I’m sure you’re no stranger to the feeling of being overwhelmed by too much to do. Often when this happens, people feel extremely busy, but accomplish little toward finishing their projects. By applying the following time management skills you can optimize your effort by concentrating as much of your time and energy as possible on the high payoff tasks. Even with limited time available, you will be able to achieve the greatest benefit possible.
A To-Do List is the first thing to do. To-do Lists are actually just a way of capturing all of the tasks you have to complete in one place. When you forget tasks it leaves a sense of feeling out of control. The To-do List eliminates forgetting larger and smaller tasks and makes you, not circumstance or other people, feel like you are in control of what gets done. Plan the order in which you will work on each task, and which needs immediate attention. Put the most important tasks in their own column, on top of the list, or with a rating next to each one (say A for the most important and E least important).
Don’t Procrastinate. Often people put off doing things that they should be focusing on immediately in place of doing something more enjoyable or that they are more comfortable doing. Many times procrastination occurs because we feel we may not have the right resources to do something perfectly now, so it doesn’t get done at all. Other times it is just the failure to recognize when something is a priority over other things. And often we wait for the “right” mood, or the “right” time to tackle something important. When we eventually get to a task we’ve postponed, it often has escalated into even more tasks. Recognize the source of what is causing you to procrastinate and remember to make decisions quickly based on priority, not mood or feeling.
Set Goals. Check often to see if your tasks are in-line with your goals. If they are not, find a way to get out of them. Set goals in all areas of your life; work, family, financial, time, physical, pleasure, service, education, home and activities you enjoy. Write goals down and make them specific, realistic and accessible. Keep the goals nearby, obvious, and in clear view. As you see them, always ask yourself if the things you have to do that day line up with them. Short term and long-term goals may be different, but short-term should line up with long-term. For example, if you want to lose weight as a long-term goal, going out to eat with friends every Wednesday night will have to include a meal that meets up with your weight-loss goal. Otherwise you may end up frustrated and discouraged.
Block Your Time. Block a chunk of time in your day that you think is essential to do a job well effectively. Always add in extra contingency time to handle unexpected interruptions. Be sure to block time for all of the areas of your life, if not short-term, in your long-range calendar, and block time for them in terms of necessity. Do this monthly, weekly, and daily. Schedule the high-priority tasks first. This is a good time to review your goals and decide if your priorities are where they should be. If you see you are spending more time in one area than you’d like, set a new goal to back off of one area and increase the time for another goal that has been neglected or you would like to spend more time doing.
Upon mastering these skills you will be able to become highly effective at identifying and focusing on the activities that give you the greatest returns, and that meet your goals. Time management techniques take practice for you to become efficient, but eventually you will save time doing activities you enjoy more, and you will work smarter, not harder.