Time management is one of the most fundamental “adulting” skills that you need to learn as you grow older. Once you enter the working world, time management becomes especially crucial — even more so if you’re eyeing work-from-home jobs or managing your own business. With only around eight hours at your disposal, you need to know how to manage your time properly so you can enjoy a healthy work-life balance and get enough rest.
That said, here are some nifty time management tips to help you strike that happy medium between work and your personal life.
Create a daily schedule
Something as simple as preparing a schedule can do wonders for the way you manage your time. But more than just creating a to-do list and calling it a day, you also need to stick with your schedule to sustain a consistent workflow. How you plan your day largely depends on you, so you need to be aware of your time management style to prepare a schedule that perfectly fits your job and your pace.
It’s important to ensure that you’re being realistic with the way you set up your schedule. Instead of scheduling tasks immediately after another, consider placing buffers to give yourself a breather between tasks. Having time buffers helps keep your workflow manageable, even if one task takes a bit longer than usual.
And of course, you should not discount self-discipline and take breaks only as scheduled. Make sure to focus on the tasks at hand, disconnect from distractions, and take a pause after each task to maintain productivity while leaving enough time for yourself.
Know your priorities and don’t multitask
If you work in a fast-paced and deadline-driven environment, you’re probably prone to multitasking every day. While it’s possible to efficiently accomplish multiple tasks at once, there’s a high chance that juggling everything will lead to burnout. Multitasking can be mentally taxing and may even be counterproductive, as it often leads to errors.
To prevent this from happening, you need to know what your priorities are for every workday. Make sure to divide your tasks based on their level of urgency and understand the difference between urgent tasks and important ones. Urgent tasks are those with a tight deadline or that are currently overdue, while important tasks don’t necessarily have to be accomplished immediately but have a high degree of necessity. Remember, the key is to get the most urgent matters out of the way to leave enough time for slower-paced tasks.
Prioritize the hardest tasks
Another common reason why people tend to procrastinate is anxiety over a task’s potential difficulty. To stave off procrastination, you may want to learn a thing or two from the popular “eat the frog” strategy for productivity. This method requires you to tackle difficult matters first (i.e., eating the frog) before moving on to smaller, less urgent ones. Herculean tasks can take up a lot of time, so it’s important to get them done first to optimize your day. On top of that, you get to enjoy a more relaxed workflow once you’ve already handled the worst.
Group tasks together
No matter how clear and comprehensive your daily schedule is, you can still experience mental whiplash when switching from one task to another. To prevent this, you may also want to group similar tasks together. Of course, you need to make sure that you prioritize the most urgent matters first before proceeding to the smaller tasks.
For example, you can dedicate a portion of your schedule to client-facing activities such as making calls and answering emails. Usually, doing tasks in batches is helpful if your job is a multi-hatted role that involves a wide variety of skills.
Designate a window for accomplishing each task
Most of the time, procrastination occurs due to an overestimation of how much you can do within a day. If you tend to have trouble with cramming, you may want to set time limits for your tasks to guide you in accomplishing them on schedule. You can check out strategies such as the Pomodoro Technique, which entails doing tasks for 25 minutes and taking short breaks in between. After the fourth 25-minute interval, you can take a longer break of around 30 minutes.
Again, how you organize your daily schedule is up to you. Setting a time limit for tasks merely motivates you to get things done, which is necessary to ensure a proper balance between focused work and productive rest.
Recognize your limits
While being able to do it all is an admirable trait for an employee, you also need to know your limits and say no to additional tasks if you can’t fulfill them. If your schedule is already packed, don’t hesitate to express your concerns about getting things done by yourself. If possible, delegate some of your tasks to other members of the team. At the end of the day, it’s better to have others help out with fulfilling tasks than to shoulder everything and accomplish nothing.
Efficient time management requires flexibility and balance
A well-crafted workflow plan can undoubtedly help you manage your day. But sometimes, a hectic schedule can make it difficult for you to religiously abide by a workflow regimen. Even if your job revolves around routine, you also need to be prepared for unexpected changes in deliverables, work schedules, and the like. As such, you need to ensure that your time management strategy allows you to keep up with these changes while still providing you with a backbone for efficient task handling.
Having the self-discipline and foresight to efficiently manage your time can take a lot of getting used to, especially if you’re a big procrastinator. But with the tips mentioned above, you can stay on top of a busy schedule and still make time for things that make life more enriching.
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