Updated: Apr 5
We all have the same amount of time in a day but a few (or more?) of us always seem to be running out of it. Since we all have the same allotted the difference must be time management, so what's the secret?
How do you avoid those flustered and rushed moments that take a personal and professional toll? Here are few few quick tips (very time efficient) and pointers to some useful in depth resources as well.
Tip 1 - Prioritize
Prioritization is by far the most important element of good time management. If you have 20 priorities you have no priorities because you can't even figure out where to start. You should only work on one thing at a time so then the question is - which one? Try thinking about what's urgent or not and important or not. There are lots of tools out there to help you visualize but one well known "freeware" example is the Eisenhower matrix.
The basic idea is to work on the stuff in the upper left quadrant first, that's the stuff you actually DO. Notice that some stuff you just ignore! An uncomfortable thought but in reality many things in that quadrant just disappear so don't waste time on them.
Tip 2 - Get stuff DONE
In the professional world nothing counts until it's done. Think about that for a minute and let it really sink in. Until whatever it is you're working on is finished it yields no benefit and you can't stop working on it either. What use is software that's 98% complete? How thrilled will your boss be when you give her a grant application that's "almost finished"?
Professionals know that they are ultimately evaluated by business value (delivery) and not so much by how great a person they are or how busy and dedicated they appear although those things help a bit for sure.
There's a personal boost in this for you as well. When something is finished it feels great and you don't need to worry about it at all any more. Here's a pro tip - the thing you want to do least is the thing to do first. Allegedly Mark Twain said "if at some time in the day you know you need to eat a live frog I advise you to do that first thing in the morning". There's a book on this in the reference below. More food for thought (sorry).
Tip 3 - Schedule dedicated time
Ever come home at the end of a day totally wiped and then can't think of anything you've actually done during the day? When we're at work, either on line or in person, there are lots of interruptions from chat pop-ups, all kinds of electronic alerts, calls and so forth. We get bombarded with questions, requests, comments so much that the work day is sometimes referred to as the whirlwind or the "vortex". This is OK and totally normal, but you need to manage it if you want to make real progress.
Set aside dedicated time to work on the things you need "to do". Get out of the buzz, shut off all your messaging tools and just do the work. OK calm down I can sense your pulse racing at this provocative and alien thought. It works, really it does. Try small steps by putting an hour a week (or day) in your calendar as a meeting and make yourself "unavailable" in all your business nag apps. Use that time as if it is a real meeting and just get stuff done. As you find out that this is a real thing then up the dedicated time to (gulp) half a day per week. Thank me later.
Tip 4 - Calm the @#%* down
When you're agitated you're ineffective and you make poor decisions. Calm people can focus, prioritize and finish their tasks.
Take a breath. Think about what it is that is making you jumpy and whether it's even worth worrying about. This is getting a bit into "stress management" so I won't go into detail here except to note that your emotional thoughts are as much a factor as your logical thoughts so don't ignore them, just manage them.