There are so many things to do and not enough time to do them all, or so you might think. The trick to getting everything done lies in your ability to effectively and efficiently manage the time you have. Your responsibilities and goals can be achieved with the help of our top ten tips on how to manage your time more effectively.
Set Time Limits
When you’re working with a restricted amount of time, it’s important that you delegate that time between tasks appropriately. Simply tackling each task one by one until it’s finished could lead to time running out before everything is completed.
For each task you have, estimate how long it should take you to complete and set that time limit for yourself. You’ll find yourself working faster in order to meet these self-appointed deadlines that you know you can meet if you put your mind to it.
Give Yourself A Break
Overworking yourself can lead to a significant decrease in overall productivity. If you don’t rest your brain, you can find yourself burned out and unable to keep up the pace. We work better when we’re calm, relaxed and mentally rested, so take short breaks between each task and during longer tasks to keep your productivity up.
It might sound counter-productive at first, especially if you have a tight deadline to meet, to pushing through can lose you a lot more time and lead to an increase in mistakes and a decreased quality of work.
Look After Yourself
Taking breaks isn’t the only thing you should be doing to ensure that you’re in peak productivity condition. Making sure you’re well rested each night with at least 7 hours of sleep, eating well and taking valuable downtime to enjoy hobbies, TV and other activities are just as important.
How tired you are, both mentally and physically, as well as how you feel can affect your performance and reduce productivity. Effective time management isn’t just about what you physically do while you’re working, it’s also about how you can make yourself more generally productive.
Do The Most Important Tasks First
Your list of things to get done in any given day or week will probably include tasks of varying importance.
The tasks that need to be done with a greater urgency are the ones you should do first. Choose 2 or 3 of the most important tasks, such as writing a report, preparing meeting paperwork or something similar, and get these things done first.
Once they’re out the way, you know the most important things are done and you can relax a little, taking the time to tackle tasks of lesser importance.
This one is crucial. In the modern era, we’re constantly being distracted by our devices, by other (not-as-important) things that come up and even our colleagues. Turn off your devices if you can, switch off email notifications and create an environment with as few distractions as possible.
Distraction is the number one enemy of productivity, so don’t be tempted by it. Eliminating distractions means you won’t have anything to pull your train of thought away from the task at hand, leading to an increase in productivity that means you can get more done in a shorter time.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how good your time management skills are, there just isn’t enough time to do everything. You can’t stop time or magically complete tasks on a whim, but you can delegate those tasks to others.
Sharing responsibility can significantly improve overall productivity. Delegating tasks that you don’t have time to do to someone who does have the time ensures that the task gets done and you avoid the stress of trying to cram too much in.
Finish What You Started
Something that many of us are guilty of is trying to do too many things at once. You start one task and then begin another without finishing the first.
If you want to maximise the time you have, don’t become distracted by other, less important tasks before you’ve finished what you were originally doing. Sticking to one thing at a time is much easier, allows you to retain your train of thought and ensures that it gets done in time.
Splitting time over several things at once may seem like a productive way to do things, but multitasking can have a strain on you that makes you less accurate and less generally productive.
Create To-Do Lists
The to-do list is a staple in most businesses and offices. Used by professionals in a range of sectors, it gives you a visual reminder of all the things you need to do and when you need to do them by.
Each item on your to-do list should have an estimated time of completion and be in order of importance, so you get the top (and most important) tasks done first. They don’t need to be overcomplicated or a time-wasting chore, they work to ensure you don’t forget anything and that you stay on track.
Disorganisation can eat up precious time. Getting yourself and your documents organised can help your time management skills simply by making it easier for you to locate information.
Filing systems and organised digital desktops and servers can mean it’s easier for you to get the job done and easier for other people to find the relevant files.
Make sure your workspace is as organised as your general office systems, with everything you need neatly within reach and no clutter to distract your mind from the task at hand.
Just Do It
So, you’re a perfectionist? That’s all well and good until it takes you 3 hours to write a simple report because you couldn’t stop editing while you were writing it. The best advice you can get is to just do it.
Most tasks can be completed all in one go, from start to finish, and then amended in one go when you’re finished. Of course, it doesn’t apply to everything, but if you apply it when you can you’ll find that you’re much more productive.
Sam Wilson is Co-Founder at Virtalent, a Virtual Assistant service.