One of the biggest challenges I hear raised by business owners is that ‘there aren’t enough hours in the day’. While it might feel like that sometimes, and we’ve all been there, the truth is you could add an extra 10 hours to the day and it still wouldn’t feel like enough.
Time is Everything! We cannot control time, but we can learn strategies to help us use the time we do have effectively, and ultimately our productivity, to transform our results and satisfaction in every area of our life.
These are my top 10 Time Management Tips and Advice that I have learned, implemented and coached over the years to help increase productivity, improve work life balance, avoid burnout, build good habits and set long-term goals.
- Be Realistic About What You Can Achieve
While you might be at work for 8+ hours per day, the amount of time spent working productively is considerably less. When beginning to think about time management, be realistic about how much work actually gets done in a day. The first step in better time management is being honest and aware of your ability to spend time productively. More time spent working does not equal better results. Try limiting yourself to 3 or 5 tasks only per day.
2. Start As You Mean To Go On
Time management starts from the moment you wake up. Creating a morning routine helps you control and shape how you start your day, giving you the positive momentum for a day of productive, meaningful work. It lets you prioritise what you care about and focus on what is most important to you, rather than letting other people, emails and notifications interrupt your morning and making you start reactively.
These are a few key qualities you should aim for in your morning routine:
- Skip the snooze button and start your morning with activity and excitement
- Clear your mind by writing your daily to-do list
- Set the tone for your day by doing something positive that you enjoy – reading, cycling, phone a friend
- Take action towards a meaningful goal such as a personal project
3. Start Single-Tasking
It’s impossible for humans to focus on more than one task at a time (even women)! When we think we are multitasking we are actually just getting our brain to switch back and forth between the tasks, which is very distracting. Research has shown that it can take up to 25 minutes for our brains to regain focus after being distracted. To manage our time properly we need to rewire our behaviour by single-tasking, focusing on one task at a time and if we find ourselves starting to lose focus, stop and write down what you are thinking about and then return to the task in hand.
4. Separate Urgent & Important
Despite your best efforts to plan out your day, tasks will always get thrown at you at the last minute and while it’s tempting to just add these to your to-do list, that can cause your day to get out of hand quickly. Instead, use a simple Time Management Tool to help you to recognise and separate the “urgent” tasks from the “important” ones. By classifying your work in this way, you can start to prioritise your time and map out a schedule that allows you to do more of the important work and less of the not important.
5. Avoid At All Cost
For many of us, it’s easier to pile on more work than it is to give tasks away, but to properly manage your time, you need to know what to spend time on as well as not, as every behaviour and choice we make has a cost. When you look at your daily or weekly task list use this simple 3-step process to help you prioritise:
Step 1: Write down your top 25 tasks or goals
Step 2: Circle your top 5 options
Step 3: Put your top 5 on one list and the remaining 20 on a second list
Everything on your second list, becomes your Avoid-At-All-Cost List as these are now a distraction and should be delegated. No matter what, these 20 goals get no attention until the top 5 tasks on list one are achieved.
6. Start Delegating
“If something can be done 80% as well by someone else, delegate!” – John C Maxwell.
The issue for most of us, that stops us from delegating is the thought of training someone else is daunting or we do not want to invest the time – it’s ‘quicker to do it myself’.
Managing your time isn’t just about today, it’s about setting up systems and processes that will bring you more time in the future. By investing the time to train and delegate work now, what is the return on time invested in the future?
7. Learn to say NO
Instead of saying “yes” to that meeting, project or new task, we need to be ok with saying “no”, which isn’t easy as human beings we crave acceptance and gratitude, and saying yes gives us this.
Try saying “I don’t” do something as opposed to “I can’t” do something which enables you to extract yourself from unwanted commitments more easily. “I can’t” sounds like a matter that’s up for debate, “I don’t” signifies you have hard rules set.
8. Schedule around Time not Tasks
Be time aware. If your days are spent with massive or open-ended to-do list items, you are more than likely to spend too long on a single task. Give yourself a time limit for everything and stick to it. By working the day around time rather than tasks, you go from driving your schedule around an unknown (task) to a known (time).
One person who schedules his day in this way is Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. Despite working 80+ hour weeks, Musk famously breaks each day up into 5-minute chunks. Every task he has is then designated as many slots as is needed. Being this tightly scheduled is what allows him to run multiple companies and still spend 80% of his time on engineering and design.
9. Do it NOW
This is so simple and surprisingly effective. If it takes less than 2 minutes to do, action it straight away. This keeps your to-do list short and helps you clear some valuable brain space for more important activities.
10. Don’t forget the benefits of free time
Time management isn’t just about work. To find a work life balance that keeps us healthy and happy, we need to make sure we’re leaving time for rest, relaxation, and socialising. We need time disconnected from our work to properly recharge and recover to make sure when we are working, we’re making the most of our time.
Time management is more of a behavioural challenge and by adopting and enforcing some good time management habits you can transform your results and satisfaction in every area of your life.
Time is the most precious resource we have and therefore you must protect it!