Time management is the process of organising and planning how to divide your time between specific activities. Good time management enables you to work smarter – not harder – so that you get more done in less time, even when time is tight and pressures are high. Failing to manage your time damages your effectiveness and causes stress.
It seems that there is never enough time in the day. But, since we all get the same 24 hours, why is it that some people achieve so much more with their time than others? The answer lies in good time management.
The highest achievers manage their time exceptionally well. By using the time management techniques in this section, you can improve your ability to function more effectively – even when time is tight and pressures are high.
Good time management requires an important shift in focus from activities to results: being busy isn’t the same as being effective. (Ironically, the opposite is often closer to the truth.)
Spending your day in a frenzy of activity often achieves less, because you’re dividing your attention between so many different tasks. Good time management lets you work smarter – not harder – so you get more done in less time.
Tips to improve your time management skills
Produce a time log for a week – This will show you how you currently spend your time and how much you spend on non-productive tasks.
Use the Important/Urgent matrix to prioritise tasks – This ensures that you only spend time on tasks that are important and urgent (i.e. your top priorities). Anything else can wait!
Focus on the most important/urgent. This allows optimum concentration. But, remember to flip between high and low-attention tasks or take a micro-break (see below) to let your brain recover from mentally-demanding activities.
Create a To-Do list at the start of each day – This lists all your priorities in one place and tracks your progress. It structures what you have to get done and you’ll get a sense of achievement as you’ll see you’re making progress. This is especially useful when working from home as you’ll need to be more self-disciplined.
Take mini-breaks – If you’re working at home, making a coffee and walking around for a short time not only reinvigorates you, but it’s also beneficial ergonomically to adjust your posture. It ensures optimum concentration when you return to your desk. What’s more, if people around you (colleagues or family members) know you’ll be available later, this can limit their interruptions.
Take action – There are many reasons why we procrastinate (everything from a task being unpleasant, to a fear of failure, perfectionism, feeling overwhelmed or a lack of organisation). Homeworkers beware: Daytime TV, long lunches and social media can all lure you away from your main focus. Don’t let them take over. If you procrastinate, figure out why and take action before you’re swamped. If you don’t, you’ll be working late into the night to catch up!
Manage meetings – Avoid all unnecessary meetings. If there’s no agenda or the right people (i.e. decision-makers) cannot attend, reschedule it.
Manage email – Switch off email notifications and check emails just two or three times a day; keep emails succinct and avoid ‘Replying to All’; don’t look at email first thing – complete an important/urgent task instead; set aside a short time burst (15-20 mins max) for responding to emails unless it’s core to your job; use folders to organise emails.