Time management is a skill that many of us seem to learn through necessity. The problem with learning a skill through necessity is that, more often than not, bad habits creep in and, although the skill may be useful in general, we do not use it to its full potential.
Taking the time to read up on improving your time management skills can lead to great rewards.
Some examples are:
- The elimination of procrastination and avoidance-of-tasks
- Easier, quicker, evaluation of your work and abilities
- Less worrying about deadlines
- More productivity
- More relaxation time, and,
- The obvious one) An overall increase in time
Here are a handful of tips to consider:
- Make Lists: Write as much down as you can. If you don’t carry a planner or notebook already, start. Personally, I’ve always preferred a small, simple, white-lined notebook because you aren’t restricted by the various boxes and lines of the average planner.
A simple To Do List is often a huge help to anyone, but I can attest gleefully to the 3 Lists of 3 Method more than any other. You’re goal is to avoid a list that reaches outrageous length and is overwhelming to even look at.
- Make Use of Down Time: Using walking, driving, showering, or otherwise “dead” times to plan. Think about what your goals are for that day or the next. Which goals are most important? Prioritization is the key.
- Reward Yourself: Whenever you accomplish something, especially the important things, make sure to take the time to reward yourself. A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess’ used the “Martini Method” to get things done. Burgess set a goal of 1,000 words per day. When he finished his word count, he’d relax with a martini and take the day off. Maybe a martini isn’t the ideal reward for some of us, but the method stands useful.
- Concentrate on One Thing: The human mind works more efficiently when it is focused. As we’ve seen before multitasking is actually a disadvantage to productivity. Focus on one thing and get it done. Take care not to bleed tasks into each other. At times, multitasking may seem like a more efficient route, but it is probably not.
- Avoid Procrastination at All Costs: When trying to be more productive and trying to save time, procrastination should be avoided like nothing else. It is the ultimate productivity-killer.
- Set Personal Deadlines: Nobody likes deadlines. They cause stress, aggravation, worry, and, more stress. A guaranteed way to alleviate some of this stress is to set your own earlier deadlines. Be realistic but demanding of yourself. Challenge yourself and, referring to tip 3, reward yourself for a meeting a difficult challenge. Not only will this save you time and make you more productive in the long run, but you will also have a buffer time with little to no penalties compared to those received for missing a real deadline. Of course, this tip has potential for abuse, so be sure to make your own penalties for missing your personal deadlines.
- Delegate Responsibilities: It is not uncommon for people to take on more than they can handle. The overestimation of one’s abilities, though not necessarily a bad thing, can often result in stress and more work for an individual. To avoid this unnecessary stress, do not feel bad about delegating tasks.
- Set up a Long Term Planner: In the everyday drab of life, we can often lose sight of our goals. Setting up a long term planner will help you envision your long term goals and rationalize your current objectives. Whenever you find yourself thinking “Why am I putting myself through this work right now? I could be home watching Lost.” just take a look at your long term planner and you’ll be reminded of paying off your mortgage or saving up enough for your child’s college tuition. Revise this long term planner monthly to keep goals up-to-date.
- Employ a program like RescueTime: This is a lightweight app that records and graphs how you spend your time on your computer. Those “2-minute” breaks to check out Digg, or play a flash game on some website, or email Aunt Betty, can add up to quite a bit of wasted productivity and wasted time. RescueTime will allow you to see exactly how you spent your time and will even send a weekly report to your email.
- Work in a Team: This tip works hand-in-hand with tip # 7. Although giving up responsibilities is a scary thought for some, it is an invaluable method to increase the average team productivity of all involved. Make sure the team goals are clear and make sure everyone knows who is responsible for given tasks. Make sure all lines of communication are always open. A clogged or blocked line will have the opposite effect on productivity. Give tasks to those who are best suited for them and things will get done faster.
- Be Careful to Avoid Burnout: Burnout occurs when your body and mind can no longer keep up with the tasks you demand of them. Don’t try to force yourself to do the impossible. Delegate time for important tasks, but always be sure to leave time for relaxation and reflection. Review your recent accomplishments and make sure you feel good. Review and reflection is one of the best ways to gain confidence and higher confidence means more productivity.
Written by Tim Bridge of PersonaDev.com.