Time is precious. Do you feel the need to be more productive? No matter how organized you are, there’s only 24 hours in a day. Time doesn’t change, all you can do is change how you use that time. With the right approach, you can work efficiently, productively and relatively stress-free. Here are 5 tips for time management that actually work.
Stephen Covey, co-author of First Things First, offers an organizational tool for your to-do list based on how important and urgent tasks are. Label your tasks by:
- Important and urgent – Tasks must be done. Do them right away.
- Important but not urgent – Tasks that appear important, but upon closer examination aren’t. Decide when to do them.
- Urgent but not important – Tasks that make the most “noise”, but when accomplished have little or no lasting value. Delegate these if possible.
- Not urgent and not important – Low-priority stuff that offers the illusion of being “busy”. Do them later.
Write down your three important and urgent tasks that need to be done today. Then cross off each one as they’re completed to feel a sense of accomplishment and give you motivation to complete less urgent tasks.
Start paying attention to the number of times you’re interrupted while trying to complete a task. This can be someone physically interrupting you or your smartphone notifications distracting you. Your smartphone is extremely useful, but it’s also addictive and among the biggest time wasters known to mankind. It will take all of your willpower, but shut your door and turn off your phone to maximize your time and get things done.
Learn to Say No
Making a lot of time commitments can teach us how to juggle our priorities. However, it can easily be taken too far. At some point, you need to learn how to say no. Your goal should be to only take on the commitments that you know you have time for and that you actually care about. Instead of automatically accepting invitations and offers, say “I’ll check my schedule and get back to you.” This simple phrase will buy you time to evaluate offers and make smart decisions so you don’t take on more than you can handle.
Organize Your Email
Did you know that people with cluttered inboxes spend so much more time on their emails than others? The best way to speed up your email communication and waste less time is to organize your inbox. A few quick ways to do that is:
- Archive emails that might contain some important information but don’t need an immediate answer.
- Create action labels like URGENT, WAITING, or NEEDS ACTION.
- Use filters to automatically assign labels to incoming mail based on the sender or some other keyword
- You can even label all newsletters by setting up a filter for every email that contains the word “unsubscribe”!
Leave Time Between Tasks
When you rush from task to task, it’s difficult to stay focused and motivated. Allowing downtime between tasks can be a breath of fresh air for your brain. When you take a break, go for a walk, read a book or simply take a few moments to relax in peace. Another tip is to not pack everything close together. Leave a 5-10 minute break between tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and keep your mental, emotional and physical state at peak levels.
How do you power up to be more productive? Share your very own tips in the comments below!