Time management is something we all hear about and yet I find when I am coaching professionals on their career goals it is the one area of weakness most people grapple with. I used to have an ongoing war with the clock and calendar until I decided I might be able to befriend this thing called TIME and work with it instead of feeling like I never had enough of it. Here are 12 tips for time management to help reduce your stress and create more fulfillment in your daily life.
- Pick your most productive 4 hours in your day. Determine the 4 hours of your day you are most productive. Many of the greatest scientists achieved their greatest accomplishments by chunking their focused work into 4 hour work days.
- Plan out your day before you hit the hay. Decide what you will dig into and focus on during those 4 hours the night prior. Science has determined that being disorganized can contribute to anxiety and depression. So, create order by planning your day the night before.
- Early to bed early to rise. Learn a lesson from Ben Franklin. Commit to turning off the TV and heading to bed earlier so you can wake up an hour earlier. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done with an extra hour in the morning. This helps you feel motivated to keep going and accomplish your tasks.
- Tackle the MUSTS and then the WANTS. This is a technique I give my career coaching clients who are just starting out with time management and are in overwhelm. Night before, make a list of the things that you MUST get done the next day and then a a list of the things you would like to achieve. Tackle the MUST list FIRST.
- Eliminate distractions. Close the door with an “In Session” sign on the knob providing a “busy signal” to anyone who wants to visit you, letting them know that you are unavailable. Close all the tabs on your computer except the one or two you need for the immediate project. Put your phone on airplane mode or do-not-disturb. Use ear plugs. Decide you will not be distracted from completing the task in front of you.
- Eat your frog first. Mark Twain determined if you eat a frog first thing in the morning, no matter what is ahead of you the rest of the day will seem like a piece of cake. This simply means you should determine the thing you have to do that you dread the most and tackle it first thing in the morning. You’ll feel excited to meet the rest of the day having accomplished that one dreaded task.
- Schedule breaks. Prioritize the need to breathe, move, shift, rest. These are just as important as hunkering down over your desk tasks. Set a timer to alert you when it’s time to take a break. Get up. Move around. Breathe deeply. Stretch you body. Get a drink of water. Look out the window. . Meditate.
- Keep a Mind-Slip List. This is a running list of all the little things that pop into your head that you need to remember to do but are afraid you’ll forget. This is a hack for those of us with attention deficit tendencies! It will keep you from jumping from task to task and will help mitigate the anxiety that comes with overwhelm and distraction. Keep a little notebook with you at all times or you can create this in your Notes app on your phone. Jot it down on your Mind-Slip List as soon as it pops into your head. Be sure each day to schedule a slot on your calendar to check and attack those Mind-Slip items each day.
- Block off travel/transition time. It takes time to get in the car and drive to that appointment across town just as it takes time to get up from your desk and go down to the basement to attend to that home-task you have on your list. Build in buffer time for transition between all your scheduled tasks and appointments. This will eliminate the stress you will otherwise feel rushing from here to there.
- Set friendly time limits with people. When you return a phone call, greet the person warmly and let her know right off the bat that you only have 10 minutes to talk. When you hit the 9 minute mark, gently interrupt if need-be and remind her you only have 1 minute. This will keep well-meaning chatty Cathy from derailing your productivity schedule.
- Schedule unscheduled time. This is a trick I find works well when you feel restricted by the idea of time management and your inner artist or rebellious spirit needs to be seen and heard. Block off time that is unscheduled and when you get to that part of your calendar, set a timer to remind you when that unscheduled time is over. During this scheduled unscheduled time you can choose to do whatever you feel like! Feel sleepy? Take a nap! Feel restless? Go for a run! Feel like retail therapy is in order? Go shopping! Want a pedicure? Head to the nail salon. Want to work on that novel you’re writing? Go for it! Honoring whatever feels right in the moment can be tremendously fulfilling.
- Celebrate. Take the time to end your day with a moment of true celebration for what you DID accomplish. Avoid beating yourself up for the tasks that did not get accomplished. Simply schedule those for the next day. It’s important to give yourself some positive reinforcement for the effort put forth and to motivate you to go at it again the next day.
Interested in receiving some career coaching or mentoring support? Please contact me personally and let’s chat to see if I can be of help for your professional or personal goals.