Time management isn’t just about getting more done in less time; it’s about improving your quality of life and increasing your overall happiness. Even just making small changes to how you spend your time can have a tremendous impact on the quality of your life and the way you feel on a daily basis. Follow these top 5 Time Management tips to learn more about what you can do to improve the way you spend your time.
Outline your tasks on a calendar
The most important time management tip for your workday is to create a simple and straightforward daily schedule. Write down everything you have on your plate for each day, then lay it out in order from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. For each task, block off a certain amount of time—it doesn’t have to be perfect but should be reasonably accurate. At each interval, check your schedule; if something changes or you need more time for a specific project, shift your hours accordingly. If you find yourself doing nothing but playing Angry Birds at 11 am every day because that’s where all of your free slots are blocked off, re-think how and when you use them.
Outlining your tasks on a calendar or PDA is one of the easiest ways to be sure you’re managing your time well. If you need a little extra help, try out a mobile app like Toodledo or Calengoo which can sync with Google Calendar, Outlook and others. It will force you to make yourself accountable and keep track of how much time you spend on what.
Break down your large goals into smaller tasks
To help you achieve your goals, break down larger goals into smaller tasks. Then, time-block these tasks on your calendar, and be sure to start working on them at a specific time each day. For example, if your goal is to land a new client by month’s end, don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to tackle all of their specifications immediately.
Instead, break down that task into smaller pieces. Schedule one hour each week during which you answer emails from prospective clients. Or create an additional two hours during your workday specifically for dealing with their needs and questions. Doing so will help you accomplish both your overarching goal and its daily sub-goals in way less time than you may expect!
As you start working on a larger goal, it can be difficult to stay motivated and on task. But if you break down your big goals into smaller, bite-sized tasks, you’ll likely find that completing each of these smaller goals is simpler and less time-consuming than you might have initially anticipated.
Use an app to track progress
One of my favorite time management apps is Strides. It’s easy to use and can be a helpful tool when it comes to measuring your progress toward achieving specific goals. Because there are so many great tracking tools available, I recommend you experiment with a few different options and see which one works best for you. (My second favorite is Toggl.)
Remember, by streamlining your time-tracking efforts, you will not only manage your time more effectively but also get yourself into good habits that will help drive your productivity and career success.
Take regular breaks
This is a time management tip that might seem obvious, but a surprising number of people don’t take regular breaks. After all, you may feel like taking time off is only going to make your work pile up and make it even harder for you to meet deadlines. But if you think about it, not taking breaks can actually do more harm than good—because it will leave you tired and unfocused.
Most experts agree that office workers should get up and move around every 60-90 minutes in order to avoid health problems such as back pain, eye strain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Besides getting rid of these physical issues by taking regular breaks, there are also plenty of mental benefits from regularly clearing your head—which can allow you to tackle tasks with better focus in the long run.
Do less, better
This principle is less about time management and more about productivity. When you feel overwhelmed, it can be tempting to tell yourself that if you just had more time, you’d get everything done. But that’s not realistic; there are only so many hours in a day, after all. Instead of focusing on how much time something will take, try doing fewer things better—then you can actually fit them into your schedule without sacrificing quality.
For example, if you need to edit some photos for an upcoming project but don’t have time for it today, put off sending those pictures until tomorrow (or even later) and make sure they’re up to par before hitting send. If a colleague asks for help with their presentation because they need it ASAP, offer to meet up next week instead (and then deliver on your promise).
Most importantly: accept that sometimes no matter how hard you work or how efficient you are with your time, things won’t always go as planned. The world doesn’t revolve around you or what’s due tomorrow morning at 9 am. Give yourself permission to say no when necessary, so that when deadlines do come around, they’re more likely to stay within reach.
No matter how you look at it, time is one of your most valuable resources. Figuring out how to manage your time well can go a long way toward improving both your personal and professional life. The top five time management tips provided in this post are a great place to start but don’t stop there. Take some time today to think about ways you could improve your own personal time management techniques.