Seneca once said: “It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.” It seems that this old wisdom is still true these days – despite the fact that we focus so much on correctly managing our time, we still feel like we don’t have any. We feel like we work at 200% efficiency but, at the end of the day, we see no results. What really works in the area of time management and what is just a myth?
Can We Control Time?
Experts on work effectiveness claim that time management, the controlling and saving of one’s time, isn’t possible at all. We could compare it to a diet – we can diet all we want but, in the end, it won’t make us healthier without us actually altering our lifestyles. Instead of trying to control time, we should instead focus on managing the number of tasks we take upon ourselves. Too many tasks to finish and appointments to keep are the biggest enemy of work effectiveness.
Set Your Priorities
Good work organization is set on recognizing the main tasks and the tasks that are less important. It’s kind of like filling a jar – first, you put in the big rocks, then you put in the small pebbles, then sand, and the water always comes last. You should always focus on the most important or critical tasks first and leave the easiest or less important ones for later.
Don’t be Impatient
Many businessmen say that the hardest thing is to find the time to reevaluate one’s stance on work. If you want to change your work habits, you can’t rush into it. If you want to make big changes from one day to the next, you can forget it. The ideal way to implement changes is slowly, step by step. In the beginning, it’s better to save 20 or 30 minutes a day and motivate yourself, than to be disappointed that you didn’t have time to reach all of your daily goals.
Plan All of Your Tasks
A big problem that business owners face is that they overestimate the number of tasks they can handle. If you overestimate yourself, you’ll have so many tasks, that any task plan for the day will be completely ineffective. Try to treat your tasks as you would treat meetings with clients – make a diary entry for each task with a designated time period. This way, you’ll be able to focus on the specific task during that time.
The Enemy Within
Are you constantly distracted by your colleagues, by unexpected and urgent tasks or by calls from your boss? Experts on time management claim that we should stop putting the blame on others. According to them, disturbances from the outside aren’t the biggest time-wasters. The thing that eats up most of our time is our own mind that often focuses on everything except the job that needs to be done – we’re talking about procrastination.
When are You the Most Productive?
Try to establish some work habits, such as only checking your e-mails during certain parts of the day. You’ll have to find out when you’re the most productive and focus the main tasks of the day into that time period. Don’t hesitate to mute your phone and close any unnecessary browser windows that might distract you. Get comfortable and focus on what you need to do.
Always Have a Time Reserve
Divide big projects into smaller tasks. You’ll be able to focus on them individually and also takes breaks in-between. You’ll also gain a better overview of what you need to accomplish and your work will be less monotone. Always keep a time reserve in the form of one ’empty’ hour in your diary. This will give you enough time to solve any urgent tasks that might come up unexpectedly or problems that you didn’t account for.
Track Your Time
The best way to see whether or not you’re behind is to track your time. There are many great applications that can help you track time (we use Toggl). Initially, using such an application may feel restricting because you’ll have to start a timer at the beginning of every single task but, in the end, it will help you move forward with your time management efforts. Not only will you see exactly how long individual tasks take you, you’ll also find out how to divide your time among the smaller tasks. All of this will help you be more effective.
Don’t Forget Your Private Life
Don’t spend all of your time on work. If you only plan your work tasks, you can quickly start forgetting about your private life. When making your daily plan, always make time for non-work-related activities, including short breaks between tasks. Time is a lot more than money, time is life. You can easily make back the money, but nobody can return your time.