If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ve landed on others before it in an attempt to find a way to better manage your time. There are plenty of proven time management techniques that have stood the test of, well, time. Maybe you’re now reading this because you’ve tried out a technique here and there, had some success, but couldn’t seem to quite make them work for you.
Here’s the thing. You’ve got to start by changing your perspective. You need to make these into more than just time management techniques. You have to make them habits.
We all know how easy it is to form bad habits. Sometimes they’re the result of nervousness, like biting your nails. Sometimes they’re for pleasure, like always super sizing that burger to include a donut bun. Whatever the case, a bad habit isn’t going to serve you in the long-run.
Getting on board with a new habit takes some time and commitment. But once you create habits from these time management techniques, the long-term effects will be completely to your benefit. Unlike a belly full of grease. Or nail clippings.
Take a look at your food choices
Speaking of donut-burgers, the importance of what you use to fuel your body should not be underrated. But what does this have to do with time management techniques?
Well, think about it. Effective time management pivots on optimal performance. In other words, you are what you eat. To use a machinery metaphor, you’re going to perform better with clean fuel, as opposed to the sludge at the bottom of the tank. Fresh juice vs. chocolate milk shake.
Forming good eating habits is tough. So take it a little at a time. Start with a couple of days per week subbing out nuts for potato chips or fruit for candy during snack time. Keep frozen cherries, blueberries or grapes in the freezer to appease and numb out your sugar tooth. And hang out with others who eat healthy. It’s a solidarity thing.
Be patient and give yourself time. Once you develop these healthier eating habits, you’ll begin to become aware that the holy trifecta of comfort food ingredients – fat, sugar and salt – do much more to drag you down and leave you feeling drained and unproductive than they do to make you happy. And when you feel physically better, you can be more effective and better able to manage your time.
Get enough sleep
Just like food, sleep is also fuel. And since the time-saving benefits that come from creating healthy eating habits can be achieved from forming healthy sleeping habits, it could indeed be regarded as a time management technique.
Sleep is major fuel for your brain. And lack of it compromises the processes you need to perform effectively. In a 2013 White Paper, Carol Connolly, Marian Ruderman and Jean Brittain Leslie state that, “lack of sleep can cause problems for all employees; it can leave [an] organization vulnerable to safety and productivity gaps.” And if you have trouble getting to sleep, there are countless articles that give helpful tips.
There’s no solid science behind it, but it’s safe to say that zombies don’t perform well at work. Furthermore, they don’t perform well at home. Simply put, when you get enough sleep, you don’t have to waste so much time with a frazzled mind trying to stay awake.
Start making lists
This time management technique is tried and true.
According to strategic advisor and business consultant Dan Kennedy, “There is not a single time management discipline or system on earth that doesn’t revolve around making and using lists. You cannot carry it all in your head.”
It’s not as old school as it sounds. Get it out of your head that you must be consigned to some dreary candle-lit corner, feather pen in hand, to construct your lists. You can do them on your phone even. Organization is a desirable outcome of any time management technique, and making lists will certainly help you find and maintain some order in your life.
Possible lists to consider:
At work –
- Things to do
- People to call
- Places to be
- Things to do
- People to call
- Places to be
(Are you seeing a pattern here?)
Bottom line is, most of us have a lot going on and making lists will ultimately help you to save time and clear space in your brain for remembering the important stuff. Like where you parked your car.
Keep your focus on one task at a time
Once you start getting in the habit of making lists, it won’t take long before you see what a simple technique it is for managing your time at work and at home.
The tricky part about a list though is that when you’re suddenly faced with everything that needs to be done, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In order to effectively manage your time, the rule of thumb here is to first pick the two or three tasks on the list that are most crucial. Then, do them one at a time, staying completely focused on the task at hand.
Once you can check those crucial tasks off the list, give yourself permission to see the day as a success. If there’s ample time to do more, tackle another, giving yourself a realistic time limit. If you’ve reached the end of the day, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Walk away. Your list will still be there tomorrow.
Invest in timesaving apps
So it’s obvious that a time saving app is going to help you manage your time. It’s right there in the name.
But not all apps are created equal. Unless it cleans your windows or rubs your feet at night, it’s pretty easy to forget about an app. (Eventually the novelty wears off from hearing your voice on helium or keeping track of how many bad thoughts you have each day. It’s depressing.)
With an app that’s designed to help you save time though, it’s a different story. There are plenty of them out there – whether you want to better manage your time in your home life, when traveling or at work. And there are apps geared toward specific industries, like running a restaurant, as well as for specific jobs, from managers to farmers to human resources and everything in between.
The wide availability of these apps, along with their ease of use, makes investing in them one of the simpler time management techniques on the list.
Make use of waiting times
If you’re human, it’s likely you have some time each day where you’re idle. It could be in a waiting room, on public transportation, on the elliptical, whatever. You may already have a use for this time and that’s great. Particularly if it’s to still your mind or engage in deep breathing, both of which are techniques to bring you back to center and help you manage time and life with more ease.
But if you’re consistently using that time to complain on FaceBook or follow your neighbor’s uncle’s cat’s Instagram account, you are missing out on a premium time management technique here.
Sure, it might be a nice distraction to check out three different videos of muskrats on skateboards. You might even justify it by doing a deep analysis of the different boarding styles of each rodent. But if you’re struggling to find more time, wouldn’t that time be better spent catching up on emails, texts or calls you haven’t yet been able to address? Or catching up on important reading? Or paying bills online? Or making lists?
Block off time for you
You might be thinking, this sounds less like a time management technique and more like a time waster.
It’s always a good time management technique to block out time for yourself on a regular basis. I’m not talking about blocking out a weekend to go to Las Vegas or Tijuana though (which frankly, for me, would be a tremendous waste of time). Vacation time is important, but this is something different that will help toward managing your time more effectively.
Locking out time is leaving time open in your schedule to attend to the things that tend to fall by the wayside. So perhaps you block out an hour or two every Friday, for example, to catch up on phone calls. Or you block out the first Tuesday morning of every month and allocate that open time to take care of anything on which you’ve fallen behind.
This helps you to not over schedule and then have to scramble for time doing the juggling act required to reschedule.
Get a grip on the internet habits
I have a giant sweet potato in my kitchen.
Again, what does this have to do with time management techniques?
See, the world is full of delicious distractions. The siren call for me today – right now – is the online world of sweet potato recipes. I am ignoring it because at this juncture, it is not crucial to my writing this article on time management techniques. Such sweet irony.
So yeah. I get it. The internet has a way of luring us in and trying to get us believe that everything on it is important. If you’re not careful, you will not only waste a lot of time, but you may start believing that it’s of utmost important that you engage in the latest trend of eating tree bark.
Just like changing those eating habits, restricting your time on the internet can be tough and you may find it best to do it little by little to begin. But once you do, you’ll find a certain peace. It’s partially the result of not stressing about having enough time, as well as lessening the frequency at which you fill your head to capacity with marshmallow fluff.
Remember that you’re human
When all is said and done, this article is intended to help steer you toward effective time management techniques that will benefit you in every aspect of your life.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to remember that you’re not a robot. That you can’t always get to everything you had hoped you would. Nobody can. And nobody does. Yet the world carries on somehow.
Simply make an effort to incorporate some of these time management techniques into your life until they become habits. Be patient. Then just do your best to get done what matters. Remembering that you can only do so much will save you a lot of time and unneeded stress in the long-run.