In spite of the infinite nature of time, it is important to know that humans can function effectively in this infiniteness if only we learn to use the time to our advantage. Whether we are productive or not, time will not stop counting. Whether we take care of ourselves or not, time will not cease. Basically, we are to gain mastery of time management if we ever want to make the most effective use of this infinite gift handed to mankind. The goal is not to control time. The goal is to manage time. Every time you find that time is never enough, then perhaps you’re trying to control that which was only designed to be managed – time.
If you never seem to have enough time, better time management can help you regain control of your days. Whether it’s in your job or your lifestyle as a whole, learning how to manage your time effectively can help you feel more relaxed, focused, and in control. Having a balanced lifestyle is the goal of good time management. There is a time management exercise I’ll like to introduce you to. When you perform this exercise, you will get one of two outcomes. You will find that you either spend too much time on unimportant things where you’re literally wasting precious time or you’ll find that you’re taking on too much and it’s making you feel like 24 hours is not enough to hit those goals. You can download the exercise here.
The goal of this article is to show you the top tips for better time management.
1. Identify Purpose.
Every time I have held a work-life balance discourse, I always bring up the need to have an anchor in purpose because every other thing you will do will be done on the foundation of purpose. You have to be able to identify what you want in your career or personal life, who you want to be, and what you want to achieve. Consequently, that becomes the guiding principle for how you manage and spend your time. In order to arrive at your short-term and medium-term goals, you must first figure out the big picture. After which, you begin the process of managing your time to fit into the ideal picture you have created.
2. Separate The Important From The Urgent.
To-do lists are a good way to stay organized but you can easily get carried away with the multiple tasks to be achieved in a day. While it is assumed that keeping a to-do list will help you work out your priorities and timings, it is not entirely so. One of the major tips to help you better manage time is to develop your ability to identify what’s important from what’s urgent. They are not the same. The urgent will always demand your attention even if it’s not important. Do not allow the tyranny of the urgent to replace what’s important. So, ask yourself “is this an important task?” Using the Priority Matrix (Eisenhower Matrix) can help you identify what tasks to do first, what to schedule, what can be delegated, and what does not require any form of attention from you. Based on this matrix, tasks can be grouped into these 4 categories alongside the corresponding response:
Category 1: urgent and important
Category 2: not urgent but important
Category 3: urgent but not important
Category 4: neither urgent nor important
The responses to these categories are very different. Hence, the need to be able to accurately categorize your day-to-day tasks. Here are the corresponding responses:
- If it’s urgent and important: Handle it
- If it’s not urgent but it’s important: Schedule it
- If it’s urgent but not important: Delegate it
- If it’s neither urgent nor important: Avoid it
3. Be Result-Focused.
The very essence of time management is to ensure that you’re doing high-quality work not high-quantity work. Nobody is interested in the number of hours you spent executing a task. Everyone is more concerned with the excellence your executed tasks exude. Don’t be deceived by how busy you are. That’s not the point. Staying extra hours at work can even be an ineffective way to manage your time. Once you distinguish the important tasks from the urgent ones and you respond appropriately to those demands, ensure that your methodology to execution is seamless, creative, excellent, and time effective. People who manage their time effectively concentrate on “not urgent but important” activities. That way they lower the chances of tasks ever becoming “urgent and important”. Since stress can result from having too many urgent tasks to handle, this is an excellent way of reducing stress levels and promoting excellent delivery.
4. Enjoy Lunch Breaks.
I used to be very guilty of working through lunch breaks in the hopes of hitting targets and meeting deadlines. I realized unfortunately that it is one of the most counterproductive ways to manage time. Studies show that in the morning, we can work for (at most) 90 minutes at a time before we begin to lose focus. Technically, we should break for about 15 minutes for every hour we work. Many organizations don’t have this infused into their organizational culture therefore, ditching lunch breaks is a no-no. When you return from this break, you will come back re-energized and refreshed – all emotional states to improve productivity.
Working straight through fatigue and tiredness is often motivated by guilt which is why I often propose a guilt management class every time I teach time management. When we are busier, we feel less guilty and more productive but it’s not true. Being busy does not in any way equate to being productive. In the end, productivity comes down to how much we achieve, not how much we do. Working smarter and accomplishing more is possible when you take breaks. If you do knowledge work for a living, your work benefits from all the energy and focus you can possibly bring to it. This means the time you spend taking breaks will pay for itself in increased focus and energy.
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