How to manage your time effectively
Time is precious, especially when working in a busy environment. If you never seem to have enough time to complete your tasks, managing your time could help you gain control of your days. Learning how to manage your time effectively can help you feel more relaxed, focused and in control. Below are some tips and benefits for better time management.
Identify your goals:
Setting goals is a key component of time management. Setting daily goals allows you to think about what needs to be done and mentally prepare for each task. Some people find it helpful to make a list of their daily tasks. Lists can bring order to chaos and help you organise what is otherwise overwhelming. Once you have worked out what you need to do, you can then work out short-term and medium-term goals. Setting yourself targets and breaking down bigger projects into small, manageable steps. Actively set your goals by deciding what you need to do, how you are going to do it, and when you need it done by.
Many people find that setting SMART goals helps to keep them on task and on track. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Setting SMART goals provide a sense of direction, motivation and provide a clear focus. SMART goals are:
Specific – this isn’t a detailed list of how you’re going to meet a goal, but it should include an answer to the popular ‘W’ questions – who, what, when and where.
Measurable – this makes a goal more tangible because it provides a way to measure progress. What metrics are you going to use? If it’s a project that’s going to take months to complete, set some milestones.
Achievable – this focuses on how important a goal is and what can you do to make it attainable. The goal is meant to inspire motivation, not discourage. Think about how to accomplish the goal and if you have the skills and tools necessary.
Realistic – a goal should be realistically achieved given the available resources and time. Goals should be realistic, but this doesn’t mean that they need to be easy. They should stretch individuals, teams and organisations. They can be demanding but not so much that the chance of success is small.
Timely – a deadline for when the goal will be accomplished is necessary and must be included. It helps to create urgency, prompts action, and focuses the minds of those who are accountable for the completion. Not setting a deadline reduces motivation and urgency.
Before you begin your work for the day, prioritise. To-do lists are a great tool, but organise them rather than just writing down everything that needs to get done. Group tasks in terms of importance.
Stephen Covey offered an organisational tool for your to-do list based on how important urgent tasks are:
Important and urgent – tasks that must be done. Do these right away.
Important but not urgent – tasks that appear important but upon closer examination aren’t. Decide when to do them.
Urgent but not important – tasks that make the most noise, but when accomplished have little or no lasting value. Delegate these if possible.
Not urgent and not important – low-priority tasks that offer the illusion of being busy. Do them later.
Write down your three or four important and urgent tasks that must be addressed today. As you complete each one, check it off your list. This will provide you with a sense of accomplishment and can motivate you to tackle essential tasks.
Have a lunch break:
Many employees work through their lunch break, however this can be counter-productive. Taking at least 30 minutes away from your desk will help you to be more effective in the afternoon. Going for a walk outside, or even exercising will help you to come back to your desk re-energised with a renewed focus. Planning your day with a midday break will help you to break up your work into more manageable chunks.
Interruptions disrupt your workflow. If you are in the middle of a task and stop to do something else, it can be hard to get back into the work flow you were previously in. When you are on a task, try to complete it before starting to do something else. Other things can wait whilst you strive to complete your earlier task. Remember that sometimes disruptions are inevitable. If you receive an urgent call during a task, you should take the call. Do your best to avoid interruptions, but don’t worry over the occasional distraction.
Stick to a sleep schedule:
If you want to manage your time, a sleep schedule is vital. A good sleep schedule ensures you’ll wake up early in the morning and be ready for the day. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep for their bodies and mind to function optimally. To maintain a sleep schedule, go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day, even on weekends. Your body will adapt to your sleep/wake cycle, leaving you feeling tired at your bedtime and energetic in the morning.
Stress relief – making and following a do to list reduces anxiety. After you check off items, you can see yourself making progress. This helps you to avoid feeling stressed about getting everything completed.
More time – managing your time effectively gives you extra time to spend on other tasks, but also on hobbies.
Get more work done – being productive is one of the main goals of time management. When you are aware of what you need to do, you are able to better manage your workload. You will be able to get more done in less time.
Less wasted time – when you know what you need to do, you waste less time in idle activities. Instead of wondering what you should be doing next, you can already be a step ahead of your work.
More time where it matters – managing your time is allotting your time where it has the most impact. Time management allows you to spend your time on the things that matter most to you
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