It’s quite common to hear the term “I don’t have time” nowadays. However, the more honest way to say it would be “I just don’t care enough” or “it’s not a priority to me”. Many of us tell ourselves we don’t have time to make ourselves feel better about not doing what we should. Whether it’s exercising more often or visiting family or spending time with our children. However, it’s important to remember that the most successful people in the past and today have the same 24 hours that we have. They just know how to use it better.
A common issue and trend of today’s world is hyper-activity or, as Stephen Covey calls it in ‘First Things First’, the urgency addiction. We tend to chase the urgent tasks and get them done whether they are important or not. We tend to believe that this state of constantly being busy means that we’re doing things right and that’s the way to be successful. Although working hard is important, it’s also important to work hard doing the right things. Below, 10 time management tips that I hope will help you achieve more of what you want in life.
1. Never Start the Day Without a Plan.
Starting the day without a plan is a brilliant way to make you go to bed feeling unaccomplished and wondering what your time went towards.
I personally like to plan before going to sleep. Other people do it first thing in the morning. I find planning the night before allows me to get up and straight to business. See what works for you and stick to it.
When planning, make sure to use necessary tools such as a schedule. I suggest using apps because you’ll have your smartphone with you everywhere, including when you go to the bathroom. As opposed to using paper which you may forget somewhere, I recommend using an app called ‘Any.do’ and it’s the best I’ve found out there on Android.
When planning make sure to plan for interruptions. Filling your day with tasks will mean that any interruption in your day will create chaos. And it’s almost expected that you’ll have a few interruptions daily.
2. Start with the End in Mind.
Planning is no use if done without knowing the desired result. Doing so will lead to you just doing things not knowing why. Your goal will be “to get things done”. However, no one really just does things. We do what we do for a desired result, whether we consciously know it or not. However, not being aware will mean we get lost.
This concept also applies to the doing stage and not just the planning stage. It is important to keep the end in mind when doing the task itself. People who keep the end in mind will be more motivated and will be able to adapt if the situation changes. We’ve all been through school and had teachers that would just do everything by the book not really understanding the purpose behind the rules. Now compare them to that teacher who would follow the rules yet would understand that sometimes there can be exceptions. The difference is the latter understood the purpose behind these rules and hence knew when to allow for some leeway.
3. Divide and Conquer.
When planning my days, weeks, months or even years I like to divide my life into the different aspects that are important to me. These can include your relationships with people, your personal growth, your career, your relationship with God and anything else that is a major part of your life.
Many people tend to be so immersed in their career they neglect other important parts of their lives. I find that dividing my life into different parts and setting goals helps me make sure I give every part of my life the time it deserves. Once the goals are clear you can then start to set daily or weekly goals and tasks for each aspect of your life.
Have you ever been very busy and very productive yet still felt unhappy or unfulfilled? If your answer is yes then a possible explanation is that you’ve been busy and productive with the wrong tasks. In the book, ‘First Things First’, Stephen Covey speaks of how most people are constantly doing urgent tasks at the expense of more important but less urgent tasks. Sometimes we get so caught up in unimportant tasks but the surrounding urgency makes us feel as if it’s important. This is why it’s essential to prioritize.
Take time to identify your most important tasks of the day. Keep them at a minimum, 2-3 per day or 4 if you must. This will also mean that there’s plenty of room for working around interruptions and still getting your work done. Once you have the most important tasks accomplished you can move on to the less important tasks.
5. Learn to Say “No”.
You can’t have everything you want in life and you need to come to terms with that. You need to accept that, in life, you need to make difficult decisions and choices. We cannot afford to say yes to everything so we need to choose what’s most important to us. If you do step 4 and identify your priorities this will be much easier.
I understand that it can be very difficult to say no to loved ones and I myself have been guilty of taking on more than I can handle. However, keep in mind that this will only lead to disappointment eventually. Either you will fail your friends by saying yes then not fulfilling your promises or you will fulfill your promises at the expense of your own priorities.
This also includes saying no to unimportant tasks during your day. Eliminate tasks that don’t really need to be done or delegate them if you can.
6. Learn to Do What You Should, Not What You Want.
One of the biggest reasons people fail is that they sacrifice what they want in the long term for what they want in the short term. We’re too impatient and we want pleasure and results now. This can also be called procrastination.
People get so caught up trying to figure out procrastination and how to stop it but it really isn’t that difficult. You say you want to do this and achieve that but you don’t take any steps. You rather sit down and watch TV for hours than work on that business of yours that you keep talking about. There’s a simple explanation, you just don’t want it as bad as you make it out to be.
Think about this for a minute… If someone was to put a gun to your head and force you to work on your business or to go and exercise, you’ll do what you have to do to survive. The reason for that is that you realize you have no choice anymore. You don’t have time to waste and you can’t put things off. Now, I want you to be the person who forces themselves to do the work. Learn to do things without having a boss or anyone down your throat. Until you master that, you will never be truly successful. Constantly remind yourself of how bad you want that business or that body and think of the results and not the work.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t get to enjoy life. Do what you want from time to time but make it a treat and not a right. Go and hang out with friends as a treat for completing that assignment. Buy that new watch you wanted once you’ve accomplished something significant. And trust me it will feel ten times better if you do it this way.
7. Time Your Tasks.
Make sure you set goals and time for your tasks. If you’re writing something up then estimate how much time research will take and how much you’ll need for typing. If you fail to do that then you’ll never get it done or you’ll take days as opposed to hours.
I’ve realized that when I set deadlines I work to make meet them. However, when I say “I won’t get up until I finish” I tend to take forever and procrastinate often. For this reason I always set deadlines and if something asks me to complete something I make sure they set a deadline rather than leave it open.
Remember to leave time for breaks when timing your tasks. It’s also a good idea to leave some buffer time in between tasks in case you get a very important call or an unexpected interruption that ends up taking a bit of your time.
8. Give Full Attention to the Task at Hand.
We live in a time with numerous and endless distractions. One of the biggest distractions is our phones or electronic devices. And the fact that we use these devices for work makes it much harder to block out distractions. However, you must be disciplined and strong. If you don’t need your phone keep it on silent and out of sight. Don’t worry about calls, you can check your phone in breaks every hour or so. What’s the worst that can happen? The world won’t end in that hour if you decide to stay away from your phone. If you really must for an actual valid reason, have it beside you but only answer if it’s that call or message you really need to answer.
Facebook is another massive distraction. When I sit down to work on my laptop, I make sure that I don’t have Facebook open in the same window. If I don’t do that, I’ll find myself there minutes later wasting hours of my time. You may be thinking “well, I can control myself”. That’s fair enough but I’m of the opinion that it’s better to prevent the slightest possibility of a distraction and finish my work quicker. This way I actually get more done and I also get more time to play and relax.
9. Build Habits and Systems.
Can you remember the last time you procrastinated? For many of us this may be this morning or even just a few minutes ago. I really had the urge to procrastinate before typing this up. However, Habits and systems are a brilliant way to stop procrastinating. Once something becomes a habit, you just do it.
Think of anything in your life that you do continuously. This may be exercise, it may be praying or reading for example. Now, think back to the time when you were only starting. It was probably much harder in the start. This is most likely because in the start it took much more mental power to get yourself to do it. You would dread the activity on a daily basis and it felt like a chore.
Now it’s a habit. Now you feel horrible if you go to bed without praying or if you start the day without exercising. Similarly, you need to make the little tasks you do into habits that you just do. How many of us saw someone in a job for years and wondered how they do it. We think that we wouldn’t be able to take it. It has become habitual to them and that’s why they can do it.
I don’t mean to say that your life should be a bunch of habits and that you should accept a job that you hate or a situation that you’re not happy with. I’m referring to things that you must and should do but keep procrastinating or feeling heavy when do them. Do them long enough and persevere and be patient until it becomes habit and routine. And maybe change things up from time to time so life doesn’t become dull but only do this after establishing a routine.
In our modern world everything moves so fast. We constantly feel left behind if we take time off and even resting for 5 minutes during the day almost feels impossible. For this reason I say take time to relax and breathe. And I don’t mean once you get home from work. I mean during work. I like to pray and I think it has exceptional benefits but if that’s not something you do then even taking some time to sit down and breathe will have some positive effect.
Doing this will allow you to calm down, recollect your thoughts and reassess your day and direction. However, failing to do this may result in getting lost in all the tasks and aimlessly going through tasks without the real purpose in mind.
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