How many times have you either said or heard this phrase, “I’d do it, if I just had the time”? Frankly, that’s just a lame excuse you are making as whatever you need to do isn’t important enough to you to get it done. Everyone has the same amount of time in each day, but not everyone is skilled at prioritizing what’s important. If you stop to think about what matters to you most, you can make better choices. Sometimes though, you just have to juggle things up a bit. Here are some thoughts:
Just Get Started. What’s the best way to finish a project? Sometimes it’s simply starting. Showing up is always the hardest part of anything, whether it’s going to the gym, learning a new language, writing a blog, or cleaning the garage. You can’t finish something if you never start. So don’t put it off you lazy bum – get started! Don’t worry about the results, just get going. The end will take care of itself.
Create a Deadline. Whether it’s real or artificial, having a deadline can create the impetus needed to power through and get more things accomplished. Ever notice how great a worker you are when something is due? This holds true for most procrastinators (like me). We’re the masters of creating at the eleventh hour. Often, it will even turn out better than when we worked on it for weeks. Sometimes you can push yourself to do more by making that deadline into a game. Hold yourself accountable and give yourself a time or date to finish a goal. Write it down if you need to.
Break It Into Chunks. I do this all the time…such as writing this blog. I have a list of topics that I’d like to write an article about that I keep. To get started, I write the outline on one day, a paragraph or two on other days, and wrap it all up on the final day. I usually write every morning for about fifteen or twenty minutes. By the end of the week, the blog article is written and ready to go. All along during the week, I’ve found that my subconscious works on the blog and I’ll often have complete ideas or sentences to add when I sit down again. I think breaking up the article into small doses of work helps me make better creative decisions, as I can reread what I’ve written and add to it with something fresh every day. Using this philosophy could work for your project too.
Ask Questions. Before starting doing something ask yourself if you really need to be doing it. Is there something that’s a higher priority? Ask yourself about what you are spending your time doing? Is it the best use of your available time? How does watching a show on TV, checking Facebook, or some celebrity gossip article fit in? Do you check your e-mail constantly, or just a few times a day? Could you reprioritize or organize something to make better use of the time? Determine what’s distracting you or bogging you down that maybe has a lower priority for you, and reduce its importance in your life.
Get Some Help! What are you, a martyr? Divide up what needs to get accomplished and delegate part (or all) of it off. Make sure you agree on what needs to get completed and set some clear expectations regarding the task. Bringing in other people to help can also speed up the process too. What might have taken an hour or two may get handled in a fraction of the time with more people working on it.
Stop Multitasking. Not many people can juggle multiple tasks as once, and chances are you can’t either. Instead focus on just one at a time. Close your door (if you have one), hunker down, and focus on doing one thing at a time. Concentrated effort is going to be more efficient than working on multiple things at once. However, this rule doesn’t apply to making better use of your time such as listening to a learning a new language CD when commuting, reading while eating lunch, etc.
Challenge Yourself. I do this all the time. Finish that report by 10:00, or get that project handled by lunch. It’s just a mental game, but adding your own deadline to it helps with your focus and drive and you get more accomplished every day.
Learn to Say No. Sometimes you can’t take on an extra project or job. Sometimes you can add a caveat, “Sure, I can do it…but I won’t be able to start until Tuesday.” Part of being an effective time manager is understanding your time is valuable and what it means to add another item to your day. Guarding that schedule can allow your other tasks to get accomplished. However, sometimes you do have to say yes. This comes at the cost of delegating other things, or pushing them off to another day or time. There is a domino effect to saying yes, so make sure you are planning accordingly.
Stay Organized. Have a schedule, to-do list, or some sort of organized way that determines what you need to accomplish. This doesn’t have to be too complicated, either. Although there are many apps or software titles devoted to this practice, just jotting things down with a used envelope will work too. For physical items in the real world, know what’s a gigantic time waster? Looking for stuff. Stay organized and keep everything in its place in a clean, ready to work fashion.
Keep Track of Time. Wear a watch, have a big clock on the wall or keep your clock on your phone handy. You have a gut instinct on how long things should take, so checking a clock regularly will help you keep on track. Tons of people use an egg-timer on their desks also for this reason. They set the timer for ten or fifteen minutes and try to work undistracted for that length of time. When it goes off, they can do something else briefly…then they set the timer back and start again.
Great Communication. Make sure before you start something that you fully understand and comprehend what’s on your plate. This starts with great communication. Clear expectations and the training and knowledge to use that information are the key to efficient work. Anytime someone has to stop and ask a question means the instructions weren’t written correctly. It’s great that they are asking questions, but it is a problem that they have to in the first place. Learn to get it all one the page first, and how to action what’s there with training. Time effectiveness is best spent working, not asking someone “What’s this mean?”.
Take Care of Yourself. Eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest. You know why they say that right? Because it’s true. If you want to maximize your day and be as efficient as possible, being physically and mentally on top of your game is important. Slogging through your day because you have a hangover, or repeating a task multiple times because you can’t focus as you were up all night doesn’t do you any good. Make good choices.
What would you add? Leave your tips or comments and share your ideas! If you are having problems with your time management skills, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me help you sort it out.