Is this you?
You feel like you have too much to do, and not enough time?
You feel like you’re juggling far too many balls, and spinning plates desperately trying to keep everything from toppling over?
You feel exhausted at the end of your work day, even though you didn’t achieve everything that you wanted to, and your to do list is just as long as when you started?
If you’re saying YES! Don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone.
Here in the 21st Century we might have all the gadgets and gizmo’s designed to help us be more streamlined and productive, but we also all like to squeeze as much as we can out of day which means we really could do with some handy time management skills under our belt to help us out.
Working like this may seem great to begin with, but doing it for any length of time is a bit like having all your apps open on your phone. Yes it might be super handy, but after a while it will start to run slow and so will you. Leaving you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and if you’re not careful…burnt out.
So how do we have our cake and eat it?
I’m a massive believer in that with the right mindset, and some fantastic time management skills in your back pocket, you’ll soon start to feel more in control of your day. So give these 8 tips a try.
Be fussy with your list
To-do lists are a fantastic time management tool. However, only if they’re used properly (we’ll come onto that in a moment) and one of the traps that I see people falling into over and over again is the fact that everything makes it onto their list.
Yes you might need to remember to call Jack, or send an email to Fred or even to book a dentist appointment but it doesn’t all have to go on your list – as when things are on your list there’s a massive temptation to get them done just so you can feel the sense of achievement of crossing them off. But by doing that you’re not spending time on things that really require your attention.
Instead have a separate note pad for little things and dedicate some time for those quick tasks at a certain point in your day, and only put things on your list that add real value for you – and focus on those.
Delegate / outsource your time
Your time is valuable so do a quick audit and see what keeps taking up your time that you could actually delegate to a member of your team, or outsource to someone who can do that task much quicker. If delegating or outsourcing is a sticking point for you and you find yourself thinking ‘But it’s quicker if I do it myself’ it’s time for a bit of a re-think.
Yes it might well be quicker, but you’ll always be doing it.
This is a classic case of short term pain for long term gain, and will absolutely free up your time going forward.
Guard your time – say no
If you find yourself saying ‘Yes’ more than you say ‘No’ and taking on more work, this is the time management skill for you. Saying ‘no’ can be a problem for so many people as it might trigger feelings of guilt that you should be helping someone. However, it’s a muscle like any other and gets a lot easier with practice.
The best way to get around any feelings of guilt is by getting really clear on what you want to achieve in the next day, week or month (use whatever timescale works best for you) and when you get asked to do something, if it doesn’t help you achieve your goals, (or you don’t want to do it) the answer is a no.
The problem with saying yes when you really don’t want to do something, or you’ve already got enough on your plate is that it’s adding extra pressure on yourself, and you’re just not going to do a good job. Or worse still you’ll end up letting someone down. Best to be upfront before you get into that situation.
Make your to-do list work for you
As I mentioned to-do lists are a fantastic way of managing your time but only if they’re used as a tool and not as a dumping ground.
So how do you get them working for you, and not against you?
The best way is to discipline yourself and make sure that you’re not setting yourself up to fail every day as most of us do just that. We have a to do list with a million and one things on it that we promise ourselves we’re going to get done. When in reality it just isn’t going to happen. Not because we don’t work hard enough – but because there are not enough hours in the day.
So decide how much time each task is going to take you – then set the alarm on your phone. You’ll find that when the alarm goes off you’ll either be so engrossed in what you’re doing that you’ll finish anyway, or you’ll have finished long before.
Either way this little trick works a treat – and if you find someone interrupts you when you’re in the flow just pause your timer, deal with the interruption, and start it up again.
By doing this you’ll really improve your focus as you’ll only be working on one thing at once rather than switching around.
Allow time for interruptions
Interruptions happen. They just do – it’s a fact of life. There’ll always be e-mails pinging; phones ringing and people queuing up at your desk – it’s just the way it is. But instead of resenting the time that they suck from you, switch your mind-set. They just are…so allow the time for them.
Let me ask you a question…how much time do interruptions take in your day – and be realistic here….1 hour? 2?
Let’s stick with 2 – so account for that in your day when you’re planning what you need to get done. Let’s say you work 8 hours a day. With 2 hours of interruptions only 6 of those can be used for focus tasks.
That way you’re not setting yourself up to fail, and you won’t resent the interruptions nearly as much because they’re a planned part of your working day.
Follow the “One Big Thing” Rule
This rule changed my world and really boosted my time. It’s so simple but sooo effective and it works an absolute treat.
Instead of trying to get loads of different things done every single day, and flitting from one thing to the next at the risk of not really doing anything effectively, pick one big thing from your list and work on that.
Just that and nothing else.
Yes interruptions may come – so deal with them as you normally would, but then go back to your one big thing.
Here’s how it works. You pick the one big thing that has been sat on your to do list. You might have been putting it off, but you know it’ll add a lot of value and really needs your attention…and PLUS you’ll feel amazing when you get it done.
When you get in the habit of following the one big thing rule your productivity will shoot up and you’ll never feel as though you haven’t accomplished anything again.
It’s a game changer!
Set boundaries – stick to them!
Rules; boundaries; rituals whatever you want to call them we all have things that help us work at our best.
It might mean always getting some fresh air; leaving your desk for lunch; going for a run before you start work; or clocking off at a certain time, whatever it is for you spend some time having a think about what helps you to be super productive, energised and motivated and build these into your day no matter how small they might seem.
By doing them every single day you’ll soon wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!
Learn to disconnect
Now here’s the hard bit – in order to be really effective at managing your time you also have to get good at switching off.
I know, I know…it’ll be like cutting your arm off, but here’s the thing. Your brain needs a break too – that’s when it gets all of its admin done – so you need to give it some time to do just that.
Give it a go…switch off your phone or just put it away, and do something else instead. Take part in a hobby, spend some time with your family or just chill in front of the TV. By allowing yourself time to switch off, relax and have fun you’ll soon start to feel like your work life balance is back in sync, and everything else will feel better too.
So these are 8 time management skills that will really make a difference to your day. If you’d like to learn more about how to manage your day, and learn the skills that will not only help you to be more effective at work, but that will impact all areas of your life, so you never feel like you’re treading water or racing the clock again – join us on the Time Mastery – Time Management Course.