Ten time-management tips

Always feeling like you never have enough time to get things done can leave you stressed, unfocused and like you’re not fully in control.

Managing your time more effectively and efficiently, whether it’s in your personal or professional life – or even both, may help to give you the balance you are searching for. Yeah, yeah, you say, easier said than done. But trust us, implementing these simple and effective tips will help you well on your way to finding your time again.

1. Know exactly what you need to be doing

Make a list of absolutely everything you need to get done either today or this week. Next, put them in order of priority and complete each task in order of its importance. As new tasks come in, add them into your list readjusting your priorities appropriately. Be ruthless with what actually needs to be on your list, if it’s not an essential or important task – ask yourself – does it really need doing at all?

2. Create a schedule but keep it flexible

Creating a flexible schedule will keep you on track in the long run. If you plan on exercising for an hour every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 6pm, but realise another task has overrun into your exercising time, don’t give up and decide not to bother at all; change the goal post. So you’ve only got twenty minutes left of your scheduled hour? That still leaves twenty minutes to fit in some sort of pulse raising activity. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. If a task overruns the allotted amount of time you gave to it, simply move on to the next task as soon as you can but do your best to not let that next one overrun.

3. Fully engage in the task at hand

Shut yourself away, turn off or remove all distractions, tell anyone who may be likely to interrupt you – to not interrupt you. Whatever your task may be: exercising, meditating, starting that spreadsheet you’ve been putting off for weeks or tackling your overflowing wardrobe, whatever it is give it your full attention. That means no checking your emails, seeing who the text on your phone was from, scrolling through social media, putting the washing on or anything else that will take you away from the task you are currently aiming to complete.

4. Reduce your email stress

Remember the 4Ds for emails. Delete any that you don’t need to do anything with. Do the ones that can be completed quickly. Delegate the emails that can be better dealt with by someone else. Defer the ones that need more time spent on them for later (add them to your priorities list). Also, setting a specific time and time limit for working through emails will help with avoiding distractions while you’re trying to do other tasks. Say, for instance, that 3-4pm each day is when you open and tackle your emails. Keep them switched off all other times.

5. You really don’t have to do everything yourself

Delegating and out-sourcing tasks can be hard for some people to do, but insisting you have to do everything yourself when you really don’t, just creates an unnecessary workload for you. If it’s housework, delegate tasks to all household occupants and settle for ‘good enough’ rather than ‘perfection’, or consider paying someone else to do them (if you are lucky enough to be able to do that). If it’s work and no one else knows how to do a specific task – train someone else and hand over responsibilities to other team members where you can. There is no shame in asking for help.

6. Don’t wait for inspiration to hit

If you know there’s something you need to be doing but can’t find the motivation to do it, don’t go waiting for inspiration to come, get on with the task and soon enough the motivation to carry on with it will find you. Cut down on the amount of TV that you watch and, as difficult as it might be, try waking up an hour earlier either every day or just at the weekends. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can fit in to your day.

7. Make time for doing

Being active stimulates the brain, focuses it and energises it. You might think you don’t have time for exercise in your already hectic schedule, but even just walking from one appointment to the next when you can will do your body and brain a world of good. Finding the right exercise for you that gets you excited and keeps you going is key. Running up and down the stairs five times a couple of times a day might float your boat, or joining a football team, perhaps an aerial yoga class is more your thing, or even just a home work-out regime. Find what motivates you and gets your heart pumping and you’ll soon discover you have more energy to tackle everything else too.

8. Make time for stillness

Practicing uninterrupted stillness and silence is an extraordinary way of focusing the mind, releasing anxiety and creating some space for you. Everything will still be waiting for you, this couple of minutes is all about you. Whether you try mindfulness, meditation or breathing exercises, and do it for one minute or two hours, it is a practice that you should incorporate into your daily life to encourage you to live in the moment. It too will help you see that being super busy, constantly rushing, stressed to the eyeballs and snowed under is not the way to get the important things done.

9. Say it with me, ‘no’

If you are someone who can’t bear to say no for fear of offending someone or because you think it’ll make you look bad to say no, then you need to let go of these worries. Your time is finite, and if you have a colleague who insists on having an hour long face-to-face meeting for every little task when a ten-minute phone call or even just an email will do, then that is a major waste of your time. Either suggest one catch up meeting that covers everything a week, or ask them to put what they wanted to chat about in an email, if you have any further questions you’ll give them a call. If you’re inundated with social gathering requests or constantly being asked to ‘could you just do me this one favour’, then you’re likely not putting yourself or your own needs first very often. At some point, you need to learn to politely decline other people’s requests on your time. Take on only those commitments you know you have time for and that you truly care about.

10. Learn to enjoy the journey

The aim of the task is to get it done, right? Not exactly. The task is a journey in itself. Take what pleasure you can from being involved in each task you do. What pleasure can be found in doing a spreadsheet, you ask? Good question, and one that you should be asking yourself, what pleasure can you find in that spreadsheet?

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