“How did it get so late so soon?”
The famous quote from Dr. Seuss was obvious at the time and seems even more so now.
Social media wants your opinion.
Another article is just around the corner on the Internet.
Every buzz and ding from your phone demands your attention.
Pretty soon, your two office hours of uninterrupted work have dwindled to 2 minutes.
“Not again,” you say to yourself. But it has happened again. All roads have led to procrastination and distraction.
Is there any hope for us?
There have been periods in my life where time flew by because I was so focused or engaged in great, productive activities. Other days have completely escaped me.
Time management is using our time wisely to finish the tasks and activities that we need to get done.
And time moves forward no matter what we do with it. It’s up to us to use it more productively.
What are the essential time management strategies that we can implement to take back our time?
1. Set goals daily
If you don’t know what you’re going to do today, then how can you get upset at yourself when you don’t manage your time well? Part of the issue is false expectations. If you don’t set any goals for yourself or even a to-do list, then don’t get mad at yourself when you didn’t do “anything.”
Having that nebulous idea of what needs to be accomplished versus checking and making a to-do list is only a black hole of unproductivity and poor time management.
At ClickUp, we list our goals and tasks that we’re working on each day as part of a daily standup. We also list out what we worked on the day prior. They don’t match up perfectly each time (and honestly we end up doing more than we thought).
2. Do the most important thing first
One way to take control of your time is to try and do the most important thing first. Others suggest “eating the frog” which is doing the thing you don’t want to do first. I can see value in that, but working on the most important thing first frees you up from that point forward.
To be honest, I bounce around from eating the frog to doing the most important thing first. It depends on the schedule and what my day looks like, but it’s a good value to keep in mind.
3. Track how long it takes you to finish a task
Good time management is knowing how long a particular task will take. To maximize your time, you have to limit distractions while also monitoring how long it’s taking you to do something. How do you balance this?
Two strategies to accomplish this:
- Pomodoro: Named after a tomato timer, you work in smaller 25-minute chunks, take a short break, and then do another 25-minute chunk. After a few of those, you take a longer break. Using the Pomodoro technique is a great way to stay focused.
- Time Tracking: If you’re using the Pomodoro technique, you can also log time to note how long a particular task is taking. Then, the next time you need to do a similar task, you’ll have a better idea of how long it’s going to take.
4. Schedule time in your day for your tasks, not only for meetings
Your day can fill up with meetings, especially if your company isn’t as productive and efficient as it could be. Meetings are easy to say “yes” to. What’s harder is fitting your work around those meetings. You may need to block off time, and yes, even decline a few meetings every once in a while.
The ClickUp Time View is great for this, because you can schedule your tasks down to the hour and not necessarily have them appear on your calendar.
5. Prioritize your work and to-do list
When creating a to-do list or checking what to do next in your project management system, it’s important to prioritize. This means not only defining what to do first as the most important but also prioritizing the rest of your tasks.
There is a whole system in deciding how to prioritize your work, but a key takeaway is to think about what’s important versus what’s urgent. They’re not always the same thing. Making that distinction will save you lots of time.
6. Plan to do your best work at the best time.
I think this point is often overlooked. We each have different rhythms to how our days work. Some of us are morning people; others are night owls, and afternoons are bad for everyone (j/k). Here are some tips to help you do it: Stick to a schedule.
If you know your rhythms, then you plan your most difficult work for your peak times. This may be the time to eat the frog.
7. Deep work, not half work.
Deep work is setting aside time in your schedule for focused work. This time isn’t necessarily for your most urgent work, but for strategic planning.
Examples may be developing a new business plan or marketing schedule or planning your top feature releases for the upcoming quarter.
Productivity researcher James Clear calls any work mired with text messages, checking email and social media “half-work”. Eliminating half-work from your routine helps you save time in the long run because you’re focused on the tasks that you need to do.
8. Organize your workspace to have what you need
Having an organized desk and workspace will place the tools you need right at your fingertips. Searching for extra supplies, looking for a USB drive or hunting down sticky notes are distractions that break up your focus.
9. Review your performance against those goals
It’s the end of the day and how did you do with your time? If you created a to-do list, focused on the tasks at hand and used time tracking, you should know how well you managed your time.
And guess what? It’s okay if you didn’t do everything perfectly. You’ll develop better habits over time to learn how to work more efficiently.
10. Build a great team
Colleagues can be a blessing–and a curse.
If you’re on a team that holds you accountable and wants you to do awesome work, then you’ll rise to that level.
Great peers can boost you to a higher level and this could spill over into making your time management strategies better as well.
Effective time management strategies won’t happen by accident.
They take work and dedication. It’s a skill, really.
Time management strategies are like a tree. They start with a seed, then take root and then blossom into a full habit and lifestyle.
That’s what you’re aiming for. With that in mind, you can improve your productivity and do more with your time than you have in the past.
Once you have these habits in place, you’ll set better long-term goals. The time spent on these habits pays off.
You’ll know more about what you can accomplish and will not be frustrated by unrealistic goals. Time management strategies optimize not only your time for today but your time going forward, too.