We’ve all heard the phrase “Time is money.” Success, no matter how you see your success, be it dollars or other measurables, depends on time management. Time is the only resource we all have, and we all have equal time each day. Time is precious because unlike other resources it’s limited.
We’re all juggling countless work projects, personal care, and family responsibilities. And often it feels like there are not enough hours in a day to get everything done. However, if you want to accomplish more than others in a shorter amount of time, you must manage your time effectively.
So, what’s time management? It’s how you schedule and organize your time for different tasks. There are many strategies and tools to help you get more done in less time; here are nine ways that can help you take your time management skills to the next level.
1. Develop a Sense of Urgency
The most fundamental measure of time is speed. And the best quality you can develop regarding time management is a “sense of urgency.” A sense of urgency is the practice of moving fast when a new opportunity arises. Build a base for action, meaning assign that task some importance to yourself to make it more urgent. This task is essential to moving my business forward, therefore I must do it with hast. Moving fast, taking advantage of momentum is crucial for success. All successful entrepreneurs not only work hard, but they also work fast. That being said, it’s more important to get things done well than get things done fast, so be sure to balance your speed with your diligence when doing things with speed.
2. Stop Procrastinating
I almost feel badly for adding this to the list. Its the most obvious tip that I can give you and also sometimes the hardest. Procrastination is the biggest thief of time; it’s the thief of life. It’s an easy habit to feed, and a harder one to stop indulging in. The best thing to do is to develop a system: if you can do it in 2-5 minutes, go ahead and do it now. Small tasks, done immediately as soon as they appear add to your sense of accomplishment, and subtract from the items on your to-do list!
Develop the habit of moving quickly when something needs to be done; build a reputation for speed and dependability.
3. Delegate Tasks
It’s common to take on more work than our desired potential. This can lead to stress and burnout. Learning to delegate work makes you a better manager and allows your team members to get involved in exciting projects. Not everything can be delegated. Some work is strategic or business critical, and would benefit from your personal attention. Before you begin delegating work, evaluate the importance of the work and the implications of delegating it. We talk more about this in Tip #4!
Delegating can be difficult for first-time managers and leaders because you’re putting important work into someone else’s hands. You probably feel connected to your work and responsible for it getting done well. Delegating is not running away from your responsibilities. Rather, it’s a crucial function of management. Learn to delegate work to your employees as per their abilities and skills. This will enable you to get more tasks completed in less time.
4. Prioritize Work
There are tons of ways to determine task priority. It’s important to find one method that works for you. Before you start your day, note down all the tasks that need your immediate attention, because unimportant things can take a lot of time. Complete urgent tasks that day and complete unimportant tasks the next day.
Prioritizing your tasks will help you focus on tasks that are more important and you’ll avoid wasting time on unimportant things. We like using the Eisenhower Matrix. Developed by American President Dwight Eisenhower, the matrix contains four quadrants that help you differentiate between the severity of the tasks you are trying to perform. These four quadrants are labeled as follows:
- Urgent and Important: In this quadrant, you are going to place those tasks that are the most critical for your project, and have to be performed at the earliest
- Neither Urgent nor Important: In this quadrant, you are going to place the tasks that have the lowest importance to your project, and which will be performed at the very end
- Urgent, but not Important: In this quadrant, you are going to place the urgent tasks, but they are not that important to the project
- Important, but not Urgent: In this quadrant, you are going to place the tasks that are important to the project, but they don’t have to be urgently performed
There are plenty of other methods as well, check them out here.
5. Set Up Deadlines
When you have projects at hand, give yourself a realistic deadline and stick to it. Set the deadline a few days before the actual deadline so you can tackle other tasks that may get in the way. Challenge yourself to meet the deadline and reward yourself when you meet a difficult deadline. Most task managers have a due date and reminder functions, so I recommend looking at whatever task management system you use and setting that up. If you’re not using one, try Google Tasks or ClickUp!
6. Avoid Multitasking
Many of us feel multitasking is a good way to get things done, but it’s better to focus and concentrate on one thing. Multitasking reduces productivity; avoid it if you want to take your time management skills to the next level. Create to-do lists and set deadlines to help you stay focused. Single-tasking will help you do what you’re doing better.
7. Start Early
Most successful entrepreneurs start their day early; this gives them time to sit, think and plan their day. Waking up early makes you more calm, creative, and clear-headed. As the day progresses, your energy levels reduce, affecting your productivity and you may not perform well. However, we do all run on different time clocks. If you know that you’re more of a night person, just be sure to start your day your version of early.
8. Avoid Distractions Like Social Media and Email
Checking your phone in the morning makes it easier to get off track. It starts with one email and before you realize it, you’ve used several hours of your day and still you haven’t done your first task.
Keep your phone away to avoid distractions when doing your most important tasks. You can also set time limits on your phone apps on most devices now too. I have time limits set on all of my big distractor apps, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest. My phone won’t let me open the app after a certain period of use, I have mine set to an hour, and I have to manually override that if I want to access the app after hours.
9. Make Your To-Do List the Night Before
To make sure you have a productive day, create your list of goals and tasks the night before. The ability to make good plans before you act is a measure of your overall competence. The better plans you have, the easier it becomes to avoid procrastination; it becomes easier to get started and keep moving. This task can be very complex, such as time-blocking, or super simple like the The Ivy Lee Method, but do something so that you have an idea of the day ahead of you.
Time blocking is a time management method that asks you to divide your day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task, or group of tasks, and only those specific tasks. Instead of keeping an open-ended to-do list of things you’ll get to as you’re able, you’ll start each day with a concrete schedule that lays out what you’ll work on and when. This does require knowing exactly what you want to do, scheduling it on your calendar, and accurately estimating your task per time. This method also requires that you account for what I call “invisible task time” like sorting your emails. If you don’t plan time for that task, suddenly you’re behind schedule. This forces us to be realistic about what we do in our day and how much time those tiny things take us.
The Ive Lee Method is much more simple. At the end of each work day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks. Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance. When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
No matter what method you choose that works best for you. Making your to do list the night before is essential. By planning your day in advance, organizing your list by priority, and sticking to your plans, your work will go faster and more smoothly than before. You’ll be more competent and powerful. And you’ll get more done, faster than you thought. Soon, you’ll be unstoppable.