How to manage your time effectively

How to manage your time effectively

It seems that there is never enough time in the day. Although everyone has the same 24 hours, some people still achieve so much more than others, and good time management is the key! By reading this article, you may improve your ability to be more effective, even when time is tight, and expectations are high. Being busy is not the same as being effective. Proper time management helps you work smarter, not harder, so you achieve more in less time.

First step: Fix and organize the time

It seems that the more we work, the more progress we make, but somehow this formula rarely works. The key to achieving our goals is not how much time we spend to get a result but how efficiently we operate. Here are a few tips you may follow first to manage your time:

  • Consider usually ignored, but such an obvious thing as your biological clock. In the book "Sleep for Success: Everything You Must Know About Sleep but Are Too Tired to Ask," the author shows the direct connection of sleep to your health, life, and your work efficiency and states that you may reach the peak of your productivity not working harder, but having a stable sleep schedule that has not less than 7 or 8 hours per day.
  • Break your working day into 2-hour blocks, where an hour and a half is work, and half an hour is a break. The main thing is to switch entirely so that the brain does not confuse your rest with an extra portion of the work. If you spend one and a half hours in front of the computer, but instead of going out for a walk or having a coffee break, you chat with someone on social networks, it will not have any effect. The brain and nervous system need a total switch of environment. 
  • Rest properly during your days off. Do not confuse the actual rest that you need with mindless phone browsing, grocery shopping, or doing home chores. Instead, dedicate time to yourself: read a book, watch a movie, meet with a friend or spend your day at home without guilt. You do not need to have burnout.
  • Stop multitasking. It reduces your efficiency and performance only because your brain can focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two or more things simultaneously, your brain cannot perform both tasks successfully. This research shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ.
  • Find out what you do during the day, and divide it into six groups: work, necessities (sleep, food, grocery, gym, etc.), "nothing" (social networks, waiting for transport, driving, queueing), routine (checking email, paperwork, house chores), entertainment, and studies. Once you narrow your list, you will see that most of the time is spent for groups "nothing" and routine, so review these, prioritize, or delegate.

Second step: Learn how to do everything and even more

If you still want to win some extra time, you may check the following ideas:

  • Wake up an hour earlier and do the things you always wanted to but have a hard time squeezing into your schedule. Mike Tyson, a former professional boxer, said: "No one wants to get up at 4 AM and run when it's pitch dark, but it has to be done, and the only reason why I do it so early is because I believe that the other guy isn't doing it and it gives me a little edge."
  • Eat that frog. Research shows that people tend to postpone tedious but essential and time-consuming tasks for later, and, as a result, such tasks remain unfulfilled. This task is what you need to do first, and then the day will run like clockwork.
  • Follow the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle (see more below). Understand which tasks are of critical importance, and direct the main energy towards solving these tasks by cutting off the parts that do not significantly impact reaching your goal.
  • Finish the projects that can be finished, and get rid of those that no longer make sense with no regrets for the effort already put into it. It will not only save you unnecessary effort but will allow you to pursue other projects that may be more successful.
  • Operate with numbers. Study and measure your efficacy towards routine tasks and look for ways how you may improve it.
  • Write down and analyze your goals and how you may achieve them: set a goal, identify the list of tasks for it, choose the tools that you will use, and spot obstacles that might come in your way. If you put all of this on paper, there will be more benefits than keeping it in your head.
  • Find your motivation and celebrate even little accomplishments. Get inspired with our collection of stock pictures

Third step: Get a little help (digital/paper planners, calendars)

One of the easiest ways to keep a schedule is using a pen and paper, organizing your time using a weekly planner. However, if you prefer the digital way, various apps and software such as Google Calendar or MS Outlook will do. The only criteria you should follow when choosing your planner is that, firstly, it should let you enter the data quickly, and, secondly, allow you to view an appropriate period in the level of detail that feels appropriate. 

Then, set a regular time to do your scheduling. Depending on the nature of your work, the start of every week or month is the best. Doing the scheduling well can maximize your effectiveness and reduce your stress levels. Follow this process for your convenience:

  • Identify the time you have available.
  • Record the essential tasks.
  • Schedule high-priority urgent tasks and vital activities.
  • Include the time for handling unpredictable events and interruptions.
  • Schedule your personal goals in the time that remains.
  • Analyze your schedule for the tasks which can be delegated, outsourced, or postponed.

Your schedule must have enough time for both professional and personal goals. If you have little to no time left when you reach step with personal goals, revisit your tasks to see if you can do them differently – otherwise, your work-life balance will suffer.

Fourth step: Remember principle 80/20

This principle, otherwise called Pareto Principle, is a specific asset allocation scheme. Pareto's law says: only 20% of the effort spent leads to 80% of the final result, and vice versa. It means, if we set the priorities right, it will lead us to the achievement of the planned results, while the rest of the effort will be ineffective and unjustified. Thus, the principle works the best for time management. 

Pareto principle implications:

  • The key factors are a few only, but there are a lot of insignificant ones, so only a small part of your actions will let you achieve the desired result;
  • Most of the actions we do, do not really help us achieve our goal;
  • It is impossible to create a perfect plan and consider every little detail since nobody canceled the unexpected results and hidden details;
  • The result will differ from the original goals no matter how well and hard we plan since the small details decide.

The implications of the 80/20 Pareto rule lead to the main conclusion: a small part of the efforts you direct to the concern allows you to achieve what you intended. The rest of the effort, sad to say, is a waste of resources, as it is unlikely to fully achieve the goals we set due to the presence of hidden factors.

Despite successful examples, the main flaw of the Pareto principle still exists. Even with full awareness of its essence, it is impossible to organize activities without spending 80% of the effort. According to the 80/20 rule, you will need to be honest with yourself and have discipline and motivation to improve your efficiency. Remember that removing all ineffective actions will not work, so focus on cutting off the most unnecessary moments, or figure out the most efficient processes and concentrate on them, as Richard Koch, the British investor, and business consultant, advises in his book. You may follow the algorithm below:

  • create a goal, set deadlines for achievement;
  • do a reality check on how much time you will need for your task, basing on the experience of other people and of your own;
  • collect all possible information related to your topics, such as successful/failed cases, theory, and practical experience;
  • examine and organize what was gathered, cut off the unnecessary information;
  • create to-do list;
  • study the list and eliminate the actions that have a minor impact on the final result but require a lot of time and effort;
  • reconsider the initial goal and deadlines set;
  • Implement the plan and adjust the strategy, if necessary.

Remember, it's okay to check your email every day, watch a movie or TV series you like, or listen to music, but these activities should not consume most of your time. Instead, try to focus on activities that bring 80% of the results, and it will help you get what you want.

What to do If time management stopped working?

Sometimes when we schedule tasks in the morning, divide them into important and minor ones, we receive a couple of urgent letters in the mailbox. Then, all of a sudden, we realize that the few newly added items are critical, which means all of our morning plans turn to dust. A similar situation occurs when we do our best to concentrate on some serious task but still want to check how many likes came over the night to the picture that we posted yesterday on Instagram because we keep seeing push notifications about the post.

So, what to do if we already live by and obey all the time management rules but still feel that the day should have more than 24 hours in it for us to finish everything? How do we find the right balance and rhythm of life if distractions are bound to happen, and we can no longer switch between tasks productively?

First of all, find out whether the things that you need to do, make sense, and ask yourself:

  • Why do you need to manage time at all? 
  • What value will you get as a result? 
  • How will your life change once you reach the goal?

Each next "why" takes us beyond a specific situation and helps us to look at it from the angle of our values and priorities. If what we do is vitally important for us and we are inspired by it, we can make it happen. If you experience the situation that the thing has different and equally essential meanings at the same time, none of which we are ready to sacrifice for the sake of others, ask yourself, how can you spend the time wisely as of the current moment. Be honest with yourself, and you will understand what is more valuable for you as of now. As you see, it's not about setting priorities once and for all, but about choosing what's important at this particular moment. If you are not sure whether the choice you are making now is correct, pay attention to how you feel: if you are happy and satisfied with your choice, it was the right thing to do.

Secondly, if we are anxious about the status of our project, we tend to mistake non-urgent and unimportant tasks for urgent ones. A calm, undistracted mind helps to see the true importance of things better. If your cell phone or social networks distract you, discipline your willpower if needed: turn off push notifications to most events while working on the crucial task that has to be done, and move all the tasks from cell phone to paper.

The third thing to consider is time. There are 24 hours in a day indeed, and the time does not flow at our will. However, one may feel the time stops when emotions are strong, and minutes stretch to hours while waiting or doing tedious work. For example, suppose we inadequately assess the tasks that we set for ourselves. In that case, the rest of the plans may collapse, and we will blame ourselves for missing the deadline, resulting in a lack of confidence and motivation. To prevent this, schedule the time you need to solve the problem and then compare it with the time spent. As a result, it will be easier for you to plan tasks of this kind in the future.

Lastly, figure out what your working pace is. Throughout the week, take notes on all your thoughts, phone calls, conversations, and activities. You will see clearly how your precious time is spent in detail, which may help you reorganize your schedule if needed. 

Today the world convinces us that there are no limits. Сommercials advise us to seize the moment and believe that the impossible is possible, that time is money. However, our lives are not a rat race, and we are limited by time, physiological needs, genetics, economics, politics, etc. We still need to consider our body clock, have enough sleep and energy, and remember that it is physically impossible to do everything exactly as planned, so you should not have any regrets. Even if none of these steps may work for you, just listen to yourself and what you need to do, see the opportunities, and make the most of them. We wish you good luck, and keep up the excellent work! 

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