Whether you’re ‘into’ the idea of employing strategies to manage your time or not, you do anyway -- it's just a question of how well.
How well you do you do manage your time?
Well, it depends on the degree to which you value it, and the techniques, tools and resources you use to make the most of it.
Below are a selection of the most effective time management strategies that anyone and everyone can use.
But first, an important question -- What makes them 'the best'?
Time Management Strategies You Can Use Today
Plan for Today
Planning really is the key to success when it comes to managing your day. It makes you more effective, because what you write down will probably be much more important to you than what you react to throughout the day if you don’t. Drawing up a realistic list of what you want to do each day means you focus more on what matters and drift less towards what doesn’t.
Any planning is worth the effort it took to do, usually many times over. Keep your planning simple at first. In fact, keep your planning simple as much as possible.
A good strategy is to plan your time according to the amount of unscheduled time you expect to have available.
For example, let’s say you look through your day and, after meetings, events, appointments and other commitments have been accounted for, you estimate you have 60 minutes. If you know how to plan your day, you can make the most of your unscheduled hour by time boxing your current projects and tasks into it.
Leave a ‘buffer’ (maybe 10 minutes or so) to soak up the unforeseen but inevitable distractions and disruptions.
Set some limits
Setting limits on what you do each day is one of the most effective time management strategies you can employ.
It can take a bit of self-discipline if it’s something you’re doing -- working on a report or doing routine tasks -- or some assertiveness if it’s being run by someone else, such as a meeting or event. But setting a limit on whatever you do gives you more control over your day.
It also has the effect of enhancing your focus and creativity. For example, if you’ve got children, notice what happens when you say “Would you tidy your room?” Compare it to “Would you tidy your room for five minutes?”
Limits work particularly well when you practice creative procrastination.
Deliberately leaving things until the last possible minute can be a dangerous game, but if you know how to play it, you can make some real gains with your time.
Work tends to expand to fill the time available for it, so the idea is that you set shorter time limits on tasks.
This is known as Parkinson's Law, and it’s one of the best time management strategies for managing yourself effectively.
Batch your tasks
This is a great way to make better use of your day. You're so much more efficient when you batch similar non-urgent and repetitive tasks together.
Here are some examples:
Whether you’re at home, school or work, there will be ways to benefit by batching tasks. Step back and look at what you routinely do (a time management chart is a good way to do this) - you’ll soon find the opportunities to do it are everywhere.
Keep practicing your ability to do this.
From my experience, it takes some effort to set up some simple systems to process these things, but, as with planning, that effort is more than compensated for by the results you’ll get.
Practice Single Handling
Whenever you start a tasks or project, do your best to focus single-mindedly on seeing it through to completion. This habit of 'single handling' is one of the key time management strategies to learn if you want to improve your productivity.
Whatever is is, work at completing it with the minimum amount of distractions or disruptions. Doing this reduces the amount of stopping, starting and re-learning you have to do to pick up a task again. You don't have to constantly keep putting down and picking up the tools for the task.
This is a principle to aim for, not a stick to beat yourself with if you don't do it. In reality, some tasks and many projects won't get done in one go.
The point is, knowing that single handling works so well can motivate you to spend the necessary time on tasks and projects so you don't have to keep coming back to finish them.
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Try these time management strategies today, and see what difference they make to your efficiency and effectiveness. If you internalize them as habits, you’ll notice a snowball effect in terms of your productivity.