I often get asked how I make time for everything I fit into my day. People want to believe that I am somehow unique, or that they must really be a lot busier than I am. However, when I explain that I use effective time management strategies the response I face is generally one of ‘Oh well I wouldn’t even have time to do that’. So this article is going to show you exactly why that is NOT true. ANYONE can manage their time effectively, especially with my new time management planner in the resource in the library.
If you want to start a new hobby, focus more on your health, study whilst working full time or just want to feel less stressed with your current work/life load, then please do read on!
Time management strategies you can put in place today
Time management strategy #1 – YOU are the master of your time
People talk about time management strategies, but lets be honest, we can’t actually manage time. Time ticks on regardless! So really we must manage ourselves.
Every single human being is given the same amount of time each day. If there are people getting more done in their day than you then look at this as a positive. It means YOU TOO can get more done. You are in control of what you do each day, and when you do it.
If you wake up at 10am, have a breakfast that lasts 2 hours and then roll into a nap AND complain you don’t get everything done then hey, there is a very clear reason why. YOU determine what you do with those precious 24 hours we all get each day. No one else.
Time management strategy #2 – Review the week ahead
It is really important to get an overview of your upcoming week (or month if necessary), in order to plan your time well. I think Sunday is the perfect day for this and you can fit it around whatever you are doing.
Simply grab a piece of paper and place it landscape on your desk. Write the days of the week along the top and along the left hand side write the hours of the day. Next I take one colour pen and block out the time of every thing I KNOW I have to get done. So if you have an office job that may be blocking out travel time, time in the office and travel time home. If you work from home it could be blocking out set calls and meetings. If you also have to drop off or pick up the kids this should be blocked out too.
In another colour block out any social events you have planned (these are the ones set in stone). Then I take one more colour and start to block out time each day for things I would like to get done, but which are flexible.
That should take you 10-20 minutes maximum and will leave you with a solid understanding of the week that lies ahead.
Time management strategy #3 – Get your desk in order
You can’t be fully time efficient if half of your time is spent digging through papers to find the right one, or moving stacks of books to make space for your keyboard. So you need to have a workspace that reflects your good intentions! Getting Things Done: The art of stress free productivity is a great book if you need a thorough education in organisation. I found that I naturally followed most of what David Allen suggests in this book and so I put together a condensed What Zoe Does desk organisation workbook.
Time management strategy #4 – Work smart, not long hours
Did you know that every time you are distracted it can take fifteen minutes to gain focus again? Therefore it is crucial to group similar tasks together. One way to do this is to have a different task list for each different activity. For example, you could have an ‘At computer admin’ list. Then when you have an hour, or thirty minutes by your computer you bring out your list and just work down it. Equally you could have a ‘Calls’ list. When your brain doesn’t want to do the heavy lifting simply pick up the phone and get those calls done!
Time management strategy #5 – Work with your brain, not against it
There are times that we just cannot focus however hard we try. My lull time is generally 1300-1600. My peak brain power times are roughly 0600-1200 and 1600-1900. I am sure you also know what your power and lull times are. So don’t fight these times, work with them. I always get my brain thinking work done first thing. Any research, heavy report reading, report drafting – this is all done before 12pm. This strategy works hand in hand with strategy #4.
Time management strategy #6 – One at a time
As well as batching your activities and working with your brain I would also recommend SINGLE tasking. Focus on one item at a time. Multi tasking may make you think you are being a mother f*cking boss – but you are not. Sadly. It will prolong the length of time it takes to do any one task. The likelihood is many tasks will be started and very few will be completed.
So turn your mobile over. Get rid of email notifications. And concentrate on just. one. thing.
Time management strategy #7 – Make use of early morning/late night hours
These are our magic hours! Make sure you use them! But how? Here are some examples:
- Slow cook food – I love my Heston Blumenthal Sage pressure cooker. Before you go to bed (or first thing before you leave for work), simply whack all your ingredients into the slow cooker and turn it on. Yes, it really is that simple. It is getting a job done for you while you sleep!
- Sort out your sleep – If you can sleep better and get up earlier it really will help you get more done with your day. There is one caveat to this. If you are self employed and you GENUINELY get all your work done in the evening hours to early morning hours then stick with it. However, most of us have to be in rhythm with socially accepted working hours. So in order to do this in a more efficient way you have to consider getting up earlier. I can have the gym, household chores and social media work done by 9am, ready to start my day job.
Time management strategy #8 – Know your goals
If you don’t know what it is you want to achieve, then how do you know what work to do? How do you know what the steps are to achieve it? How do you know if you even have achieved it?
There are actually several components to this strategy:
- Plan your big goals out – Use my goal planning workbook and make sure you have your big goals planned out. Put then stepping stones in place and the individual tasks that need to be completed.
- Plan the tasks into your day – Once you know the stepping stones to reaching your goals you will then know what tasks must be done each week. Go back to strategy #2 and you can block out time specifically dedicated to these tasks during your week. You can then use the daily planner included in my goal planning workbook.
- Understand the ‘goal’ of each task – My recent article ‘How to focus when you feel frazzled’ sets out step by step how to break down a task so that it is achievable. I highly recommend you read it.
Free resources: Your personal time management planner
Head over to my free resources now and download your own personal time management planner. This resource will:
- Highlight where you have trouble with your time
- Help you choose which strategy, or new habit, to implement first
- Show you how to plan out your day
- A print out and keep weekly planner
- A print out and keep daily planner