You know how it’s like – You need to get a crap-ton of stuff off your to-do list, but it seems as if there are tons of distractions around you and those items on your to-do list keep getting pushed to the next day…and the next…and the next… ugh
I have been making some changes to my blog over the past month or so and that was the exact problem I experienced. I kept putting off my work. Every single time I needed to sit down and get something down, I managed to find something to distract myself from what needed to be done. And I know many of you have been in similar situations before.
Hence, after a few weeks of gleaning time management blogs and conducting personal experiments, I’ve put together a checklist of 12 key strategies you could use to manage your time better.
You can enter your email to download the full checklist, but here are three strategies that made the hugest impact on my time management in detail:
Want to get more done? Take more breaks
This sounds counter-intuitive, but breaks are a necessity if you want to make more effective use of your time. The brain is like a muscle, and if you make it work for hours on end without a break, it is bound to get exhausted.
When we take a break every hour or so, it helps our brain’s performance. The brain stops being stimulated if it is working on the same task for a long time. The task no longer registers in a ‘meaningful’ way in the brain.
This is how and why our mind starts drifting and we start to get distracted. Taking a break gives your mind some breathing space and allows you to return to the task with renewed enthusiasm.
Breaks can also serve as a source of creative fuel – if we use them wisely. You actually might get more ideas for your piece of work if say, you watch a podcast, speak to someone, etc. New ideas might come to you. Just like Archimedes’ Eureka moment in his shower, the mind has a fascinating way of working on something in the background whilst we are doing something unrelated.
TIP: Get away from the desk every once in awhile. While some like the Pomodoro Technique of working for 25 minutes and resting for 5; others prefer working for 52 minutes and resting for 17. Whatever it is, just take a break! Go take a short walk, get a (healthy) drink or snack, chat to someone.
It always helps to clear your mind. Just ensure you don’t start indulging in your distractions (ahem, social media) and take an even longer break than you should!
Be flexible with the time you take to work on tasks
Time blocking is great and keeps you focused. But don’t beat yourself up when you work over the allotted timeslot.
As a writer I struggle with this quite a lot. I will schedule 3 hours for me to complete say 15 pages of writing and get super annoyed when I complete it 6 hours later instead.
Don’t start being harsh on yourself. What you really need to get into the habit of doing is to see how you can reschedule the other items on your list. Can I do item #1 tomorrow instead? Or perhaps item #3 really doesn’t need an hour.
Constantly reassess and re-evaluate your priorities and time-sensitive tasks and shuffle them around. To-do lists aren’t carved in stone.
Also, instead of focusing on the negative, think positive! Ask yourself – what have I accomplished today? Note down your accomplishments, however big or small. Ask yourself this too – was there something I did today that I could have done better? What will I do differently tomorrow, then?
TIP: Leave buffer times in between tasks and try not to pack your schedule too full. Be realistic when you plan your timetable and do not underestimate the little bits of time you may need when accomplishing a task. Ie (brainstorming time, needing certain pieces of infor before you begin working etc).
Batch your tasks together
One of the best ever ways to ensure massive time savings is to batch similar tasks together.
This could mean for instance, batching all your administrative paperwork together. Or as I’m a writer – it could mean writing the introductions of all my reports at one go.
The biggest advantage of batching similar tasks together is that you DON’T put yourself at risk of what is known as cognitive switching or task switching.
There is a ‘cognitive cost’ involved when we switch our attention from one task to another. It is the time your brain takes to focus and fully immerse itself in the current task. Research says that takes about 15 to a whopping 23 mins 15 seconds! That’s A LOT of time wasted if you ask me. This is also the reason why multi-tasking just isn’t effective.
Ensure that you aren’t sabotaging your batching sessions by having multiple tabs open on your browser, responding to every email/notification on your phone. That defeats the whole purpose of the session! Ensure your environment is conducive.
TIP: If you need to, change your environment and go somewhere you know you can acquire full concentration. For me, I gather all the things I need for my batching session, head down to a quiet coffee shop, plug in my earphones and just start working away.
9 more effective Time Management Strategies
Having more effective time management is not so much about just ensuring items on our to-do lists are checked off. It’s about having effective systems, strategies and habits in place.
While we all have our own preferences and different strategies might work differently for us, I encourage you to grab this checklist and start experimenting with what works best for you!
There is no such thing as ‘Perfect Time Management’
The final takeaway I would like to leave with you is that no matter how disciplined we are or how effective our time management strategies are, there will definitely be days where you don’t get anything done, days where everything seems to be going fine until you waste 5 hours on Facebook… Days where for some reason, you just don’t feel up to doing anything. IT IS OK. We are all imperfect human beings. The key is to recognise that we aren’t at our best today and just try harder the next!
Which strategies worked for you? Feel free to leave a comment!