Ever wondered how some people are able to be more productive than others, although everybody gets only 24 hours in a day. One of the most admired quality of successful people around us is their effective time management skills. While there are so many tools available to learn time management, only a few are able to master the skill and use it to create the wonder in their lives.
As they say, ‘the taste of the pudding is in the tasting’. While we have many tools and tips to manage our time, it is about actually using these tools that gets us results. Some of the simplest yet most effective techniques that I feel always work are:
- Keeping a time log of your activities
At the outset, you need to know exactly where your time is actually being spent. Most often we have an incorrect perception about how much time we spend on social media or checking our email. Keeping a log to track everything you do for a week and then reviewing it to find out how your time is being spent or lost, is very helpful. With this information, you can then take appropriate actions.
- Scheduling a timeframe for each task
Setting a time limit for each task prevents distractions or procrastination. Which also becomes a challenge, as the pressure to complete the task within time will start exerting. By putting buffers between tasks and activities, we can still work on them without eating into the time reserved for something else.
- Using the four quadrants of time management
Learn to place all tasks in the correct quadrant to optimize your time utilisation. A task which may be urgent may not be important, and vice versa. The important thing to know is not to lose sight of tasks which are part of your planning. Understanding the tasks and placing them in the appropriate quadrant will ensure your timely attention to the various tasks.
- Using a to-do list to plan ahead
Maintaining a to-do list of all activities to be done on a daily, weekly and monthly basis is an effective habit to build. Apart from keeping you focused, this also motivates you as you are able to see what you have already achieved, and what remains to be done. In addition to this, you are also less likely to forget the tasks you need to do.
- Identifying your productive hours
Understanding your body clock and knowing when your energy levels are at their peak. For some of us, it is the morning hours, but for others it may be afternoon or evening hours. Taking care of your biggest and most-challenging tasks when your energy levels are the highest, rather than when you are drained. Also, the feeling of accomplishment can also help you get through the rest of the day.
- Eliminating distractions
It is very easy to split our attention from what we should be doing to accomplish something and getting distracted due to messages, emails, and social media posts received at the same time. It makes it difficult to fully engage in the task we are trying to do. Checking your phone for no reason while doing an important task is an example of this habit. Allowing your mind to wander to another issue is another.
- Taking a break between tasks
Going from one task or meeting to another may appear to be a good use of your time, but it has an 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 a short period of time. Without that break it becomes difficult to stay focused and motivated. So, keeping some buffer-time between tasks makes you more productive.
- Develop healthy habits
Do not make rules for yourself. If you really want to tackle the time management issue, develop habits. Habits stay longer with you. Developing good habits like – making a to-do list, staying focused, prioritise your work etc. will help you go a long way in building effective time management skills.
Like I said before, there are too many tools, techniques and tips available, however the real deal lies in actually following them. If you can be consistent and keep a constant check on yourself to develop health habits for managing your time, you can definitely be effective with this skill. Whenever I find myself not in line with my time management, I am reminded of this simple yet very impactful quote by Buddha, ‘the trouble is you think you have time.’ This makes be immediately reflect, value my time and make wise choices about using it.