Ever find yourself wishing you could squeeze more hours out of a day?
You’re not alone.
But if there’s one thing that we know about time is that everyone on Earth has the same 24 hours in a day – it does not discriminate and you cannot buy it (no matter how much money you make).
The good thing is that you probably don’t need more hours in your workday. You might just need to work on your time management skills.
What is time management?
Put simply, time management is how we use our time to maximise productivity and to kick our goals.
Why is time management so difficult?
There are various time management mistakes you may make that can set you up for failure. But one of the main reasons that time management is so hard is due to the “planning fallacy” – a phenomenon that occurs when people underestimate how long a task will take to finish.
Research shows that make this mistake consistently, regardless of whether:
- We’ve completed the task before
- We’re aware that similar tasks have taken us longer to complete.
Poor time management can impact every aspect of your life, from work to relationships. So, it’s important to learn techniques to manage your precious hours more effectively.
Try these 10 tried and tested time management tips to get the most out of your workweek.
10 Time Management Tips
1. Find out where your time goes each day
Where does your time actually go?
Most people claim that they know the answer to this question; that it’s spent on key tasks and activities. But, in reality, most of it gets sucked up by tedious meetings, administrative tasks, phone calls, emails and other common distractions (like chatty coworkers and office noise).
Enter the time audit.
A time audit is designed to help you understand what eats up all those valuable hours in your workday. Once you know exactly where your time is being spent, you should be able to reallocate or consolidate your tasks to improve efficiencies.
For instance, you may find that you regularly engage in “time sucking” activities (like checking emails) throughout the day, that can perhaps be consolidated into one or two designated slots per day.
Learn how to run a time audit in five steps, and to access a great, free Time Audit template.
2. Learn to say no
Learning how to say “no” is a powerful skill that many people struggle with because:
- It’s often easier to say yes
- Saying “no” might hurt someone’s feelings
- We’re too caught up in what other people think about us.
But it’s important to keep in mind that every time you say “yes” to something trivial or unrelated to your role, you say “no” to something more important.
The great thing is that everyone can learn to say no … even those serial people pleasers. It might take a bit of practice, but will get easier with time, especially if you:
- Are polite but firm – Stay courteous but do not feel obliged to say yes just because another person might feel uncomfortable.
- Set boundaries – You should never say no to someone who is simply asking you to do your job. But, if you’re being asked to step outside role, don’t feel bogged down by the ramifications of saying no.
- Learn to be selfish – Start prioritising your needs over others, your productivity and mental wellbeing will thank you for it.
3. Set SMART goals
Ever feel like you’re working hard but not getting anywhere? Perhaps you’re not being SMART about your goals.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
These five criteria help bring some structure around what you want to achieve. And together, they’ll help you focus your efforts and increase your chances of turning your goals into reality.
As we know, many things aren’t equal. But everyone has the same amount of time to work with. That being said, no matter how well you manage your time, there’s always going to be a limit to what you can do in a day.
To overcome this, learn how to delegate properly.
Many people dodge delegation because of the effort it takes in the short term. But, in the long term, delegation will help free up your time and allows people around you to learn valuable skills and grow within the organisation. We’d call this a win-win, wouldn’t you?
5. Take a break
This tip might seem like its counter productive, but it’s actually the other way around.
Research shows that employees lose the ability to focus after about 90 consecutive minutes of work. And long stretches without a break are associated with lower productivity and mental health issues.
What’s more, studies show that regular breathers boost creativity. That means those “Ah huh” moments are more likely to come from those who take breaks.
So, schedule “brain breaks” throughout the day to recharge, refocus and regenerate, particularly between tasks and meetings.
6. Steer clear of multitasking
The “multitasking” myth has been debunked!
Seriously, there’s no such thing – our brains simply cannot do two or more things at the same time.
While it may seem like we are multitasking, research shows that our mind is actually rapidly switching between tasks. And this means that we cannot fully focus on the task at hand. In fact, studies show that productivity can drop by up to 40% when you switch between tasks!
So, tackle one task at a time and watch your daily productivity take flight.
7. Use apps
You could say there’s an app for everything these days, and this includes those that help you manage your time. If you’re not taking advantage of modern technology, you’re definitely missing out.
There are heaps of apps to choose from – from free apps like Wunderlist and Evernote, to paid time management solutions for individuals and teams. So, do your research to learn which apps will work for you.
8. Daily to do list
Feel like you’re drowning in things to do? Write daily to-lists.
To-do lists will make your tasks seem more manageable, and will help you knuckle down and stay organised. What’s more, research shows that we’re more likely to reach our goals when we write them down – so get scribbling!
It’s said that the most productive and creative time of the day is between 8am and 12pm. So be sure to prioritise important tasks during this period.
9. Block out distractions
It takes around 25 minutes to refocus after you’ve been distracted – 25 minutes!
Now take that figure and multiply it with the average number of times you get distracted every day. Who’s got the time for that?
Moreover, daily distractions don’t just hurt your productivity. They can also affect your mood and increase your stress levels.
Making sure you create (and stick to) your daily to-do list can go a long way towards keeping you focused. But you may have to try other things like:
- Breaking down tasks – Feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of a job can lead to procrastination. So, break down big projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. And celebrate milestones along the way to stay motivated.
- Eliminating known distractions – Don’t just answer the phone because it rings. If you really need to concentrate, put your phone on silent, turn off notifications and close down distracting browsers. If possible, let your coworkers know that you need to focus and move to a quiet, closed-off area of the office that will allow you to do just that.
10. Don’t sweat the small stuff at work
The saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff…it’s all small stuff” couldn’t be truer when it comes to time management.
Research shows that a whopping 80% of the average workday is spent on things that have “little or no value,” So, stop wasting your precious time on insignificant things. Instead, learn techniques to help keep the little things from getting in the way of you reaching your goals.
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