7 Steps to Effective Time Management
We could all use a few time management tips. Like, I know I could use some time management tips. So here’s 7 of the feckers.
Definition of ‘get organized’: to arrange one’s things or one’s affairs so they can be dealt with effectively. eg. He never knows what he has scheduled or where anything is. He needs to get organized. (Merriam Webster)
Start with your Productivity Baseline… so you can see where you’ve improved. Then get going on more effective time management, with the following 7 steps.
Time Management Step One – Brain Dump
Write it all down. In whatever system you use, take a note of EVERYTHING that you need to spend time on.
You can create this task list for the day ahead, for the week, or for the month. A year is pushing it a bit far – too many variables.
Whatever time frame you choose though, take a few minutes at the start of it (or the night before) and load all your tasks into a brain dump page.
Time Management Step Two – Categorise
Now, decide your categories. What are the groupings that make sense for you. For example: Family Stuff, Work Stuff, Personal Stuff. Or to sub-divide a work list, for me the tasks fall into the categories of Courses, Clients, or Content Marketing.
There might be some cross over between categories, so in my bullet journal I allocate a colour per category and just mark them out. (see pic)
Time Management Step Three – Prioritise
You have to complete most important task first. Especially if it’s something that’s part of a bigger project or goal that’s important, but not urgent. We all have a tendency to push those out, and the guilt/shame/fear/overwhelm of having that looming can really eat away at ya.
Doing the Hardest/Most Important thing first is the golden rule of time management.
For each day, identify the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to get to, and do them first. My advice would be to go for:
- One task that will move a long term project or goal forward.
- One task that is a thing you want or need to get in the habit of doing every day.
- One task that is on a deadline.
If you get those done each day, you’re already winning like, no matter how much the rest of the day might get away from you, as it often does.
And for the rest of the tasks, just list them by number, in order of importance.
Time Management Step Four – Schedule
Now you have your priorities straight, you have to make time for them to get done. How does your daily schedule look?
If you don’t have one, that’s ok. You can do it day by day, or set one for the week, and adjst as you go.
On a page (in your Bullet Journal, ideally, and if you don’t have one – get started here) – write out a list of all the hours in the day. I prefer vertical, it gives more space, but whatever suits you is grand.
Block out anything essential, like sleep 😉, commuting or the school run, meetings/appointments, eating, that sort of thing. Stuff that has to be done and can’t move around, time wise.
Mark in some down time, ideally not on the phone or computer – it’s important to do this first, especially if your task list is busy or overwhelming… because you NEED the relaxation time to make sure you’re being effective with the rest of your time.
Then block out your time that’s left (1 or 2 hour time blocks work well for most things), and slot your tasks in.
If they don’t all fit – well, you only have that many hours in your day, and you’re doing the work that HAS to get done at least. It’s an important lesson to enable you to see what you need to let go, or delegate.
Time Management Step Five – Deal with Distraction
What is it that distracts you? If you don’t know off hand, it might be that it’s a habit you’re unconsciously losing time to every single day. Even if it’s only a small thing. All those minutes, fifteen minutes, half hours really add up over the course of a week or a minute.
When you have work to do, you need to focus, and that means identifying and eliminating your distractions.
So, turn off the phone, or put it out of the room. Disconnect the doorbell. Hang a do not disturb sign. Put on noise cancelling headphones and some strong beats or classical music with no lyrics.
Get to work and stay working.
Time Management Step Six – Find the Flow
Pick your first priority and get to it. Set a timer, and resolve to work on that one thing for that amount of time, without distraction or switching focus.
How long is on that timer depends entirely on any number of factors such as how much you are dreading doing it, the type of task, your experience with deep work, and many others. For example, I find that getting started is the hardest part of any work, and I know I’m not alone in that.
If I really don’t want to do something, I will set a timer for say, 5 or 10 minutes, and agree with myself that I’ll do it for that long, and then see how I feel. Mostly, I’m ok by then and just keep going. Occasionally, it’s just not the day to be doing that thing, and I know I have at least tried. I move on, and try again the next day with the same technique.
For longer or bigger projects that require concentration, like study or writing or design, it can help to set a 25 minute timer, take a 5 min stretch/water break, do another 25 min, and so on for the course of 2 hours, then take a longer break. This is called the pomodoro technique.
Or, if you don’t want the distraction, just set yourself a timer for 60 or 90 minute blocks (you’ll really need to stretch and give yourself a mental break after 90 minutes, please).
- For more on Flow, I recommend “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”, by Cal Newport (you can get it on Amazon US here – https://amzn.to/2x3zP1Y, on Amazon UK here –https://amzn.to/2QndVj9, and on Amazon CA here – https://amzn.to/2QnRMRG).
Time Management Step Seven – Rest
No really. This is maybe the most important step here.
Some people think sacrificing sleep is a smart way to get a couple of extra hours into your day. This is not smart. This is the exact opposite of smart.
You most likely need 7-8 hours of sleep for your body and mind to work effectively. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from your tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory. This is a process called consolidation, and the research is clear.
After people sleep, they retain information and perform better on memory tasks, ie, you can work more effectively.
So, rest more to do more.
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