No one has ever said that about spreadsheets (not too many people at least), and I’m not against joy in your work, but that’s not what this article is about.
Instead, let’s think about Kondo’s rationale: she is ruthless. She slices through the B.S.
That’s exactly what you have to do with your time at work: be ruthless.
If you’re serious about your time, then this post is for you.
If you want to shed poor time management for good, then this post is for you.
Granted, change won’t happen immediately. You’ll have to work at it. Take a look at these top time management tips.
- 1. Track your time and activity for a week
- 2. Keep your goals front and center
- 3. Plan your work on Sunday and prioritize tasks
- 4. Take physical action, don’t just think about it
- 5. Create a schedule and be okay with a smaller scope
- 6. One task at a time (No multitasking!)
- 7. Take real breaks (and don’t skip them)
- 8. Ask for help or delegate
- 9. Control the clutter on your desk
- 10. Block off time on your calendar for important tasks
- 11. Use the right tools for good time management
- Conclusion: You’re free to let go of your old ways
1. Track your time and activity for a week
This first time management tip seems a little off because I’m not asking you to make any immediate changes. Instead, I’m betting that you don’t really know how you spend your time now.
So… delay your big time management resolution for another week… and instead, track how you normally do things.
How long do you spend on that report? Those edits? That process? On Instagram?
Track it as you go. Activity tracking is one of the keys to business success. Yes, you’ll spend a few more seconds tracking your time (not that much!) and you’ll get a general idea of how long your activities take.
This includes everything, not just work tasks. Definitely track your social media time, reading the news, taking a walk, dropping off your kids, maybe even how you spend your evenings. You’ll discover some surprises and may uncover hours of better used time (not just minutes!). You might even notice how much you waste time waiting for things to happen.
If you’re using ClickUp, you can use the ClickUp Chrome extension to track your time on tasks so it’s as seamless as possible. Nice!
2. Keep your goals front and center
This is another step where you’re actually taking a step back so you can jump three steps ahead.
Ask yourself: What am I working towards? What am I trying to accomplish?
For some of you, this may be really obvious.
If you’re an administrative assistant, your goal may be to answer the phone when it rings or to reply to all of your boss’s emails.
But what’s the real goal in that situation? To make your boss’ life easier and to make sure the inbound calls are reaching the right people. Is there anything else you should be working on or new systems to make sure that happens?
Who knows? Maybe you’ll actually *save* time for yourself and your organization over the long term.
Write down your own goals in ClickUp and then track your progress. Goals in ClickUp will help you focus on the right tasks to make real advances for your company.
3. Plan your work on Sunday and prioritize tasks
Before you can manage your time, you need to have a handle on what needs to be done. You need a way to prioritize your work. This isn’t only about what needs to be done today, but also what needs to be accomplished for your long-term goals. You have to balance the micro with the macro priorities. One of the most popular ways to do this is the Eisenhower matrix.
The Eisenhower matrix (named after the former President!) helps you assess what’s urgent, what’s important, and what’s not important. It’s a matrix approach that could be done every week or so to help you focus. This is a good place to put tasks associated with your goals so your topline goal is always in mind.
4. Take physical action, don’t just think about it
Take action on your most important tasks first, as determined by the Eisenhower Matrix. If your boss is expecting a revision on the new deck, then go for it. That’s what you should do. The Eisenhower matrix is great for understanding what else you can add to your schedule when everything isn’t important and urgent. Which brings us to the next point…
Bonus: Getting Things Done Apps!
5. Create a schedule and be okay with a smaller scope
Look, new items come up all the time. You’re on a call with your team and someone thinks of something urgent. It has to be dealt with right away.
It happens. So that time takes away from something else.
That’s real life. But how can you still make headway even if your time seems zapped?
Keep the schedule, but reduce the scope if it’s not urgent. Here are some examples:
- Instead of finishing three modules on your professional development, do one instead.
- Go to the gym, but spend less time on each workout
- Review the new strategic marketing initiative, but come back to it tomorrow if you don’t finish.
You’re not letting your other tasks suck away at what’s happening. Your schedule can be in flux, but you can still make progress on your to-do list.
If you did number 1 and tracked your time, you’ll know where you tend to have bloat in your schedule.
6. One task at a time (No multitasking!)
This is a tough one, especially when we intentionally put attention-stealing machines in our pockets. So at some point, you have to say no, buckle down and fight through to get work done.
And if you’re doing this but colleagues are interrupting, headphones are the new closed door.
If you’re not making progress on your to-do list, break down the tasks even further.
- Make tasks smaller and smaller so you are getting some work done. Think about the exact next step you could do to make progress on it, instead of being overwhelmed.
- Fit things into your schedule even if you have 10 or 20 minutes. Don’t make excuses; instead, find what you can do. Those small amounts of time really add up.
- Consider assigning time limits to different tasks. To be honest, I’m not sure this really works. I generally know how long something is going to take, or what is a smaller task compared to a larger one. But I still have general flexibility, because emergencies do occur.
This is why it’s important to think about reducing the scope and to break into smaller chunks. You may not have enough time to finish everything on the project, but you can finish something.
7. Take real breaks (and don’t skip them)
Oh another one of those counterintuitive tips, huh? Breaks help you re-focus, avoid mental fatigue and strengthen motivation. Taking good breaks–like walks or doodling, compared to social media–renew and restore your energy. After that you’ll be able to stay focused and get more deep work done.
8. Ask for help or delegate
Don’t wait for hell or high water to ask for help. It doesn’t make sense. On a collaborative team, you should have the freedom to say when you’re overwhelmed or need more direction. It’s good to be independent, but if you’ve exhausted your immediate resources, then ask for help. This could save you time, instead of spending hours searching for something that your colleague already knows about.
No one likes to look like they’re lazy, but if you have legitimately tried, then there’s no shame in asking for more direction.
You are trying to maximize not only your time but also your team’s time. It shouldn’t be viewed as an annoyance for your team member to help, especially if they’ll be the one cleaning up the mess later on.
9. Control the clutter on your desk
Okay, if my Marie Kondo metaphor hasn’t worked for you yet, now you can really put it into practice. It’s time to thank those conference keychains for the joy you had back in Orlando last spring. But it’s time to let it go. Those old brochures? Thank you for the lack of leads you brought (no joy there!) so in the trash it goes. Desk organization is important.
The restriction on stuff actually brings more clarity and creativity. You’ll free your mind from distractions and can focus your time on the tasks at hand.
10. Block off time on your calendar for important tasks
If you’re in a meeting-driven company culture, then the calendar is the food that the hungry wolves live off.
So you have to be in control of your calendar; not other people. Schedule time to work and block off your calendar; you can even use a time blocking app to make things easy. Leave some openings, but don’t give everyone else complete freedom over your time. Time blocking is one step that seems ruthless but actually puts you back in control.
Bonus: Learn how to create a calendar in Microsoft Word! 💜
11. Use the right tools for good time management
Time management tools like ClickUp provide you with a simple way to manage your projects and tasks. This saves you tons of time and makes collaboration a lot easier.
For instance, you can set time estimates for each of your tasks and then track your time on how long you actually spent on each task.
You could also gauge how much time you saved with templates, instead of manually reinventing it each step of the way.
With these features, you’ll save time each and every step of the way when working on your projects.
Conclusion: You’re free to let go of your old ways
If you’re Kondo-ing your time, thank your distractions and time mismanagement for the past joy that it has brought you, but then let your time know that you’re ready for business. And for being more productive.
You’ll thank your future self for your newfound joy with time management tips.