Do you want to know how to improve time management?
Put stuff off.
I mean it. Don't do it today, unless...
(a) you really have to, or
(b) you've got more time available than tasks to do (in which case read on anyway; learning how to improve time management now will pay off when you do need it later).
Time, like money, slips away so easily.
Unless you know what you want to do and actually do it, you’re constantly at the mercy of whoever, or whatever, shouts the loudest for a piece of your time.
On a day to day basis do you find yourself reacting to demands and requests? They could be well meaning, they could even be important, but they all share one thing in common...
You didn’t plan to do them.
Is that so bad?
Not always, no. Life would be pretty dull without some spontaneity.
But, if you want to know how to improve time management, you need to know what matters to you, then spend a good chunk of each day doing it. In other words, work on what you planned to do.
Distractions are everywhere. If you don’t manage them, they will stop you from achieving what you want.
It really is as simple as that.
Regular, focused action is the only thing that will take you from intention to completion.
But a ‘system’ sounds potentially difficult and boring, doesn’t it?
Not this one.
It works, too...
I have read countless books on how to improve time management, but Mark Forster’s is the one that really clicked.
I have adapted the methods to suit my situation, as everyone should, but the basic idea is this:
Whenever you decide to do a task, unless it is genuinely 'same day urgent', make it your default setting to do it the next day.
When I first read it, it didn't seem to make sense. Surely that would mean nothing got done?
But the idea stuck in my head, so I tried it for a week, and guess what?
As a time management system Do It Tomorrow makes a lot sense. If you do everything the day after it appears in your life, you’ll have a finite ‘closed’ list of tasks (those from the previous day).
It also builds in an overnight buffer between initial awareness of the task and action on it. You wake up prepared knowing exactly what to do on any given day.
Once you know what tasks to do you have the first piece of the puzzle in place. Now you need to actually do them.
What could stop you from doing that?
Two things: a lack of time or a lack of motivation.
Let’s look at both and come up with a plan…
Here are three problems that affect so many people, with solutions for each:
|Lack of efficiency.
Your basic work processing speed is sluggish because you are disorganized.
|Batch tasks and learn how to get organized.|
|Too many commitments.
Whether they are ongoing or one-offs, once you say “yes” you fill up more of your finite time.
|Reduce your commitments. This may be unpleasant but it’s the only way to get everything done that matters. Learn to say no.|
|Not enough time.
Everything else you have to do causes the day to slip away and you find you haven’t completed your daily tasks.
|Don’t over schedule. Block off some time each day for incoming daily work. Do as few things as possible that are not on your list.|
Now let’s look at motivation...
OK, so you’ve got the time, but not the drive.
The solution is this:
Do something about everything on your list.
That’s it, that’s the key.
Look at your closed list of tasks for the day. Some of them are quick wins. Others are, frankly, difficult or boring.
Make those ones easier by chunking them down into smaller, manageable pieces.
Monday - you get an email from Jane asking you to write a reference for an interview she has in three weeks.
You decide to do it, so you put "write reference for Jane" on Tuesday’s list.
Tuesday - yesterday you decided to write Jane’s reference today, but, for reasons best known to yourself, you just don’t feel like doing it.
So just do a bit of it. Even if you work on it for 10, 5 or just 2 minutes, do something, then re-enter "write reference for Jane" on to Wednesday’s list.
Repeat until complete. With enough swings of the axe you’ll eventually chop down the tree.
This system works. Not 100% the time -- no system does because life is messy and unpredictable. But, if you want to know how to improve time management, re-read this then try it for a week.
As with anything new, there are bound to be a few teething troubles, but, stick with it; adapt it to your life and circumstances and you'll begin to reap the rewards.
Any half decent system is worth setting up and sticking with because it will pay you back many times over.
This one has for me, and I'm sure it will for you.
Feel free to let me know how you get on.