Time is strange… Sometimes it’s like it’s not there; look away from a clock for five minutes and time disappears. At the end of the day, how do you feel about what you did or didn’t do? Figuring out how to use your time more efficiently will not only help you at work, but also at home, on vacation and all throughout your life. These steps below can help you get started making greater use of your time:
Find A System | Have a system of lists that are grouped by project or context to help keep tasks organized. Also, determine your method. Digital lists can be easier to manage, and there are many options available. There are even apps and desktop task management systems that “talk” to each other, so no matter where you are, your tasks are accessible and in sync… and a lot of them are either free or available for a minimal fee. If you are not into all of the technical tools, use a good old fashion pen and paper. Most importantly, use what you feel comfortable with.
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Plan It Out | Use your goals to make action lists, with details such as phone numbers and dates. Trying to keep track of everything in your head creates unnecessary stress and anxiety. Take a few minutes at the beginning of every day to list your tasks. Next, prioritize each task. To help with this, ask yourself “What’s the value of getting this done?” and “What’s the risk if I don’t?” Once you see your goals concretely in front of you, it can make it easier to attain them. If you are trying to accomplish a large project, do not be intimidated by it. Simply identify each of the steps as separate tasks. Before you know it, that unattainable project becomes a completed project!
Delegate and Defer | If you feel there are things on your list that someone else can do for you, give it to them. It may take you some time to explain the goal and the process up front, but by doing so, you are creating a support system that will pay off when similar tasks arise in the future. You are also assisting with that employee’s growth! Initiating a next step can be what you need to take a project from a stand still to moving. While asking others for help might be scary, a project in motion is easier to redirect (not to mention accomplish) then one standing still! Employees, co-workers, or a child in need of some responsibility comes in handy here. Other tasks can be deferred to a calendar or added to an action list but assigned a due date at a later time.
Turn It Off | No matter how hard you try, you can count on one thing… distractions. It’s important to sharpen your focusing skills. Expect that sometimes employees, coworkers or managers may call you with a problem. Knowing beforehand that this can happen offers you a better chance of keeping your cool and not getting sidetracked. The beauty of a task management system is that even when you do get sidetracked, if used properly, you can pick right back up where you left off, which is at the top of your list.
There are circumstances you can control (turning your phone off) and some you cannot (a customer walking in). If you know your phone is going to interrupt you, turn it off, put it on DND or find a location away from the phone where you can devote some time to work, even if for a short time. Sometimes all you need is a moment to organize your thoughts and look at your list to put things in perspective and in order. Realizing what you can control is empowering and a great lesson in self-discipline. Having a good system helps sail the ship. Accept the waves and storms as part of the ride!
Take A Break | Finally, taking breaks will increase your efficiency. Giving yourself a few moments to settle down will help you maintain your focus. Don’t leave your work mid-sentence; finish your thoughts, then step away. A break can be refocusing on something that takes no creative or real mental powers, going to refill your water bottle or stepping outside for some fresh air. When you return to your tasks, you will approach them with a fresh outlook.
In the end, recognize that you are human. It’s hard to manage your time when it feels like there’s so much to do, but it all comes down to making your time work for you. You are the master of your day and you have the capacity to own that time! Thinking about the same task twice (or two, three, four times… you get the picture), is time wasted. This is time that could have been spent accomplishing another task. It’s just a matter of documenting and then doing!