Did you know February is national time management month? Time management is one of the hardest and most important life skills we need. Our lives are literally made up of time, so it’s essential that we learn how to manage it well.
Taking steps to reduce interruptions while you work is one of the best things you can do to accomplish more throughout your day. Research shows it takes roughly 20-25 minutes to get back into flow after changing tasks. If you successfully avoid three interruptions, you’ve won back over an hour of your time. Some interruptions are worth saying “yes” to, so focus your efforts on avoiding unnecessary ones, like checking your phone or email too frequently or for reasons unrelated to what you’re doing in the moment.
Discover and maximize your personal productivity peaks
Everyone has the potential to be more or less productive under certain circumstances. Many people find their most productive time is the morning. Some people thrive after a power nap. Others notice what they eat or drink has a big impact on their ability to get into and maintain flow. Pay attention to and reflect on the times you feel most focused. What was (and wasn’t) going on during and before it happened? What the time of day was it? Once you find your sweet spot(s), recreate those circumstances as best you can and plan to get your most important work done then whenever possible.
When in doubt, over-estimate how long something will take
Did you know people tend to under-estimate the amount of time it takes to do things they do frequently, and over-estimate the amount of time doing something new will take? Learning to accurately estimate time is one of the trickiest parts of time management. I’ve written a whole post about honing that skill. You might think you’re not making the best of use of time if you misallocate it somewhere that it wasn’t needed by over-estimating. But in reality, the worst-case scenario is that you’ll end up with a little extra downtime, which really isn’t bad at all.
Make use of unexpected downtime and commutes
Always have a plan for something specific to do during commutes*, extra minutes to “kill” from arriving early, waiting in waiting rooms, etc. If you happen to have a low-key fear of arriving early, this is the antidote. Smart phones make it easy to read e-books and articles, deal with some email, or watch an interesting video, but don’t limit your options to your phone. You can take can analog route with hard copy books, papers to grade, or a sketchbook as well. If possible, pick something you can start and stop on a whim. See how you can squeeze whatever you’d like to have more time for into some of your chunks of in-between time. If you’re short on you-time, there’s no shame in using this time to relax with something fun like a game.
*If you are driving on your commute, you can relax with some new music you want to check out, a podcast, or an audio book. Even if you’re going to be sitting in stop-and-go, pick something that doesn’t require your full focus or your eyes.
Thinking in advance about what you want to use this kind of time for will also help you feel better about your commute and life in general, which makes you more productive in general by keeping your positive momentum rolling.
Get your space organized
The more organized your stuff is, the less time you’ll waste looking for things, getting distracted, and making unnecessary shopping trips. A lot of time management boils down to learning how to organize time.
I know the title promised these were easy, and this one may not be for you. If getting organized is hard because you’re overwhelmed, email me at Miranda@wiselyorganized.net to set up a free consultation call to see if hands-on or virtual organizing is a good fit for you.
Decide to outsource
Delegation really is an art. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you need to be the person that does it, nor does it mean you’re the best person for the job. I learned all about web design in college. I could have made this website for my business. It would have taken a long time, been a little fun but mostly frustrating, and wouldn’t look nearly as awesome. Instead, I hired a fantastic web designer who I worked with collaboratively. The only tasks you never want to delegate are the things you’re good at and enjoy doing.
Basic household tasks can be delegated without breaking the bank. It’s possible to hire a housekeeper just once a month for some deep cleaning. You can have groceries delivered to your house for a small fee. High school aged neighbors can be hired for yard work. By the time my daughter was 18 months old she knew how to put her dirty laundry down the chute, throw away trash, and pick up her room. Perhaps your spouse could pick up some slack. The delegation solutions are out there; you just have to decide they’re important enough to find.
Prioritization is something that needs to be done consciously. Otherwise, even if you're very "busy" you won't necessarily be productive. What’s urgent is not always what’s actually important. Get clear on what really matters. Put your focus there. What is the most important thing you need to do today? What about the top three? Are those extensions of your top priorities in life? Ask yourself these questions on a regular basis. Prioritization is the heart of time management.
Mastering the skill of time management is a lifelong endeavor. Time management systems need to be tweaked when life transitions such as a new baby, move, or the next level of school occur. Time management month is a great time to evaluate your lists, calendars, priorities, and expectations.
What time management technique have you implemented that’s made the biggest impact on your life? Share in the comments!
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