If you’re like me, the list of things to do seems to get longer and longer, while the days get shorter and shorter. It feels like there just is not enough time to get everything done that I want to get done. Of course I know that this is not true. In fact, the opposite is true. I have plenty of time; I just don’t utilize that time properly. I am getting better, and here are some of the time management strategies that I am implementing to make my days more productive.
I feel I have mastered the to-do list. No longer do I scribble on sticky notes and place them on my computer monitor. Instead, I have created a simple Excel spreadsheet. One whole sheet of paper is blocked off into sections, and every task is listed. When it is completed, I place a checkmark next to it. As soon as an item comes in, I quickly write it onto my to-do list, and then return to the task at hand. If the sheet of paper gets too full, or too crowded, I print a new one and transfer incomplete tasks over. For each day I will prioritize tasks and write them on a separate piece of scratch paper to keep my mind clear of the full list.
Many people like to get to work and just do the work as it comes. Not only is it inefficient to keep switching your thought process, it causes things to end up being forgotten. Instead, schedule your day and when you will tackle various projects. For instance, 8:00 – 8:30 is designated to answering emails. 8:30 – 9:30 is that big project that you know will take much longer than one hour. 9:30 – 9:45 take a break and watch a funny video on Youtube (Studies show that taking breaks actually helps you increase productivity). The point is, make the schedule, and stick to it.
At the end of every day, take time to plan out tomorrow. Even if you are not exactly sure what will come across your desk, make tomorrow’s schedule. This way you will know exactly what needs to be done first thing in the morning, and you can dive right into your work when you are fresh and eager to get things done.
Research During Down Time
We all have those moments when we have to hurry up and wait. We are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, at the DMV trying to renew our license, or standing in line to checkout at the grocery store. If you even have just a few minutes, check the latest news in your industry. As a writer I am constantly on the lookout for a new story and a new topic. When I find one, I put it on my to-do list (often under the title “research such and such”).
Eliminate, Delegate, Simplify
For years my boss has been telling me, “Eliminate, delegate, simplify.” Whenever a task comes to you, you ask yourself if it really needs to be done. If it does, is there a way you can get someone else to do it for you (for instance working in finance I could send information to a mutual fund company and they would put together a simple portfolio for me, saving me an hour of work)? If you absolutely must do the work, is there a way to make it simpler? Most tasks can be eliminated, delegated, or simplified (along these lines, many can be eliminated by just saying “no” from the beginning).
Bonus: Power Hour
There are times when you just have a ton of work to do, and you have to power through it. During those times, I like to employ my power hour technique. I close Facebook, set my phone to silent, shut my office door, and I work for exactly 1 hour as hard as I can. At the end of the hour I take a break or move to a new task. Using a power hour can be exhausting, but by preparing for it, and employing it, you can get more done in that hour than you would in 3 hours otherwise.
I don’t have this all down perfectly. In fact, I am sitting in a coffee shop writing this because my house has too many distractions (dishes, 16 month old, cheerios being ground into the rug, 1001 home maintenance projects, etc.). Here I can sit and power hour my way through some writing projects I must get done.
What are your time management strategies?
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