Often, we find ourselves at the mercy of time. We miss important events, are late to appointments, and miss out on quality time.
The real reason behind this frustrating chain of events is poor time management.
When we prioritize time management, we take full charge of our day. We get quality work done and improve our overall mood.
Let’s introduce 9 ways to improve your time management skills and conquer time.
1. Fix Your Sleep Schedule
When you don’t get sleep, you get tired. When you are tired, you are in a bad mood. Bad mood fuels most of your poor time management decisions. It’s a vicious cycle.
Biologically, we are wired to perform when we are rested and feel tired when we drain our energy. It’s a simple cycle of sleep and rest, perform and sleep. This is called the circadian clock or a 24-hour behavior cycle.
Getting 7-8 hours of good quality sleep is the first step towards time management success. While it’s often recommended to sleep during the night, many work night shifts. Hence, we can’t maintain a night sleep cycle.
Either way, whether you sleep during the day or night, an optimum sleep cycle is necessary to jump-start your energy levels.
At full energy, we are pushed to optimum performance.
Simple tips to sleep well are –
- Practice relaxation techniques like meditation or breathing exercises before going to bed
- Write down your thoughts in a journal
- Avoid caffeine 4-5 hours before your sleeping time
- Don’t nap at random hours of the day
- A quiet environment gives you good quality sleep
- Ensure a cool internal environment
- Wear comfortable clothes for a good night’s rest
- Don’t eat heavy before you head to bed
- Practice a strict sleep and wake-up regimen
2. Have a Daily Routine
From the time you wake up until you go back to bed, it’s necessary to develop a pattern of routine.
Humans are creatures of habit and through habit, we have developed mastery over distractions.
To break the habit of distraction, it’s necessary to practice a healthy set of daily tasks. Think of these errands as mandatory duties and promise yourself to never skip them.
Let’s take a few tasks for example to incorporate into your daily life.
- Make the bed when you get up (it saves you time when going back to sleep)
- Exercise early when your energy levels are at their peak
- Check email for important events (limit yourself to 1-2 email checks a day)
- Meal prep for the week instead of making meals every day (saves precious time!)
- Give yourself a fixed time to finish up your morning duties (shower, get ready, etc.)
- Organize your daily events into a work journal (write down the most important ones first)
- Activate the silent mode on your phone during your work hours (important calls can be filtered through)
- Give yourself 5-minute breaks to stretch and hydrate
- Eliminate gossip and other office banter to ensure you concentrate on peak work performance
- At the end of the workday, give yourself quality time (watch tv, go for a walk, listen to music, etc.)
- Read a book before bed or meditate to get into your rest mode
You don’t have to follow every task listed here to the dot. Make changes appropriate to your lifestyle. A routine like this lets you create a schedule for your daily lifestyle.
Following a schedule consistently, converts it into a habit.
3. Set Realistic Goals
After watching a motivational video for the 100th time, you promise yourself to stay clear of distractions.
You go ahead and create a lengthy list of long-term goals and daily tasks.
Skip to 2 days later and nothing is going according to your intended plan.
When motivated, you believe anything is possible and set large goals. Unfortunately, it works against you and you fail at your goals. Making you feel disappointed.
The reason people fail at organizing themselves is because of unrealistic goals.
Imagine you never wrote a book or ran a marathon. But you promise yourself to write 10,000 words and run 10 blocks.
These impractical goals prevent you from achieving the little milestones.
Instead of writing 10,000 words, start with 100 words a day. Increase it to 500 words the week after, and 1,000 by the month-end.
Start with walking a block around your neighborhood and increase it gradually. Over time, you’ll notice your energy levels increase.
Think of your goal as a large chocolate cake. If you ate the whole cake in one sitting, you’ll get a sick stomach. However, it’s perfectly fine to eat one slice daily and you’ll finish the cake in a week.
4. Track Time via Technology
When you don’t have a timetable of activities you’re supposed to do. It’s no wonder that you lose track of time.
That’s where tracking time is critical, to control it.
Use an application like Google Calendar to layout events and daily tasks. The app even reminds you of the intended time.
When you track your entire day’s schedule, it becomes convenient to access your events and prevent yourself from missing important tasks.
5. Focus on One Assignment at a Time
Multitasking isn’t as effective as it’s made out to be. Driving and dancing are impossible. So is brushing your teeth while taking a shower.
Instead, focus on the task at hand and complete it as soon as possible in the best possible way.
Higher quality work comes from laser focusing on your task.
A good way to maintain focus is to stick to the task at hand no matter what.
For example – if you find yourself driving and your phone rings – you either park to the side and answer the call or reach your destination and call back. Don’t juggle between driving and talking as it could have a tragic end.
If you have many assignments for the week, don’t pack everything into a single day. Break it down throughout the week. Sacrifice your break time but focus on one task at a time.
6. A Clean Workspace is a Must
A cluttered workplace shows little to no organizational skills. In fact, everyone’s work desk is a reflection of their mind.
The more cluttered their workplace is the more stress they harbor.
Declutter your workplace. Think of it as a revered place that must be respected. After all, it’s where 100% of your work time is spent.
Organizing your desk also lets you reap the praises of your work colleagues and lets you access things in a jiffy.
Promise yourself to always clean your work desk at the end of the workday. This lets you access a clean work desk the next working day.
File documents in their appropriate files. Store stationery in a box for easy retrieval.
7. Activate Different Alarm Times to Remind You
When we dive into our work, we forget there are other important events about to unfold.
Let’s say you had to file a report by 10 a.m. and make it to a meeting by 10:30. That’s where the power of setting an alarm comes in.
Schedule your alarm multiple times for various important events. Now, focus completely on your work. Ensure that your alarms aren’t on silent mode.
When the time comes, your mobile device will remind you of the event, and you can quickly switch your focus over to the event.
Every modern smartphone comes with an alarm app.
Let’s say you needed a power nap, set an alarm mode to remind you after 15 minutes. Now enjoy your quick rest without worrying about oversleeping.
8. Take Breaks Often
Let’s converse about the energizing effect of taking short breaks.
Breaks pause the buildup of stress and give yourself an ‘off switch’ from work.
Quick breaks are usually used as –
- A way to relieve mental tension
- Stretch yourself from long periods of sitting at your desk
- Hydrate and have a quick snack (periods of refilling energy)
- To watch funny videos on YouTube (again destress)
- A quick stress management technique
- Distract yourself momentarily from work fatigue
Disconnecting from work through small short breaks works well. Depending on your work, taking 7-10 small breaks of 5-15 minutes every day is great for your mind and body.
9. Deadlines are Sacred
Deadlines build character, and responsibility, and most importantly – improve time management.
Whenever you hit your deadlines and make it on time, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Postponing deadlines once or twice is understandable and very human.
However, deadlines that change dates frequently are a sign of poor time management skills.
Here are a few ways to hit your deadlines on time –
- Give realistic deadlines with a few days of backup time (If the work can be finished in 5 days, a week’s deadline is appropriate)
- Tracking time can help you deliver on your deadlines
- Be mindful of other coworkers and their deadlines
- Plan deadlines with accuracy and don’t create longer deadlines than necessary
- If there’s a deadline, start your work on Day 1 and not Day 20
The psychology behind missing deadlines is that we think we can complete our work towards the last few days of the deadline. This causes us to lapse on our work and pick up at the last phase of the deadline. Which then causes us to push the deadlines to later dates with poor excuses.
Overall, deadlines should be seen as a sacred work commitment that must be honored sensibly.
Behind every successful person, is a perfectly organized schedule.
Success is unanimous with time management. Being punctual to an appointment or a meeting shows responsibility and a strong personality.
With a simple tweak in your daily routine, you get better control of your time. You let yourself balance between work and life.
In short, time management lets you be the most productive during your work time and lets you plan the most out of your free time.
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