Key learning outcomes:
- Explain the importance of time management to maximise your output and productivity.
- Create a to-do list on a daily basis and assign priorities to each task.
- Implement strategies for improving your time management skills both in your personal and working lives.
- Identify the distractions that reduce your effectiveness on a day-to-day basis.
As the world becomes busier and more demanding, how we manage our time can make a huge difference to our productivity, stress levels and ability to achieve a work/life balance. The following tips have been proven to enhance time management and are used by the most successful among us.
Use a to-do list. It is important to create a new list of your required tasks and activities every day. This renews your focus fresh each day and ensures that your list does not become too overwhelming. We prefer a handwritten list, although we know a lot of people create their list on their computer or other technological device. It is a matter of finding a system that works well for you and then using it every day.
Plan your day the night before. It is well known that preparation is one of the keys to success. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day reviewing your to-do list. Reflect on what you have achieved, reprioritise any outstanding tasks for tomorrow; you will no doubt have some new things to add to the list. This will enable you to hit the ground running first thing in the morning.
Start the day with your most important tasks. Have a clear idea of your three to five most important tasks or activities. If possible, carry out these tasks at the start the day as this will mean that no matter what happens during the day, you have been able to cross off the most important things on your list and you will feel a sense of achievement.
Take breaks during the day. It might seem crazy but taking breaks during the day will actually enhance your productivity. Take a proper lunch break and make sure that you eat somewhere other than at your desk. Getting some fresh air will clear your mind and help you to refocus. So try and fit in a walk outside your office a couple of times during the day.
Check your emails and social media only at set times during the day. One of the biggest time wasters in business today is email and social media. Technology means that we are accessible 24/7 if we allow ourselves to be. Turn off the audible alerts on your computer and phone to try and minimise distractions, and be strict about how often you check, for example, your emails and Facebook page.
Turn your phone off. None of us would dream of having our phone on during a meeting with a client, and we are well aware that the world does not end when we switch it off. By having your mobile phone on all day, you are easily distracted, and get caught up in conversations that take you away from your important activities. At the very least, turn off the ring tone and put the phone where you cannot see it. If you get into the habit of checking it just once an hour and you will be amazed at how much more work you will get done.
Two-minute rule. If a new task or activity comes up during the day, quickly assess how long it will take to complete. If it will take only a couple of minutes, then we suggest you do it straight away and move on. This eliminates the need to add a lot of small tasks to your to-do list, and means that you are not turning a two-minute job into something more complicated due to the delay.
Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can sap your energy quicker than almost anything else. We are all aware of the heath benefits of drinking water, but there are productivity benefits as well. Don’t be tempted to go for that coffee or energy drink to give you a quick buzz. You will find if you drink water throughout the day you will stay sharper and have more energy during the day.
Exercise in the morning. It is proven that people who exercise either in the morning or during the workday are more efficient and productive. While it might seem that coming to work a little late or taking time out in the middle of the day for exercise might waste time, the benefits from increased brain activity and energy more than make up for it.
Time block. Try to chunk similar tasks together. For example, if you are making client follow-up calls, make them all in one block. You will gain efficiency through momentum and you will find you are more focused and perform the task to a higher standard.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of time management tips; they are some of the tips most valued by our clients and ourselves. The key with time management is to find what works well for you. We find that it is best to try one or two things and then keep fine-tuning and enhancing those strategies. You can use these tips in conjunction with our many learning articles on time management. And don’t forget to do our time management quiz as a great starting point for improving your skills.
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