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Effective Time Management: How To

We all have 24-hours in a day. But why does it seem that some people can get the most out of every minute of the day? Believe it or not, they don't have the power to slow time down. They do, however, know how to manage their time correctly.

Want to know how you can become a master of time management as well? Start by using these 20 super-powerful time management tips.

1. Create a time audit.

When it comes to time management, the first step you need to take is finding out where your time goes. You may believe that you only send 30 minutes on emails, but in reality, that task is eating up an hour of your day.

The easiest way to keep track of your time is by downloading an app like RescueTime, Toggl, or my app Calendar to track everything you do for a week. You can then access a report to find out what’s stealing your time. With this information, you can then make the appropriate adjustments.

2. Set a time limit for each task.

I've found that setting a time limit for each task prevents me from getting distracted or procrastinating. For example, if I want to write an article for my blog, I give myself two hours. So if I started at 8 am, I try to get it written by 10 am.

In a way, it becomes a game.

Since I put buffers between tasks and activities, I can still work on it without eating into the time reserved for something else if I don't complete the job.

3. Use a to-do list, but don't abandon tasks.

"All goals and projects are made up of smaller parts that need to be accomplished to achieve the goal or complete the project. Create to-do lists for each goal and project, listing all the measurable steps that need to be accomplished," suggests William Lipovsky.

"Aside from keeping you focused, this also motivates you as you can see what you have already achieved, and what remains."

At the same time, there will be interruptions that may prevent you from completing a task. William recommends that you "make a point of always returning to and completing these tasks once you are able to. This may require you to set a limit on the number of tasks you are working on at any given time."

4. Plan ahead.

One of the worst things that you can do is wake up without a plan for the day. Instead of focusing on what you need to get done, you wonder and take care of more trivial matters.

That's why you should always plan using one of these options;

The night before. Before you leave work for the day, spend the last 15-minutes organizing your office and composing a list of your most essential items for tomorrow.

First thing in the morning. During your morning routine, write down the 3 or 4 most urgent and important matters that need to be addressed today and work on those when you're most productive.

5. Spend your mornings on MITs.

Mark Twain once said, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."

Gross? Sure. The point that Twain was making is that you should take care of your most significant and most challenging tasks in the morning, aka your most important tasks (MITs) of the day.

There are a couple of reasons why this such an effective time management trick. You usually have the most amount of energy in the AM, for starters, so it's better to tackle these tasks when you're most energized. Also, you can use that feeling of accomplishment to get through the rest of the day.

6. Learn to delegate/outsource.

Delegation and outsourcing can get a bit tricky. For some, it's hard to let someone else do the work they are used to doing. For others, they don't have the time to train someone else to complete specific tasks.

The thing is, delegating or outsourcing are real time-savers since it lessens your workload, which means you have more time to spend on more important tasks or doing less work. Don't be afraid to hand over responsibilities to qualified team members or hire an experienced freelancer. If you decide to do in-house training, the initial investment will be worth it in the end.

7. Eliminate half-work.

“In our age of constant distraction, it's stupidly easy to split our attention between what we should be doing and what society bombards us with,” writes James Clear.

“Usually we're balancing the needs of messages, emails, and to–do lists at the same time that we are trying to get something accomplished. It's rare that we are fully engaged in the task at hand.”

Clear has dubbed this "half–work," and here are a couple of examples;

You're writing a report but stop randomly to check your phone for no reason.

You try out a new workout routine but switch to a new program a couple of days later because you read about it online.

While talking on the phone, your mind wanders to your email inbox.

“Regardless of where and how you fall into the trap of half–work, the result is always the same: you're never fully engaged in the task at hand, you rarely commit to a task for extended periods of time, and it takes you twice as long to accomplish half as much,” adds Clear.

Clear has found that the best way to overcome half-work is by blocking "out significant time to focus on one project and eliminate everything else." For example, he'll pick one exercise and only focus on that exercise while working out. He'll also carve out a few hours to devote to an important project but leaves the phone in another room.

“This complete elimination of distractions is the only way I know to get into deep, focused work and avoid fragmented sessions where you're merely doing half–work.”

8. Change your schedule.

If you're reading this article, then it's because you want to discover some helpful time management - and I'm more than happy to help you put. But, if you're struggling with time management, the solution may be as simple as changing your schedule around.

For example, instead of sleeping in until 6:30 am, wake up an hour earlier. I find 5:15 am to be the most productive time of the day since it gives me time to exercise, plan out my day, go through my emails, and even work on side projects without being disturbed.

Also, consider waking up earlier on the weekends and maybe cut down on the amount of TV you watch.

9. Leave a time buffer between tasks and meetings.

Jumping immediately from one task or meeting to the next may seem like a good use of your time, but it has the opposite effect. We need time to clear our minds and recharge by going for a walk, meditating, or just daydreaming. After all, the human brain can only focus for about 90-minutes at a time.

Without that break, it's more challenging to stay focused and motivated. Scheduling buffer time also can prevent running late to your next meeting. I find 25-minutes between tasks and appointments to be an ideal amount of time.

10. Get organized and single-task.

The average American spends 2.5 days each year looking for misplaced items. As a result, we spend over $2.7 billion annually on replacing these items. Instead of wasting both your time and money, get organized.

Start by having a home for everything and making sure that items are where they belong. Clean your workplace and create a document management system.

Start single-tasking. Most people cite multitasking as the main culprit for misplacing items.

11. Follow the 80-20 rule.

"The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of the effort put in. This is commonly used in sales as 80% of sales typically come from 20% of the customers," writes Renzo Costarella in a previous Calendar post.

"When it comes to how you should manage your time, this principle can also be applied. 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions."

Renzo suggests that you start by looking "at your schedule or to-do list every day. For the sake of simplicity, try to get down five tasks you need to accomplish. Using the principle, you can probably eliminate the majority of the items on your list. It may feel unnatural at first, but over time, this will condition you to scale up effort on the most important tasks."

12. Use an online calendar.

Calendars have long been a fundamental tool for time management. However, online calendars have taken this to the next level. That's because you can access it from multiple devices, easily schedule meetings and appointments, set up reminders, create time blocks, and plan recurring events.

I use Google Calendar. I think it's the best, but Outlook and Apple Calendar also work well.

13. Stop being perfect.

When you're a perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough. That means you'll keep going back to the same task over and over again. How productive do you think your day will be as a result?

So, stop being perfect. It doesn’t exist. Do the best you can and move on.

14. Just say “No.”

I know that you don't want to upset anyone. But you can only handle so much. If you already have a full plate, then decline that dinner invitation or helping your colleagues on a project until you have spare time.

15. Find inspiration.

When I'm dragging, I use inspirational sources like a TED Talk or biography. It's a simple way to reignite that fire to get me motivated and back on track.

16. Batch similar tasks together.

When you have related work, batch them together. For example, don’t answer your emails and phone calls throughout the day. Schedule a specific time to handle these tasks.

The reason? Different tasks demand different types of thinking. By batching related jobs together, your brain isn't switching gears - which means you eliminate any reorienting.

17. Do less.

This tactic is from Leo Babauta. He started the must-read blog Zen Habits. So, what does Leo have to say about doing less?

Doing less doesn't mean "less is more." It means "less is better." This concept is achieved by slowing down, being aware of what needs to be done, and concentrating only on those things. Once you do, make every action count. As a result, you'll be creating more value instead of just fodder.

By: Tamara S.

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