The idea of planning, scheduling, and creating to-do lists can take the wind out of the sails of many who see this as a waste of time. This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, proper time management is not a fallacy; it is possible, and it does depend mainly on the factors mentioned.
Its benefits are undeniable and work not only towards greater productivity but also aid in reducing stress and making more time available. There is, however, no one size fits all option, and, ideally, you would want to find a method that works for you.
Preparation and planning
The very first step to effective time management lies in your planning and this entails more than just knowing how to prioritize or writing down a list of things to do. Planning is personal, and without even realizing it, your personality goes a long way in determining your most productive time of day.
For instance, identifying whether you're a morning person or a night owl will reveal your most alert time of day. Once you've established this, other challenges like prioritizing and creating daily schedules become a little easier to do. Planning also involves identifying an optimal work environment and adapting it to your need.
Whether it's a home office or a space in a corporate building, you need to identify triggers that may cause distraction and make little changes that enable you to be both comfortable and productive.
With this being said, several practical methods are effective in assisting you with good time management, and we will highlight 3 of these below.
The Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time management technique that allows you alternate work sessions called pomodoros with frequent breaks. This method results in greater focus with sustained concentration.
It consists of picking a task, setting a 25-minute timer, and working until the timer is up. You then take a short 5-minute break which is increased by 15 -30 minutes after every four pomodoros. This method works well for those who struggle with distractions.
It is no secret that many professionals struggle with discipline, and timeboxing is a fantastic technique that promotes discipline and helps with prioritizing that ultimately leading to productive time management. It involves defining tasks you would like to finish, determining how long you would like to work on them, and completing them within that timeframe.
You need to know how your time is spent, and, in the beginning, this involves auditing your time spent on tasks for at least a week. A time tracker like Daily is very useful for this task. Next, all you need to do is open your calendar and enter an amount or block of time that you will be spending on a particular task, and stick to it.
The benefits of timeboxing
Do you find that you struggle with starting your day? Or perhaps that you avoid certain projects for no particular reason? This can be overcome by timeboxing. Timeboxing offers a range of benefits, including:
Catching up on tasks that you've avoided by procrastination;
Allowing you to determine how much time you will allocate to a task;
Boosting productivity and focus;
Better planning and scheduling.
Effective execution of timeboxing
Timeboxing is simple enough to execute but takes the willingness to succeed. It can, however, be made even easier with the use of various tools. For example, Daily periodically asks what you're doing, helping you to keep your focus on a specific task.
Time blocking is another useful method that facilitates better control over your workday. This method allows you to segment your day by dividing it into blocks of time that are allocated to a task or a group of tasks. So, for instance, specific blocks of time will be allocated to answering emails, meetings, or creating invoices. You can even schedule your social media time along with any breaks that you take during the day.
Distractions come in many shapes and forms, and we often don't even realize that they're distractions because they're still part of our daily work. You may find your time being sapped by continuous telephone calls or emails that are constantly "urgent" and need to be responded to now.
The entire goal of time management is to improve productivity, and even though these tasks are actual work, they pull you away from the task at hand. In addition to this, multitasking is another time stealer. It is no secret that multitasking is the driver of error, given that you're attempting to give equal focus to more than one task at a time and undoubtedly end up not giving any of them the attention that they need. This results in rework and loss of time. The cardinal rule is to avoid multitasking at all costs, and time blocking is the perfect resource to enable this.
The benefits of time blocking
Once you've identified time wasters, you're in an ideal position to know how to deal with them in the future. However, with time blocking, this process is simplified even further. Planning each day and scheduling time blocks facilitates increased focus.
Think about it - you already know what you need to work on and when, so you avoid spending countless minutes or hours wondering what to next or where to start.
Execution of time blocking
As an effective time management tool, time blocking works best when planned in advance. At the end of each workday, you're able to identify any incomplete tasks and schedule new assignments for the next day.
There are also other variations of the time blocking method that are as effective, meaning that there's no excuse not to give it a go. These variations include:
Task batching - grouping similar tasks into one block of time. It's simple to use and just entails you categorizing tasks and working on each category as per your allocated time block.
Day theming - this method is ideal for professionals that have multiple areas to focus on. For example, if you're running a business and you deal with finance, human resources, and sales and marketing all simultaneously, day theming is the perfect option for you. Day theming allows you to allocate full days to specific areas.
The difference between timeboxing and time blocking
Although these methods are often confused, they're quite different in the functions that they offer. Tim boxing is a concept built on the imposition of time limits on specific tasks. For instance, a user may decide to finish creating invoices between 8 am and 10 am on a specific day. It's task and time-specific.
On the other hand, time blocking will look like this - the user decides that they are going to work on creating invoices from 8 am to 10 am on a specified day. There isn't a built-in need to actually finish those tasks.
Effective time management - what to avoid
While nothing is set in stone, it is easy to either over or under-schedule time allocated to tasks. Anything worthwhile takes time and effort, and if you adopt either method, you have to do so with the understanding that your first week is basically trial and error.
Time management is an art and one that will eventually be mastered with patience and perseverance. Below are challenges that you would want to avoid, with some practical ideas of how to overcome them:
Underestimating time - allocate a little extra time to avoid a shortfall. This time can always be filled in with other tasks that may not have had a spot in your day. Alternatively, you could allocate open blocks or boxes for this particular reason. On the flip side, time tracking tools are again the ideal option that works excellently with these methods.
Don't be too stringent - allow for some flexibility. Remember that unplanned things will crop up at the most unexpected times and possibly ruin your plans. Time tracking software is very advantageous in situations like these since you will still be able to receive and analyze your productivity reports.
Breaks and leisure - let's be realistic, it can't be all work and no play. You need to have a break, and if you're aiming to improve your time management, these breaks will be scheduled. Rather than over-scheduling time for your leisure, think about what you actually do in this time. If you're surfing the net or going onto social media, again, allocate specific times for this.
Effective time management is the key to increased and improved productivity. Making simple changes like creating a to-do list or finding your most productive time of day are vital components to getting it right. If you find yourself constantly missing deadlines, not knowing how to prioritize, or even just procrastinating because you feel overwhelmed, then this is your way of taking that control back.
The benefits of using methods like timeboxing and time blocking are not emphasized enough, and together with an effective time tracking tool you can expect to see better decision making, greater control, more focus, and far less stress that ultimately will lead to smoother running of your daily work