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7 Steps to Overcoming Troubles with Time Management
If you find yourself working long hours to get anything done, you are not alone. Nor are you alone if you struggle to meet deadlines, or simply feel as if you are expending lots of energy with little to show for it.
Time management is a struggle for so many people. It can hinder productivity, result in loss of revenue, and create depressing unproductive cycles. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that time management is something anyone can master. The key is within the following seven action steps.
1. Always Prioritize Your Tasks
One sure way to get behind is to continually tackle jobs as you encounter them.
Remember that just because something comes across your desk doesn’t mean it’s important. Instead, look at every task that looms in front of you and assign it a priority.
The quadrant of time management devised by Steven Covey is a very reliable method for setting priorities. In fact, it has proven to be so reliable over time that many corporations and government entities endorse its use. In a nutshell, you place every task in one of four categories.
These are tasks that are both urgent and important. These are to be done immediately. The next two quadrants are important but not urgent and urgent but not important. It’s up to you how to approach these. Urgent but not important is the quadrant that often contains tasks that other people are demanding you complete. Important but not urgent often involves tasks such as long range planning. Ultimately, you will have to decide which of these two quadrants gets priority.
The final quadrant is not important and not urgent. This is for tasks that don’t contribute anything meaningful. Tasks such as aimlessly scrolling through social media belong here.
2. If it Doesn’t Help You Earn Money, Become a Better Person or Bring You Joy - Stop
Okay, in reality you won’t be able to apply this philosophy all of the time. Still, it’s an important standard to remember.
One of the primary reasons that time management is such a struggle for so many is that they spend time engaged in activities that don’t contribute to their financial situation, improve them as people, or truly make them happy.
If you’ve ever considered decluttering your life, consider decluttering your daily tasks as well. What are you spending time on that doesn’t serve you? What are you doing solely for the benefit of others? It’s time to start cutting out activities and obligations that don’t contribute to you living the life you want.
3. Get on Top of Distractions
The few minutes you spend being distracted by a TV show, video game, or meaningless conversation add up. You cannot master time management unless you get this under control.
Try spending a week carefully recording how you are actually spending your days. Before you do, you may be certain that you really don’t waste that much time. Afterwards, you will likely be quite surprised at what you learn.
Once you learn what activities and people are the most problematic, you can start creating strategies to deal with them. No, you don’t have to break off your relationship with your favorite work buddy, and you don’t need to delete social media from your phone. In fact, these can be the worst things you can do. You’ll just be distracted about what you are missing.
Instead, view these distractions as treats. Reward your productivity by allowing yourself to indulge in a satisfying distraction. Another strategy to try is designating a specific time each day or week to spend on these distractions uninterrupted. If you do this, you will lose the temptation to let these activities disrupt your productive time.
Nobody can avoid busy work and administrivia altogether. Still, it is important to keep it to a minimum.
Basically, things tend to run smoothly when people spend the lion’s share of their time doing the things they are good at. What does this mean? It means that when a task that isn’t within your wheelhouse rears its head, it may be time to pass that job on to someone else.
No, this is not laziness. It’s simply passing a task on to the person who is most qualified to do it. Likewise, you may find yourself having tasks passed on to you.
Remember that delegation isn’t just about people. You can also delegate work to apps and other technologies. For example, if you work in marketing there are several tools that can take care of email tracking and scheduling social media posts. As a student, you may have to complete tons of writing assignments. However, you can automate the process of citing your sources.
5. Set Short And Long Term Goals
“You've got to know what you want. This is central to acting on your intentions. When you know what you want, you realize that all there is left then is time management. You'll manage your time to achieve your goals because you clearly know what you're trying to achieve in your life.”
Patch Adams (Physician, comedian and author)
In many ways, Dr. Adams was right. However, simply knowing what you want isn’t enough.
You have to create concrete goals for both the short and long term. Next, write them down. This makes them real, and will create a feeling of obligation within you. Then, from those you build to do lists with action steps that you can take each day to make things happen for you. These to do lists will keep you on track because they’ll remind you of what you are trying to achieve.
There’s also something a bit satisfying about checking an item off on your to do list.
6. Identify Inefficiencies
Have you ever considered how many times each day you backtrack?
Think about it. Do you end up picking up your dry cleaning after work in the same block where you grab bagels for the office in the morning? Do you manage to pack your lunch, but struggle to figure out dinner in the evening?
If so, you may be missing out on opportunities to consolidate tasks and make your daily schedule work better for you. Try rearranging your daily schedule to close these gaps and make your schedule more efficient.
7. Find Ways to Keep Working
Believe it or not, you may be able to manage your schedule while still being busy with different activities.
Focus on the small moments of down time that you have. This can include riding the train into work or waiting for appointments. Use these moments as opportunities to catch up on small tasks such as reading emails or checking out articles that you haven’t had the chance to read.
Time management is a challenging concept to master. To improve your skills, you must know what is important to you, set goals, use to do lists, stay on top of distractions, and set priorities. People who are good at time management also spend as much time as possible working on tasks that maximize their talents and delegate the rest whenever possible. Follow the seven steps above to stay as productive as possible.
About the Author
Chris Mercer, pro writer, developer and founder of Citatior, a powerful academic formatting tool for the students, believes the future is bright if we’ll only let it be. He writes to help convince others to believe that too.