6 effective ways to improve your time management skills22 Jan 2019
I've often heard time management simplified down to rules such as scheduling your day, prioritising your work, and not procrastinating. Becoming effective at managing your work and productivity takes a closer look at your habits than this, however.
Here are six ways to develop effective time management skills.
1. Learn your weak points
Just like with any skill, to get better at it, it's necessary to know where you need practice. Identifying this area allows you to actively work on strengthening it.
For example, I used to underestimate how long I would take with a certain task. Due to this, I would take on more work than I could handle and overstretch myself. However, with practice, I've become better at managing my workload and learning when to say no.
Consider what causes you the most bottlenecks with time management. Is it that you struggle to focus, you have too much on your plate, or you don't know how to sort out what's important from what's not? Work on these areas and ask for help if you need it.
2. Figure out how you work best
On the opposite end, knowing your strengths helps you make better use of them. If you know you work best using to do lists then schedule in five minutes each day to write one and prioritise the tasks on it.
I know people who purposely book meetings for a Friday. They know they are more distracted so close to the weekend, so they ensure they're still making use of the day by scheduling in necessary tasks that require less self-discipline.
Not everyone works in the same way. Having a solid grasp on what makes you the most productive means you can match your schedule to it.
3. Jump into the tough tasks
During the day your energy and focus generally diminishes. Don't use the time when you're most effective to catch up on emails or complete simple tasks.
Dive head first into the work you'd rather ease into. It takes discipline, but you'll:
- Avoid the stress of knowing the task is waiting for you.
- Approach the work with a focused and fresh mind.
- Reduce the fear associated with working on these types of projects.
- Have more time to revise and improve your work before deadlines.
- Ensure each day you've achieved something necessary.
I've found that the longer I wait to begin a daunting task the more my time management is affected. If I dwell on a project, worry makes it harder to begin and my other work suffers.
4. Remember to delegate
Handing over tasks to others isn't always easy. Sometimes it's hard to give up control, or you feel bad about asking someone else to take over the work. However, knowing how and when to delegate is an important part of becoming better at time management.
If a task is better suited to someone else's skill set or you have work that demands your time then delegation helps you manage this.
5. Block work
Multi-tasking reduces your productivity. Multiple studies by psychologists have shown this, as reported on by the American Psychological Association. Yet with so many communication avenues and technology providing constant input it's all too easy to try and juggle multiple things at once.
Reduce your distractions. Here are some tips I've found useful for doing so:
- Only have one task open on your computer at any time. This way other tabs won't pull at your attention.
- Block out calendar slots so you're not disturbed. Schedule this for your most productive time of day and use it to fully focus on specific tasks.
- Only check your emails at set times during the day.
- Try the Pomodoro technique. For set intervals focus solely on one task without interruption with a short break after each length of time.
6. Manage your work life balance
You can't exercise without taking a break to let you muscles recuperate, and it's the same with your brain. At work your mind is actively engaged like a muscle is during a training session. It can maintain this state for a while, but eventually it needs a rest.
To work productively and effectively, you need to give your brain a chance to rest and refresh itself. Make sure each day you have time where you leave work behind, both physically and mentally. Avoid cycling over what you have to get done the next day or checking your emails.
I've found that reading or listening to an interesting podcast in the evenings helps me disconnect from work. The next day I feel a lot more focused and productive with my time. Whereas, if I take my job home, I feel stressed and tired the following day.