Time Management: 15 strategies to help you manage your time better
Time, wouldn’t it be nice if we could purchase more of it! Unfortunately for many, having spare time just seems like a distant daydream. How many times do you hear yourself saying “Where did all the time go?” If this sounds like you and you really can’t account for where the hours go to in your day, then help is at hand. Read this article and find 15 strategies for study, work and home, which will help you to claim back some of those valuable hours, and free you up to enjoy more pleasurable pursuits or achieving more throughout your day.
Have you ever noticed that some people seem to achieve so much more than you and yet they have the same 24 hours in the day? Have you ever asked yourself how they manage this? Well it’s all down to good time-management. The good news is that there are many life benefits to using time management techniques, and by employing a few simple time management strategies, you can streamline your day and function more effectively.
Like most things associated with achievement it’s all about consciously planning and organising days and weeks ahead. Not simply saying what you’ll do, but actively scheduling the time you spend on particular activities, the time you will start, the time you’ll end and deciding what you need to achieve in that time. Then sticking to it!
Many of your hours are lost on general distractions. Television, video games, phones, social media, emails and even other people can be sources of our biggest distractions. A wasted minute here and an hour there really can burn into our day.
Here are 15 time management strategies for study, work and home and everyday life that will ensure you claim back those lost precious minutes and hours.
1. Remove distractions - mute your mobile tech, turn off the TV, and mark your status calendar as busy! Start planning! Be realistic about what you can achieve and the time tasks will take. Tell your family, friends or colleagues you can't be disturbed for a set period of time and be strict if you get disturbed and tell them to come back later (unless it's an emergency!)
2. Don’t overstretch yourself – Underestimating the length of time a task can take is the greatest drainer of time. It’s far better to overestimate the time it takes to do something. This will allow for greater flexibility and factors in the chaotic and the unexpected moments in life.
3. Prioritise the most important tasks – Identify and complete the most important tasks first. Be aware that time can run away very quickly when you’re in a state of flow. The state of flow occurs when you are utterly immersed in what you are doing. So keep an eye on the time, be aware of the time you have left and avoid getting dragged down by the unimportant details.
4. Learn to say NO! – It’s all very nice to say yes and be kind and put others first, but not to the detriment of yourself and your needs and priorities. By keeping your diary or calendar up to date you can see what spaces you have making it easier for you to justify a no!
5. Get a good night’s sleep - The NHS reported in 2015 that a lack of sleep not only leads to fatigue, and poor mental wellbeing which reduces productivity, but also physical ill health. It is recommended that we get between 7-8 hours’ sleep a night to remain well and productive.
6. Stop multi-tasking – Newsflash! Neuroscience has identified that our ability to do multitasking is a myth. Multitasking actually causes us to make more mistakes and takes away valuable seconds of our time. Don't think you can read and take in important points whilst you are half listening to the TV, you can't!
7. Reward yourself – When you’ve achieved what you set out to do, reward yourself in some small way that brings you joy and sense of achievement. The bigger the achievement the greater the reward you give yourself. Psychologically this allows you to acknowledge that you’ve achieved what you set out to do, motivates you to take on bigger challenges and helps build confidence and self-esteem. The reward may only be to allow yourself to watch an episode of your favourite series after you have finished the task but it works as a motivator to get something done if you can be strict with yourself!
If you’re studying
8. Calendar management – Detail all your commitments throughout the day either on your phone, in a diary or on a wall chart. Somewhere you’ll regularly look at it. This will enable you to have a realistic view of what you can or can’t achieve in the time you have. Consult your calendar before agreeing to any new commitments. Add reminders to each event you place in it. This may seem a bit tedious at first, but the payoff is well worth it.
9. Identify important academic dates – As soon as you have your assignment brief or dates for an exam, create blocks of study on your calendar. Prioritise and schedule your time for revising and exams, sourcing research material, reading, assignment writing and submitting your work. Never leave things to the last minute, especially when submitting your work. It’s not unheard of that computers crash when experiencing heavy volumes of traffic.
10. Find a silent study area – the best place to find this is in your academic library. Most areas are manned by librarians who ensure that the area remains silent at all times. This gives you the opportunity to concentrate on the task in hand without any distractions.
11. Select time for reading emails – There are several opinions as to how many times you should check your emails during the day and still remain productive. However, all agree that this should not be done on a minute by minute basis, as this distracts you from more important tasks and decreases productivity. I would advise that you choose to select once, three or five times a day, whatever you’re most comfortable with.
12. Set deadlines – You will need to be strict with yourself and completely committed to meeting the task in the time you set yourself. Be prepared to say “that’s it for today” when the time is about to expire. Then move to the next task. This way you’ll keep on track and meet all your commitments.
13. Delegate responsibilities – Have the courage to ask for help in your team when you need it. Chances are they’ll appreciate that you trust them enough to carry out the task. Ensure you match the responsibility to the authority. Clearly outline the task, explaining any constraints and boundaries, what they need to achieve, by when and whom they need to inform as part of the communication cycle.
14. Plan and Cook Ahead – If you want to avoid eating unhealthy meals on the go when time is limited, consider cooking in bulk. Meal planning might not feel like a very spontaneous way of eating but a bit of fore planning saves a lot of time in the long run.
Set aside an hour the day before you go shopping to plan your meals for the week or the next few days depending on how often you shop for. By knowing what you are eating will know you know what you are buying when you get there and will save time in the supermarket and also stop those moments when you stop to think 'What's for tea tonight?' When cooking from scratch think about making twice the quantity so you can freeze half of it leaving you a meal that just needs reheating. This works well with things like bolognaise, curry, chillis, stews and casseroles as well as more fiddly dishes such as lasagne- make two not one at a time! Just remember to keep your store cupboard stocked up with rice and pasta to go with your frozen dishes! Having a freezer full of food also stops you eating junk or ordering takeaways!
15. Get help! – If you can afford it why not consider hiring someone to do some of the household chores, a cleaner or someone to do the ironing or garden doesn't work out terribly pricey and it frees up some time. Consider getting your partner or children to help out. Small children can be responsible for tidying their toys from a very young age and gets them into good habits for the future! Teenagers are certainly capable of pushing a hoover about or hanging out washing! Don't feel you have to do it all.
You now have 15 key time management strategies to make the most of your time in your activities at work, home and when studying. So all you need to do now is start embedding them into your everyday life. Good luck!
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