You’ve probably heard a lot about time management. Most people have busy lives these days, and this makes the idea of using time more effectively extremely attractive. But, as it turns out, time management isn’t as simple as many people think. The human brain is sneaky. It likes to look at YouTube videos and funny memes and would rather do almost anything than work efficiently. And training your brain so that it can resist these temptations is what time management is all about.
Time management is the process of organizing your time more efficiently. It ensure that you spend the right amounts of time doing the right activities. These activities will vary depending on your schedule and needs. If you work from home, then your time management will involve making sure that you work steadily for specific amounts of time. If you work in an office, then it will probably mean that you work out how to use your time there more efficiently. But time management doesn’t apply only to work activities.
What do you do on your weekends? Chances are that you look forward to your days off all week. And once you get there, do you spend it doing something amazing? Or do you waste the time drifting from one mildly boring activity to another? When you return to work, do you feel as if you’ve just wasted your weekend? Promise to do better next weekend? Time management can and should be about your time off as well. Sure, it’s sometimes good to spend time just relaxing, free of all schedules and routines. But if you spend all of your free time this way it will leave you bored and frustrated. Learning to manage your free time more effectively, and so it provides your desired benefits, will help you overcome that possibility.
Do you make the most of your work time and your leisure time? How can you use time management to get more out of your routines?
Myths About Time Management
If you’re working on your time management skills, you might have the wrong idea about what this means. For starters, it doesn’t mean learning to multitask. The science is in on multitasking, and it’s final: multitasking doesn’t work. When you multitask, you split your focus between a two or more different tasks. That’s fine if the tasks are easy and don’t take much brain power to complete, you can do them mostly on muscle memory. But if you need to focus on the tasks, if you need to think and make choices, doing more than one thing at a time means you will do both tasks badly and it will impair your judgement. And it’s also really tiring for your brain.
Time management also isn’t about fitting more into your day. Everyone is so busy these days between family, work, friends and other commitments. Because of this, people often look to time management to solve that, to allow them to fit even more into their already packed schedules. But time management isn’t about organizing your schedule so tightly that you can’t find a moment to breathe.
Time management is about learning to use your time better. It’s about saying no to commitments you don’t want so you have room for the ones you do. And it’s about getting things done more efficiently when you’re at work so you can have more of a life at the same time. After all, do you really want to schedule more time at the office when you could be spending more time having fun with people you love? If this isn’t what you want, this isn’t the article for you.
The Goals of Time Management
If you’re working on your time management, you should have very specific goals in mind. These goals will help to motivate you and to push you forward when it seems like too much trouble. It will also let you know when you’re succeeding. Some good goals for your time management work include the following:
Get more done
Note that this does not mean that you should aim to spend more time working or more time at the office. Instead you should aim to increase your productivity so you get more work done while you’re there. And if you manage to really improve this skill, you might actually be able to reduce the amount of time you spend at work.
Achieve your goals
Another worthwhile aim for your time management work is to achieve your goals. The goals you want to work on could be work related or not. For instance you might want to find the time to work on a future project so you don’t have to cram it at the last minute. Or on the other hand, you might want to do some work on a side project that you hope will replace your 9 to 5 job. Whatever goals you have, whether they’re related to your work or your life, learning better time management will help. It will encourage you to allocate the time you need to each project, and to actually get a lot of work done in that time. And even a little bit of effort can add up to a really good result over time.
Have more time for fun!
This is probably the best reason to work on your time management. Life shouldn’t be all work and no play, and it shouldn’t be an endless stream of commitments and responsibilities that suck the life out of you. And if it is, then you need this help more than anyone else.
The Enemies of Time Management
Time management has many enemies, sneaky activities that distract you from what you want to do and demand your attention NOW! These activities are usually fairly harmless on their own, but when they distract you from your work or eat away at the time you have to do more productive things, they become the enemy. Unfortunately, these enemies are everywhere these days and some of the most dangerous ones are as follows:
Procrastination is one of the biggest enemies of productivity and it’s unfortunately very common. Research shows that almost everyone procrastinates at some point, but around 20 percent of people are chronic procrastinators, to an extent that seriously affects their goal achievement and life satisfaction. The reasons why people procrastinate aren’t fully understood and if you’re a procrastinator, you might assume that it’s because you’re lazy. But research shows that there are a number of reasons why people procrastinate including perfectionism, fear and a lack of motivation. If you’re a procrastinator, then your reasons for the behavior are unique to you, and it’s only by unravelling them that you can start to understand and move away from your destructive patterns.
Life is full of distractions. Whether it’s social media beeping at you or the dog scratching at the door, there is always a reason to avoid your work. You might think you’re just getting up to let the dog in before you return to work, but before you know it you’ve fed the dog, answered the phone, done the dishes and decided to have an early lunch. You might be able to come up with a lot of good reasons for this sudden spate of activity, but the reality is that that small distraction derailed your train of thought. And once that happens, it’s hard to get back to work again.
Despite the popularity of the internet, television is still extremely popular in America. Sources claim that American adults watch 5 hours and 4 minutes of television a day. This means that they sleep for eight hours, work for eight hours, and spend more than half their free time slumped on the couch accomplishing nothing. Everyone needs some down time, but this is just a waste.
Important Time Management Skills
When you’re working on your time management, you need to develop a number of skills to help it go smoothly. Just creating rules about how you spend your time won’t really help with this. The process is only really effective if you spend the time to determine what’s really important to you and how your life is honoring that commitment. As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me what you do, and I will tell you what you believe.”
This is not the time to pay lip service to a belief or value. There’s no point in saying that your family is extremely important to you if almost all of your time is spent at work or in front of the television. If you really believe in something, it should be a big part of your life, so be honest and use your time wisely when you’re working on your time management.
The most important skills in time management are:
Goal setting is essential in time management because it helps you create your schedule and allocate your time. It isn’t just about setting money goals or goals about how much work you want to do either. Instead, you need to take this time to decide what you really want from your life. Really think about this. If you’re making changes to your life, it’s a great time to look at what you have and what you’re doing to determine if you’re in alignment with what you want and believe, deep down. And if you learn that you’re working constantly but really want to nurture your relationships, this is where you should probably focus your time management skills.
Setting your priorities well is essential to good time management. Too often, people tend to get the easy parts of their work done first, which leaves little time for the important parts. Each day, prioritize the tasks you have to do and determine which is the most important. Get that done first. Even if you don’t get anything else done, this will be a worthwhile and valuable use of your time.
There are a number of skills associated with emotional intelligence that are strongly linked to time management. This includes your ability to communicate with others, to convey your priorities and needs and to say no to new tasks when necessary. It also includes your self-awareness and your self-control. Setting goals and priorities on their own does nothing. You also need to have the self-awareness to determine what’s most important to you and why, as well as the self-control to do what you say you’re going to do.
Learning better stress management is essential no matter what type of work you do or what goals you set. Stress is an incredibly destructive reality of life, one that’s been linked to heart attacks, certain types of cancer, inflammation and stroke. Unfortunately, it’s also becoming more and more common these days as everyone’s lives become busier and more scheduled. Some of the best strategies for stress management include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in relaxing practices, or talking it over with a trusted friend.
If you want to manage your time well then you need to be organized. There’s no point setting a goal to go running for half an hour every day if you spend half of that time looking for your shoes, iPod and running clothes. Set up your environment to support your goals. If you want to eat well, throw out the unhealthy food that tempts you. If you want to work a certain number of hours a day, download an app that will help you track your time. You won’t always have the willpower or the energy to motivate yourself, so organize your environment so that it encourages you to get into action.
How to Improve your Time Management
There are lots of things you can do to work on your time management skills and become more productive in ways that suit your life and your dreams. Try the following steps to prioritize your goals and start moving towards the life that you really want:
The first step in improving your time management has to be setting your goals. You can set as many goals as you want, but make sure you only work on one goal at a time. Working on more than one goal at a time divides your focus and makes it harder for you to achieve those goals. Self-development isn’t easy, so don’t make it harder on yourself by overloading.
Pick the most important
Work on the most important goal first, and then the most important task in pursuit of that goal. It might be tempting to work on the easiest goal and the easiest task first, but this is an inefficient use of your time. Life is short, and if you spend your time on things that don’t really matter to you just because they’re easy, you might find that you run out of time to do the important things. The easy thing usually isn’t really worth doing, so remind yourself of this every time you try to avoid doing the more difficult and more important tasks.
Schedule your time
If you go to the office every day, your eight hours there are probably tightly organized or scheduled. That doesn’t mean that you won’t find the time to goof off or look up cat videos when you should be working, but chances are that you work at least most of the time (unless you have a really lazy boss).
But your time at home is probably less scheduled. You might really enjoy this, after all it can be nice to have a wide open schedule and be able to take up any opportunity that presents itself. But for a lot of people, this just results in long hours in front of the television or wasting time online. If you want to make your off hours more fun, more productive, or just add more interesting activities into your time, you need to schedule your time like you would schedule work tasks. This may seem a little controlling, but it’s the best way to make sure those activities actually get done.
Understand your natural rhythms
There’s no point in trying to schedule your time if you’re working against your natural rhythms. There’s a lot of talk out there about the value of getting up early and creating a morning ritual, but the truth is that this strategy only works for certain people. There is a fair bit of evidence to suggest that being a night owl is genetically coded. And people who naturally feel more awake late at night, and like death early in the morning, will attest to the impossibility of trying to overcome their natural patterns over the long term.
Your body has natural rhythms for the sleep and wake cycle, and it also has what’s known as the ultradian rhythms, which determine your periods of peak efficiency during the day. Learning to do your highest priority work during these periods is much more efficient than constantly fighting your body clock. Because you’ll never win that battle.
Track your time
When you’re working on time management, it’s important that you track your time. You might be surprised by how much time you spend on your projects or on work and how much time you spend procrastinating or doing other tasks when you start tracking. This will tell you where you need to make changes and what aspects of your life are eating away at the others.
As stated before, procrastinating can be very destructive to your time management. And the trouble is that there isn’t a magic pill that can help you overcome this issue. Instead, you need to just act. Use all that self-control and self-awareness that you’ve been cultivating, reward yourself, punish yourself, or whatever works for you, and do the work.
When you’re scheduled to do something, then do it. This applies whether you’re working, spending time with your family, or on an outing with friends. No matter what you’re doing, don’t let anything else get in the way. Don’t answer your phone or look at your social media alerts. Don’t answer the door, and don’t let yourself click on any links that happen to pop up. These behaviors may seem harmless. However, they destroy your concentration and can even diminish the quality of what you’re doing. For example, checking your phone when you’re with loved ones diminishes the quality of the interaction. It can make them feel undervalued and diminish overall relationship happiness. So focus on your scheduled task and don’t let anything else grab your attention.
If you have too much work to do, then learn to delegate. At home, this might mean getting your kids to do chores by making it a condition of their allowance. You could enlist your partner’s help, or even hire someone to come in and clean. And at work it could mean talking to your boss about your workload or otherwise ensuring that others carry their share of the work.
The strange truth is that a lot of people actually add to their own workload. They think that they have to do everything themselves, or that others can’t do the job properly. If you struggle to let your partner do housework because ‘they don’t do it right’ then you’re guilty of this as well. Let them do the housework. Thank them for helping. And try not to look at the spots they missed, after all no one is perfect.
A lot of people have trouble saying no. If you find it difficult to refuse new responsibilities, requests or favors, you’ve probably found yourself struggling with overwork and resentment. There can be a number of reasons why people struggle to say no to others, the most obvious being the desire to please everyone and avoid conflict at all costs. But in the end, if you find yourself overloaded and faced with a friend or workmate who has a pleading look on their face, you need to learn to say no before your time gets taken away from you completely.
Time management is a great strategy for getting things done. However, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to do more work and ignore other parts of your life. The best benefit of this tool is that it can be used in any aspect of your life. It will help you get the most from what you’re doing, no matter what it is. So you can use it to get more work done, but that isn’t all. You can also use it to optimize your weekends so you can fit in all the activities and socializing you could ever want. If you want better relationships, or more time to spend doing the things you love, time management is one of the best ways to make it happen.
What are you missing in your life and how could time management help you get it? Share that neglected dream with us in the comments below.