Would you like to have two more hours per day? Personal time management is a key trait of successful people. They know how to achieve their goals in a fraction of the time that it takes most people. By learning and applying their techniques, we can also accomplish more in less time. Here are 22 time management tips that I am sure you’ll find very useful.
First Decide If You Need To Do The Task Now
Make a conscious decision to eliminate tasks that are not important or not feasible in the foreseen future. Also, eliminate tasks for which you are not willing to allocate time. Perhaps you have a task that you have postponed over and over; then you should take the courage and eliminate it. Also, be sure to eliminate tasks that are urgent but not important at all. Once you make the decision, be OK that the task is not going to happen.
If the task is repetitive, see how you can automate it by using a mobile/desktop/web app, or using filters and rules. See Using Technology below.
If this or similar tasks will come in the future, it may be more efficient to delegate this task. With proper training, and clear instructions and expectations, someone else can learn how to do it well. For more complex tasks make sure to empower the person to make some decisions. When you assign the task, make sure you send a message to the person (even if you talk to him or her) and then track the task.
4. Do (if it takes less than 2 minutes)
If you need to do the task yourself, and it takes less than 2 minutes, then it is usually more efficient if you do it right away. It would take much longer if you write the task on your to-do list or calendar, and then have to remember what to do with it.
If the task takes more than 2 minutes, it is not very important, or it is not urgent, decide if you can postpone it for a later time. If so, then block time on your calendar for the appropriate date and time, or add the task to your to-do list. When that time comes, you can re-evaluate if you can eliminate, automate, or delegate the task.
The remaining type of tasks should be the tasks that you need to do yourself as soon as you can. Add them to your to-do list, and prioritize them. You can use your preferred prioritization technique, such as the A, B, and C categories.
- Your A tasks are very important and urgent. They support your long-term personal or professional goals or support other people that you work with or have a relationship with. They will lead to significant consequences if not done soon.
- Your B tasks are very similar to those of category A, except that they are not that urgent. After some time, B tasks can be elevated to A or downgraded to C.
- Your C tasks are nice to do, but not that important. There is typically no penalty if not completed. An example could be answering an unimportant phone call or email.
More Time-Saving Tips
1. Say No
For most of us it is hard to say “No” because we want to demonstrate that we are team players and resourceful. However, if we do not think we can deliver the expected results, deliver on time, or it is a good use of our time, we would be better off saying “No.” However, be sure to provide value in other ways.
2. Plan Your Day
At the end of your work day, make a note where you left off, and what are the next steps. Create a To-Do list for the next day, and prioritize it. Then review in the morning. This way you will know which are the first, second and third most important priorities of the day.
3. Focus On One Thing At A Time
This allows you to dedicate your time, energy and attention to one thing. Great achievers have said that they owe their success to laser focus on their top priority. Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, says, "I keep things focused.” Jason Goldberg, CEO of Fab.com, recommends, "Pick one thing and do that one thing—and only that one thing—better than anyone else ever could."
Multitasking is good in some instances like listening to podcasts or reading while you exercise. However, on work activities, multitasking tends to compromise quality and effectiveness.
4. Use The Pareto Principle (80/20)
As you know, sometimes you will not be able to complete all the tasks you planned for the day. Therefore, it is crucial that you first work on the most important ones. To use the Pareto Principle, first list your tasks in order of importance, having the most important at the top and the least important at the bottom. Then, the Pareto Principle states that you can get about 80% of the value by just completing the top 20% of the tasks.
Outsource repetitive and time-consuming tasks. There are many agencies that offer virtual assistants, domestically and abroad. Alexis Ohanian, the founder of Reddit, uses virtual assistants from Fancy Hands. Analyze your tasks and do a quick cost-benefit analysis to determine if you can outsource some repetitive tasks, so you can focus on the things that you want to do, and that give you the most value.
6. Use A Calendar Tool
Use a calendar tool to block time and remind you of a task at the appropriate time. If you need to do a task on a future date or time, you can schedule it in your calendar. Furthermore, you can ask Siri, Google Now, or Cortana to do it for you. Blocking time in your calendar will also let other people know that you are not available at that time.
7. Block Distractions
When you are working on your top priority task, do your best to block distractions from your cell phone, emails, calls, peers, and employees. For instance:
- Put your phone in silent mode and put it aside.
- Remove unnecessary alerts from your cell phone, computer, and other devices.
- Put your phone in do-not-disturb mode, or simply lower the ring volume and don’t answer (unless you are waiting for a call).
- Close your door, or if you do not have an office, place a visible card on your desk or monitor to indicate “do not disturb.”
- If a peer or employee demands your attention, you can tell them that if this is not an emergency, you would prefer to get back to them in a few minutes.
- If you get an idea for another task or project, write it down and put it aside, and then get back to your priority task.
8. Skip Unimportant Meetings
Analyze the meeting purpose and agenda, and get excused from meetings where you do not believe you can add or get value. To make sure you do not miss anything, ask for a copy of the meeting minutes.
9. Attend Only Important Meetings
Attend or facilitate only important and effective meetings. In addition to the agenda, make sure the meeting has a purpose, and that you can verify it at the end of the meeting. Also, the meeting should have a time limit, preferably 30 minutes, but no longer than 90 minutes, as people lose attention after 90 minutes. In addition, make sure to include only essential people.
10. Establish A Routine
Setting specific times for daily tasks and distractions will make you more productive. You can set up 2 – 4 specific times during the day to check emails, a couple of times to return phone calls, a couple of times to socialize and build relationships, etc.
11. Use Technology
Use technology to capture and retrieve your notes and ideas effectively and efficiently. Whenever you have a great idea, it is critical to write it down. However, many people who write down their ideas have trouble retrieving them later on. Today you can use a great tool to make notes and have the ability to search quickly for them. One of the most popular tools is Evernote, which allows you to search for whole notes, tags, and images. For example, you can take a picture of a post-it note or a document page, and upload it to Evernote. Then you can find that note by searching for a word or a phrase in that note or document. With a paid subscription, the tool also allows you to search inside PDF, Word and other types of documents. Evernote is, with no doubt, one of the best tools for creating and retrieving notes, and it is available for the web, desktop, and mobile devices.
In addition to using Evernote, you can use other productivity tools, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, or iCloud for document storage with synchronization across devices. This way you can view and edit documents from any device, and collaborate with team members.
Wunderlist helps you manage your To-Do list, which is synchronized across all your devices. Trello also synchronizes across all devices and helps you manage tasks and projects in a virtual board.
Get Pocket allows you to save effortlessly the web links (URLs) to articles, videos, and general web pages into a virtual pocket that you can access from any device.
12. Use Filters and Rules
Set up filters and rules to automate your email inbox. Email applications like Gmail and Yahoo Mail allow you to set up filters to automatically send specific emails to a particular folder, or take another specific action. You can do similar automation in Microsoft Outlook by setting up rules.
13. Use Checklists
Even experienced pilots use a checklist to make sure they do not miss any important steps. Use checklists, so you do not have to guess what the next step is. Also, there is a positive psychological effect when you check off an item on your list; it gives you a sense of accomplishment.
14. Use Colors
I color-code my calendar items. For instance, I use the red color for things that are very important, and meetings that I cannot miss or postpone.
I also color-code my emails. I use a different color for emails from my boss, emails from important customers, emails from my peers, and emails from my direct reports.
15. Use Response Deadlines
On your emails and other communications, make it clear when you need the response by. This will substantially increase the chances of promptly getting what you need.
16. Use The Phone
Sometimes this depends on your personal communication preferences. However, in my experience, often a quick call can rapidly get you the answer you are looking for, instead going back and forth with a series of emails and instant messages.
Which of these time management tips do you find more useful? What other great tips do you know? Please write a comment below.