I’ll be honest; I’m not very good at managing my time. It seems there’s always more work to be done than there is time to do it, and to get one thing done, it always seems that I need to put off another. Eventually, things just pile up to the point where they threaten to topple over and crush me under the weight of my ‘To-Do’ pile.
Hence, we’re going to go a bit off-topic today, and discuss some ways to manage not just money, but time, as well. Sadly, the easy and most effective way to get more time, using a time machine to relive the same hours and days multiple times is currently out of reach. So, instead, we need to focus more on making the most of the time that we have.
The field of time management is a large and growing one, due to the need for people to get everything they need and want to do in the 24 hours we each have during the day. (Even that doesn’t take into account the need for sleeping, eating, showering, tooth brushing and other daily maintenance rituals.) Finding ways to manage your time effectively can make the difference between being productive and being overwhelmed by our to-do lists.
Time Management Basics
There are many, many time management techniques; in any bookstore, you can find nearly as many books about managing your time as you can about managing your money. If you want to help use your time as effectively as possible, here are a few techniques to help you get your work done:
1) Don’t Multi-task: There’s been a tendency with the rise of personal computers and other personal computing devices from cell phones to iPads for people to try to do multiple things as well. You have multiple windows open, each allowing you to work on a different task. In the same time it would take to get one task done, you can accomplish two, three, or even more. It’s a miracle, right?
Well, it’s not the case. As the New York Times notes, not only does it take time to return to the task at hand after going off to check email or instant messages, but there’s also a greater tendency to browse internet sites. In short, attempts to multi-task lower your productivity (which should be no surprise to anyone who, like me, keeps more than one tab open on their web browser). Focusing on one task at a time will allow you to be more productive and get much more work done.
2) Set Goals: If you don’t have goals you want to accomplish, preferably written done and easy to view, you can determine what needs to be done and how to do it. Setting goals will help you to create a schedule that allow you to do everything that you need to do in the time you have available.
A simple way to set goals is to sit down at the start of the work day (or whenever you are getting ready to work) and spend a few minutes to make a list of what needs to be done. Write down the goals, the level of priority for the goals (a simple system might be three stars for vital tasks, which need to be done that day, two stars for moderately important tasks that should get done but could wait for the next few days, and one star for low priority tasks that can wait for a week or more), and the estimated time to accomplish the task. Then set up an order of tasks to do, and try to stick to that list.
3) Make your goals measurable and specific: If you want to ensure that your goals are met, you need to have a way of verifying their completion. A goal of making more money isn’t very specific; a goal of creating alternate income equal to $1000 month after six months is both measurable and specific. Guess which one is more likely to be accomplished?
Specific and Measurable are the first two parts of the SMART goal-setting system. (The A, R, and T stand for Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.) Making sure that your goals fall into the SMART system will make them much more likely to be achieved.
4) Avoid Perfectionism: One problem you may fall into is the desire to make all of your work perfect. Resist the urge. Spending excess time on getting every single little detail of everything you do to be absolutely perfect will eat up your free time and leave you unable to get your work done.
Don’t interpret this as an invitation to do shoddy work; rather, it’s simply a matter of weighing costs and benefits. The chance of finding a mistake on the fourth proofreading pass is fairly small, and the time and effort you’ll need to devote to doing so with every piece you write will slow up your productive flow significantly. Save going over your documents in explicit detail for the most important things you write.
5) Find time for yourself: If you don’t make some time for yourself, you’ll drive yourself crazy. Set aside time for yourself, as well as spending time with your family, will improve your attitude and make you more productive. I recommend setting aside an hour or two for yourself, to read, exercise, or simply go outside and enjoy nature. (I also recommend setting up a weekly ‘Date Night’ if you’re in a relationship; it will do wonders for your relationship and should help to cheer you up, as well.)
There you do, a few simple techniques to make your time last longer and make you more productive. Good luck with managing your time! (We’ll be back to managing your money again soon.)