If only there were more than 24 hours in a day! If this thought often crosses your mind, you probably have a time management problem. When you wonder how is it that others manage to achieve more than you in a single day, just know that you’re not alone.
Managing your time to achieve more in the time you have available to you is what time management is all about. When you manage your time effectively, you’ll find you have more free time for you, more time to recharge your batteries.
In this article, we’ll explain why time management is important and provide valuable tips to make your work more efficient and your life easier.
- What is time management?
- Why is time management important?
- What are the benefits of time management?
- Time management skills and tips to manage time effectively
- Final thoughts
What is time management?
Time management is the art of planning your day in order to get more things done in the time you have available, in other words making the most of your time.
When you utilise time management skills you can reach your goals in a shorter time frame and with less effort. In order to do this though, you’ll need to stay laser-focused on the most important tasks and prioritise task importance to help you plan your day.
The importance of good planning cannot be overstated. It can seem counterproductive to spend time planning out what to do instead of just doing it, but the reward from taking the time to plan is that you’ll get more done in less time.
Without good time management skills you’ll be tempted to switch from one task to the other, interrupting your workflow and losing your concentration. By the end of the day, you realize you’ve done a bit of this and that, but never completed any of the actually important tasks on your schedule.
Time is arguably the most important resource you have, and as such time management is a critically important skill that can help you succeed personally and professionally.
Why is time management important?
Learning the importance of time management can help you prioritize and deal with tasks of varying urgency.
As well as prioritization, proper time management techniques can also help you set achievable goals. The most important time management skill is planning because without a plan it’s just too easy to get distracted.
You might find yourself working on one project, checking email, researching another project, set up a meeting, write a few emails, etc – and all within 30 mins! This is a great example of ineffective time management that leaves room for endless distractions and it makes it very difficult to achieve your goals.
Poor time management can lead to stressful days and loss of sleep wondering how you’re going to manage all the problems that are left for the next day. Unfortunately, without effective time management skills the next day you’ll set about your schedule still without a plan and already exhausted, leading to the same problem again… and the cycle repeats.
Successful time management can bring about a better work-life balance, reduce your stress levels, help you to meet deadlines, and ultimately lead to higher quality work.
The importance of time management cannot be understated, as it can have a significant impact not only on your professional life but your personal life too.
What are the benefits of time management?
If you take the time to learn proper time management techniques you’ll find that the positive impact will be felt in all areas of your life. Here are some of the major benefits of time management.
Become more efficient
When you plan your daily schedule, you’ll be forced to consider which tasks are urgent and which are less so.
Most professionals today work on multiple projects at a time. Of course, you want to try to get as much work done as possible, but the main thing is to look at the deadlines you have.
If your boss is counting on your completion of a certain project at a certain time, you’re going to need to manage your workload to deliver what is required by the deadline.
By planning your day, you can rest assured that you will deliver work on time and of a high quality leading to better efficiency and room for recognition.
Produce quality work
People with poor time management skills often panic when they’re faced with a looming deadline. They’ve been meaning to get the job done but were sidetracked by other tasks and now there’s no time left.
If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know what it means. You rush through a job, sometimes there’s no time to double-check various aspects and you just hope it will work. You hand in your work and keep your fingers crossed no one will notice it’s a rushed job. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It’s a question of luck.
However, if your work is carefully planned you set aside enough time for any given tasks and you can afford to be very thorough, leading to high quality work. It’s a job well done and you don’t have to worry that you might have made a mistake.
Enjoy a good professional reputation
When the boss has a new project, they will assign it to the person that gets the job done on-time.
If you build a reputation as a well-organized person who knows to set their priorities straight, deliver on time and your work is top quality, it’s you the boss is going to pick. When there’s a promotion available, you’re in a position to be chosen as a productive team member.
Time management skills and tips to manage time effectively
Create a To Do List
Where do you start with time management? With a To-Do list of course!
Start by listing out all of priorities, however important or seemingly meaningless. Once you’ve detailed all of these tasks, you can determine the order of priority. Check out our post on ‘How to Prioritize Tasks in the Workplace’ for more on this subject.
A to-do list can really help in keeping you on track to complete your most challenging tasks and to regain conscious control of your workday.
Prioritize and delegate
If you’re serious about your career and are vying for a promotion, you’d better learn leadership skills.
A good leader is someone who knows how to work efficiently. You need to prioritize tasks, deal with those that are incumbent to you and delegate the others. Work smarter by having an assistant sort your emails or draw a graph while you deal with the more important tasks for your day.
Being a good professional is not about how much you can do (while driving yourself to exhaustion), but about being part of a team. If you want to be a team leader you need to learn how to delegate responsibilities to your team members so that the specific tasks get done on-time and within budget.
Set a calendar
Most of these apps are very straightforward and you can use them to write down exactly what you need to do that day in natural language. You can prepare your schedule the evening before or while you’re having your morning coffee. This way, when you get to your office you won’t be scratching your head about what to do and wasting time opening various documents and talking to people.
When you have a plan, you’re a ‘woman/man with a mission’ (so to speak) and you can get started right away on your most urgent and valued tasks.
Set time limits
You’re probably well aware of this phenomenon – you start working on a project and you become so engrossed with your work, you lose track of time. When you look at the clock you realize it’s far later than you thought and you’ve completely forgotten about something you were supposed to do.
Saying you were busy to your boss could be seen as a poor excuse and a lack of time management. You don’t want to be seen as someone with poor time management skills.
Distractions are your worst enemy. And they come in many forms. If you work in an open space office, you can easily lose lots of time to people who stop by your desk or simply get distracted by listening to a colleague’s phone conversation with his wife.
There are many ways you can limit such distractions. Most if not all modern phones come equipped with a Do Not Disturb mode, for instance. When you want to focus on a task, simply switch on Do Not Disturb on your phone, Slack, and any other relevant platform letting your colleagues know it’s your focus time.
Putting headphones on is a great way to shield out the ‘office noise’. Have some soothing music in the background, loud enough to block the noise in the office, but not too loud that you cannot focus on your work.
Other tools you could use to improve your time management are apps (like StayFocused or MindfulBrowising) to limit your Internet use. It’s a well-known fact that picking up your phone when you get an email notification can lead to the temptation to check social media or otherwise mindlessly browse your phone.
Once you break concentration it will take you at least 15 minutes to remember exactly where you left and get back to what you were doing.
Wait, what? I need to get more things done and you’re suggesting I take frequent breaks? Exactly. Working non-stop for eight or nine hours straight is not feasible, nor recommended for anyone!
No matter how much you’d want to do that the human brain just simply can’t stay focused on whatever job for such a long period. Studies suggest that the best work to break ratio is 52 to 17. This means that if you want to be as efficient as possible you should focus on your work for 52 minutes, followed by a 17 minutes break to achieve maximum productivity and have better mental health.
Don’t use your break to stare at your phone screen though, go for a short walk, try a bit of meditation, listen to your favourite music, have a healthy snack – things that allow you to clear your mind, relax and find the strength to power through another 52 minutes of work.
If you use these techniques to develop better time management skills, you’ll be able to get more things done in one day, and improve your work-life balance, decrease your stress levels and feel calmer in knowing you’ve got it all under control.
With good time management skills it’s entirely possible to reach your desired goals, be more productive, and have a better quality life overall. As noted, it’s not only your professional life that will benefit, time management skills are something that many parents would say are necessary in order to manage their daily lives.
You can look forward to spending more time with your friends and family, leaving work at work, and sleep easy knowing you’re ready for whatever tomorrow brings.