Have you ever procrastinated tasks until the last minute and something went wrong? Have you ever looked at a long to-do list for the week and began to stress? Do you ever feel overwhelmed about all the tasks you have to get done? Scared of deadlines?
There are better ways to prepare for the daily tasks and responsibilities you have on your plate than stressing over them and curling into a ball. Time management is strategic application of a skill set to more efficiently get through the days and keep things moving forward. Here are a couple ways to improve your time management skills.
1. Prioritize your tasks.
This seems like it may waste time to actually be getting things done, but it is the best way to approach your daily responsibilities. Decide what needs to be done first to jumpstart the rest of your to-do’s. Focus on one tasks at a time to decide what is most important and what could maybe wait and be saved for another day. For example, with planning schoolwork for the week, if you have two assignments due Sunday and a quiz due Saturday and another paper due Friday, you need to prioritize these tasks by what is due first to what is due last. This would give you enough time to finish each assignment before its due date without spending time on one that is due way after the other and not as important in this moment of time of planning it out. Prioritize by most important to least important to reduce stress and manage your time appropriately for what tasks are most important.
2. Set a (realistic) time limit for each task.
Give each task or responsibility a time limit. You can’t get in the habit of thinking there is no limit to getting the daily tasks done. If grocery shopping is on your to-do list for the week, set a goal time frame for that. This could be grocery shop by Thursday night. Give yourself some time to do the tasks as well. You can’t approach something that you know requires a lot of effort and attention during a short timeframe that you are available. Then you will feel worse for not getting it done in your goal time and feel stressed all over again. Be realistic about assessing how much effort and attention you need to give each task and then set appropriate time limits for them.
3. Schedule rest time between each task…because everybody’s brain needs break.
It would be nice if the human body could run on no sleep. Imagine all of the things we could get done if our bodies didn’t require at least seven hours of sleep a day! Unfortunately, depriving the body of rest will impact the mental abilities and physical performance and will eventually burn you out. Rest is so important to recharge your body, stabilize all your hormones, and get you back up and running for the next task. Schedule time to rest. If you can do a series of smaller tasks in a row, definitely do them but remember to limit yourself and allow your body and brain to relax and reset for the next bouts of tasks.
4. Use a calendar or planner.
Calendars and planners add to organization skills. The calendar on your phone could be used as a great tool to set reminders for appointments, meetings, deadlines and anything else you have scheduled that way you know how much time you actually have in a week or month to get all the other daily tasks done. Planners can aid in long-term planning, like vacations or events that are completely inflexible on their date. Work trips, family vacations, or concerts and other social events can be added to your planner for you to be able to plan ahead if you have a deadline or responsibility to do around the same time. Staying organized will allow you to better allocate your time to your responsibilities.
5. Batch similar tasks together.
If two tasks require the same things or are in the same place, do them together. Create categories for your tasks so you can batch them together and complete them in a time efficient manner. Have a home tasks list, a shopping tasks list, a car tasks list, a school tasks list, a work tasks list and whatever else applies to your life so that you don’t waste time if you are already working on stuff at home or out shopping. Batch those certain tasks together to get better use out of your time.
6. Create a daily to-do list.
There are future, big to-do’s like graduate college, Christmas shopping, or getting an oil change but there are daily to-do’s that require their own checklist. Making a daily checklist and schedule for the things you need to do today is helpful in managing your time in that 24 hour period. This would include picking up kids from school, getting ready for work, delivering packages to the post office or making dinner. Whatever your to-do’s are for the day, write them down on a checklist and reference that as the day goes on. This will give you a progressive estimate of how much time you actually have for the day and what tasks you will actually be able to and need to complete.
7. Eliminate distractions before beginning a task.
If you are going to start a task, don’t start another one at the same time that is completely separate from it. For example, if you need to make dinner for your family maybe put your phone in another room and don’t have the laundry going at the same time because those alarms going off will distract you from the task at hand. Multi-tasking should be avoided when trying to boost productivity unless those two tasks are very similar in requirements. Cooking and laundry are not related so eliminate the distraction in this example. Eliminate distractions to better use the time you have and make the most of it.
8. Determine the goals for the tasks (be realistic, again).
Setting goals and what you hope to accomplish with these tasks will help you determine what it is that is important to you and what is most important to get done. What you are trying to achieve on a larger scale, like your 5 year goals, will aid in your time management to determine what can you do now to make it worth it in five years? You want to lessen the amount of time you are spending on unnecessary tasks and focus on those that contribute to your overall goals. Setting goals will help you manage your time by ensuring everything you are doing is for a purpose to meet that goal in whatever time frame you set.
9. Organize your workspace in a way that makes sense to you.
The functionality of your workspace is essential to how efficiently you work. Organize your workspace for your task, whether this be your home desk where you do schoolwork, your desk at work, you cart at the grocery store, or your kitchen when you are cooking, make your space make sense to you so it is easier to complete the task at hand.
10. Get your sleep.
Rest is important to the human body and it cannot survive without it. Make sure you are resting when you’ve scheduled to in between tasks and taking those necessary days off. Ample sleep is important to resetting your body and brain to its prime. You cannot manage your time effectively if you are in a daze and completely out of energy. Being the best version of yourself is the best way to time manage and you cannot achieve this if you are functioning off of one hour of sleep all the time.