5 ways to master time management
We all know the struggle. You wake up in the morning determined to smash your to-do list and throw off a big butt. However, one thing leads to another and before you know it the sun is setting and you’ve barely cleared the first item on your list. Wait… where did the day go? You showed up for work. You went to this meeting. You have responded to these emails. So how come your to-do list hasn’t gone down and your motivation has? You may very well have a case of mismanaged time.
Time is arguably one of our most precious resources. If we use it well we can achieve great things, but it is very easy to get sidetracked. Like, you know, the Friends reruns on TV, the excessive emailing, or the millions of digital goodies vying for your attention. That being said, let’s talk about how to take your time so that you can start tackling your to-do list like an NFL star. Here are five simple strategies that will get you on the right track to achieving your goals this year.
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Observe and follow
Before you can rearrange the way you spend your time, you need to take a look at how you are using it now. It might mean carrying a notebook for a few days or a week and recording how you are going through the day. Try to be a fly on the wall without changing your own behavior first. Then once you have some data, or should I say dirt, on yourself, you can see where your time is being wasted, wasted, or misallocated. Do you spend a lot of time on Instagram? Do you spend most of your day answering emails and very few hours working on new projects? Take a look at your goals, analyze how they correspond to how you allocate your time, and adjust accordingly.
Schedule planning time
To really face the day and use your time like a boss, you need to wake up with a plan. You should never wake up without deciding what your day will be like. Every Sunday night, I recommend that you make a plan for the week – sit down and flesh out a general map of what your schedule will look like. This doesn’t mean planning your day down to the minute like a cruise ship manager, but rather listing the key tasks to be accomplished each day and all the appointments, dinners, gym dates, etc. that you have going. This will help you approach the week with more clarity on what you need to accomplish and save you wasting time watching cat videos instead of grocery shopping.
It’s important to remember that you can’t do everything at once. Whether you are trying to build a business from scratch or just want to protect your time more, you will have to make sacrifices and tradeoffs in order to move forward. Doing less will actually help you accomplish more in the end. If you make a to-do list for the day that stretches for miles, you’ll take a look at it, feel overwhelmed, and you’ll probably end up wanting to sabotage yourself. Try to think about what you would do if you could only do three or four tasks a day and stick to them. Don’t over-plan your day or you’ll quickly be overwhelmed.
Start with the hardest thing
Once you’ve planned your day and identified a handful of tasks for that day, it’s time to get started. The best way to make sure you don’t flake off is to start the day with the most difficult and least attractive task. This way you will be done with it and each subsequent project just seems easier and easier. Usually our motivation is higher earlier in the day, so set yourself up for success by completing the hardest feat of the day and moving down from there. Your morale and sense of accomplishment will also be higher, so you’ll feel like your own cheerleader throughout the day.
I tend to start with a task and then a random thought pops up in my head and tears me in another direction. My natural state is to have several tabs open in my brain at the same time and to switch between tabs. However, I have learned that it keeps me from seeing anything from cover to cover and prolongs every project. The single task is difficult today, but it really is the most effective and efficient way to get things done. Turn off your phone, close all unnecessary tabs, set a timer, and reduce a task (just one) until you finish it or until you have really worked for the allotted time.
Managing your time well is more complicated than it looks. Fortunately, by implementing a few simple practices, you can start to accomplish more of the important things and free up your time to do more of the things you love. This is the motivation.