Take Back Control of Your Time: Time Management Tips

Effective time management is a crucial skill in today’s fast-paced world, where demands and responsibilities often seem overwhelming. Whether it’s juggling work assignments, personal commitments, or pursuing individual goals, finding ways to efficiently allocate and prioritize time can make a significant difference in achieving productivity, reducing stress, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

In this article, we will explore various strategies and techniques to enhance time management skills. By incorporating these practices into your daily routine, you can regain control over your schedule, increase productivity, and create more space for activities that truly matter to you. So, let’s delve into the world of time management and unlock the secrets to maximizing your time and achieving your goals.

Time Management

What is Time Management?

Time management is one of my favorite topics to discuss and I am always on the hunt for more effective ways I can manage my time and sanity (can you tell I am an INTJ, Type A, Project Manager?)

Time management refers to the process of planning, organizing, and prioritizing activities and tasks to achieve specific goals within a given time frame. It involves creating a system that allows individuals to allocate their time effectively, thus achieving a balance between work, family, and personal activities. We all get the same 24 hours a day so time management is truly about managing priorities and tasks that fit into our days.

My Time Management Process

Remember, different techniques work better for different people so be sure to try different techniques to see what works for you. Our season of life can also change how effective a technique may be for you so be willing to try the “failed” techniques again as your life changes and priorities shift.

Brain Dump

This is my favorite technique and how I start to prioritize tasks when I am feeling overwhelmed. It is simple, grab a piece of paper and a pen or open a blank word document and just dump out EVERYTHING that comes to mind. This may feel chaotic at first, but give it a try. After I get all of my thoughts down on paper, I organize them into “buckets” like home, work, finances, etc. Once you get that all out of your brain move on to the next step of prioritizing these tasks!

Prioritize Tasks

After you have completed your brain dumb, prioritize your tasks based on their importance and urgency. Focus on completing high-priority tasks first to ensure that you accomplish the most important things first. Next, list the ones you are dreading the most and tackle those after the high priority tasks. It will make you feel SO much better to get those out of the way. Next, prioritize based on due dates and importance.

Create a Schedule

Now that you know your priority tasks and those dreaded tasks so schedule them into your day or week. Setting a specific time I will work on a task allows me to only think about that task during that. Allocate specific times for each task, and stick to the schedule as much as possible to get the priority and dreaded tasks completed. It is essential to be realistic when setting goals and scheduling tasks. Avoid overestimating what can be accomplished in a given amount of time, as this can lead to additional stress.

Use Time-Blocking / Calendar Blocking

Time-blocking is a technique that involves breaking down your day into blocks of time and assigning specific tasks to each block. I love this option for “focus time” which is when I can focus on my to do list of those other outstanding items. I started to block time on my calendar daily for focus time which allowed me to have time dedicated to tasks without being pulled into last minute meetings. On outlook, there is an option to set this time as “do not disturb” on Teams which will alert individuals that you are focusing at that moment and oftentimes they will only contact you if it is essential. This technique has helped me tremendously with staying focused and avoiding distractions so I am not multitasking.

Note: You may want to clear this technique with your manager ahead of time to ensure they are aware of why you are on “do not disturb” or have large chunks of time blocked on your calendar.

Avoid Multitasking

While it may seem like multitasking is an efficient way to manage time, it is often counter productive and can lead to longer completion timelines and decrease in quality of work. Throughout all of my tips so far you will see that often I mention focusing on one task and decreasing distractions, this is so that I can actively avoid multitasking as I have found that for myself being forced to multitask and having constant distractions increases my anxiety and makes me less productive because while I am doing 5 things I am also fighting off a panic attack. Just don’t do it y’all. Switching between tasks is mentally draining, it is more time and quality efficient to focus on one task until completion or until you have to put down that task for a meeting or an urgent matter.

Distractions can be a significant obstacle to multitasking as well. Turn off notifications on your phone or computer, close unnecessary tabs or windows, and avoid checking email or social media during focused work time.

Avoid Procrastination

Procrastination is a common problem for many people, especially perfectionists. Since we are an industry of perfectionists, let’s talk about this a little more.

Do any of these questions apply to you? (No shame here, they all applied to me.)

  • Have you ever avoided starting on a task because you did not know where to start and put it off until you have to do it?
  • Do you “work well under pressure” so put things off until closer to the deadline to begin?
  • Do you struggle with completing large projects (even if you have started them) until closer to the deadline?

These all apply to reason that you are procrastinating due to perfectionism. If you wait until closer to the deadline to begin or complete the task because you will not have time to nit-pick it to perfection. You are subconsciously working against your need to be “perfect” by procrastinating.

Being able to identify this in myself has allowed me to be okay with not being perfect because we are human. I still do my best, but I try to no longer hold myself to an unachievable standard. To combat this, I use the techniques I have described here to break down large projects into more manageable tasks and tackle them one at a time.

Delegate Tasks

Where are my control freaks who need to own every task to ensure it is completed on time and to your expectations? Because same. This is one I still struggle with to be honest, but I recognize that a lot of that is due to my perfectionism. Delegation is an effective way to manage time and you have to let some things go to others so they can learn. By holding on to every task, you are unintentionally preventing others from learning and growing.

A word of caution, when delegating make sure your expectations are communicated and understood. If you delegate a task to someone but do not adequately explain how you envision it being completed, all the nuances of the task, and your expectations you will be disappointed. This goes for everything in life, no one can read your mind so be open and thorough about your expectations.

Use the Two-Minute Rule

If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. I utilize the two minute rule during my time blocks for checking emails, on conference calls and on teams when I am not on do not disturb.

If I am in the middle of something, I do not use this rule as that would cause multitasking. I make a list of the 2-minute tasks if they come up at times I cannot dedicate to them and block time on my calendar for 2-minute tasks and knock out a bunch of smaller tasks in about 30 minutes. I love those sessions as I feel so accomplished at the end of them!

Utilizing these methods for the two-minute rule can help prevent a buildup of small tasks that can become overwhelming over time.

Take Breaks Including Lunch

TAKE YOUR LUNCH BREAK. TAKE A WALK. CLOSE YOUR EYES AND SIT IN SILENCE FOR 5 MINUTES. I don’t care what you do, but TAKE A BREAK.

Taking breaks can help prevent burnout and increase productivity. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to recharge and refocus. I was guilty of not moving from my chair for 8-10 hours a day but I try to actively avoid that after seeing how negatively it impacted my mental health. Scheduling breaks, even for 5-10 minutes between calls helped me recenter and recharge more than I expected. In those breaks I usually take my dog for a quick walk to get some fresh air and sunshine, do a quick guided meditation for stress relief, or even just scroll through LinkedIn.

A tip I love is to schedule meetings that you host on the 15 minute mark to give everyone (including yourself) 15 minutes between back to back meetings to regroup, take bio breaks, get a snack, etc. For instance, if I normally schedule a call at 10:30, I started scheduling these are 10:45. Those 15 minutes can really help you get back into a good headspace

Learn to Say No

If you struggle with saying no, I recommend also reading our articles on boundaries and learning how these can not only help you with time management but can also ensure that you are putting your energy towards the most important things in your life.

It can be challenging to say no to requests from colleagues, friends, or family members, but sometimes it is necessary. Saying no can help you prioritize your tasks and avoid overcommitting yourself.

Review and Reflect

At the end of each day, take some time to review your tasks and reflect on what you accomplished and did not accomplish. This helps me identify those tasks that I am avoiding and I will add that to the top of my to do list for the next day. This also allows me to see where most of my time was spent throughout the day and reflect on if those tasks were helping me achieve the goals I have set for myself or goals that are expected for the study team. If not, no problem. I revise for the next day.

Do not allow this time to become dedicated time for negative self talk for the items you did not accomplish. Tomorrow is another day and you are only one person.

Take Care of Yourself

Maintaining good physical and mental health is essential for effective time management. If you need to, schedule time on your calendar for exercise. I have found this helps me stick to a consistent workout schedule because I receive a reminder 30 minutes before I would need to leave for my workout and this allows me to tie up loose ends on whatever I am working on. This also protects my time to devote to my health and wellness.

Prioritize exercise, healthy eating, and self-care activities is not selfish, it is necessary to ensure that you have the energy and focus to tackle tasks efficiently.

Conclusion

Effective time management is a vital skill for individuals seeking success and balance in both their personal and professional lives. By implementing strategies such as brain dumping, task prioritization, creating schedules, utilizing time-blocking, avoiding multitasking and procrastination, delegating tasks, employing the two-minute rule, taking breaks, learning to say no, and reviewing and reflecting on daily accomplishments, individuals can optimize their productivity and reduce stress. It is equally important to prioritize self-care and maintain physical and mental well-being to sustain energy and focus.

By mastering time management techniques and adopting a holistic approach, individuals can achieve their goals, maintain work-life balance, and enhance their overall quality of life.

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