pressroom.com, three in five Americans live paycheck to paycheck and only one in four have a written financial plan. The article suggested that those who are planners are more likely to have a higher overall Modern Wealth index score, be regular savers, and effectively manage their debt.
While planning can help you become a winner in the financial arena, it can also aid you to win by increasing your productivity. I’d like you to imagine that you were working on your goal that is comprised of 25 different sub-goals. Instead of using a list, you work on tasks as they come. You overlook the Pareto principle, and by default, operate haphazardly. Working in this manner is a setup for failure – or – if you did manage to produce something of substance, you likely would have spent more time than needed to accomplish your goal.
When I began working on my first book, I knew that I would need to do more than write. Some of the items on my to-do list included:
- Conduct Research
- Find a graphics artist to design my book cover
- Find beta readers
- Find an editor
- Assemble an ARC Team (Advanced Reader Copies)
Once I determined the subject matter for my book, I constructed an outline for my book, determined the needs and demographics of my target audience, conducted research, wrote my rough draft and proceeded with all other requirements to complete my literary project. Had I operated in the following order:
- write the rough draft first
- conduct research
- determine who is in my target audience
I would have created a chaotic mess for myself.
Consequently, I would have wasted time writing the rough draft, only to discover that much of what was written needed to be rewritten, as it would not have been a good fit for the target group I wrote for – a group that I would have discovered after the fact. Furthermore, a simple list an asset. Construct a list that classifies each task in order of importance and sequence. This way, you will save a lot of time – time that could be spent on other sub-goals or activities to operate efficiently to increase your productivity.
IN CONCLUSION: JUST GET IT DONE!
It feels damn good to scratch an item of the list. As each task is completed, I know that I have lessened the gap between myself and my goal. Even if you don’t have a particular goal in mind, you can still apply the first 3 tips as a means to become a more efficient person, thus increasing your productivity at work, in your personal life, or both.
Remember that life is both short and long and is akin to a mandatory marathon for all. Even if you intend to walk towards the bronze or no medal at all, still, you’ll find yourself in the arena of past, present and future champions. As a participant on the track of life, why not run towards the Gold and aim high? Spend your time wisely and learn new skills. Take on the project you’ve been putting off. Or better yet, get serious about your business endeavors. With every goal met you inch closer towards greatness and feel empowered to set the bar higher for the next endeavor.
As a final challenge, I’d like you to audit your time for one week. Calculate your disposable time and see how those minutes and hours are spent. Think back to the goal you jotted down. Determine how you can be efficient and still finish without using all of your resources.