Series for Success: Time Management When You Don’t Have Time!
There’s never enough time. We all have the same 24 hours to work with, but why is it that some people seem to get tons of things done and others not so much? The obvious answer for those of us who seem to not have enough time is to get rid of the things that waste time and maximize productivity. That’s easier said than done!
We did a little research to try and make the transition a little easier for you. Whether you have a busy job at the office, work from home, are a stay at home parent, someone managing a household or even a retired person, it’s not unusual to feel like you should be managing your time better. Here are some tips to help you out.
It’s All About the Routine
Whether you think you have one or not, you do have a routine, even if it’s all over the place. For example, there are probably things you do when you get out of bed every morning; use the bathroom, brush your teeth, drink coffee or have something to eat. These things probably happen no matter when or even where you wake up.
People who are successful tend to have something in their wake up routines that kick start their productivity and get their brains on track. Some of them journal. Many people exercise. Others simply eat a healthy breakfast.
A routine before bed is important as well. The key is doing things that will help you wind down. You can cook a nice dinner, do some reading, or even watch tv. This is a signal to your body that it’s time to shift into “me” time.
As old school as it is, list making works! The key is finding what works for you. Some people do better with old fashioned paper and pens and there are a lot of apps and productivity software that can help you make lists. Checking off those items is really satisfying to a lot of people.
Make your list making something that you will stick with. A dry erase board in the kitchen or in your office is a visible reminder of what needs to be done. Other people use a desk calendar, write down their tasks for the day and check them off. Another idea is to get a cute notebook and use colored pens. If it’s what you need to make list-making attractive, go for it!
This one might sound odd to someone who is chronically out of time, but good time managers make time to plan their time. It only takes ten minutes at the end of the productive part of your day.
Make a list of the top three things you want or need to accomplish the next day then prioritize the other things you want to get done. Put everything on your list and do it the day before so that in the morning, you start fresh. Of course stuff happens and things come up that you can’t plan for. But if you sort out your priorities ahead of time, it’s a little bit less jarring in the event that something comes up.
Find Your Peak Time
All of us have times of the day where we seem to get more done. Knowing when your energy is highest can help limit your wasting time during those windows. Not everyone is super productive at the same time.
If you feel like you get most done mid-morning, schedule the most meaty projects during that time. If you’re an early morning or night person, you can do the same. Shift your schedule as much as you can and evaluate how you feel. If you find yourself more focused and making more progress with your goals, great! If not, take another look and try again.
We live in a time where there is an app for everything. Even if you are a paper and pen list maker, there is likely something techy that will help you make the most of your time. Online calendars and digital timers can help some people stick with the task at hand.
Apps like Toggl Task can help you figure out where you are wasting your time by allowing you to track your tasks and run reports. ClickUp is a website where you can create a workflow and move tasks, step by step, as you complete them. Trello and Basecamp are other project management sites where you can get an overview of what needs to be done and when.
Interruptions come in many forms. Maybe it’s that coworker who likes to chat at your desk. Or if you work from home, you might have someone around who seems to constantly need something. When it’s a person who interrupts, location is the key. Physically separating yourself (if you can) is helpful. Drop hints to that chatty coworker or wear headphones. Sometimes just looking busy is a visual cue. If you’re a parent with kids at home, optimize nap time or find a distraction or outside activity so you can focus. If it’s a pet, take them for a walk and tire them out (actually, you can do the same with a kid!).
Technology is both a blessing and a curse. There are people who pick up their phone to check on something and end up getting sucked in by social media. It’s easy to waste hours just scrolling or going down rabbit holes. Start to become more aware of what you are doing. Or set one of those task timers. That way when you need a short mental break, the alarm will let you know it’s time to get back at it!
Block Out Time
For some of us, planning hour by hour sounds good in theory but can make you feel overwhelmed. And we all know that stuff happens, interruptions will pop up, and some tasks may end up taking longer than others. But time blocking is a strategy that allows you to use multiple hours to get through a daily task list.
Have you ever dealt with someone who only takes meetings between 10-12 on Tuesday and Thursday? This person is using the blocking method! They’ve set aside a certain block and prioritized this time for interaction with others. Of course if you’ve blocked meetings for 1-3 on Wednesdays, you will need to work together, but if you prioritize and plan, changing things up occasionally won’t be a big deal.
You can set up time blocks for people interaction like meetings or checking and responding to emails. Other blocks can be for doing focused work like writing, strategy, or crunching numbers. You will probably want to do those things during your peak times!
Make Time a Priority
If you’re someone who feels overwhelmed and can’t figure out how to get it together, learning to manage your time is a great place to start! Once you put everything aside and come up with a plan, you’ll start to feel like everything is a bit more manageable.
Start small with daily habits. Over time, you’ll figure things out and notice you seem to be getting a lot more done than ever before!