Feeling foggy? Here’s how to better your time management

By Hannah Kingston

Thursday September 10, 2020

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We all get 24 hours in a day (and night) but the way we treat that time can vastly differ from one person to the next. Unsurprisingly, our time management skills hugely impact the efficiency of our workloads, weekly outputs and even our wallets.

Time management refers to the process of organising and planning how much time you will spend on different tasks and activities. While we may believe that we have our working days scheduled to a tee, there is always room for improvement when it comes to how you manage your time.

Whether you are feeling foggy and are finding it difficult to stay on track, or you believe your a pro at time management but want to cross-compare, there are a number of things that you can do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to better your time management, and resulting output.

Before getting started on your daily, weekly and life long time management checklist, you should complete a time audit to see how long things take you naturally. This research will go along way in comparing averages and measuring improvements over time.

For one week, act natural, but continuously note how long things daily tasks and activities are taking, from your commute to morning emails, procrastination to putting some welly in at the end of the day. All of these recordings will collectively help you to form better habits as you work on streamlining your workflow.

Daily behaviours for better time management

  • Visualize the day’s outcomes before you start work
  • Tackle the tasks you enjoy the least first
  • Set a desired timeline for each task
  • Make your to-do lists granular
  • Focus on one task at a time
  • Give yourself enough time to reset between tasks
  • Cut out the tasks that lead to procrastination
  • Start mapping out your day on an online calendar

Weekly behaviours for better time management

  • Set a list of desired weekly outcomes
  • Choose one day a week to get life admin out of the way
  • Acknowledge what worked and what didn’t
  • Change your schedule around
  • Put similar tasks and projects into the same bucket
  • Do something that inspires you at least once a working week

Life long habits to incorporate into your routine for better time productivity

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Get comfortable with saying no more often
  • Prioritise a work-life balance
  • Review processes that could be working for or against you, like commutes
  • Wave goodbye to being a perfectionist
  • Find ways to make all of your minutes matter

Daily behaviours for better time management

Visualize the day’s outcomes before you start work 

If you start the day aimlessly, you will continue to wander throughout the day aimlessly. Starting your day without a clear idea of what you want to achieve is a big no-no in the time management manual. Before you even log on to start work, you should have a list of outcomes that you would like to see completed by the end of the day, that way you start motivated and stay motivated throughout the day.

Tackle the tasks you enjoy the least first

Tackle the tasks you enjoy the least first. It might be getting emails out of the way or it might be meetings, whatever it is – the faster it’s off your plate, the faster you can get to the meatier priorities of the day.

Set a desired timeline for each task 

Pretty much any task could take as long or as little time as you would like it to. To get better with your time management, you need to start setting deadlines for yourself. For example, writing this article, I wanted it to take an hour so I put a stopwatch on and made it a mission to get the article completed in one hour. You can apply deadlines to pretty much any task, and it will help you to stay conscientious of the time and move efficiently from one task to the next.

Make your to-do lists granular 

Everyone likes crossing things off a list, but if you have three long-term projects on a list with no mention of all of the granular tasks it takes to bring it across the finishing line, it’s going to be harder to stay focused. When it comes to managing your time, you need to find ways to stay accountable for your daily output. Instead of writing or typing three topline points on your to-do list, write the three topline points plus all of the granular tasks underneath them.

Not only does this help you to stay focused on your time, but it also helps to remember all of the crucial elements that need to be completed before delivery day.

Focus on one task at a time 

Aka, do not send emails while you are on a conference call, do not continuously check social media while you are working, do not be distracted by background noise. Focus on one task at a time for the allotted time that you have dedicated to that task. Trust me. This will make your output more timely, focused and easier in the long run.

Give yourself enough time to reset between tasks 

The average human brain can stay focused for 90 minutes, and your brain needs an adjustment period between tasks. You need to start giving yourself enough time to reset between each task so you don’t spend the first twenty minutes of your next priority trying to focus. Instead, go for a walk, do star jumps, get a coffee or simply stand outside and get some fresh air. At the beginning, it may feel like you are wasting time, but for what you take out of sitting at your desk, you get back in better overall focus and motivation when you are onto the next project.

Cut out the tasks that lead to procrastination 

Cut out the tasks that lead to procrastination, it might be organizing flowers for a colleague who is leaving, it could be helping to organize a staff party or it could be an ad-hoc favour from a colleague. Try not to get stolen away from the timetable that you have set yourself for the day if you want the best results when it comes to time management. If the exercises outside of your priorities are not time-sensitive, there is no reason why you shouldn’t wait until the end of the day to get to them.

Start mapping out your day on your online calendar

This might seem a little obsessive, but mapping your day out on an online calendar and getting alerts to move onto the next task or take a break is paramount to seeing your new habits come to life in a positive way. If you really want to see a positive difference in your output, putting your goals in writing will help to make it a reality.

Weekly behaviours for better time management

Set a list of desired weekly outcomes 

On a Sunday evening or Monday morning, set out a list of your desired weekly outcomes. This helps to set a precedent for the rest of the week and get you focused on the bigger picture. Keeping a focus on what all of the small to medium tasks amount to ensures that you are motivated to see progress week on week.

Choose one day a week to get life admin out of the way

Getting life admin cleared off the to-do list helps to clear away all of the brain junk that accumulates. Forming time management habits is partially about spending time on organization and partially spending time on clearing the noise. Spend one day doing all of the things that most people unknowingly drag out, like laundry, groceries, paying bills, going to the bank, sending post etc. If you can dedicate a few hours to “eating the frogs”, you won’t need to return to the dreaded tasks as a later date.

Acknowledge what worked and what didn’t 

To maintain your new time management habits, you will need some motivation, i.e. you need to know if it’s working. When it comes to streamlining your workflow, you need to know what is serving you and what isn’t. You don’t need to spend time on this each day but checking in once a week with your own working systems will help you to keep tweaking your method until you have it the way it specifically suits you.

Change your schedule around 

Change your schedule around to keep things fresh. If you find that every day is beginning to feel the same, you can make small tweaks. It could be changing coffee breaks around, choosing to do some exercise in the middle of the day or starting one hour early and finishing one hour late. The little tweaks you make now can have bigger payoffs down the line.

Put similar tasks and projects into the same bucket 

During your deep-dive of the week ahead, try to identify similar tasks. Where possible, see if you can place them into the same bucket, and take out as many birds as you can with the one stone, so to speak. When you are in the zone of one task, that is similar to one or more related tasks, it makes sense to get them crossed off your list in one blast. Identifying this opportunity before your week starts can help to save time.

Do something that inspires you at least once a working week 

It’s hard to stay in the zone if you are feeling deflated or uninspired by the work you are doing. Get into the habit of doing something or engaging with something that inspires you on a weekly basis. It doesn’t always have to be a wellness retreat, it could be as simple as watching a four-minute Ted talk, or reading an inspiring memoir. We all spend too much time at work to not be feeling inspired by the work we are doing, plus, feeling good about the work you are doing makes you work more efficiently!

Life long habits to incorporate into your routine for better time productivity

Practice mindfulness 

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment, it can have numerous benefits, everything from decreased stress and sadness to increased levels focus and happiness. Mindfulness may seem like a trendy nice-to-have-idea but it really and truly is the path to becoming more fully connected with your day to day experiences and work.

Practising mindfulness does not mean that you have to become a yoga enthusiast or take to wearing sheet masks every day, it simply means slowing down to smell the roses. The benefits of slowing down is that it helps you to think more clearly when it’s time to speed back up again. Try to incorporate mindfulness into your regular routine for a better overall sense of well-being.

Get comfortable with saying no more often 

No one likes saying no but it is paramount to staying on track and seeing to your priorities. There are plenty of ways to continue to be helpful to those around you without saying yes to every request that is pushed your way.

Prioritise a work-life balance 

When you’re feeling your best, you will perform at your best. Make time for the things that make you feel good outside of work like exercising on a daily basis, eating a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep, getting less screen time, spending time with family, making more time for friends. The list is endless and so is the positive effect that these changes can have on your mood, and output.

Review processes that could be working for or against you, like commutes 

Throughout your life, there will be a number of house moves and office moves. When it comes to mastering time management, you want to cut out the time suckers that do not spark joy, like commutes.

If you live far away from work, it may be time to ask if you can spend two days working from home. If it’s possible to relocate, it may be time to relocate. Think about all of the valuable minutes you could save if you put your time first.

Wave goodbye to being a perfectionist 

Rome was not built in a day but eventually, it’s time to hit submit. It is time to wave goodbye to being a perfectionist and get out of your own way.

If you could reclaim all of the time you spend wondering if your work is good enough, you would probably have enough time to do that very task or project again five times. Take pride and have confidence in your work. If you think it’s done, it’s probably done. Your time money bank will thank you for it.

Find ways to make all of your minutes matter 

We can’t operate at a ten at all times, it’s not reasonable, it would inevitably lead to burn-out. On parting words of wisdom, I tell you to find ways to make all of your minutes matter. You only get one life and it moves along very quickly. Take a moment to make your minutes matter by filling them with the things that make you smile.

Now read: How to get a promotion in the public sector: 10 steps for getting ahead 

Now read: Frustrated by the he said she said? Here’s how to improve your communication skills

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