Time management – who doesn’t need it? Most of us, I would say.
We often have so many things on our to-do list, and we end up overwhelmed, or working very long hours. It’s frustrating, isn’t it, when you can’t complete all the tasks you’d planned on doing. Stop setting yourself up for failure by implementing these 7 practical tips that will help you manage your time more effectively, and create meaningful and rewarding days.
1 | Plan for tomorrow the night before
Most people plan their day first thing in the morning, but that’s already too late. Instead, do it the night before so the pressure of the day won’t come down on you and you’ll be more detached when it comes to making decisions about your schedule. You’ll also have more energy in the morning for the schedule waiting for you.
2 | Plan for no more than 4 to 5 hours of real work per day
If your 8-hour day is packed with back-to-back meetings, appointments and tasks, it’ll be completely thrown out when the unexpected happens – whether it’s a client having an urgent request, a task taking much longer than anticipated or a sick child at home who needs to be taken to the doctor. For effective time management, allow some buffer to deal with emails, calls, digital distractions or die-hard habits such as procrastination or perfectionism.
3 | Add a time estimate to each task on your to-do list
Otherwise you’ll most likely end up with more than what you can handle in one day. If you struggle to give a time estimate, try to break down your task into small parts that will be easier to quantify. Also, as there’s often a discrepancy between how long we think it takes to complete a task and how long it actually takes, it’s probably a good idea to time yourself on several occasions when performing regular tasks so you can be more accurate in the future.
4 | Just say no
Time is finite so you have to make decisions on how you want to use it. It’s not because you’ve put a task on your to-do list that you must do it. You can always delete it, delay it, diminish it or delegate it to create time for what’s really important. Asking yourself whether a specific task helps you achieve one of your goals, or by saying yes to it, which other task you are saying no to will help you streamline your schedule and manage your time well.
5 | Rely on one planner only
Having one planner for home and one planner for work just doesn’t work, because these two worlds don’t co-exist, they’re inter-related. Make sure to capture 100% of your meetings, appointments and tasks into it as it can only work if it’s complete. Just trust your preferences when it comes to opting for a paper planner or a digital one.
6 | Stop multi-tasking
Studies have shown that it takes your brain four times longer to recognise and process each task, when switching back and forth between tasks. So be in the moment and embrace single-tasking instead. Another way to step-up your time management skills, increase your focus and improve your productivity is batch-tasking i.e. grouping together tasks of similar nature. For example, I have a 30-minute time slot on Friday mornings dedicated to updating my accounts, accreditation credentials, clients’ database, KPIs, publication plan and contacts database.
7 | Build self-awareness
I’m a strong believer in designing solutions that match who you truly are, if you want to drastically improve the way you manage your time. To achieve that, start paying attention to your relationship to time. For example, identify the part of the day you’re the most alert so you can start doing tasks that require a lot of focus during that time. Notice the distractions that are likely to derail your day, the reasons you procrastinate or why you are unable to say no so you can deal with them.
Check Nathalie’s time management coaching programme if you want her help in getting a firm grasp on your time management so that you wake up energised and focused on the coming day. Then you can lay your head down each night, calm and satisfied with what you were able to accomplish.
Nathalie Ricaud is a professional organiser and the founder of Get Organised & Beyond. She helps women who feel overwhelmed by all the stuff they’ve accumulated in their homes or by all the activities they’re trying to fit into their schedule. She helps them learn to let go of things that are just stressing them out and establish systems so they can feel in control of their homes and lives again. She’s the author of a blog and is regularly published in print and online media. She’s also a regular speaker at events and conferences.